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Socialists Adrift

by afew Thu May 28th, 2009 at 03:25:35 AM EST

 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

Ilana Bet-El, in Comment Is Free, tells us how the PES (Party of European Socialists) failed during their December conference to agree on a candidate to back for the post of Commission President, thereby leaving the field open for Barroso.

European socialism: defiant in disarray | Ilana Bet-El | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Apart from being downright ridiculous – how can a group that aspires to power fail to produce a candidate for leadership? – there are three main implications to this situation. The first is that there will be no substantive race, let alone fight, for one of the most central jobs in the EU. In fact, the incumbent president, Jose-Manuel Barroso, will not only get the backing of his own right-of-centre grouping, the EPP – which recently officially endorsed him as their candidate at its own conference – but probably also that of some or all of the socialists. To make the matter look slightly less absurd, various socialist MEPs have been saying he must present a more social agenda for his next term to get their vote, but it all sounds pretty weak.

Pretty weak indeed. And she finishes:

European socialism: defiant in disarray | Ilana Bet-El | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

the socialists in Europe, in every member state and as an EU grouping, seem to be somewhere between disfunctionality, disarray and possible disintegration. This has been known for some time, but the public demonstrations are becoming more frequent. In the UK, Labour has had nothing to do with the S-word in years. In France, it was fascinating – if horrifying – to watch the infighting among the socialists in the French presidential election in 2007, followed by the catfight between those defeated in the leadership election this year. These and other examples would be bad enough, but for the fact we are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s – and the socialists are nowhere. They should be sweeping the board, kicking right-of-centre parties off the scene – instead of which they are trailing in both EU and national polls everywhere.

It is time for socialist parties to have a deep reckoning as to what they mean and represent – and to start taking some responsibility for it. For let's face it: if they can't even agree on a candidate for an EU job, how can they expect the public to trust them with more sweeping decisions on policy?

Emphasis mine

I'd add that it's not just catfighting among the French Socialists, it's also, for a considerable proportion of the (what was once a) leadership, the incapacity to clear conventional wisdom out of their heads: in other words, most of them gave in to the inevitability of neoliberalism long ago.


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Other quotable:

out of a bloc of over 400 million people, apparently only one - acknowledged as inadequate, at best - is deemed suitable to be EU commission president. If nothing else, that is an amazing statistic.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 03:29:40 AM EST
There does seem to be a sense that many (mainstream) socialists have given in to the inevitable aftermath of the Thatcher-Reagan era.  

More confrontational socialists/communists won't get far just by shouting that the neo-lib agenda is bad and wrong, without providing a feasible alternative or a pathway to transition away from the status quo to something better and fairer.

More mainstream so-called socialists are still running with the neo-lib agenda for fear of being too controversial and losing votes, and as such the shift to the Overton Window isn't going to budge back to to the left, the values that prevail within society won't be changing drastically.

Although there is more public backlash against the filthy rich and unscupulous use of tax payers money - a lot of this backlash comes from those who have suddenly seen how much more that some people have, and I think it isn't purely a reaction to the unfairness of that but a reaction of 'I want some of that too and if I can't then they shouldn't.'

And socialist groups and parties who should be playing a key role in promoting better values and creating change just seem lost in it all. Where's the clarity of vision?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:04:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me there's a lack of clear analysis, for a start. The crisis seems to bother them, because coming to an understanding of it and making that understanding into clear public communication is one or more of these:

  • scary because they are so in the habit of following rather than leading opinion (see your point about fear of losing votes);
  • mystifying because apparently counter-intuitive (they've been in favour of a certain degree of redistribution, certainly, but capitalism was supposed to be rip-roaring efficient in producing the wealth to distribute...);
  • simply beyond them, no one on the left having done any new thinking for decades.

