Death of the Left.
I'm joining in late, but Norm, SIAW, Oliver Kamm and Paul Anderson have all been discussing 'the death of the left' (a sort of precis of debate on Anderson's blog).
My take, verrrry briefly.
I had been going to make the link by reference to certain historical events, teh French and Russian Revolutions, that have largely determined the nature of the left. We are still, IMNSHO, awaiting events. Certainly, relations to the very real movements that arose from those revolutions determined the shape of much of the left. People knew who was on their side because they were fighting shoulder to shoulder on the streets.
Such a view is contained also in Marx's career, initially defined by teh uprisings of 1848, there followed a twenty-odd year lull until the Paris commune, and the same people found themselves on the same side again.
But, looking at my examples deaper, I was struck by the underlying social and ideological perspective. Anti-feudalism. These were the two great anti-feudal revolutions.
Of course, the term 'left' derives from the Estates General where the Aristo's sat on The King's right, and the commoners on The King's left. The left was thus defined by not being the aristocracy. And so, I would contend, that continued. Hence why the left has included liberals and members of the workers movement, so many divergent interests but all opposed to actual existing feudalism. I've noted before, Conservatives have it easy, they are defending what exists now, radicals have it harder, not only attacking what exists now, but defending what they want to come, and of course, since that isn't concrete, it's very easy for radical movements to fracture into distinct and different ends.
If we look further, we see that the other great left/right split also stems from anti-feudalism. Tradtionally, the left were on the side of I 'Industrial Capital' against 'Finance Capital', concrete production versus living off interest. Obviously, a great many of the haute aristocracy converted themselves into haute bourgeopisie by virtue of their having spare money lying around. Hence fincannce capital became the domain of many aritsos, and the left could unit against these parasites.
Now, with sufficient numbers of nouveaux riches rising up, they have made the jump into the finance capital world, that great split within the national bourgeoisie has vanished, and the old aristocrats are increasingly side-lined by the meritocrats. In effect, Thatcher the revolutionary destroyed the rights, as poart of a petite bourgeois assualt on entrenched privilleges, and in so doing fractured the left which stood against that right edifice.
Now, her assualt also left many of the left on the defensive. You can hear it in SWP slogans today 'Stop Privatisation' 'Defend COuncil Housing' - i.e. not a positive programme of opposition to existing society, but a defence of what already is. Likewise, the mob at Harry's Place take sides in the war on terror by defending actual existing liberal democracy (against, significantly, the feuddal threat of 'Islamofascism').
The left is a victim of it's own success, the aristocracy is out, feudalism is defeated, the popular front against feudal reaction is over. Perhaps the death of the left, then, will allow clearing space for the rise of socialism in it's stead. The 'stopper' left is nto in favour of actual existing society, as such, but treats 'Imperialism' in teh same way the anti-feudalists fought Russian Feudal Tyranny, with nationalist movements - i.e. they are trying to recreate ourgeois revolution. hence the difference, and their willingness to collaborate with ermergent bourgeois forces (like the Saudi Capitalist Bin Laden) against the established capitalist class.
Left-wing, right-wing. Both parts of the same damn capitalist bird.