The Crisis of the Global Left: Part One
[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]
This is a moment of great opportunity, but doubtless of even greater danger, both for the Left and for the whole living world. If we can seize the historical initiative, showing through words and deeds that we have the ability and the right to lead civilization, we may yet mitigate the worst aspects of the global crisis, and perhaps even serve as the catalyst for an epochal transformation of our civilization, nudging our respective societies and national cultures onto a more egalitarian, just, and ecologically sustainable path. If, on the other hand, we squander this moment--if we act badly, or fail to act at all--we will likely make matters worse, emboldening the forces of fear and reaction and leaving our own movements with even less room for maneuver in future. Hence the importance of the dialogues begun on this site, concerning the kinds of socio-economic arrangements and institutions we would like to see take shape in the new society: without a clearer sense of who we are, what we want, and where we're headed, we will neither be able to set strategic priorities for our movement, nor to convince those around us of the rightness of our social vision.[i] Should we structure our economy along the lines of Parecon (participatory economics), market socialism, social ecology, or something else entirely? What kinds of alternative banking systems, institutions of governance, communal associations, etc., would best promote the social and ethical values we hold in highest esteem—solidarity, sisterhood and fraternity, political freedom, individual self-determination, radical democracy? These and other questions urgently need to be taken up and debated at every level of our movements, so that we can reach a provisional consensus on the future society and how to bring it about.
Yet what the discussions here have so far failed to confront, or so it seems to me, is the true depth of the Left's despair—the true dimensions of our crisis. Confronted with determined enemies, and facing a crisis that is global, systemic, and multiply over determined, today's scattered forces of the Left stagger about blindly in a state of stunned bewilderment, hemmed in on all sides by political reaction, growing ecological disturbance, and widening social misery. There are hundreds of small, local, citizens-based organizations and movements throughout the world--movements of the oppressed and marginalized, movements to defend nature and other animals from extermination, movements to democratize the state, movements to enfranchise the landless and urban poor, movements to shelter women from the violence of men, movements to defend ethnic and racial minorities from discrimination by the majority. But such movements are uncoordinated; they operate largely in geographical and ideological isolation from one another; and as a result, they confront a deteriorating social order without shared strategic goals or a common vision of the future society. They operate without a shared organizational or institutional structure, without a phenomenal form to give shape, meaning, and presence to their frequently invisible efforts.
Perhaps, were we able to count on another forty or fifty years of relative global stability, we could soldier on much as we do now, reacting to events, consuming ourselves with acts of triage to contain some of the worst excesses of power, all the while holding fast to our belief that spontaneous, primarily local forms of action and militancy can substitute for large-scale and coordinated strategic action. Certainly the obstinate application of grassroots power year after year has ushered in real social progress in some spheres, especially in the realms of civil rights, gay and lesbian rights, and women's equality. What is striking about the social advances of recent decades, however, is that over the same period other foundational systems of violence and domination have been left untouched. Socio-economic conditions for billions of people have worsened, while the power of corporate capital has grown substantially; the ecological predations of global capital have gained momentum; the numbers of sentient beings hunted to extinction, imprisoned in laboratories, or confined in so-called factory farms has rocketed skyward. Meanwhile, because we have failed to make any headway at all in tackling the problem of capitalism, our movements have had no impact on the authoritarian drift and corruption of the liberal democratic state, not to mention on openly autocratic regimes elsewhere. In short, we have had more luck in revealing the disjuncture between liberalism's promise of equal treatment under the law and the treatment of actual people in fact than in undoing the most deeply rooted structures of power and violence in human culture. Thus, in the US, we have made it possible for African-Americans to vote--yet the national and international racial division of labor remains intact. We have won sex harrassment legislation—yet women are universally degraded in popular culture and pornography, and the incidence of rape and male sexual violence has increased.[ii] We created the conditions under which it became possible, in 2009, for the American people to elect the nation's first black president—but now look on helplessly as that president consolidates the largest banks, escalates the war in Afghanistan, widens military strikes in Pakistan, defends Israel from a UN report criticizing the IDF's war crimes in Gaza, and proposes new increases in the US Defense Department budget (to more than half a trillion dollars per annum). Evidently, then, what we are doing isn't working, or working in the ways we need it to.
