Blog post

How Far Did the Strident Marxist Go? The Washington Post, The New Statesman and Newsweek Review Unhitched

Alyssa Goldstein26 February 2013

Perhaps not unexpectedly, Richard Seymour’s Unhitched has roused Christopher Hitchens’ legion of defenders and apologists to indignation, and Seymour has risen to the occasion in characteristically scathing fashion.   

In the Washington Post: “The author — a Marxist writer and activist born in Northern Ireland and living in London — has done his research, apparently having read almost everything his subject ever wrote, but in the service of the narrow goals of the over-zealous prosecutor…Seymour insists on advancing his argument from solid ground onto very thin ice.”

In response, Verso will soon be publishing Seymour’s new trilogy of Stieg Larsson-style books: “The Strident Marxist Who Went Too Far, The Strident Marxist Who Didn't Go Far Enough, and The Strident Marxist Who Went Far Enough, Took Pictures, Came Back and Mailed Them To Your Mama.”

In The New Statesman, George Eaton says that if Hitchens was a “flack” of the Bush administration as Seymour argues, then “the president should have ordered a replacement.” Yet Eaton goes on to state, “there was no more formidable defender [than Hitchens] of the Enlightenment values of reason, secularism and internationalism.” Let’s hear what Hitchens has to say about it. “I don't think the war in Afghanistan was ruthlessly enough waged.” “Do I think our civilization is superior? Yes, I do.” “Those who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery…can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway.” Perhaps Enlightenment values should have ordered a replacement. 

Meanwhile, James Kirchick of Newsweek (in a piece which Seymour calls “the most deliciously splenetic fanboy tribute to unreasoning hysteria that it has ever been my pleasure to gloat about”) even goes as far as to accuse Seymour as “mock[ing] Hitchens, along with anyone else who viewed with alarm the murder of 3,000 Americans.” As Seymour points out, “Hitchens was himself the first to belittle such alarm.  It's ‘not that terrifying’, he claimed.  ‘That kind of thing happens in a war, it has to be expected in a war, if you’re in a war you’re gonna lose a building or a plane, and maybe a small town or a school or – you should reckon about once a week. Get ready for it.’” Nice. Someone with such an abundance of respect for human life certainly deserves to be so vigorously defended.