Michael Walzers tal på Dissents 60-årsjubileum
På Dissents hemsida hittar jag Michael Walzers tal i samband med firandet i oktober 2013. Det är en speciell känsla att läsa. Han är en av vår tids stora politiska filosofer och en "public intellectual" i ordets bästa mening. Inte minst eftersom Atlas gett ut ett par böcker med hans texter. När boken "Argument från vänster" presenterades var han även här i Sverige för ett seminarium. Och när Arenagruppen genomförde en studieresa till USA för ett tiotal år sedan träffade vi Walzer och några från redaktionen. Det var en minnesvärd kväll. Som att tjuvtitta in i New Yorks intellektuella vänsterliv.
Hösten 2013 läser Michael Walzer, i dag "co-editor emeritus", och förstår varför vi som startade Arena alltid inspirerats av Dissent – och av Walzer:
"After sixty years, the principles that the first Dissenters affirmed are still our principles. Our shared commitments have survived severe internal disagreements. Together we have sustained a political fellowship, without the splits and faction fights that are so common on the left.
These are our commitments: we believe in the possibility of—not perfect justice, not the messianic kingdom, not even a classless society—but what Irving called “a world more attractive”—more attractive than the one we live in: a better place, a more egalitarian society. We continue the work of generations of socialists, social democrats, and trade unionists who have fought for redistributions of wealth and power—and also for a fully human equality, an equality that goes, so to speak, all the way down. I have always thought that our egalitarianism is best described in negative terms: a “better place” is a place where there is no more bowing and scraping, no more fearful trembling in the presence of the rich and powerful, no more arrogance, no more deference, no more high-and-mightiness, no more masters, no more slaves.
Democracy is simply the political version of this equality, and so we are radical democrats and fierce critics of every form of authoritarianism, of every vanguard dictatorship, of every maximal leader and strutting general, even those who call themselves leftists, and of every zealot who claims to rule in the name of God. There is no decent left, and little chance of decency at all, without democracy.
We are committed to self-government in the economy, too. We made our peace with the market long ago, but not with the “free” market, not with capitalist oligarchy and radical inequality, not with tyranny in factories, shops, and schools; not with unemployment and poverty. It is still true, as in ancient times, that the rich grind the faces of the poor. So this is the simplest description of our politics: we are against grinding. We stand with the poor, not simply to help them, as if we could be their benefactors, but to help them help themselves—for that’s what equality requires. Remember the maxim with which some of us grew up: “The liberation of the working class can only be the work of the working class itself.” That’s true, too, of every other liberation.
We are opponents of terrorism, even when it calls itself revolutionary, and of all the apologists for terrorism. The defense of innocent lives, at home and abroad, is a central left value; it is the most basic form of solidarity and internationalism. And for that reason we supported the use of force to stop mass murder in places like Rwanda and Darfur—and dissented from the indifference of most of the world. Here is a biblical injunction that even left-wing atheists can make their own: “Do not stand by the blood of your neighbor.” But we oppose, as democrats and socialists always have or should have, wars of aggression and conquest, wars for natural resources, colonial wars—and we oppose revolutionary wars too, even those that derive in some way from the ideas of one of our distant progenitors, Leon Trotsky: the Red Army marching on Warsaw to bring communism to Poland, the American army marching on Bagdad to bring democracy to Iraq. These are unjust wars; communism and democracy must be sought by other means.
The struggle for equality is also a struggle for inclusion: a social democratic state must give equal rights to all its citizens—rights to speak, assemble, vote, and organize—and equal opportunity to those same citizens—to participate in all the activities of our common life. Think of the state as an enclosed community, with excluded groups knocking at the gates, demanding entry: Jews and blacks and women, immigrants and political refugees, gays and lesbians, disabled people. Some of us are already inside, some of us not so. But we are all of us on the side of the excluded, not (again) to help them into the community but to help them make their own way in, achieve their membership and our democracy at the same time. The democratic state must be the work of all those who mean to live in it.
Now imagine that we are actually living there, in a better place, in a world more attractive—as, one day, I do believe, we will be. And then we will look around and see that forms of injustice persist, and oppression too, and high-and-mightiness, and we will think that there must be a world a little more attractive, a better, better place. Whatever victories we win, there will still be room for, and there will still be need for, a magazine called Dissent."