Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on finding true love...

Now I know that the neo-conservative journalist is not the best loved person on the Left at the moment for very good reasons, but I recently saw an old copy of Hiya! lying around at work, and I was surprised to see that there was an exclusive 'heartwarming interview' with Hitchens in it. Histomat readers might well have already read this, but just in case they haven't, I reprint the Hiya! interview in full below:

When Hiya! caught up with Christopher Hitchens in his busy Vanity Fair offices, he was in full flow on the phone, eloquently defending the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. "The commonest liberal and Tory jeer against Tony Blair—that he is George Bush's "poodle"—is self-evidently false...who leaned on Clinton and Albright to intervene in the Balkans?" He sees us enter, motions to us to take a seat, and then, while we are getting ready, finishes off his conversation. We catch broken phrases of typical Hitchensian ire, "the barbaric invasion of the hand-loppers and diamond-dealers...after Sept. 11, 2001, Blair told Bush that he would send ground troops to Afghanistan even if the United States would not." With that he slams the phone down, brushes his hair to one side, and apologies for only being able to spare us a few minutes. His boyish charm is irrepressible.

We cut straight to the big question. Refering to his previous conversation about Tony Blair, we ask is it really true that you have fallen for him? He blushes, and his eyes glaze over. He nods. "I'm for Tony". But what about the fact that Blair is married, with kids? What about the long distance between them? Or, for that matter, what about Hitchen's relationship with George Bush? Is that now over? At the mention of Bush's name, Hitchens suddenly jumps forward in his seat, his eyes gleaming. "There is", he tells us, "a huge mass of media and showbiz and academic liberals who take the very name "George Bush" as permission to bid adieu to common sense." The pain in his voice suggests that this relationship is clearly still an important one for Hitchens, and he has not yet found closure on it. We move back to the topic of Tony Blair. What do you see in him? "He took a bold stand against the establishment and against a sullen public opinion and did so on a major issue of principle."

This major issue is, of course, the Iraq conflict. Hitchens is sometimes regarded as 'the George Orwell of today', so does Blair then represent a sort of Winston Smith type figure, isolated in his fight against tyranny? Hitchens nods, and indicates that he appreciates the parallel. Who are the forces of conservatism that Blair had to stand up to to go to war, we ask? Hitchens pauses. "Anti-Americanism in Britain has long been a conservative rather than a radical trope, and dislike for George Bush is very common among the aristocratic remnant, as well as among those who are nostalgic for the British empire that America supplanted after the war." After the war, "most of the groaning and sniping about the missing WMDs comes from the hard right, which has a hold on the Tory party and more than a hold on the tabloid press."

But what of the British anti-war movement? After all, didn't most of Hitchen's old comrades in the International Socialists [now the Socialist Workers Party] oppose the war? At the mention of the SWP, Hitchens snorts, and mutters "renegade pseudo-Bolsheviks". He tells me that they are now engaged in an electoral coalition with George Galloway and members of the Muslim Association of Britain. "Thus, the most reactionary forces in British society are fused in their admiration of the one-party state and the one-god movement".With only Blair left to defend individual freedom? What does he think of New Labour? "Blair's Britain is a sort of post-Keynesian full-employment and welfarist society. Its government makes at least the right noises about Kyoto, the U.N., Palestine, and the International Criminal Court."

Our time is almost up, and Hitchens signals to us that we have time for one more question. Is there anything he doesn't like about Tony? Hitchens looks a little taken aback by the question, perhaps shocked that anyone could suggest something like that after the London bombings. Then he recovers himself, smiles, and turns on his boyish charm. "There are things to dislike about Tony...his rather sickly piety is one, and his liberal authoritarianism, on matters such as smoking and fox-hunting, is another. I can't forgive him for calling Diana Spencer "the People's Princess," or for seeking the approval of the Fleet Street rags, and he is one of those politicians who seems to think that staying "on message" is an achievement in itself." However, he is absolutely determined to defend the new love of his life when he debates with George Galloway on September 14th. As we leave, Hitchens notes of Blair that "it is absolutely necessary that his right-wing and clerical enemies be humiliated..." It is a touching and humble statement of utter loyalty, and a sure sign that perhaps Christopher Hitchens may well have found true love at last.

All Hitchens quotes from here.

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