If we had the luxury of time, as I say, perhaps we could continue down our present path, slowly chipping away at the more obstinately entrenched of our oppressive institutions, continuing a praxis that is disjunct, dispersed, localist, and uncoordinated. But we do not have that luxury. We are faced with multiple overlapping crises of truly global proportions, crises which will only worsen in the coming decades. The global ecological, economic, and social situation is deteriorating. As Immanuel Wallerstein suggests in his online essay, the capitalist world system as it has existed for the last 500 years is coming apart, and a new order is likely to emerge in the next 20-40 years to take its place. As Wallerstein therefore warns, "if the left has no plan for [the] middle run, what replaces capitalism as a world system will be something worse, probably far worse, than the terrible system in which we have been living for the past five centuries." The trouble is, not only do we not have a plan for the middle-run, we even lack a clear sense of what we mean by "we" or "the Left" at all.
A century and more of failed historical experiments and often bitterly divisive theoretical and doctrinal debate within and among the various strands of praxis—Marxism, anarchism, feminism, anti-colonialism, queer theory, etc.—has left the terrain of radical thought strewn with the near-lifeless bodies of contested and competing ideas. To be sure, theoretical debate and ideological conflict can be both goods in themselves and means to other social goods, such as democracy or innovation. Indeed, dissent, conflict, and perpetual self-critique may be one of the distinguishing differences between the cultures of the Left and Right.[iii] But somewhere there is a meaningful line to be drawn between healthy debate and complete confusion and chaos, and I fear that some time ago we crossed that line. Our movements today have no identity, no outward representational form, no overarching intellectual coherence or strategic orientation.
The Left's doctrinal confusion and lack of self-clarity largely reflects the confused and diminished state of our movements, which have on the whole declined sharply over the last quarter century. The reasons for this decline are many (Barbara Epstein addresses some of them in her online essay for this project). But we can identify a few of them. Decades of neoliberal capitalism have taken a tremendous toll on human culture and consciousness. Privatization and laissez-faire economics have corrupted the liberal state and seriously eroded democratic institutions throughout the world, causing widespread cynicism toward government. The demonstrated spectacular helplessness of the state before perfectly foreseeable natural and economic crises—hurricanes and earthquakes, global financial shocks, unstable commodity prices, etc.—has led to a profound and widening legitimation crisis of the state. What appears to be waning is not just popular faith in the state, however, but faith and reverence for fundamental liberal values like democracy and human rights as such. In theory, this might be an opening for us to popularize a more radical critique of the established order. However, since it is the Right that is better organized, the waning of liberalism represents a great danger. In the absence on the Left of a serious and intelligible alternative to present-day realities of alienation and injustice, millions of people are being drawn into the orbit of extremism, as religious fundamentalism and virulent forms of nationalism rush to fill the vacuum created by the political and, as it were, existential abdication of the state.
