Tuesday 25 January 2005

The World Turned Upside-Down

Although I quite often do "research" and quote articles mentioned by other bloggers, It's not often that I plagiarise and quote an exact copy. For one thing, it steals traffic they should be getting.

But very, very rarely, one comes along that just has to be quoted in full.

From the LA Weekly via Normblog - a blog which IMHO you should go and read anyway.
We must reverse the great (and startling) historical flip-flop in our political iconography. Forty years ago, the left represented the future... while the right symbolized the repressive past, clinging to dead traditions like shards of a wrecked ship. Change means movement, said the great organizer Saul Alinsky, and during the '60s, the political counterculture had the passion to get things moving.

These days, all that has been stood on its head: In the wake of September 11, the right claims it wants to free oppressed people... while the left is too often caught saying "I told you so" about the mess in Iraq, even as that country speeds toward an election that any decent human being should hope goes well. In 1968, who would have believed it possible that the left would be home to the dreary old "realists" while the right would be full of utopians?
One of the left's glories has been its tradition of heroic internationalism, still alive in the anti-globalization movement's insistence on workers' rights around the world... But when it comes to foreign policy these days, the left appears lost. I get depressed hearing friends sound like paleocon isolationists or watching them reflexively assume that there's something inherently tyrannical about the use of American power... Just as the left lacked a coherent position on what to do with murderous despots such as Milosevic and Saddam - it won't do to say, "They're bad, but..." The left now needs a position on how best to battle a Muslim ideology that, at bottom, despises all the freedoms we should be defending. America should be actively promoting the freedom of everyone on the planet, and the key question is, how would the left do it differently from the Bush administration?
Norman Geras is a Marxist Academic at the University of Manchester, and is the kind of Marxist who would be a "premature Anti-Fascist", just as I (a Right Wing Death Beast) would. We're on the same side - the one of tolerance of political and religious differences without concomitent spinelessness in the face of evil. Against Dictatorships - even Dictatorships of the Proletariat, or for that matter Monopolistic Corporate States. Against Aristocracy and Oligarchy, be they formally titled Nobility, Nomenklatura, or merely "Socialist" Chattering-Class Elites. (Actually, I don't mind titled Nobility, as long as they don't have more actual power than anyone else.). We differ on relatively minor issues, the means to the end (I favour a mixed economy, heavy on the unfettered Capitalism, for example), not the ends themselves.

Any reader who automatically assumes Marxism = Evil (which I admit is a reasonable first approximation, if history is any guide) could do worse than visit Normblog. Or SIAW (Socialism in an Age of Waiting) for that matter. They're stronger meat. From the Marxist.org.uk Declaration of Principles :
  • We are socialists, committed to the replacement of capitalism by a classless society in which common ownership, under democratic control, permits the realisation of the Enlightenment goals of universal freedom, equality and solidarity.
  • We remain intransigently loyal to the Marxist tradition – but for us, if not for most contemporary "Marxists", that means neither a routinised Marxism, subordinated to the interests of self-appointed leaders or authoritarian parties, nor a fossilised Marxism, reduced to academic introspection about ideas, but a Marxism that is still developing, still responsive to the new and unforeseen, and still capable of helping the working class and, along with them, all exploited and oppressed groups, to overthrow their rulers and build a better world.
  • We accept the need for dialogue and collaboration with non-Marxists, respecting the sincerity of their own convictions where they are sincere, while maintaining our independence.
Read that last paragraph again. Delete the "non-", and members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy would do well to adopt it as a Maxim (the Gorky is optional).

When the cycle changes - as it inevitably does in history - and we RWDB's find ourselves trying to defend the indefensible (such as the current dictator in Turkmenistan simply because he's "Our Bastard") - then we should remember the "noughties" when Bush, Blair and Howard were at the vanguard of those trying to make other people's lives a little better through Democracy, and it was the Left that had lost its way. We should never let labels stop us from doing the right thing. Because when they re-discover their lost principles (and some like Norm have never lost them), the Right thing will sometimes be the Left thing.

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