At Last We Exhaled…
What a country! United citizens defeat Citizens United. Democracy is alive and well. Let’s all work hard to keep it that way.
Your November 19 issue, received two days after Obama’s victory, fed into my relief and euphoria. I have been rejoicing over how a second term for a “black” man will help dispel prejudice, whereas a loss would have evolved into “I told you so.” I was delighted that big money did not mean victory, and organization and hard work by the Obama team paid off. Dear old Vonnegut again shook the pomposity and wrong thinking out of us. Jon Wiener on the tearing down of the Berlin Wall helped us see how our “truths” are often built on scant evidence. Your piece on Fred Halliday reminded us that there are still reporters who can think clearly and wisely.
BETH ANN BASSEIN
Who Brought Down the Berlin Wall?
Jon Wiener’s “Remembering the Berlin Wall” [Nov. 19] notes the absence of Ronald Reagan’s name in the numerous displays around our country. Yes, Reagan deserves little, if any, credit for the fall of the Wall. It is the people of East Germany, bravely marching in ever-growing demonstrations, who deserve the credit. Beginning September 4, 1989, at the Lutheran Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, evening marches after prayers for peace grew and spread to other cities. On October 9, 70,000 people showed up. The next week, the crowd had grown to 120,000, and a week later, to 320,000. Erich Honecker resigned October 18. If anyone deserves credit, it is Pastor Christian Führer, though he was certainly not alone. To give Reagan credit for his bravado obscures the real bravery of hundreds of thousands of East Germans carrying candles.
Linfield Takes a Halliday
Susie Linfield, in her eulogy for Fred Halliday [“The Journeys of Fred Halliday,” Nov. 19], leaves the impression that his resignation from New Left Review in 1983 resulted from principled differences over politics, presumably vis-à-vis the Islamic world. In fact, his resignation—along with those of some other senior members of the editorial committee—was driven by impassioned but esoteric office politics. I know because I was there and on the same side as Fred.
As often happens following such schisms, participants tend to project subsequent political differences backward as first causes. More annoying is Linfield’s David Horowitz–like slander that New Left Review became a mouthpiece of jihadism. Nonsense. I miss Fred very much, but I hardly recognize my old comrade in Linfield’s canonization of him as a contrarian army of one.
New York City
Mike Davis’s letter represents two tendencies that, I believe, Fred Halliday spent much of his life opposing: one, the downgrading of important political differences to personal conflicts; and, two, the recourse to insult. Halliday openly addressed his differences with New Left Review in a lengthy 2005 interview (please go to opendemocracy .et/danny-postel/who-is-responsible-interview-with- fred-halliday). Readers of that interview, and of his work in general, can assess whether or not substantial political questions, especially about human rights, were at stake.
New Left Review has published, and continues to publish, some brilliant writers. But its analysis of, and stances on, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been atrocious—or, as Halliday put it, “objectively on the Right.”