Where I would agree with Natasha Walter is that no organisation should be legally proscribed for espousing views that are morally and politically repugnant.
Where I could not agree with her is in her misty-eyed comparison with the present day apologists for fascist death-squads with those in Europe and the United States who believed the Soviet model represented the best hope for socialism during the 1930s.
Which is not to say that these people, with the benefit of historical hindsight, come off particularly well. Has she forgotten the way in which the Webbs and and Bernard Shaws and all the other darlings of the literary left were either too stupid or ignorant to acknowledge Stalin's crimes? Aren't we forgetting that Orwell was in a minority when he saw through him immediately and denounced him?
And in other ways, hers is a rather one-sided account of the tendency to make common cause with totalitarian movements in the 1930s. Too many forget, for example, that prior to its utter discreditation when the gates of Auschwitz were opened, how popular eugenic ideas - and specifically anti-semitism - were in Britain during the thirties. Consider the background: for all the fears, no Western European state has ever fallen to a communist takeover - but two did fall in this dark phase of European history to revolutionary movements of the revolutionary right. The present day Islamicist represents this phenomenon, rather than Bolshevism, for a number of reasons:
- While all three hate the present, idealise the ancient past, and look for its recreation in the wake of a revolutionary upheaval - Marx's ahistorical "hunter-gatherer" society was one where human emancipation and liberty were imagined: fascism and Islamism idealise really existing societies that were warlike, hierarchal, brutal.
- Even in its most idealistic, furious, hellish and bestial phase during War Communism, the Bolshevik revolution always had as a cornerstone of its ideology a belief in the emancipation of women. In contrast, fascism and Islamism have as an essential component the view that God or Nature has given women a servile role.
- Whatever else it might have been, communism had a belief in the brotherhood of man at its core; fascism and Islamism do not. Moreover, within the narrowed community of the global uma, the notion of confessional solidarity has been honoured more in the breech than in the observance. For all the people they've killed, one should never forget that Al-Qaeda and their imitators, as the record shows, prefer to kill their co-religionists more than anyone else.
What communism, fascism and Islamism do have in common is, as Ms. Walker says, a belief in the perfectibility of human society.
Problem is, this is not the view taken by traditional Islam, which holds that no society can be perfect, given that it's composed of humans beings who are morally frail in a variety of ways.
This it shares with Judasim and Augustinian forms of Christianity.
Here at least they are surely right?