Other objective social and cultural factors have also made effective grassroots organizing and resistance more difficult. Among these, we might mention state repression, the commodification of culture, and the intrusion of technological media into daily life. The impact of this last development, in particular, the technological reification of daily life and consciousness, should not be underestimated. Historically, the basis of human solidarity has always been found in relatively unmediated, communal, face-to-face forms of experience and human connection, most of them tied to place (neighborhoods, workplaces, universities, and so on). Today, however, our relations with others are becoming progressively more instrumental, abstract, and quantitative. As a result, the human basis of solidarity is being undermined. While many academic theorists have trumpeted the alleged democratic virtues of the new digital media, relations of trust and solidarity are simply more difficult to establish in an anomic and narcissistic culture dominated by blogs, Facebook, cell phones, and iPods. Advanced capitalist culture is undergoing an ontological and epistemological shift at least as profound and unsettling as modern industrialization was in the nineteenth century. The fabric of social life is being pulled apart and reconstituted; the public sphere—what little remains of it—is being razed to the ground. But we have only the faintest notion of what the new form of society—or anti-society—is in the process of being born. The compression of space-time under post-Fordist capitalism leads to an experience of social and cultural acceleration—a speeding up of our subjective experience of time. Temporality and historicity as such break down. Not only do cultural commodities now circulate more rapidly (reaching obsolescence in days or weeks, instead of in years), rapid deterioration of ecological conditions combined with the synergistic decay of social institutions and traditional beliefs are stripping human beings of their sense of place and identity. As technological simulation comes to stand in for, and assume the false distorted shape of, what was formerly a communal life—as newspapers go under, literacy declines, and digital consume every hitherto private space for individual reflection--it becomes more and more difficult for even educated individuals in the First World to discern our real conditions of life. This crisis of time thus produces a crisis of knowledge, a rupture in the epistemological ground of praxis itself. Conditions require us to intervene forcefully right now. Yet just as the polar bears do not have time to evolve new forms of culture and physique to adapt to global warming, we do not have time to get a cognitive and experiential handle on the complex interplay of overlapping and mutually reinforcing crises, social forces, political developments, cultural changes, etc. Even the most sharp-eyed critics and activists on the Left are finding it difficult to identify clear strategic prospects—opportunities e.g. for effective mass mobilization and institutional challenge--in a context where all that is solid truly melts into air—or rather, cyberspace.
These and other social conditions are partly to blame for the decline of the Left. However, the Left's crisis is also thoroughly historical and dialectical. This is to say that it is at least partly of our own making, the result of our own historical failure to demonstrate our moral and political competence in the eyes of the world's peoples. In many ways (and this will not come as news) we are still coming to terms with the collapse of Marxism, and with the waning of socialism more broadly. Throughout much of the 20th century, Marxism provided a paradigm of practical action, movement unity, and global transformation, particularly in the Third World. Among other things, it provided generations of activist intellectuals with a total critique of existing society, a strategy for achieving radical social change, and a coherent, self-reflexive body of knowledge grounded in human experience and practice. However, with May 1968 and the subsequent emergence of the New Social Movements, Second and Third Wave feminism, the gay and lesbian liberation movements, urban social movements, and so on, socialism as idea and ideal began to wane, and the Left soon lost any broad historical understanding of itself as the vessel of utopian dreams and practical collective action. Today, the sociological limits of Marxism as a "stand alone" theory, particularly vis-à-vis questions of gender, sexuality, ecology, and animal rights, are now widely recognized: capitalism is not the only form of power, nor is class conflict the only source of historical transformation, nor is class identity the only or primary means for constituting what we call the "social." To be sure, Marx's critique of capitalism remains insightful and vital in the 21st century. Nonetheless, the erosion of Marxist theory as the preeminent and most persuasive doctrine of revolutionary change has had a devastating effect on theories of praxis more generally.
Socialism has suffered its most resounding defeats, however, not in the corridors of theory, but on the battlefield of actual historical practice. In many ways we are still picking through the pieces of the shattered revolutionary tradition, that tradition which dominated radical politics for much of the 20th century. As most, though not all[iv], on the Left are now willing to concede, the two greatest state-communist experiments, the USSR and China, proved catastrophic at every level—economically, politically, morally, and ecologically. Millions died--from civil war, from famine, from imprisonment--or were simply killed outright. Today, Russia is a grim and desperate place dominated by the informal mafia economy, corporate oligopolies, and state authoritarianism; China, the world's largest, and in some ways, most ruthless, capitalist state. And while alienation is widespread in both nations, post-Communist elites have been adept at channeling public anger over rampant corruption, social equality, and ecological destruction into nationalism, consumer culture, and racism and ethnic pride. In this respect, one of the tragic, if overlooked, consequences of totalitarian communism has been the degree to which the crimes of Stalin and Mao have cast a dark pall over every other manner of socialist belief and practice (and not only in that bastion of anti-communist sentiment, the US). To the hundreds of millions of people who once lived--or who still live--under authoritarian communist rule, socialism today gets viewed as a dangerous pipe-dream. Years of political terror, corruption, and economic hardship exercised in the name of Marx do not work wonders for the democratic sensibilities or socialist yearnings of a people.
