Left in crisis?
Every time a left-leaning Party loses a General Election, like it has just done in Portugal, the calls of left in crisis go up. This is not to say that the left isnt in crisis, it is, but you tend to have to remember the cyclical nature of the election process. Look beyond Europe’s borders and in America, what passes for the left there, has the Presidency so if you were stretching a point you could argue that this shows signs of robust health. All of which leads us to a related point – some of these ‘left parties’ aren’t very well errr left. Having said that, the fact that even the mildest forms of social democracy struggle to be electorally popular rather speaks to the size of the hole the left in general is actually in.
Social democracy, much like socialism, and even beyond that communism is primarily suffering from a crisis of relevancy in a world which has basically rejected both socialism and communism. Social Democracy has been able to episodically solve this by reaching beyond the core support of socialism but as this rather brilliant article in Progress points out that creates its own problems.
Social Democracy has become too doctrinally fluid while socialism remains trapped in a kind of doctrinal rigour mortis. The latter cant respond to the world as it exists and therefore gain much traction beyond the committed where as the former cant contain forever the inherent tensions that exist in the fragile coalitions it has built. As if to prove the point that socialism, especially Marxian socialism, is well pretty much like a religion, I was struck that the group of Mormons I encountered today wouldnt have looked too odd carrying copies of Socialist Worker.
The question remains then what is to be done. The answer to that question is different depending on whether you self-identify as a social democrat or a socialist. If your a social democrat then you need a identity which makes you clearly different to a left-leaning liberal and therefore something worth voting for. You also need to bring some balance to the coalitions you have built – if your a socialist you have a harder task, to break through the dead hand of an intellectual atmosphere which closely resembles that of a dead moon. Either way, despite the fact that capitalism is clearly entering one of its more knackered phases, the crisis amoung its opponents shows no signs of abating any time soon….