Thursday, 4 June 2009
Who's Left?: how the Left failed the Big Test
In my latest New Internationalist column, Who's Left (May 2009), I wonder why the far-left has been so useless in putting forward the socialist argument when capitalism has been caught eating itself so spectacularly.
I watched stunned while over ten years the dominant strand within the Marxist left did over other leftists whenever a wave of solidarity manifested in positive action. Every time they welcomed someone with "talent", you gradually realised this was a ticket to ostracism, backstabbing and gleeful fantasies of Kronstadt-style discipline ("We should have shot them down like partridges", I kid you not).
It wasn't as if the movement was big or vibrant enough to withstand such losses. They may have stood on podiums lecturing the grunts about how every member is like gold dust in their "every sperm is sacred" spiel, but in practice they squandered the chief resource of any movement: its activists.
Corruption isn't just the preserve of bourgeois liberal politicians; it's a mindset. I was shocked to see the same motives of greed, power, fame and jealousy totally eclipsing the common cause in an Olympic bout of territorial pissing. Totally bonkers when they themselves had identified a limited window of opportunity following Blair's election in 1997 and the inevitable disillusion for anyone who hadn't been observing the upwards trajectory of the Tory creep.
Now that the public has seen through the political class the Left is nowhere. Today's local elections should have sent votes into the stratosphere, even if it was just in protest. But we know they won't.
It's good to see Independent columnist Mark Steel picking up on this at last, but as so many of them knew about this problem for ages and declined to help those of us who were trying to challenge such destructive behaviour, why has it taken so long? It's no good waiting until the axe is about to fall on you. That's not what comradeship and good politics is about. Anyone who's read the Pastor Niemoller T-shirt knows that: "First they came for the Communists ..."
I'd suggest that in turning a blind eye and failing to support dissenters those stalwarts of the left have been part of the very problem they now condemn. They can hardly complain now their own past practice is biting them on the bum.