The Right is winning the battle of ideas in the UK

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.

Left Luggage

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.


  1. I’d really be impressed if someone can tell me what ideas “the left” has, that need to be thrown out. I really would. We’ve been “on the defensive” to long already, it’s time to get OFFENSIVE.

    • Too often Left groups are controlled by or are front groups for hardcore Marxists, who too often insist on viewing everything in terms that the bulk of the US populace finds impenetrable ( “working class”, “bourgeoise”, etc.) These terms may work in Europe / UK where people know what socialism is because it’s in the culture. But it’s not in the culture in the US, so presenting things in those terms is a losing strategy.

      Also, those same hardcores really have no interest in organizing the vast bulk of the country (even as they proclaim they do) because doing so would let in moderates, and the hardcores would then lose control. So, by their very fanaticism, they practically guarantee their message will only be heard by a few.

      Their fanaticism is also what keeps them going, organizing and trying, long after everyone else has gone hone or given up, so it’s not all bad, not hardly.

  2. 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.

    Spot on. Bloggers and other liberals are pushing for this, but not our elected officials and other public servants, with a few exceptions.

  3. Obama is about to deliver on something that was thought impossible up to a year ago- a substantial improvement in our medical care system. No, it is not the single payer plan that most of us on the left want, but it is going to ease the burden of medical costs for millions of Americans.

    That will not be an idea, it will be a fact, and a gigantic one in the eyes of most Americans. Compared to that, all of the “ideas” and propaganda in the world are vanishingly unimportant.

    So, let the Republicans talk on. Their pathetic ideology has delivered nothing but misery to the American people. Many on the Left may not understand this, but the Republicans do; that is why they are mustering every weapon they have to stop it. Like social security and civil rights legislation, this will endure as a permanent demonstration of what it means to have Democrats in charge.

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