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Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Jun 30, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by Pajamas Media

A Glittering Gathering At My Home For Alan Johnson and Democratiya


Right to Left: Sol Stern, Phyllis Chesler, Alan Johnson, Paul Berman, Michael Weiss and Austin Dacey

What happened to the old New Left? How did it become a supporter of totalitarianism, Islamist fascism, nihilist isolationism, and the narrowest of party lines? When did it lose its “decency” and moral sanity? A growing number of us have been asking these questions for a long time and more have joined us since 9/11.

Britain’s Alan Johnson is a professor at Edge Hill University and a co-author of the Euston Manifesto HERE and Unite Against Terror. Together with Abdullah Muhsin, Johnson also co-authored Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions. Johnson founded what has become an influential online journal, Democratiya, which addresses these and related questions. Some of Democratiya’s interviews are now available in book form: Global Politics After 9/11. This is a serious but highly readable volume of interviews with Jean Bethke Elshtain, Paul Berman, Kanan Makiya, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and is introduced by Michael Walzer.

Pajamas Media’s very own editor and writer, Michael Weiss, (who is, hands down, the very brightest and most promising of his generation’s thinkers), brought Alan to my home. Gathered together were a group of my friends, most of whom are former leftists, who have all lived history both passionately and consciously.

To my delight, former Ramparts editor and currently City Journal’s contributing editor and unparalleled Education expert, Sol Stern, (and my dear friend), toasted me as the “Rachel Varnhagen” of our times–high praise indeed. (She ran a hot salon in Europe).

Sol of course came with the ironic-sardonic humored Ruthie–his better and Israeli half who has just received her Ph.D. Congratulations Ruthie!

Alan came in with Paul Berman–I said the gathering was glittering. Professor Berman’s book, Terror and Liberalism, is a hugely important work and his incisive and wide-ranging mind takes no prisoners. Paul, who currently teaches at New York University, and I have met before but this evening he reminded me of no one so much as Pete Seeger–or of a 1950s style kibbutznik, in his jeans and open shirt.

Also gathered were: The-man-who-knows-almost-everything-and-is-willing-to-tell-you: My equally dear friend, History Professor and author Fred Seigel and his Professor wife Jan Rosenberg. Fred, Jan, and I all raised our sons in Park Slope, in Brooklyn, at the same time and they will always feel like family.

Professors Nahma Sandrow (Yiddishist, retired Professor and all-round lovely soul) and her husband, Bill Meyers, a true Renaissance man (playwright and photographer extraordinaire) also came–an honor indeed, since they are grieving the loss of their wonderful son. They brought their son Isaac's fiancée, Margot, (whose last name I can’t recall: Margot, please forgive me), a lustrous young poet.

And, my dear friend Ibn Warraq, the author of Defending The West, came shyly in and stood most of the time, rather quietly. Even I could not get him to say much–not that there was any lull in the conversation. He brought his comrade-in-arms, Austin Dacey, philosopher and secularist who works with the Center for Inquiry, and who co-ordinated the first Islamic Dissident Conference in a very impressive fashion.

A very good time was had by all. I strongly recommend that you read Democratiya and its Interviews, contained in Global Politics After 9/11.

Happy Reading!


Alan Johnson


From Left to Right: Jan Rosenberg, Fred Seigel and Bill Meyers standing


 From Left to Right:Ruthie Stern and Alan Johnson


Right to Left: Margot, Nahma Sandrow, and Sol Stern 

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