Skip to comments.The End of the Left’s History
Posted on 12/02/2004 5:51:19 AM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
The hysterical reaction of the Western Left to the reelection of President George W. Bush is not just a primal scream from politicians and intellectuals deprived of political power. The violent language, numerous acts of violence, and demonization of Bush and his electorate the same as that directed against Tony Blair in Britain, Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy portend a more fundamental event: the death rattle of the traditional Left, both as a dominant political force and as an intellectual vision.
For the most part, the Left only wins elections nowadays when their candidates run on their opponents platform (Clinton and Blair) or when panic overwhelms the political process (Zapatero and Schroeder). Under normal circumstances, leftists running as leftists rarely win, proving that their ideology the ideology that dominated political and intellectual debate for most of the last century is spent. When their ideas were in vogue, leftist advocates took electoral defeat in stride, as they were confident that their vision was far more popular because far more accurate than their opponents view of the world. History and logic were on their side. But no more. Incoherent rage and unbridled personal attacks on the winners are sure signs of a failed vision.
Ironically, the Lefts view of history provides us with part of the explanation for its death. Marx and Hegel both understood that the world constantly changes, and ideas change along with it. The world they knew and successfully transformed was a class-bound society dominated by royalty and aristocracy. They hurled themselves into class struggle, believing it to be the engine of human history, and they fought for liberty for all. Successive generations of leftists preached and organized democratic revolution at home and abroad, from the overthrow of tyrants to the abolition of class privileges and the redistribution of both political power and material wealth.
In true dialectical fashion, they were doomed by their own success. As once-impoverished workers became wealthier, the concept of the proletariat became outdated, along with the very idea of class struggle. Then the manifest failure and odious tyranny of the 20th-century leftist revolutions carried out in the name of the working class notably in Russia, China, and Cuba undermined the appeal of the old revolutionary doctrines, no matter how desperately the Left argued that Communist tyrannies were an aberration, or a distortion of their vision.
Thus the ideology of the Left became anachronistic, even in western Europe, its birthplace and the source of its historical model. But the biggest change was the emergence of the United States as the most powerful, productive, and creative country in the world. It was always very hard for the Left to understand America, whose history, ideology, and sociology never fit the Lefts schemas. Even those who argued that there were class divisions in America had to admit that the "American proletariat" had no class consciousness. The political corollary was that there was never a Marxist mass movement in the United States. Every European country had big socialist parties and some had substantial Communist parties; the United States had neither. Indeed, most American trade unions were anti-Communist. As Seymour Martin Lipset and others have demonstrated, the central ideals of European socialism which inspired many American leftist intellectuals were contained in and moderated by the American Dream. America had very little of the class hatred that dominated Europe for so long; American workers wanted to get rich, and believed they could. Leftist Europeans and the bulk of the American intellectual elite believed that only state control by a radical party could set their societies on the road to equality.
The success of America was thus a devastating blow to the Left. It wasnt supposed to happen. And American success was particularly galling because it came at the expense of Europe itself, and of the embodiment of the Lefts most utopian dream: the Soviet Union. Even those Leftists who had been outspokenly critical of Stalins "excesses" could not forgive America for bringing down the Soviet Empire, and becoming the worlds hyperpower. As Marx and Hegel would have understood, the first signs of hysterical anti-Americanism on the Left accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The resurgence of American economic power and the defeat of the Soviets exposed the failure of the Left to keep pace with the transformation of the world. The New York intellectual who proclaimed her astonishment at Reagans election by saying, "I dont know a single person who voted for him," well described the dialectical process by which an entire set of ideas was passing into history.
The slow death of the Left was not limited to its failure to comprehend how profoundly the world had changed, but included elements that had been there all along, outside the purview of leftist thought. Marx was famously unable to comprehend the importance of religion, which he dismissively characterized as the "opiate of the masses," and the Left had long fought against organized religion. But America had remained a religious society, which both baffled and enraged the leftists. On the eve of the 2004 elections, some 40 percent of the electorate consisted of born-again Christians, and the world at large was in the grips of a massive religious revival, yet the increasingly isolated politicians and intellectuals of the Left had little contact and even less understanding of people of faith.
