Monday, April 02, 2007

Rebuilding the left

Read the article from the Financial Times below.
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Today I'd like to be upbeat on the future of the left. Many say that the left is finished, "on the ash heap of history" Ronnie said, quoting Trotsky, of all people. Reagan, the first neocon?

Many commentators maintain that the fall of the USSR was the end of socialism as a movement and even as an idea. And the truth is that even the moderate left has been reeling since the Berlin Wall came down. The end?

I am slowly coming to quite the opposite conclusion. The consciousness of suffering created the "class struggle". Marx didn't invent it out thin air in a laboratory, he simply attempted to make a scientific analysis of what any contemporary reader of Charles Dickens was aware of, all around him every day, everywhere. With all of Dickens's genius he couldn't hope to spread the reality of poverty and injustice as today's media can. Inequality, poverty and exclusion certainly haven't gone away and Globalization, which is unchained capitalism is aggravating them. We have the evidence around us daily. T
here is no substitute for the left. Necessity creates the organ.

Instead of its destruction, the fall of the USSR and "really existing socialism" means the liberation of the left, rather like the death of an evil, neurotic, absorbent parent or the break up of a hate-filled, destructive marriage or even the loss of faith in a "jealous" god... it means liberation.

The path that Soviet, Marxist-Leninism took was that of the Party as the "vanguard of the proletariat", a select, elitist group called on by history to lead the "masses" toward socialism. Inevitably that led to an inbred, selfish, corrupt coterie of self righteous bureaucrats, a carnival mirror image of their capitalist opposite numbers. The Oscar winning film, "The Lives of Others" gives a clear portrait of what this "vanguard" wrought. If the left is to be "reborn" it must be democratic in the fullest sense. The first battle to be fought is to make societies that call themselves "democracies" into truly participatory democracies. The tools to do so are all around us. We are entering the era of the flowering of micro-financed, activist enriched, "mini-mass movements". The YouTube phenomenon, means we return to village democracy where rotten tomatoes can be thrown at frauds and phonies. No "vanguard" could lead this and if any rises to do so it should be "youtubed" to extinction.

The greatest enemy of this reborn, participatory, democratic left is "permanent war", martial law, the "permanent state of exception" and the "national security state" with its suspension of human or constitutional rights.

As the shape and power of this movement becomes clearer so will the use of this tactic of fear and suspension of liberty. There are some paranoiacs (and remember, even they have enemies) who think that the entire Al Qaeda phenomenon was allowed to flower as an answer to the panic that the anti-Globalization riots of Seattle in 1999 caused in our own "vanguard". DS

Mica Panic: Child poverty exposes the Anglo-American model - Financial Times
Abstract: For more than 30 years neoliberals have held up the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK as examples that other countries must follow to achieve economic success and high levels of social well-being. Yet, according to a recent Unicef report on child welfare, these are the worst two industrial countries in which to grow up. Is the Anglo-American model really as successful as neoliberals claim? Two years ago another United Nations agency, the UN Development Programme, singled out the plight of many children in the US and the UK. Child poverty had doubled in the UK between 1979 and 1998, which it called "a legacy of the 1980s - a decade characterised by a distinctly pro-rich growth pattern that left poor people behind". A major cause was "the impact of [Thatcher] government policies that cut taxes for higher earners and lowered benefits for the poor.(...) In the US the consequences of similar policies and the lack of universal health care (unique among advanced countries) have been even more serious. According to the UNDP report: "A baby boy from a family in the top5 per cent of US income distribution will enjoy a lifespan 25 per cent longer than a baby boy from the bottom 5 per cent." Not surprisingly, when you consider the whole population, not just children, the two countries, especially the US, lag behind the nations of "old Europe", whatever indicators of well-being are used.(..) The importance of these comparisons is that they consistently show that countries with social democratic or corporatist models of capitalism have markedly higher levels of social well-being than those, such as the US and UK, with a liberal free-market model. Equally important, the reason for this is not that they have higher gross domestic product per head but that their social attitudes, objectives and policies are very different. Unlike the US and, since 1979, the UK, these countries attach great importance to social cohesion and, therefore, to equality of opportunity. As they believe that there is "such a thing as society" rather than "only" isolated, alienated individuals in ruthless pursuit of self-interest, the aim of their institutions and policies is to improve both social and individual welfare. In other words, the goal is to promote a harmony of national interests - not social Darwinism - by ensuring that the whole society shares the benefits of economic growth as well as the costs of the adjustment process that makes it possible. Consequently, social democracies in particular are committed to those institutions and policies that neoliberals want to change. Employers, employees and government co-operate to solve national problems. Taxes and social expenditure are comparatively high, making generous unemployment and other benefits possible. They spend much more than the US and the UK on retraining those who become unemployed. Inequalities of income are much lower; and so also poverty, economic insecurity, lack of trust in other people and levels of stress and crime. If these achievements are, as neo-liberals believe, a sign of failure, what constitutes success? Franklin Roosevelt's definition of socio-political success is as relevant now as in 1937 when he said: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." And what happens if we fail? Freedom and democracy were "not possible" in a country, he warned the US Congress, "if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living". Neither, as Europe was soon to show, was peace. READ IT ALL

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reagan never said that the "left" would end on the ashheap of history, but rather that "freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history." And he was right.

Despite his being maligned, Reagan was sophisticated enough that I'm sure, for all his taunting of long-haired hippies, he knew that a country needs more than the dull conformity of the bourgeouisie. He was a New Deal Democrat who met his wife when she came to ask him to "fix" her having run in Communist circles for crying out loud.

If you look at current events, the Neo-Cons, who are nothing other than Trotskyites in new clothing, are now rapidly heading for the ash heap of history.