Getting into power to direct some wealth towards redistribution, towards support of the civic, collective, public domain, is not a bad thing compared to getting into power to direct wealth towards the plutocracy, and to reduce the public sphere in favour of the private, but it's hardly a vision.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 06:15:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Socialism" has degenerated to being populism, a mix of Keynesianism, and a mixed economy where they dominant meme that the profit motive is essential for increased efficiency/wealth isn't challenged.

When Socialism gave up its intellectual roots in Marxism, for fear of being associated with Stalinism, it lost the ability to create an alternative narrative and intellectual discourse which could challenge the dominant discourse.

So what now passes for Socialism acknowledges the superiority of Capitalism over Communism, accepts the validity of the notion that Stalinism somehow derived from Marxism (when it had more in common with Tsarism) and just seeks to curry favour by reacting to the excesses of Capitalism.

At least the Greens come from a different intellectual base - starting with the finite resources and resilience of the world's ecosystem - and concluding that the Growth is Good meme of Capitalism is in itself unsustainable because it fails to take external/environmental costs into account.

People can see where the Greens are coming from, even if their policies have been largely appropriated by the establishment.  But where are socialists coming from if they do not have the sort of fundamental analysis of the dynamics of Capitalism that Marx provided?

The collapse of Communism meant the Capitalist elites no longer had to negotiate with socialists to share out the proceeds of production.  Socialists were discredited and survived only by becoming Keynesian social democrats.

But what new analysis/dominant narrative has come out of the near collapse of financial capitalism?  So far, not a whole lot.  People aren't prepared to go back to the old socialism/communism, and the social democrats failed to control the excesses of Capitalism - so they don't really have an intellectual basis or raison d'etre.

We're in a very volatile period where proto-Fascists and snake oil salesmen like Berlusconi and Ganley are making the running.  The utterly pathetic efforts of European Socialists to develop any kind of an alternative vision that people can buy into, or even a strong leadership alternative to Brown/Berlusconi/Barroso means that we are in danger of a very scary descent into hell - last seen in the 1930's.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 10:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"So what now passes for Socialism acknowledges the superiority of Capitalism over Communism"

It really depends on what exactly you call "Capitalism", Frank.
Because capitalism, as in, people have the right to own private property, to do business and keep the profits after taxpaying (as well as the freedom of expression and the multi-partitism and many other civil freedoms and rights - do I need to recall anyone how gays were treated in communist countries), well this "capitalism" is actually the "normal" way of things, that is, much more than just another political ideology. This capitalism is nor equivalent, neithe necessarily leading to neoliberalism or neoconservatism.

On the other hand if you consider capitalism became the norm because of the "Overton Window" (I don't know why but I hate this term) moving, if you consider that what is known as communist regimes were not really so (from a strict political ideology viewpoint), then we're in a bit of a trouble, because you somehow imply that it's a matter of Either/Or, Black/White, Neoliberalism/Communism, which means you will be militating for communism. Or like I said once (and I'm sure people here are well aware), communism is broadly speaking defined as marxism, and marxism is violent revolution, class war and dictatorship, by the very definition given by Marx and Lenin. You may nuance this by speaking of "cooler" variants of communism, the Kibbutz kind (?), or que sais-je.
This can be discussed, but realists (not necessarily myself :) ) will answer you, Frank, that there is not one example of a successful communism regimes (that is, if we make an effort towards objectivity and leaving aside our own political convictions).


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 10:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and the multi-partitism and many other civil freedoms and rights

... has precisely nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalist countries can be and have historically been more or less democratic (Sweden being on the more democratic end, and Pinochet's Chile being on the rather less democratic end). Communist states have been more or less democratic (with the Paris Commune on the more democratic end and the DDR on the rather less democratic end).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nitpick: the GDR [DDR is the German acronym] was one shade short of the less democratic end, because they had the Blockparteien, the sham continuation of non-socialistic parties that were in a nominal anti-fascistic alliance with the communists. (In 1990, the CDU and LDPD block parties merged with the West German CDU resp. FDP; this history of collaboration was retouched from history by the time of later anti-PDS/Left Party and anti-Red-Red-coalition campaigns.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 06:41:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I didn't attempt to identify the extrema, in no small part because that would require a knowledge of the global history of the 20th century that I don't have.

