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Hitch 22: Review, The Loss of Faith.

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Hitch-22. A Memoir. Christopher Hitchens. Atlantic Books. 2010.

Review: Hitchens and the Loss of Faith.

Christopher Hitchens is one of the most talented polemicists of the last decades. The former International Socialist, left-wing journalist “as someone who had spent much of his life writing for The Nation and the New Statesman” he became an enthusiast for Humanitarian Interventions, and assembled “an informal international for the overthrow of fascism in Iraq”. After calling for war on Saddam Hussein, he “stopped calling himself a socialist in 2002”. To most people of the left, Hitchens has been thereafter associated with Neo-Conservatism.

There are others who still appreciate him, and are saddened at his present cancer, even while opposing liberal internationalism by force. For all how his “loss of faith” remains a striking, and in many ways unresolved, issue. In god Is Not Great (2007) he said his belief in Marxism could not survive the “onslaught of reality”. That its “intellectual and philosophical and ethical glories” “were in the past.” That it was “no longer any guide to the future” and, as a “total solution” had led to “the most appalling human sacrifices”. (Page 153) But is this all there is to say? In the New Statesman he has been cited as saying that he has remained in some sense a Marxist “but not Socialist”.  Hitch 22 concludes “Karl Marx was rightest all when he commended continual doubt and self criticism” (Page 424).

Hitch 22 is more, then, than the memories of a conventional journalist. His defence of a range of public causes, books on Orwell, Tom Paine, and atheism, to cite a few, show a powerful voice in defence of dissent, and, a “violent sense of repulsion” at the anti-War left. If we disagree with that there is no longer any “authentic socialist movement” (Page 411)that does not mean we reject everything he has ever said, en bloc.  With the deep emotions expressed Hitchens deserves more than clamour at a ‘turncoat’. Critical respect, above all criticism, for this Life and Opinions is called for.

Some have begun this. He has been described as “political romantic’ by David Runciman, and as a “man of faith” subjected to tender scorn by Ian Buruma.

From the left, of the relatively benign, Tom Rainer from the AWL  has some understanding for his hostility to indulgence towards Islamism. Nevertheless Hitch 22 is not written by one of “us”. James Bloodworth admires his “engaged” position, and ability to keep “belligerently arguing a point”. Guy Rundle in Spiked On-Line gets nearer to our objective by asking how and when Hitchens began to drift away from the left – in the mid-1980s. They too have never explained clearly how the Revolutionary Communist Party became the libertarian rightist, Institute of Ideas.

How Hitchens had a faith, lost it, and whether he has truly found a new one, is probably, for the left, both a mystery and of major interest to those who look into Hitch 22.

Very Near and Very Recent.

A leftist reader begins Hitch 22 with all this in mind. There is plenty to disarm the most hardened cadre. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2010 at 11:45 am