As for the anti-colonial movements and nationalist revolutions of the Third World, those once-fiery beacons of hope, none has managed to sustain a "third way" of socialist and democratic development outside the dominant terms of the global capitalist economy.[v] Most post-revolutionary states have been derailed by corruption, capitalist recidivism, internecine party squabbles (or outright civil war), authoritarian rule, and/or indifference toward human rights and democratic process. Zimbabwe thrashes in agony under a megalomaniacal thug (the former revolutionary leader, Robert Mugabe). Algeria hovers between reactionary Islamism and an ineffectual, Western-backed comprador class. In Vietnam and Laos, elites connive with multinational companies to facilitate colonial plunder "by other means." And in post-apartheid South Africa, the formerly revolutionary ANC has similarly accommodated itself to international capital—as well as to the indigenous white elite-- to preserve the socio-economic inequalities of the apartheid era. (The ANC reached a nadir of moral bankruptcy in June, when Jacob Zuma, a manipulative demogogue and accused rapist, was elected to the post of party leader and national President. The government's new ministers promptly went out and purchased $100,000 cars to be chauffeured around in.) And so on.
The trouble is that the death of the socialist imaginary, as a global imaginary, not only removed one of the last ideological hurdles in the way of world capitalist expansion and hegemony, it also led to a crisis of self-representation on the Left. What we lack is a coherent worldview and shared language of politics from which we might step back and analyze our past weaknesses and failings, in order to move forward as an inter- or transnational movement. We are unable to see clearly who we are and what we want, hence are unable to represent that conception of ourselves to others. Today, only Latin America, where the resurgence of left movements and parties has fueled the hopes of leftists everywhere, remains a bright spot. The Zapatistas still organize, hoping to democratize the Mexican state and win concessions for the indigenous poor; Hugo Chavez's Peronist policies, though imperfect and demagogic, are opening up space for worker cooperatives and other alternative structures in Venezuelan civil society to flourish; Leftist governments in Ecuador and Bolivia are enacting progressive tax policies and trying to empower the landless poor. However, it is still too early to know whether these populist experiments, vulnerable as they are to fluctuations in world commodity prices, and lacking a coherent theory or ideology of the path for social transformation, will be able to consolidate their gains and finally rid the continent of the capitalist social relations that still subdue the continent. It is also unclear whether the Latin American model of a strong interventionist leftist state, combined with grassroots worker-based initiatives can be replicated elsewhere. Because the political economy of Latin America has always been tightly bound up with the foreign policy and national aggression of the United States, labor militancy in the region has often taken an anti-imperialist and hence internationalist cast. Latin American social movements thus set out with the natural advantage of a shared cultural and historical tradition of rebellion against the world's leading capitalist state--a convergence of culture and internationalist politics we don't find elsewhere.
That Latin America is the exception that proves the rule becomes apparent as soon as we train our gaze elsewhere. With the exceptions of Greece, Nepal, and a handful of countries in Latin America, the term "Left" today has in fact little significance in the minds or daily lives of most people in the world. I have already mentioned the poor state of affairs in China and Russia (together home to more than one in five human beings), where we find no sign of an indigenous democratic Left movement or party of any consequence. But the situation is little better in other national contexts. Whether in Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia, Kenya, or Israel, fundamentalist and extreme-right movements and parties are flourishing, while the Left barely exists, or has been beaten into a corner. In Japan, the economic recession has led to an influx of young people into the Communist Party; however, the overall numbers so far have been modest. In Europa, meanwhile, that morally besmirched continent, former historical midwife to the very idea of Revolution, we find a Left that is defeated, demoralized, and isolated, hoist on the petard of its own discredited, market-friendly, social democratic policies. Elections to the European Parliament in June 2009 confirmed the drift of the continent as a whole to the right and far-right. Center-right parties consolidated their influence, while ruling social democratic parties in Portugal, Britain, and Spain took a drubbing. But the real story lies in the ground gained by xenophobic, racist, and extreme nationalist parties, who gained ground in nine countries. Neo-fascist or hard-right parties won seats in Demark, Greece, Romania, and Finland, and doubled their parliamentary numbers in Austria, Hungary, and Italy. In Britain, the neo-fascist British National Party won two seats; in the Netherlands, the anti-Islamic Freedom Party won 17% of the vote.