Other than that, point taken and an interesting historical exposition.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 07:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Because capitalism, as in, people have the right to own private property, to do business and keep the profits after taxpaying (as well as the freedom of expression and the multi-partitism and many other civil freedoms and rights - do I need to recall anyone how gays were treated in communist countries), well this "capitalism" is actually the "normal" way of things, that is, much more than just another political ideology.

That's a very parochial view. In most cultures ownership and taxes were footnotes, not the main focus of activity.

Capitalism in the sense we have it now is ritualised. It isn't about ownership, it's a culture in which ownership and display of ownership - not just of objects, but of people - are the most important, even the only values.

New Socialism has different values. Ownership isn't a key value - opportunity is, and synergy are, on the basis that a balance between personal ownership and shared effort seems to create the happiest, most diverse and most enjoyable cultures.

This balance has to be enforced. It doesn't happen spontaneously. But the enforcement is beneficial - in the same way that outlawing criminal activity is beneficial to everyone except criminals.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 03:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To continue on your analysis,
socialists were discredited because of their connections with marxism and marxist regimes. Their final blow was however dealt by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, which abandoned notions like the class war and resolutely moved towards the center. I don't think this could have been avoided in any way, given what happened in the second half of the 80's.

But this hardly means we would be in an ideological void. Full blown communism, as well as absolutely-free markets, lost credibility, but there is such thing as the old style, entrepreneurial capitalism is still there somewhere, behind the flashy stockmarket indexes, "analyst poll" or "think tank" predictions, and the rest of the virtual economy.

And there is yet another lesson in all this: we should really qualify what "progress" means, and very carefully so. And we should also be ready to accept that sometimes what was considered progress, was in fact simply wrong. Communism is no longer considered progress, even by most leftwing commentators. The freemarket dogma is proven what it is, a catastrophy, and I suspect the globalisation dogma will soon follow. Not everything that looks like a progress is such, and not everything seen as obsolete is so. With the corolary that nuances should be welcomed back in political discussions, and generalisations made with far more care than is often the case these days.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:04:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Their final blow was however dealt by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, which abandoned notions like the class war and resolutely moved towards the center.
Somebody forgot to tell Warren Buffett that the "class war" was passé as a political notion.

In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning - New York Times

"There's class warfare, all right," Mr. Buffett said, "but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

...

When I mentioned on these panels that we should consider all options for closing this gap -- including raising taxes, particularly for the wealthiest people -- I was met with several arguments by people who call themselves conservatives and free marketers.

One argument was that the mere suggestion constituted class warfare. I think Mr. Buffett answered that one.



The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:13:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The class war in marxist acception was more about profession categories, than simply the rich and the poor. For instance in France most people consider rich someone with a monthly income of over 4500 euros, which represents a few percents of the population. Or a class that encompasses 98% of the public is no longer a "class".

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:39:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
a class that encompasses 98% of the public is no longer a "class"
I'm not sure about that - after all, revolutionary marxists always assumed that "the masses" were behind them. In a highly unequal and stratified society you can have a definition of a "class" that emcompasses 98% of the people.

How large was the 3rd estate at the time of the French Revolution?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and prior to that you had the classes of Nobility and peasants, the peasant class must have been close to 98% (I know things were more complicated than that with a whole stratification of medieval lives, Vileins, serfs etc) butclass structures in modern politics are an amalgamation of finer grained social levels too.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Estates-General of 1789 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The prospect of an Estates-General highlighted the conflict of interest between the Second and Third Estates. The First Estate and the Second Estate together represented only 3% of France's national population. The Third Estate, theoretically representing the other 97% of the French population, in practice represented an increasing proportion of the country's wealth.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:50:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is very interesting. I always thought (read somewhere) that the privileged estates could have been much more numerous than the 3% usually quoted.

