Beyond questions of fascism or right-wing revolutionaries, the three way fight analysis can also be applied to other situations where the radical left is forced to respond to conflicts between two sets of bad guys. The build-up to the Iraq war presented this sort of dilemma, although much of the left didn’t recognize it as such. Moishe Postone’s recent essay “History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary forms of Anticapitalism” highlights this problem as follows:
“The impasse to which I am referring has been dramatized recently by many responses on the Left, in the United States and in Europe , to the suicide bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as by the character of the mass mobilizations against the Iraq War. The disastrous nature of the war and, more generally, of the Bush administration should not obscure that in both cases progressives found themselves faced with what should have been viewed as a dilemma — a conflict between an aggressive global imperial power and a deeply reactionary counterglobalization movement in one case, and a brutal fascistic regime in the other. Yet in neither case were there many attempts to problematize this dilemma or to try to analyze this configuration with an eye toward the possibility of formulating what has become exceedingly difficult in the world today — a critique with emancipatory intent. This would have required developing a form of internationalism that broke with the dualisms of a Cold War framework that all too frequently legitimated (as “anti-imperialist”) states whose structures and policies were no more emancipatory than those of many authoritarian and repressive regimes supported by the American government.”
Postone’s essay is dense and can be slow-going. It is also not without its problems – most prominently an attempt to sharply divide armed struggle anti-imperialists of the last half-century into “movements that do not target civilians randomly (such as the Viet Minh and Viet Cong and the ANC) and those that do (such as the IRA, al-Qaeda, and Hamas).” Guerilla struggles are always messy, and I suspect that the historical record provides some inconvenient details that might shift the attempted categorization of the ANC and the IRA, for example. Similarly, writing off Frantz Fanon as a person who “glorified violence for the sake of violence” does a disservice to one of the most important and challenging revolutionary theorists of the twentieth century.
Nonetheless, Postone’s contribution to discussions around the problems facing anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism in the new millenium, especially as regards the issue of anti-Semitism, seems to parallel some of the questions being raised under the rubric of the three way fight. This is an essay that deserves to be read and discussed.