On the pretend left in the blogosphere

L’Hote in the The blindspot says what passes for the left in the US is merely tepid neoliberalism with no genuine radicalism much less socialism.

There are many myths within the political blogosphere, but none is so deeply troubling or so highly treasured by mainstream political bloggers than this: that the political blogosphere contains within it the whole range of respectable political opinion, and that once an issue has been thoroughly debated therein, it has had a full and fair hearing. The truth is that almost anything resembling an actual left wing has been systematically written out of the conversation within the political blogosphere, both intentionally and not, while those writing within it congratulate themselves for having answered all left-wing criticism.

That the blogosphere is a flagrantly anti-leftist space should be clear to anyone who has paid a remote amount of attention. Who, exactly, represents the left extreme in the establishment blogosphere? You’d likely hear names like Jane Hamsher or Glenn Greenwald. But these examples are instructive. Is Hamsher a socialist? A revolutionary anti-capitalist? In any historical or international context– in the context of a country that once had a robust socialist left, and in a world where there are straightforwardly socialist parties in almost every other democracy– is Hamsher particularly left-wing? Not at all. It’s only because her rhetoric is rather inflamed that she is seen as particularly far to the left. This is what makes this whole discourse/extremism conversation such a failure; there is a meticulous sorting of far right-wing rhetoric from far right-wing politics, but no similar sorting on the left. Hamsher says bad words and is mean in print, so she is a far leftist. That her politics are largely mainstream American liberalism that would have been considered moderate for much of the 20th century is immaterial.

Naked Capitalism agrees

Freddie deBoer’s post “the blindspot” (hat tip Richard Smith) seems to have created a bit of a frisson among political bloggers. It make a long-form argument that “the political discourse, in our punditry, lacks a left-wing.”

That should not be a controversial statement.

For instance, this blog has started to deal with political issues as they relate to the financial services industry, and now and again to the broader economy, largely as a result of the failure to implement meaningful reforms in the wake of the financial crisis. If you are not angry about the ongoing plutocratic land grab in this country, you are either not paying attention, deluded, or part of the problem. And I continue to be surprised that my views are deemed to be left-leaning. I’m middle of the road as of the Reagan era; the rest of the US has made a remarkably large shift to the right and seems to be continuing its move in that direction.

Oh, there is a far left blogosphere, and it’s often quite robust. But it gets no traction in the States.

Part of the problem on the far left is that too often such groups are primarily interested in recruiting for their little Marxoid cult not in the ostensible cause of their front groups. But you can’t have it both way. To build a truly mass organization, you need moderates. But they won’t allow that. This had very real ramifications in the anti-Iraq War protests with front groups like ANSWER who were controlled by Workers World (then PSL after the split from WW). They alienated the moderates because ANSWER was primarily a recruiting tool, the anti-war stuff was always secondary. (This is not speculation, I was there and also have it on impeccable authority from a decades-long organizer)

Also, on the far left, it is reasonable to assume that far left groups have been compromised and infiltrated by informers. In the 50’s, as it turned out, half the participants in Communist Party meetings were FBI. Anti-war organizers in the 1960’s who did FOIA requests decades later were stunned to find how much they were watched. So, there’s no doubt that such things still happen.

Sadly, the Iraq anti-war movement fell apart after Obama was elected. It appears the most of the protesters were really anti-Bush, not anti-war. Too many liberals and progressives now still think Obama will suddenly morph into Liberalman and continue to wait for that.

The US left, from liberals out to socialists, needs to determine what it actually believes in and to stop making self-destructive mistakes. We can’t change the right but we can change ourselves.

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