And there's also the issue of the Third Estate, for instance here:
http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/frenchrev/section2.rhtml

one finds this paragraph:


Beyond the chasm that existed between it and the other estates, the Third Estate itself varied greatly in socioeconomic status: some members were peasants and laborers, whereas others had the occupations, wealth, and lifestyles of nobility. These disparities between members of the Third Estate made it difficult for the wealthy members to relate to the peasants with whom they were grouped. Because of these rifts, the Estates-General, though organized to reach a peaceful solution, remained in a prolonged internal feud.

which shows at least that the 3rd estate was far from really being a class.

Anyway, even if we can discuss if 98% of the people make a "class", or the actual People, what I said was that marxist classes are not the same as Buffet classes. In particular the class war concerned the workers, professional category which is today on its way out.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:03:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
the class war concerned the workers, professional category which is today on its way out
Which is my diagnosis of the reason why Socialist parties today have lost their bearing.

The industrial revolution (and modern capitalism) started in the first third of the 19th century, and in short order it gave rise to workers' movements and socialist ideologies (plural) whose only real point of comonality was questioning the principle of private property. And by the first third of the 20th century the workers' movement had grown to the point that socialist parties started attaining power (at the expense of the liberals, mostly - the conservatives stayed important) and enjoyed power and influence in 1930-1980 with a peak after WWII. But now the workers' mass movement is no more and the mainstream socialist parties are bland centrist parties jostling with conservative parties for the "centre".

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:10:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Worse, the living standards are considerably higher these days, and not only in the developed countries. Poverty regresses everywhere in the world, poor people enjoy elements of comfort unthinkable 100 years ago. This has forced the socialist Overton Window to move to more and more specific issues, and socialists to really struggle to find new issues to defend. From defending people dying at 40 from mine dust, it came to defending the payed holiday passing from 4 to 5 weeks, or the daily working time from 8 to 7 hours. Huge social warfare, what can I say. From demanding that blacks stop being treated as an inferior species, or homosexuality being a crime, it came to defending gay marriage, or decisions like the one regarding white firemen in New Jersey (if I remember well).

The fundamental problem here seems to be that not only socialism, but the left began little by little to run out of themes to defend. At some point, an employee tends to care less that the top 2% earn 1000 minimum salaries, if he himself earns enough to have a satisfactory life, buy his HD flat screen and go to the Bahamas once a year.

The tide turned again when came the financial crisis threatening the system as a hole, and the average individual became afraid of losing his job. But even that failed to bring up the old leftwing.
Not to mention that today there are means of "calming" down the "little people" that did not exist before - I'm speaking of the media.

Which leads to the idea that not only socialism, but the whole political spectre needs to be revamped in order to catch up with the society.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 07:12:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, the piece missing from that narrative is the fact that the financial collapse came as a direct result of the wealthy grabbing more than their fair share of the pie. And that the rising standards of living that ordinary people in The West(TM) have enjoyed have been in no small part a bread and circus operation funded by a continent-wide Ponzi scam. And that the rising standards of living in the Third World are due largely to the managed economies of China and a couple of other large developing countries.

Really, we've deconstructed pretty much all of those statistics before. If you factor in the cost of the current crash and compare the countries that have and have not swallowed the Washington Consensus nostrums (and put to one side the handful of countries that have been bombed back to the stone age for not obeying Washington Consensus diktats...), then you come to the conclusion that socialism and social democracy does work rather well, after all...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 07:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you factor in the cost of the current crash...

See Willem Buitler's Lessons from the global financial crisis for regulators and supervisors (May 26, 2009)

The damage caused by financial sector excesses is way out of proportion to whatever gains from financial innovation may have accrued to the wider economy in the last couple of decades.
It's refreshing to see these kinds of things on an FT.com blog, even
The political economy of successful reform dictates that radical, sweeping reform be introduced as soon as possible, before the defenders of the financial status quo are able to collect themselves and launch as massive PR campaign to close the door on radical reform.

