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The Return of the Progressive Atrocity

The Return of the Progressive Atrocity

All lies and jest,

Still a man hears what he wants to hear,

And disregards the rest…

~Paul Simon, “The Boxer”

In 1957, Albert Memmi addressed the question of the Left’s relationship with terrorism in his book, The Colonizer and Colonized. Memmi was a Tunisian Jew, equally committed to socialist Zionism and anticolonialism. The Left tradition, he observed, “condemns terrorism” as “incomprehensible, shocking and politically absurd. For example, the deaths of children and persons outside the struggle.” 

But Memmi’s suppositions were outdated even as he wrote. The history of the modern Left’s romance with terrorism—not the “old-fashioned” version aimed at czars or imperial officials, but the kind directed against unarmed civilians—had already begun. It started with the Algerian War and gained momentum throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and beyond with the emergence of the Red Brigades, the Baader Meinhof Gang, the Irish Republican Army, the Japanese Red Army, the Weathermen, and the panoply of organizations included in the Palestine Liberation Organization and, especially, its Rejectionist Front. The latter held pride of place: “For the Sixth International, the…

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