Only in Germany has there been some good news: in the August elections, the radical-left Die Linke Party won more than 20% in the state of Saarland, and the Party is polling well at this writing on the eve of the September elections. Looking elsewhere, though, one wonders how the European Left could have fared so badly, in the middle of the worst capitalist crisis since the Depression, and also in the wake of a serious erosion in popular consent to US neoliberal hegemony (during the Bush years). Apparently, only the far-right, and to a lesser extent the Greens (who also gained a few seats in the June elections), seemed to offer the electorate a real break with the bankrupt politics and failed economic policies of the past. The European liberal-Left, having identified itself for decades with capitalist institutions, political centrism, and the sterile proceduralism of a bureaucratic and bloodless state, meanwhile finds itself mired in a legitimation crisis of its own making. As Maria Margaronis wrote in The Nation,
In France and Germany, voters see little difference between what social democrats are offering and the policies of their soft-right governments....When it comes to managing a crisis, one welfare capitalist seems as good as another—and better the devil you know than the devil who is...in a state of disarray.[vi]
The right's openly racist campaign themes have clearly struck a chord with millions of unemployed or otherwise vulnerable members of the white working class. But reaction and resurgent nativism alone cannot explain Europeans' disenchantment with the Left. It is also the Left's own failure to win over the people with a compelling narrative of its own. As Margaronis observes, "No European left-wing party has articulated a convincing alternative to the bailouts, or a coherent vision of the future."
In the US, the story is similar. The American Left remains largely a notional force, barely existing outside the pages of Z Magazine, The Nation, and a handful of leftist radio stations. Indeed, at least at the level of a recognizable politics, only liberalism and the extreme right are visible "going concerns" in the US today. So excluded is the Left from the public sphere today that most Americans associate the "Left" with the cynical and accommodationist machinations of the Democratic Party. In the people's eyes, therefore, it is "the Left" that is bailing out American finance capital; "the Left" that is increasing the size of the US military budget; "the Left" that has escalated the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan; "the Left" that opposes socialized health care. And if—or rather, when--the US economy takes a catastrophic turn for the worse, it will be "the Left" that gets blamed for that as well. (Already, the Right has used the Administration's mishandling of the economic crisis to brand Obama as a "socialist," as a way of discrediting radical politics as such.) In 2008, star-struck liberals favorably compared Barak Obama's climb to the Oval Office to the ascension and resurrection of Christ. But rather than try to enact a grand vision of national renewal and reform, one that might have educated the people about the true nature of the society they live in, Obama has instead proposed only the mildest reforms of the existing order, stepping carefully to avoid offending the interests or sensitivities of the most powerful financial interests in society. Despite the Democratic Party's sweeping electoral victory, he has been unable or unwilling to leverage his party's gains into a hegemonic social and political project of the kind brought to fruition by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.[vii] Contrary to expectations, Obama's triumph has yet to yield a general political realignment in the US. On the contrary, polls suggest that Americans are for the most part as divided and as ideologically incoherent as they were four years ago.[viii]
Since the elections, the Republican Party has been in severe disarray, embroiled in struggles of its own. But it would be a profound mistake to write off the far-right as a spent force. Recall that after its years in the political wilderness during the 1920s, the Nazi Party surged into power not long after the sharp economic downturn of 1930, as Hitler's message of radical economic reform, national rejuvenation, and racial purity resonated with the psycho-affective needs, prejudices, and aspirations of millions of ordinary Germans. Already, far-right ideologies are gathering momentum again at the US grassroots, as witnessed in the fanatical nativism and conspiracy mongering of the "birthers" movement, as well as hysterical opposition to the President's health care initiative. Just as importantly, the authoritarian drift of the US state now appears to be permanent: even President Obama, a moderate Democrat, has sought to preserve the expansive presidential powers claimed by his predecessor in the Oval Office (e.g. holding "enemy combatants" indefinitely and without charge, trying enemies before military tribunals, etc.), confirming a historical sea change in the relation of the capitalist state to domestic civil society, with the latter now viewed as a legitimate field for military maneuvers and counter-insurgency operations.
