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Is the Left dead?

by Jeffersonian Democrat Thu Jun 16th, 2005 at 10:16:44 AM EST

I ran across an interesting column that dares to dishearten me.

More below the fold

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.06.2005

Göttingen-based political scientist Franz Walter considers the new leftist coalition being formed by Gregor Gysi (former chairman of the PDS, the successor to the communist party of East Germany) and Oskar Lafontaine (former SPD finance minister and a harsh critic of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder)  to be the sign of an ageing society. "The days of a juvenile political culture... are past. In an ageing society, the political hero is no longer the bold lad who describes the Utopia of the future with a cracking voice, hastening towards a better society with his coat tails waving behind him. In an ageing society, the social  and political veto is articulated softly if you like: traditionalist, safer, more seasoned, maybe also wiser. Such a leftist party can profit from this lifestyle conservatism. It doesn't have to protect itself -  half-hearted, embarrassed  - against the accusation of being a party of the 1970s welfare state."

So, is the Left a dying breed?  It seems, that in trying to be Centrist, the SPD/Greens have moved to the Right, much as the US Democratic Party has done.  What happened to the 68-ers?  They're starting to charge tuition at universities here and aside from some very lame protests, most students gripe but do nothing.  Nothing like 68.  Are the 68-ers growing old and comfortable in their "lifestyle conservatism".  Is their spirit dying as well?  Or is it a mixture of angst, apathy, and nihilism?

I find it disappointing when "welfare state" is such a bad word.  The ironic thing is, that it was the Left that made the the changes popular that a woman can run with a gay man and be chancellor, who both happen to be on the right.

How does the left grow itself new members?

I ask partly to get new ideas, and partly as a response. That is, young hungry lefties become older well-fed lefties who are anxious to protect the table at which they sit. Without bringing in new hungry people, the left will always shrink and atrophy, no?

by citizen on Thu Jun 16th, 2005 at 11:57:50 AM EST
Yeah. Very good question. The 20th century left is dead, if that left had as goal socialism of one kind or another.

But is the "left" as an historical impulse dead? Of course not. Its goal just change. It just depends how you think of the left.

If you define the left as those who believe in humanity, in the fundamental equality of people, that people will more often than not do the right thing, the moral thing, then there will always be a left, in opposition to the right. The issues change, but fundamental beliefs remain.

The problem for the left in much of the world is that it failed to realize this change in time.

As such, I don't see the SPD/Green coalition change as necessarily representing a move right, if by this you mean changing its attitude towards its mid-20th century goals.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Jun 16th, 2005 at 04:27:52 PM EST
Certainly in its current form the left is having trouble. But how about this for a scenario.

The Far East and South Asia continue to improve their ability to design, manufacture, and service the goods that the rest of the world needs. A huge population finds itself in a horrible sweat-shop working environment: The same environment that triggered the union movement in the first place.

The result: A new socialist movement driven by the billions of Chinese, Indian, and nearby workers. Their aim? To reduce the income disparity between themselves and the rich Americans and Europeans.

They want 35 hour work weeks, insurance, retirement, and vacations. They want central heating, air conditioning, cars, and fresh vegetables. They want TVs and iPods and cell phones and computers.

It will be tough on us rich Americans and Europeans when our tax rates jump to 90%, as they did for rich folks in response to the socialist movement of the 1930s.

by asdf on Sat Jun 18th, 2005 at 06:12:16 AM EST

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