So says John Wight at Socialist Unity, in a thoughtful, important piece that Lefties everywhere need to read. (I know John from when we volunteered with the ANSWER Coalition in L.A. from about 2003-2006, helping to organize some genuinely exciting and massive antiwar protests.)
While he’s looking at things from a UK perspective, the same thing sort of thing is happening here in the US. A cratering economy brought about by a greedfest among the ruling class should be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the left to organize and make huge gains among the populace. But instead… I hear crickets from the far left. There’s just nothing happening in the States coming from the Left.
Ultimately, for the Left the way ahead appears uncertain. The hijacking of the Labour Party by free market ideologues and the ten years of Blairism which followed has had a destabilising and devastating impact on the trade union movement and the working class in general from which neither has emerged.
The rebuilding of an ideological and political alternative to free market capitalism and the racism and reaction which it has spawned will take some time. The key question will be whether we are able to learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward on solid foundations.
Until recently the Right was winning the battle of ideas in the US. Then Obama flipped all that on its head. No, he’s not a liberal, but he is a centrist and quite possibly the smartest, canniest politician in decades. But, while liberalism has gotten a bit of a boost from him, the Left has failed to capitalize on it in any meaningful way.
There is always a battle of ideas going on in society and it is not an exaggeration to say that the Left has been consistently losing this battle for most of the last thirty years.
Given this fact, the lack of critical self-examination on the Left is truly startling. There seems little recognition even that we are marginalized and should be on the defensive, trying to rebuild our force, ideas and strategies. Instead, much of the Left too often engages in self-delusional triumphalism, trumpeting a minor uplift in militancy as the beginning of a tidal wave of radicalism.
The Left has a lot of old ideas that need to be tossed out. In an era when corporations, businesses, and political parties often reinvent themselves seemingly overnight, it’s way past time for the Left to do the same.