Under normal circumstances (financial calm and boom), the financial sector has `owned' the policy makers and the regulators in the US, the UK and much of continental Europe during the past twenty years.  Its current weakened state, the result of the biggest financial bust ever, prevents the financial sector from mounting the kind of massive lobbying effort it has been capable of in the past.  We should seize the moment.



The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 02:17:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say more than refreshing, it is downright astonishing.

My point was not about the costs of the crisis though, which will be very high, or the debt economy's flaws (which I think everybody agrees are obvious when the debt goes beyond reasonable).

To return to the original point: one way or the other, social and economical progress of the last 150 years made socialist doctrines become less and less catching in the public eye (I'm speaking about the doctrines, not the political parties). It is far less convincing today to claim that train drivers (my dada, as someone would say :) ) have an exceptionally difficult life, and far less rewarding in terms of electoral outcome.
This makes me think that a genuine ideology, in order to survive, must have a strong philosophical base. One cannot build a lasting ideology based on issues particular to a certain period. Or otherwise said, it is quite surprising socialist parties survived the '70s.

If we take a look at the rightwing, things are even simpler: traditionalists are simply aging and dying.
Values like effort are almost completely gone from the society. Law and order currents only survive because of terrible events such as 9/11. Nationalism is still up because of the constant immigration waves. That one is going to be there for a while I suspect, and that may well be the last warfare scene between left and right. (or maybe not, given the recent EU agreements on the subject). Most of the other issues have been more or less settled by compromises. All that remains is the competition between a dynamic/active (I should say masculine :) ) attitude of the right, and a protective (feminine?) attitude from the left. The left is winning there, because women are more numerous, more and more decomplexed, and quite worthier than men, especially in a society such as ours.
But on the long term, I don't see a political future for the traditional left or right.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 04:49:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
This makes me think that a genuine ideology, in order to survive, must have a strong philosophical base. One cannot build a lasting ideology based on issues particular to a certain period. Or otherwise said, it is quite surprising socialist parties survived the '70s.
I don't think you can base a political philosophy on eternal truths. It's been tried before, and in every case, with hindsight, the "eternal truths" turned out to be unexamined assumptions peculiar to the time period and political system the philosopher lived in.

The more I learn about economics the more convinced I become that the economy is too dependent on consensual social structures (laws and customs) that a universal economics based on eternal truths is hopeless and one has to fall back on political economy.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 04:54:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What strikes me is the similarity between the mankind and the man. Mankind is changing so much and so fast, that it is absolutely impossible to predict what will be the next direction. The last example are the technological advances of the last 20 years, which fundamentally changed the society. Some might argue that late 18th - early 19th century revolutions were predictable. But it is certain that the industrial one is not. So maybe the real factor to count, way before philosophies, social structures, or whatever, is after all technology. (for instance if most jobs had continued to occur in the heavy industry, there would have likely been no feminist revolution, no sexual revolution, and no civic rights one either).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:15:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I find most curious there is that he would describe "financial calm and boom" as being "normal circumstances."

I wonder what he's been smoking for the last ten years or so. And I'm not sure it's healthy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 07:23:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as I know there were some fierce discussions about the peasantry, and most peasant were forced into the shared ownership stuff. SO well.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:04:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what's the upper limit in percentage terms as to how many people can make up a class? and why?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:44:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't tell you what an upper limit is to make up a class, but I can say that 97% or 3% both seem to be well  beyond what constitutes a class. I could also say that a class is any category of population susceptible to send deputies to the EU parliament :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 02:33:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ok then why do you think that such an upper boundary exists?

it may seem like that is the limit, but if it is a limit, then why does any group larger in size cease to be a class?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 03:23:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I said that maybe I can't say when a class is one, but I certainly can say when it isn't :)
A class must have something differentiating, specific, typical, but still large enough to avoid being considered a mere peculiarity.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 06:47:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then you are not objecting to the Marxist notion of class that underpins the Marxist notion of class war that you were objecting to.

