Magazine article Dissent

A Decent Leftist

Magazine article Dissent

A Decent Leftist

Article excerpt

A few months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Michael Walzer wrote an article for Dissent, "Can There Be a Decent Left?," which made a number of American leftists rather mad. In it, Michael reproached those who saw the mass murders ordered by Osama Bin Laden as revenge for "the crimes of the imperial state." Too many radicals responded to the grief of their fellow citizens and their desire that al- Qaeda be punished by saying, in effect, that we Americans had it coming. That response was, Michael wrote, an indecent act, that instead, "what is necessary now is an engagement with our fellow citizens that recognizes the fellowship. We can be as critical as we like, but these are people whose fate we share; we are responsible for their safety as they are for ours, and our politics has to reflect that mutual responsibility."

Michael is a supremely rational man, whose careful, lucid writings on moral philosophy and political theory are read and admired all over the world. But his works of reason are driven by a passion, as that controversial piece made clear. "Connected criticism," Michael has called it, the need to be fully, ardently involved with the society you inhabit if you really desire to help change it. "Courage, compassion, and a good eye are three virtues that good critics need. . . ," he wrote, "men and women of common virtue and ordinary humanity."

Those qualities have marked Michael's thousands of contributions to this magazine as writer and editor since his first article - a witty report on the struggles of the Communist Party to shed its Stalinist skin - appeared some fifty-seven years ago. …

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