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LQD: Kulturkampf Of The Left?

by ARGeezer Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 02:37:16 PM EST

Kulturkampf Of The Left? Extremes, Be Gone!  Ľuboš Blaha  Social Europe
If only!

A culture war has erupted in Europe, and it's happening even amongst left-wingers. On the one hand, we have the liberal cosmopolitans who "welcome" refugees, advocate supra-national identities, consider borders obsolete, and have an inclination to label working-class people with some conservative prejudices as pure fascists. On the other hand, there are the traditional socialists who distrust globalisation, supra-national projects and individualistic liberal values. They consider the post-material "New Left" ridiculous and they blame it for the fact that working-class voters are leaving the Left and beginning to vote for the far-right. In their extreme, both these attitudes are dangerous - one leads to neoliberalism, the other to nationalism.

The ultra-liberal part of the Left is gradually changing to a more social version of liberal globalism, and it fights hand-in-hand with right-wing neoliberals for a world without borders. In this kind of world, transnational capital can exploit people all over the planet without any constraints from the nation states, but the social globalists add to this grim neoliberal picture a promise of a brighter tomorrow in the form of a global welfare state and transnational regulatory bodies.

The problem is that, in reality, even the strongest one of these transnational bodies - the European Union - sometimes behaves like a neoliberal tank that crushes the social achievements of the post-war era. Look at the neoliberal rape of Tsipras´s Greece or the Americanization threat of TTIP. And there is nothing else besides the EU that would even begin to look like a more progressive and cosmopolitan order. Whether we like it or not, the cosmopolitan "brighter tomorrow" is nowhere in sight. In the meantime, we live in a cruel neoliberal reality, in which the cosmopolitan Left loses out, and transnational capital takes all. That is why liberal cosmopolitanism is not just a utopian concept, but also a dangerous one. It is useful for transnational capital, which wants to get rid of the socially protective measures of nation states.

In fairness, we need to remember that the word 'Liberal' is not really such a nice word. The people to whom it was originally applied, as an economic theory - Classical Economics - and as a political party - The Liberal Party in England, were the ones who put in place the longest running Utopian experiment in history, which Karl Polanyi called The Great Transformation - making all aspects of society subservient to the needs and logic of the marketplace. That experiment, under new guises, starting with Neo-Classical Economics is still running and has become largely impervious to criticism based on its actual results.

Back to Ľuboš Blaha:

It looks even worse when we look at cosmopolitanism through the prism of electoral mathematics. Paradoxically, despite the decades-long progress of hyper-globalisation, a somewhat compact cosmopolitan identity has been achieved mainly amongst the higher middle class - amongst businesspersons, artists, scientists and elite students of global universities who regularly travel across the world and their place of birth is nothing for them, but a banal data point in their CVs. On the other hand, the social groups that the Left traditionally stands up for generally don't have a cosmopolitan identity. They are integrally connected to their homelands, because they don't have the resources, the education, nor the real freedom to travel around and enjoy the magic of living as a global citizen.

The political consequences are grim. At the end of day, this kind of globalised liberal Left turns its back on the Left's traditional electorate, and, if anything, appeals mostly to an educated, reasonably wealthy, globalised and mobile middle class. The problem with this is that these people don't seem to care about left-wing economics. They are willing to advocate some limited form of welfare state at best, but their priorities lie elsewhere. They care about lifestyle or the recognition of minorities - in short, post-material topics. Their material needs are, after all, already met, so they don't need to care about questions of poverty and exploitation of the working class. They would rather have a fine raw cake in their favourite café than go out and fight against transnational capital.

This brings the more radical alter-globalist Left to a stalemate - it is quite problematic to fight for socialism if your allies are the people who are comfortable in global capitalism. Thus, the priorities and the electorate of the liberal Left have been changing - no more are they working-class people and poor employees, nowadays more of them are urban liberals, minorities, the LGBT community, the NGO activists and so on. The Left is becoming a kind of postmodern liberalism, in which social and economic radicalism finds no home. Farewell, socialism.

I think our current stop on the train backwards in history is late 19th century were we have the three classic ideologies: conservatism, liberalism and socialism.

The conservatism here is represented by ethnonationalism. It wants to preserve the social hierarchies by fencing of a preserve for primarily the right ethnicity, while keeping the large flow of wealth to the political elite. Its core are wealthy business-owners and it appeals primarily to men in economic decline (not poverty) of the right ethnicity. It blames uppity people of the wrong gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

The liberalism is the global, technocratic, neoliberalism. It wants to expand neoliberalism through ever more trade deals that puts legislation beyond the reach of elected assemblies. Its core is the higher middle class, the movers and shakers of politics, economics and academia. It appeals primarily to the groups conservatism blames. It blames back-wards people that holds back the future.

And then we have socialism, represented in the left-wing of nominally social democratic parties and parties to their left. It spanns from re-active reforms to stop the bleeding, to trying to get social aspects into the international system to trying to nationalise politics in order to get a level that is at least nominally democratic. It is less coherent in both core and voters and blames both neoliberalism and ethnonationalism.

It is actually pretty similiar to where socialism was before world war one.

by fjallstrom on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 11:48:48 AM EST
Good historical contextualizing of the issue! After all, you ARE an historian. The only controversial grouping is Liberalism, which many liberals will not like having conflated with neo-liberalism. I find it appropriate, but then, I no longer identify as a liberal. The dark side of liberalism has been there since the 1830s at least and it has only become worse as the 'neos' appeared.

While it is true that liberalism HAS been able to ameliorate some of the worst aspects of capitalism, those successes have never been permanent and the high point was the '60s. Since then it has mostly been down hill with the neo-liberals singing the praises of the 'accomplishments' flowing from being able to learn to take the money of the very rich - which has left them impotent to even try to implement any fundamental reforms - no matter how large their majorities in government.

Reflecting, I am struck by how equally what has been called Neo-Conservative in Economics could just as appropriately, or even more appropriately, have been called Neo-Liberal. Usage has trumped appropriateness in this history - uses and abuses of pejorative labeling.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 04:20:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mis-wrote Neo-Classical as Neo-Conservative above. It should have been "What has been called Neo-Classical could...have been called Neo-Liberal"

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2017 at 04:28:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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