Now, whether or not the Marxist version of class war is a meaningful and productive analytical tool is a subject for another day. But I would politely suggest that it is not horribly surprising to find that a Marxist class analysis is unhelpful, when you insist on a concept of class that is decidedly non-Marxist.

That's a little like blaming a FireWire connection for being unproductive when you're trying to connect it to a USB port...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 07:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another answer could be that the statement "98% of population can constitute a class" holds more or less the  same degree of accuracy as the following one "social organizations voted in at 99% can constitute a political party" :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 02:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, yes it is.

How big do you think the "capitalist class" was at the time Marx was writing? In the double digits, percentage-wise?

In 1929, the top 5 % incomes in the USA commanded a mite over 30 % of the total American income. Looking at wealth, the picture was even more skewed.

And by all the indices I've seen, it's even worse today.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:44:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
The class war in marxist acception
Ah, okay, so it's allowed to redefine "class war" and use it according to a different definition.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:45:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I said Blair & Co abandoned the class war, I meant the old marxist dogma, of course, not the protection of the poor or the civic freedoms.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:07:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair did abandon those by the time of his reelection in 2001. The Lib Dems are now noticeably "left" of Labour in both economic and libertarian terms.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:11:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder where the left situates with respect to libertarianism. The same holds for democratic-christianism actually, which besides its traditionalism does have something of a left looking streak.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
democratic-christianism actually, which besides its traditionalism does have something of a left looking streak
But you will note that Catholic Social Doctrine can be seen as a late-19th-century attempt by the Church to remain relevant in the face of the rise of the socialist workers' movement.

So that "left-leaning streak" is also a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. And, just like the Social Democrats have colonised the Social-Liberal space, the Christian Democrats have become neoliberal.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:24:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is more than just that. Someone said once (Lily I think)  that christian communities look a lot like communism, if you take out the class war - violent revolution - proletarian dictatorship part.
Well-read christians could cite Jesus' words about the camel passing through the needle hole :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:36:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The crucial difference is that, traditionally at least, religious communities have attempted to achieve equality by charity, not by recognition of equal opportunity as a universal, unimpeachable human right.

Here is a concise description of why that is not good enough for a modern mass society.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:46:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
absolutely-free markets, lost credibility
Are you pretending this took place in the second half of the 1980's?

And how/why do you suggest the push for deregulation and trickle-down happened in the last 30 years? I hope it's not "because that's the natural state of things".

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I mentioned the '80s as the period were communism was compromised and then crashed economically.

I think the trickle-down stuff is quite idiotic, and I don't think the deregulation is the natural state of things: I see it as another side of libertarianism, which was Greenspan and others' ideological dogma and which was applied for its ideological rather than practical value.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:30:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mainstream British Labour Party has certainly done no noticeable new socialist thinking in decades.

Before 1945 the party had a picture of the problems of the time and some ideas about the golden age of socialism to come. It was just the route map, from now to then, that was missing.

The 1945-51 Attlee government implemented the ideas of Liberal theorists like Keynes and Beveridge. It created the welfare state. It also nationalised lots of industries. This was the high point of British socialism.

Since 1951 Labour has gradually moved away from any sort of socialism. The managerial approach of men like Blair and Brown, has produced a party that seems to be incapable of new thinking on any profound level.

Gaitskell said that Labour was a crusade or it was nothing (at a time when western Europeans did not worry about the way the Muslim world regarded crusades). Now Labour is a cabal of professional politicians more interested in personal advancement than any ideal (however inadequate). If it is a crusade; it is the one which sacked Constantinople, for fun and profit, rather than fighting in the Holy Land.

Possibly the imminent long period in opposition, due to start after the general election to be held at some point in the next year, will provide an opportunity for renewal.

