In this “Thinking Allowed” interview with Stuart Hall, he discusses the Middle East and has some interesting things to say about our inability to judge the importance of history as it is unfolding. I especially liked his comments about how the manner in which history unfolds is as important, if not more important, than where it ends up.
I think that I’m wary of the old left response of cynicism. “Oh well, the military took over and made it possible really…””The West is busy sending helicopters in there. They’re just waiting for the opportunity to secure the oil field…” History does not work like a conspiracy. It’s not only to be judged in terms of what happens in the end. What happens on the way to the end always has and impact. It always leaves a trace behind. Things are never exactly as they were.
The Middle East, which has been the source of huge geopolitical instability for twenty or thirty years…Geopolitics cannot operate in the same terrain once the people say: “Well, you really helped to keep us down because you made of alliances with disgusting dictators. And you knew they were disgusting. And you knew that they didn’t deserve to be where they were according to your values. But you settled for self-interest instead.” And I hope the Americans, and the British, and Western Europe are asking themselves: “Well, how can we secure our interests in a world which has woken up to the fact that we have made alliances with the most dreadful people in order to accomplish our own success and hegemony in the world?” There will be consequences. I can’t tell you what they will be.
You knew 1968 the student revolts… everybody said, well of course it didn’t come to anything. They didn’t win. They didn’t win state power. They tried to win state power by allying themselves with the working class, by being supported by the Communist Party… Absolutely, no hope whatsoever. They didn’t win. Life since then has been profoundly transformed by 1968. It will never go back to what it was before that. Ideas of communitarianism, ideas of the collective, feminism, all sorts of things… Theoretical work? Transformed by the impact of a revolution which did not succeed! If you look back at the 19th century, 1848 is exactly the same. So, I don’t believe in judging the historical significance of events as they unfold in terms of our, usually faulty judgment, of where they may end up.