Losing the battle of ideas
Posted by Left Luggage on May 26, 2009
There is always a battle of ideas going on in society and it is not an exaggeration to say that the Left has been consistently losing this battle for most of the last thirty years.
Given this fact, the lack of critical self-examination on the Left is truly startling. There seems little recognition even that we are marginalized and should be on the defensive, trying to rebuild our force, ideas and strategies. Instead, much of the Left too often engages in self-delusional triumphalism, trumpeting a minor uplift in militancy as the beginning of a tidal wave of radicalism.
So in what is largely a vacuum as far as serious strategic analysis is concerned, John Wight’s recent post on the Socialist Unity blog is welcome. He argues the Left is losing the battle of ideas to the Right and radically needs to rethink its strategies. He points to the “wave of patriotism” stimulated by Joanna Lumley’s Gurkha campaign, the furore over the increase in the top rate of tax, the disarray of far-left electoral platforms, the sectarianism of the Left, and the failure of trade unionists to mount a militant response to the economic crisis.
This is a welcome piece of self-examination by a Left activist. We would not agree with all the conclusions, especially his thoughts regarding the prospect for Labour after the forthcoming general election and the notion that it could take a major shift to the Left and get into bed with Respect:
Attempts to move the Labour Party left from within have thus far lacked any real focus or coherence and remain at a nascent stage of disparate meetings and conferences. It will take Labour’s defeat at the next general election to provide the catalyst for the shake up within the ranks of Labour that could spell the death of the New Labour and a turn to the left. If such a change in trajectory were to occur, the ramifications for Respect could be significant, not to mention interesting.
But we can agree with his conclusion. He argues that unless the Left now engages in a spell of critical reflection and rethinking of its strategies, as consistently advocated on Left Luggage. If it does not, it can only look forward to a longer spell in the doldrums:
The rebuilding of an ideological and political alternative to free market capitalism and the racism and reaction which it has spawned will take some time. The key question will be whether we are able to learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward on solid foundations.
This is the challenge facing a Left which has been missing in (in)action during a period of great economic and political crisis, a time when the central tenets of the ruling ideology have been open to question in an unprecedented way. We have to make sure we are present in future.
This entry was posted on May 26, 2009 at 11:18 pm and is filed under Ideology, Socialism, Strategy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.