Unable to either understand or transform the world, the Left predictably lost its bearings. It was entirely predictable that they would seek to explain their repeated defeats by claiming fraud, or dissing their own candidates, or blaming the stupidity of the electorate. Their cries of pain and rage echo those of past elites who looked forward and saw the abyss. There is no more dramatic proof of the death of the Left than the passage of its central vision global democratic revolution into the hands of those who call themselves conservatives.
History has certainly not ended, but it has added a new layer to its rich compost heap.
Bull. They loved it when the central government backed THEIR violations of others' property rights -- that was "justice".
They just opposed the logical extension of their own beliefs and tactics to ALL THE REST OF SOCIETY. Everybody is opposed to the forcible redistribution of their OWN wealth.
"On the eve of the 2004 elections, some 40 percent of the electorate consisted of born-again Christians, and the world at large was in the grips of a massive religious revival,..."
Die the world have a massive religious revival a month ago? Does anyone know what he is talking about here?
Michael Ledeen rocks..
It depends what you mean by Communist. American labor unions were firmly united against the USSR and the Communist Party, which was ousted from any posts it held in the unions after the Cold War began. As late as Reagan's time the labor unions helped support the Solidarity Movement in Poland which helped bring down the Soviet Union.
The chief centers of real card-carrying Communists in America after in 1950s and after were among intellectuals, academics, the entertainment industry, and in some branches of government where they had wormed their way in.
That's no longer true. The rank and file members of unions are still mostly social conservatives, but the leaders are flaming leftists. This only happened in fairly recent times.
So which part don't you understand?
In the US 40 percent of the electorate call them-selves "born-again".
In the Middle-East Islamofacists like bin Ladin and the Taliban, as well as mullahs and Iyatollahs such as run Iran are making political moves based on the religious impulses that Islam provides.
I guess that's what he's talking about.
2nd comment -- the religious aspect of his article is only periferal, and I find the analysis dead-on.
Global democratic revolution has been only half of their central vision for some time now. The other half of the Left's vision is its opposition to capitalism.
This was a train wreck which had to happen sooner or later, you cannot simultaneously embrace democracy and central control of the economy. Collectivism and democracy are the proverbial oil and water.
What is the source of this and what is the religion that is being revived?
The first 9/10s of the story is nothing new or particularly insightful. The money line and the observation to keep in mind as we look forward is this:
"There is no more dramatic proof of the death of the Left than the passage of its central vision global democratic revolution into the hands of those who call themselves conservatives."
Well, if Marx would have been surprised by the American political process, he would have been equally surprised by the Russian experience. Under Marxist theory the first proletarian revolution should have taken place in England. Russia was beneath consideration as they were at a much earlier stage of industrialization and her population was much closer to serfdom than it was to a true industrial working class.
There will always be life's losers whose sole ambition is to be the one holding the clipboard while strutting along the railway platform checking off the names of the "enemies of the people" crammed into boxcars.
The one constant of the Left --- they never rest.
Class hatred is alive and well in Minneapolis.
Both the left and the right might learn something about the recent election, if they would pay less attention to Marx, and more attention to Maslow.
search "Maslow" Pick "Hierarchy of Needs"
"Capitalism" as a term was coined by Marx. America's founders did not have such a construct as a central thesis.
Property was central, not "capitalism."
Christianity is growing very rapidly in Africa, and we know what's happening in the Muslim world.
"So which part don't you understand? "
I did understand the part about the Evangelicals, I was actually going to omit that part, I probably should have. I didn't understand what he was talking about re: a religious revival on the eve of the 2004 election. I know it is just an aside, and may have been mangled in some way. Like you I wondered did he mean the Islamofacist "religious" wave; or was it something else. Plus he talks about this vague event as happening "on the eve" of something that happened exactly 1 month ago. If it's OBL and co, they've been at it for a while longer than that; ditto the American Evangelical revival. So, I'm sorry, I still don't know what the guy is referring to. MAYBE he is talking about the Christian revival that is about to sweep Europe as they realize it is the ONLY thing that will save their culture from destruction by the Muslim terrorists and totalitarians, maybe he's just far sighted.
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