In sum, capitalism is undergoing its worst crisis in generations, if not ever; the material conditions of human society and animal ecology are worsening by the hour; and the political right is resurgent in most regions of the world. Meanwhile, the Left seems paralyzed, unsure of itself, weighed down by a past that has not always been noble, and haunted by a future whose elusive horizon seems to be rapidly receding from view. The Left today enjoys majority status in no parliamentary body in the world (leaving aside corrupted liberal organs like the British Labour Party, or totalitarian ones like the Chinese Communist Party). It has no significant intellectual centers or think-tanks capable of influencing state policy, no way to respond effectively to national and international emergencies, and no coherent shared sense of itself as a historical movement. In the US alone, tens of millions of people are unemployed or underemployed; local and state governments are slashing public services and balancing their budgets on the backs of those among us with the least power and influence—children, documented immigrants, the poor. But where is the Left? Who is organizing the unemployed? A few months ago, a team of scientists released a new report predicting that by the end of this century, the earth's atmosphere would warm at double the previously predicted rate.[ix] Where is the international movement to sound the alarm, or to force the US, China, and other states to agree to mandatory carbon limits, let alone to force a broad reappraisal of the rapacious nature of capitalism as such? Where is the coordinated global defense of the other great orders of sentient beings—Aves, Mammalia, Reptilia, Amphibia, Osteichthyes, Chondrichthyes—many of whose species are in imminent danger of extinction? In June and July, millions of protesters filled the streets of Teheran in June and July to signal their discontent with the ruling theocratic authorities—but the streets of New York and Berlin, Tokyo and Amsterdam, Beijing and Moscow, were eerily quiet. And so they have remained.
...Or so they remained until today. As I write these words, on September 12, 2009, the news shows are filled with images of tens of thousands of mostly white Americans marching in Washington, D.C., to protest President Obama's policies, denouncing him as a "communist" for advocating health care reform and bailing out the nation's banks, and calling upon the American people to take "back" their nation. The march, organized by a coalition of right-wing groups, is the culmination of a year-long campaign of grassroots protests modeled on the Boston Tea Party. How ironic that the torch and pageantry of Revolution should now pass to the political Right. (As the procession passes, we are tempted to ask, as Peter asked Jesus when he saw him heading back to Rome, quo vadis? Where are you going? The extreme Right is resurrected--again.)
Those who now lord over human society have demonstrated with every failed attempt to stave off economic crisis, every bungled effort to protect the citizenry from natural and social disasters, just how unfit they are to govern. But the question remains, why should the people have faith in us, the ostensible alternative? What have we accomplished? Mired in a post-New Left, perpetually "ad hoc" and reactive movement culture, what remains of the Left is fragmented and ideologically inchoate, its energies split between liberal and piecemeal reform (progressive caucuses, lobbying groups, and NGO's) and enervated, fly-by-night and disorganized grassroots movements on the other. More than this, what remains of Left movement culture often seems insular and self-limiting. What, then, makes us so sure that our philosophy of society is ultimately superior to that offered by the ruling elite? Can we be sure that it would conduce to greater happiness and freedom? Why should humanity have faith in our ability to lead a project of civilizational transformation and renewal?
