Harry’s Place riffs on Bob From Brockley’s list of influential left ideas, focusing on the five bad ideas. I found these two points to be of particular interest.
The belief that one’s enemy’s enemy is one’s friend
A senior member of PSL once told me in apparent complete seriousness that Mugabe of Zimbabwe should be supported because he stands against imperialism, a view that is in such contrast with existing reality that it can only be described as deranged. Yet you see this view all over the left. No, simply because someone does not like the actions of the US, does not automatically make them an an ally (an infantile and myopic view indeed). They could easily be an enemy. Al Qaeda is a swell example of this. If they ever took power, the first people they would kill or torture would be lefties. Besides, I’m just not real keen on watching family or friends get blown up by suicide bombers, how about you?
There is a particular type of rigidity which I associate more with the left than the right – one which stems from a focus on means rather than ends, which begins by deciding what the answer to a question is (and then searches for the evidence to back that answer up) rather than examining the data dispassionately – even if the answer isn’t precisely what one had hoped for or expected.
This is a primary reason I once quit / was purged from a far left group. Everything had to be examined and explained in terms of their interpretation of St. Karl of Marx. St. Karl is of course inerrant, and all doctrines and beliefs must flow from Him. It’s like fundamentalist Christians poring over the Bible – and the same mindset too. Only we have the proper understanding of the scriptures. All others have fallen. This perfectly explains why you find micro Marxist cults on the left whose views differ in minuscule ways Â but who loathe each other. This isn’t politics, it’s theology.
The influence of such a lock-step, inflexible understanding of politics and economics is widespread on the left, even with those who don’t consider themselves even remotely Marxist. But St. Karl was wrong on many things, and 150 years later, much of what he said is irrelevant. In his time, the class differences were pronounced. In the US now, they are not. Nor do workers in the US show much interest in remaining in their class if they can instead move up. This is crucial. US workers don’t want to organize within their class nor do they feel solidarity within their class as in Britain. There is not and never will be huge solidarity between the workers of the world. Sure, there can be uprisings among workers in an area, like we’re seeing in Europe and Britain now, but this is due to conditions on the ground and not to some mystical worldwide worker’s solidarity.
Also,in Marx’s time, the middle class was tiny, now it predominates. Saul Alinsky is correct. It is the middle class that needs to be organized because that is where the power is.
Also, that whole dictatorship of the proletariat thing. Well, it’s absurd, isn’t it? In theory it was just supposed to be for a few years until the bourgeosie was vanquished, then 1000 flowers would bloom and the workers will take control. In practice of course, it generally resulted in brutal thugocracies, lots of dead people, and the plundering of the nation by elites running the dictatorship. So, either Marx was sadly deluded about such a dictatorship or was a deliberate liar, as there’s no way it could work in reality as he depicted it, a conclusion that just isn’t complicated and is something most 12 year olds can probably figure out on their own. (Yes, of course the US has huge problems and plundering elites. But last time I checked, they weren’t killing millions like Stalin and Mao did.)
The left needs to re-invent itself, to examine its ideas, toss out what is tired and threadbare, and develop new approaches and terminology that are relevant to society today. Then it can be in the ascendant again.
when I was a kid and asked my dad about all the different religions in the world, he explained each, with their major tenants, drawbacks and appeals, and he included Communism in that list. He was so right.