August 17, 2009

WHEN YOUR OWN MEME REPUDIATES YOUR ARGUMENT:

Has the left blown its big chance of success?: The collapse of unfettered capitalism should have been a golden opportunity for the left. So where did it all go wrong? (Andy Beckett, 8/17/09, The Guardian)

The last year should have been a happy one for the left. The great global lab experiment in unfettered finance capitalism has blown up. Bankers have become pariahs. Taxes on the rich have gone up. The pages of the financial press have had a frequent air of panic. New Labour has fallen out of love with the free market. Above all, the rightwing economic and political ideas first popularised by Margaret Thatcher in the 70s have, finally, lost their air of impregnability.

"These are the best circumstances to make the left case we've known for an awful long time," says Neal Lawson, head of the leftwing pressure group Compass, "since way back before 1979, since back to the 30s." Geoff Mulgan, the former Labour strategist and a longtime observer of the left, agrees: "This is a moment that should be incredibly propitious for the left. Capitalism is collapsing. You don't get more propitious than that." [...]

And yet, in Britain and most comparable countries the left is not thriving. Quite the opposite. The Brown government's mild tilt to the left has made it no more popular. At the European elections in June, left-leaning parties, whether in office or opposition, cautious or militant, were trounced across the continent. Votes went instead to mainstream conservative parties or far right and anti- immigration groups. Over the summer the broader political debate, particularly in Britain, has shifted in the same direction: "The crisis of the financial markets has become a crisis of public spending – it's incredible!" says Hilary Wainwright, editor of leftwing magazine Red Pepper. [...]

Has the left missed its moment? The radical American writer Rebecca Solnit fears so. "It felt like last October [the peak of the banking panic] was the golden moment to put forward an alternative vision," she says. "What's been dismaying is that there has been so little coherent response from the left since."


Capitalism has history on its side, while, as Mr. Beckett is conceding, the Left only has brief moments, typically, quite brief. That this recession passed so quickly and was so shallow that the Left never even had an opportunity to make a case for an alternative ought to tell him all he needs to know about the futility of his cause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2009 8:43 AM
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