Perhaps the age of socialism, as a political idea, has passed. Perhaps the lack of constructive new approaches demonstrates that a completely new paradigm is needed.

NB: The above vision is influenced by current British specific political problems and may not apply to some other parts of the European Union.

by Gary J on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 10:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gary J:
Perhaps the age of socialism, as a political idea, has passed. Perhaps the lack of constructive new approaches demonstrates that a completely new paradigm is needed.
I think Socialist, Social Democrat and Labour parties were the products of a mass movement (the Labour movement of the late 19th century and eraly 20th century) and with that mass movement now gone (in part because of the successful implementation of the welfare state but also because of a transition towards a "service" economy) they are at a real risk of withering and dying. The leadership is now middle-class and university-educated where their parents or grandparents were still industrial workers with strong connection to trade unions.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 10:19:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that we continue to operate today with terms and concepts of the 18th-19th century, or the situation, in every respect, is fundamentally different. Socialism is as obsolete, if you like,  as would be a guelfe party :)
Why redefine the ideology? It is what it is. People looking for new political solutions, be that altermondialists or whatever, are worth well more than endless discussions on 18th century ideas.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:11:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why the hardcore socialists who sound out of the 1960's are so tiresome. People who still self-describe as Maoists or Trotskyists never cease to amaze me.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:14:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are the true conservatives - wanting to live in a paradigm that died almost 50 years ago.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:23:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, I find John Stuart Mill very "modern".

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:25:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which shows once again the relativity of the notion of conservativeness - or progress.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:33:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well what do you mean by conservativeness? or progress?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As in, me, meself ? I couldn't tell. Their meaning depends on the topic, on the context. Their value also.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:44:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
value?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 01:46:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as in, good or bad ?

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 02:40:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hold the horses. Holding to ideas that seem out doesn't even begin to be close to claiming that we have to return to a reality and its governing ideas that (they claim) already existed -- and that's real conservativism. (In my cynical diction: "A conservative is one who sells the misdevelopments of yesterday as solutions for tomorrow.") This is a meme spread by neoliberals and US conservatives, at specific occasions used to dismiss any form of socialistic ideology.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 06:57:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why the hardcore socialists who sound out of the 1960's are so tiresome. People who still self-describe as Maoists or Trotskyists never cease to amaze me.

I think they're tiresome because they are very often doctrinaire proponents of a cult of personality, more than a political ideology. I wasn't around in the '60, but I strongly suspect that the people who sound like '60 vintage communists today were also tiresome doctrinaire proponents of a cult of personality in the '60s. But back then, there was a broader movement that grasped onto the same kind of language, which tends to obscure the existence of nutcases.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 06:04:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my book, compared to Maoists, Trots have the benefit of their odeology never having been attempted to be implemented by a government or a major rebel organisation that had some success.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 07:13:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that we continue to operate today with terms and concepts of the 18th-19th century, or the situation, in every respect, is fundamentally different.

Income disparities are as big as they were in 1899. So are wealth disparities. Half the world's population (at least) live under conditions that are not much better than those obtaining in Western Europe in 1899. Modern transnational corporations could give lessons in evil to the British East India Company. And, as the ongoing collapse of the so-called "knowledge economy" demonstrates, reports of the death of industrial capitalism are greatly exaggerated.

So as far as I can see, the maladies which socialism originally evolved to curb are all back, and ready to party.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:57:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Socialists Adrift
for a considerable proportion of the (what was once a) leadership, the incapacity to clear conventional wisdom out of their heads: in other words, most of them gave in to the inevitability of neoliberalism long ago.
See for instance Felipe Gonzalez on the Future of Europe by Migeru on June 28th, 2008

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 06:23:51 AM EST
See Joaquín Almunia in Reasons for despair: Zombie Ideas Won by Migeru on March 21st, 2009.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 06:28:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The PES member parties still don't know what hit them; they still want to play it nice, not realising that when they were in power playing nice, they were tolerated doing so.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 09:05:59 AM EST


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