I would not be writing this if I did not believe we can come up with plausible and compelling reasons for why the vision we have to offer human civilization—or rather, our diverse human civilizations--is more just, and more sustainable and desirable, than those on offer by liberal capitalism, religious fundamentalism, and the far-right. However, it is past time for us to let go of any illusions we may still have that the existing approaches, cultures, institutions, and ideologies of the Left are remotely adequate to the historical task at hand. If we are to "reimagine society," we will first have to reimagine ourselves. We need a gestalt switch in our own self-understanding as a movement. So long as we remain paralyzed by dischord and limited by a tragically reified conception of who and what we really are, however, radical reform and renewal of our own movements will lie beyond our reach, and our case for civilizational reform will not be heard by the people. What we need, then, is a new set of cultural practices, a new approach that would be able to bestow upon our many scattered movements (1) a single intelligible form, (2) a focused strategic purpose, and (3) the irresistible power of a moral idea. Together, these three dimensions of praxis--unity of form, strategy, and moral leadership—are the indispensable preconditions for building an effective transnational movement, one that would have at least the potential to shepherd humanity through the global crisis, and to set the terms of the new world order that emerges at the long end of what is likely to be an extremely traumatic and violent period of historical transition. What it would mean to take these three dimensions of praxis seriously—what would it mean to conceive of the Left as a major world religion--will be the subject of my discussion in Part Two of this essay, to follow.
[i] I would like to thank Barbara Epstein and Zipporah Weisberg for their helpful comments and criticisms of an earlier draft of this essay.
[ii] In 2008, the National Crime Victimization Survey found a 42% increase in the number of reported incidents of domestic violence, and a 25% increase in the incidence of rape and sexual assault of women, in the two year period between 2005 and 2007. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/18/us-soaring-rates-rape-and-violence-against-women
[iii] As the socialist British filmmaker Ken Loach observes: "The right's interest is in maintaining the status quo, so it doesn't really deal in ideas. It might deal in populist slogans, but it doesn't have to make an analysis of the situation in order to see how to change it, which is what the left has to do. If you look at what ideas there are on the right, they're fairly derisory and you can't formulate an analysis from them. The left has always been about ideas—conflicting ideas." As Loach suggests, this may be one reason why the Right so often seems better organized than the Left. Graham Fuller, Loach on Loach (London: Faber and Faber, 1998), p. 104.
[iv] The Left's continuing failure to come adequately to terms these and other crimes of mass violence by nominally "communist" regimes—remains a deep moral stain on our character as a historical movement, and a disturbing reminder of the Left's continuing equivocation on the fundamental problem of political violence—when, if ever, it is justified. It also casts doubt on the willingness of the Left as a whole to defend the principle of democracy in all contexts, including its own. Recently, in much the same way that European and US leftists long avoided criticizing Stalin and Mao, significant sectors of the US Left today have expressed support for the reactionary Iranian theocracy—against the nascent democratic reform movement there. They have also turned a studiously deaf ear to the praise Hugo Chavez has lavished on that ugly Russian tyrant,Vladimir Putin. Ironically, the Left's failure to come to terms with its authoritarian past, or to unequivocally oppose dictatorship, has only made it harder to organize in the post-Communist context, since many people are rightly suspicious of a movement that would show such low regard for truth, freedom, or human rights.
[v] Cuba under Fidel Castro, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, and Eritrea under the People's Front for Democracy and Justice perhaps came closest. But in all three cases, the rulers proved unable to reconcile socio-economic equality with political freedom and human rights at home.
[vi] Maria Maragonis, "Europe Lurches Right," The Nation, June 29, 2009, p. 7.
[vii] See Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal (London: Verso, 1988).
[viii] The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Independents Take Center Stage in Obama Era: Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2009," May 21, 2009 (http://people-press.org/report/517/political-values-and-core-attitudes).
[ix] "Modellers Predict Doubly Bad Global Warming," Physicsworld.com, May 22, 2009.