Why I Have a Problem With the Liberal Left
Inspired by this post from Sunny at Pickled Politics.
1) Constant bleating about ‘violence’, which seems to cover everything from broken windows to trying to break out of a kettle to looking at a policeman a bit funny. Extra minus points for citing Gandhi. Gandhi’s entire ideological perspective was based round the idea of trying to suffer more than his opponents. If that’s your thing, knock yourself out. (Or let the enemy do it for you possibly). But don’t lecture people because they don’t want to martyr themselves for your precious sensibilities. See also arguments about who ‘threw the first punch’, as if demonstrators and the state start with a clean slate every time. The only exception to this is sometimes ‘historical violence’. Which is why Labour Councils can set up monuments to the International Brigade while calling for the full force of the law to be used against physical force antifascists in the here and now.
2) Setting themselves up as spokespeople for social movements with absolutely no democratic mandate to do so. Funnily enough, this is also a major criticism I have of the SWP (see Globalise Resistance, the ANL claiming credit for AFA actions etc). So perhaps some of the mutual hostility is a conflict over limited turf. But the liberal left, possibly without meaning to, use their access to the media to ‘speak’ for movements, even when they have no basis to do so or even when their arguments are not in anyway reflective of the wider mood.
3) A stubborn refusal to learn from failed tactics again and again. Any news on ‘reclaiming’ the Labour Party from the left yet? Because that particular tactic has been being argued for since before I was born. Without anything to show for it. It seems to be like the Rapture. We should all have faith that it’s going to happen, whatever the evidence to the contrary. When that’s possible, let’s just ignore that we fucked up and move on! A bit of humility from those who called for a Lib Dem vote and a recognition they have a bit of a credibility problem at the moment would be nice. If unlikely. It’s not ‘sectarian’ to call their tactical reasoning into doubt.
4. Left unity apart from with everybody I don’t like. Possibly the most hilariously unselfaware version of this in recent times is Emily Davis’ post on Liberal Conspiracy. But I’m being unfair. She calls for both parts of the left, “centre” and “moderate”. (“We got both types of music – country and western!”) Now some might think I’m being hypocritical here. Because not only is this post an obvious attack on parts of the left, I’ve also been known to call for “unity of militants” when it comes to antifascism. But those people are missing a crucial fact. I’ve never made a vague call for ‘left unity’ and I freely admit to being a grumpy sectarian.
5. Reformism and other forms of making their peace with the establishment. Socialism or barbarism, comrades. Now more than ever. We have a victorious rampart neoliberalism, which condemns many to grinding poverty and many more to simply existing and you want to tinker with the symptoms? It’s like putting a band-aid on a corpse. It might make you feel better, but it’s far past that point. You can’t reform profit capitalism. Kick it until it fucking breaks.