The media were making such an intolerable rumpus about the death of Christopher Hitchens during the week before Christmas that I felt constrained to stop postponing reading his recent autobiography, Hitch-22.
It came rather as a disappointment, not only in terms of his laborious progress from one failed ideology (Marxism) to another (militant atheism), transacted apparently under the shadow of a raging father-complex, but also because stylistically the book reads as if written by—well, just another journalist.
Perhaps Hitchens felt required to accept a deadline imposed by his imminent demise, but a successful autobiography requires the space and time and leisure sufficient for an extended stroll down memory’s lane, not a rush to the exits. Among British emigrés I wouldn’t necessarily define the autobiographical ruminations of Keith Richards or Alistair Cooke as literary masterworks, but at least they got the narrative tempo right.
What did tick me off completely was a statement in which Hitchens criticizes non-Marxist protesters from the Sixties:
From now on, it would be enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic “preference,” to qualify as a revolutionary. In order to begin a speech or to ask a question from the floor, all that would be necessary by way of preface would be the words: “Speaking as a…” Then could follow any self-loving description. I will have to say this much for the old “hard” Left: we earned our claim to speak and intervene by right of experience and sacrifice and work. It would never have done for any of us to stand up and say that our sex or sexuality or pigmentation or disability were qualifications in themselves. There are many ways of dating the moment when the Left lost or—I would prefer to say—discarded its moral advantage, but this was the first time that I was to see the sellout conducted so cheaply.
What manifest horseshit, and how incredibly stupid to define one’s performance as a revolutionary as dependent upon adherence to the “moral advantage” of Leftist principles, “hard” or otherwise. Ask any gay persons victimized by the persecution and psycho-terrorism prevalent in the Fifties if they considered the class struggle responsible for their demonization in society. What Hitchens is really whining about is that identity politics was successful to a degree, while international socialism obviously wasn’t.