February 19, 2003

Tolerate Liberal Democracy! You probably

Tolerate Liberal Democracy!

You probably think you've read one too many essays on "what's wrong with today's Left," but if you can manage to fit another one in, I highly recommend "Can We Still Belong to the Left?" by blogger Harry Steele. Is the post-Cold War Left still "progressive?" Can it be? This is a serious, original attempt to address these and other related questions.


It is perhaps worth noting that a similar organisation to the SWP [Socialist Workers Party], Workers World, heads the American anti-war campaign. But even if these ugly heads of the cold-war left were to be cut off, we would still be left with a broader left that is locked into a related, if less extreme, world view.

This broader left, which includes many well-meaning liberals as well as Old Labour figures, shares the SWP's view that the post cold-war era has become a battle between a single superpower and those who oppose them. For these people, at least, the opposition includes mainly "anti-globalisation" forces and they are much less willing to act as apologists for Islamasists or Saddam.

Yet unlike the left in the 1930's, they are unable to even take up the minimum principled position of even a temporary, tactical defence of liberal democracy in the face of its reactionary enemies.

The perfect illustration of how cold-war thinking has continued into the new era was the sight of Tony Benn meeting Saddam in Baghdad, affording him the cautious diplomatic respect that was given to East European communist leaders.

If we are to be generous we could describe this part of the cold-war left as muddled and confused, still unable to get to grips with the rapid changes of the past 15 years. But allied, as they are at the moment, with the harder, nihilistic left they produce a political tendency which is simply no longer viable as any sort of partner in progressive politics.

I think there's a lot in this. The phenomena Harry discusses have been noted, of course, but I've never seen it approached in quite this way. Well done.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 19, 2003 10:26 PM | TrackBack