Bad ideas on the left

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  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.

Influential left-wing ideas

BobFromBrockley (UK) presents three categories of influential leftie core values in a thoughtful post which bears repeated reading.

Good influences

  • Social justice
  • Internationalism
  • The one state solution
  • Open source
  • Strangers into citizens

Social justice seems to me to be the predominant leftie value, and is the one that separates the left from conservatives and libertarians. Most everything flows from the assumption that all should get a reasonably sized piece of pie and be treated fairly. Yes, some conservatives and libertarians may believe this too. But it’s not their primary value, that’s the difference.

Bad influences

  • National sovereignty
  • Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
  • Blood for oil/the Israel lobby/the shock doctrine
  • Foreigners are stealing our jobs –
  • Second campism

He sees boycotts of Israel having “zero chance” of actually helping Palestinians and the shock doctrine as conspiracy theory analogous to South Park underpants gnomes who jump from Phase 1 to Phase 3 in their business plan, completely ignoring Phase 2 with no causal relationships linking Phase 1 and Phase 3.

Not influential enough ideas

  • Mutualism, co-operatives, self-management
  • Small government
  • No borders
  • Class analysis
  • Agnosticism

The left should take back the idea of small government, which is now the sole property of the right. I completely agree. Also, he adds, class analysis needs to be restored as a major idea for the left in Britain because without it, the left meanders and is rudderless. Here in the States there is finally, due to the financial crisis and accompanying obvious exploitation by the few of the many, a dim but growing awareness that class differences exist.

What are your thoughts about influential ideas on the left?

The Left needs to forget its glory days of yore and get some new ideas

Does the Left need a resurgence of trade unionism to resuscitate itself? Richard at American Leftist says maybe so but then opines what for many lefties is unthinkable, that new ideas are needed. I agree.

For those schooled in the traditions of the left, whether it be Social Democracy, Communism or anarchism, the reinvigoration of trade unionism is an essential precondition to any prospect of a progressive, not to mention revolutionary, social transformation.

All of that may have been true in the past, but in our current wired world where capital and manufacturing can go anywhere it wants and where most jobs are in the service sector, the entire concept of trade unions being able to control much of anything seems, well, quaint and dated.

While there has been many points of disagreement between these leftist variations, there has been one constant. All three have emphasized the necessity of participating in unions as a means of educating and organizing workers in support of a radical, class based politics. None of them, with the exception of anarchists in the 1890s, believed that we could bring about a more just, more egalitarian society independent of the trade union movement. Furthermore, the unions served an essential purpose by providing a means whereby workers could learn how to manage their workplaces for themselves.

Unions have been declining in power for decades. Trade unions only have power if what their workers make can’t easily be moved elsewhere. Plus, they can be corrupt themselves with their leaders making big salaries, which is hardly a breeding ground for revolutionary change.

Yes, communists and socialists had huge marches in New York City in the 1930’s, and unions were a big part of that. But wheezing like an out-of-shape middle-aged man about his glory days in high school baseball won’t bring those days back, which is what lefties do too often about their now-ancient successes.

If the moribund trade union movement cannot be resuscitated, the consequences for the left are profound. An entirely new doctrinal approach will be required, one that reinterprets class and capitalism in such a way as to present the prospect of social change despite an immobilized union movement.

Absolutely. The Left hasn’t really had any new ideas in decades. It needs to toss out the dusty old tomes, stop asking What Would Marx Do, and reinvent itself.

It would require transcending nearly 200 years of modernist left thought that sanctifies the worker as given expression through trade unionism. It is hard to imagine, but it may be unavoidable.

It’s not only unavoidable, it’s essential.

If the left doesn’t organize them, the right will

howl at the moon

This awesome rant howls about the cluelessness of liberals moaning about health care while wars rage and elites plunder the economy. This also, I must add, includes the maddeningly comatose behavior of the radical left who during this massive crisis of capitalism has been doing precisely nothing.

(I’m not sure who the author is, it doesn’t matter, just go with the howl. It’s rude, profane, and quite on target. Here’s most of it.)

The pants-pissing liberal hysteria about evil militia maniacs being mean to poor little helpless members of Congress

Of course millions and millions and millions of people increasingly hate and fear the government. And loathe and despise the politicians in Congress.

They are right to do so.

They are highly intelligent and perceive correctly who the enemy is, robbing them blind by the trillions of dollars and sending their kids off to stupid wars.

More than anything, this is what the teabaggers are about. They are increasingly angry about getting screwed over. DJ, who blogs here and lives in rural Utah, tells me the teabaggers he knows are not racists and most are Democrats. Urban liberals need to get their heads out of their posteriors and realize this.

Some teabaggers could be potential friends and allies. But they certainly won’t if liberals continue to portray them as ignorant rural yokels who live in doublewides as some liberal blogs are doing now. Instead they might want to listen to the quite real grievances about jobs, the economy, etc. Plus,, it’s a cheap shot. Find the looniest of the protesters, then portray them as being the norm. This happened all the time when I was helping organize antiwar protests.

Of course more and more want to tear the house down.

That is also a sign of intelligence.

If the radical left doesn’t organize them against the government and the status quo, the radical right will.

Populist uprisings can go left or right. Or even stay in the middle. But left radicals are doing approximately zilch now while liberals apparently have made the public option their political do-or-die issue. They may get their wish. Meanwhile, they ignore other, much bigger issues and alienate possible allies.

(Of course, tearing the house down with no clue what to do next generally isn’t a real effective plan. Unless of course you enjoy gibbering chaos.)

The posturing “progressives” of the world whining on the internet about the growth of the radical right and how mean they were to Congressman Thieving V. Fatfuck at the town hall meeting will not organize anything.

And the danger isn’t that these stupid, incompetent, deluded maniac assholes from some militia or other will march on Chicago or New York or Los Angeles.

Fortunately, there are literally millions of weapons in private hands in urban America. The Chicken Crotch Militia would last about 20 minutes showing up in Brooklyn.

The danger is from some General who decides he has to take over to save America from chaos.

If you’re worried about how things are going, go make friends with some troops.

Face to face.

The life you save may be your own.

Apocalyptic? Yes. A rant? Absolutely. But there’s considerable truth here. Liberals are overly busy defending Obama and are thus ignoring the wars and cratering economy, while the hard left is unaccountably AWOL. This needs to change. Now.