By Alexis Wright, Gideon Haigh, Christos Tsiolkas
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Extra info for Tolerance, Prejudice and Fear: The Sydney PEN - 3 Voices Collection
Though I think Hitchens the more intelligent and incisive of the three, he too ends up being an apologist and propagandist for the British and USA states precisely because he believes these states are ‘universalist’, outside struggle and history. indd 46 18/4/08 3:38:29 PM On the Concept of Tolerance 47 a teleological end to history in which a commitment to liberal ideas is confused with an allegiance to the democratic liberal state. The nonsense arises from the refusal to countenance the economic and imperialist exploitation of the liberal states.
The liberals stand at the borders with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and intone: do you believe in the equality of women, do you believe in the rights of the homosexual, do you understand the concept of free speech and freedom for the arts? These rights mark our understanding of freedom, of tolerance, of justice. There are further rights, of course; rights about equal pay for equal work, rights to do with asylum and nationhood, rights to do with work and trade unionism. But these rights are not incorporated into our citizenship tests, in our braying for universalism, in our insistence that only those who are like ‘us’ cross our borders.
However, for those of us on the left, though we are heirs to liberalism, we cannot forget that we are also heirs to a legacy that links emancipation to the freedom of exploitation from alienated labour. To put it simply, a left that is not critical and in opposition to capitalism is not left at all. There is one further legacy that the left is beholden to and that is the revolutionary insights that arose from the anti-imperialist struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What we understand of the left must be informed by these three intellectual, ethical and political legacies: liberalism, historical materialism and anti-imperialism.