Written By: - Date published: 4:45 pm, July 7th, 2018 - 98 comments
Categories: capitalism, Deep stuff, Economy, labour, Left, liberalism, national, political alternatives, Politics, social democracy, socialism, vision - Tags: capitalism, left, liberalism, progressive, Social Democracy
If we imagine the extent of our politics to be represented by a line similar to the line drawing of a smile, then apart from a happy wee graphic, we might have the beginnings of a useful if basic schematic to envisage or capture current political possibilities and realities.
One side of the smile then, represents politics being steadily more dominated by social democratic political settings that culminate in statism. The other side of the smile represents increasingly market dominated politics of liberalism that culminate in a free market.
If we imagine a vertical line bisecting the smile at some subjective point where liberalism and social democracy are reckoned to form a “balance” such that neither market nor state really dominates, then the picture’s complete. For simplicity, we might place that vertical line at the centre point.
Whether politics are traveling in the direction of the free market or statism, conservatism will be located closer to that vertical line, acting as a brake or moderating influence on whatever movement is underway in the realm of politics.
So, in a social democratic setting (ie – when social democratic priorities are to the fore), we’d expect a Tory Party/National Party to be occupying the conservative space set somewhere towards that centre line, and pulling back on what conservatives would view as social democratic excesses. And similarly, in a liberal settings (ie – when market priorities are to the fore) we’d expect a Labour Party to be occupying the conservative space set towards that centre line and pulling back on perceived excesses of liberalism.
Generally speaking, that’s what we see.
But when there’s a reversal in movement (and obviously it’s not always a smooth or gradual transition) things can change in odd ways. So in NZ, when the Labour Party jumped from favouring social democratic settings to preferring liberal settings, it temporarily left the National Party occupying the newly formed space of conservative liberalism.
Nowadays, the Labour Party is back in that conservative position (essentially a conservative liberal one) and the National Party is positioned more towards the free market end point of liberalism.
The position of NZ Labour as conservative liberals contrasts somewhat with the UK Labour Party that, having embraced social democratic priorities these days, isn’t merely putting a brake on liberalism, but is seeking to change the direction of politics.
Last bit to the graphic.
Extend the lines from the top of the smile until they come together to form a circle. (Make it a dotted one if you want). See. That’s the totality of capitalism. And both social democracy and liberalism are wholly contained within it. And every parliamentary party gives succour to a mix of liberal and/or social democratic ideas and ideals of capitalism.
There’s a reason the term “left” hasn’t been used up until now. “Left” has always been an alternative to capitalism, not a variant of it, and so has no place in the rudimentary schemata drawn up above.
Some social democrats might disagree with that assertion.
Original Labour Parties were formed with the promise of bringing socialism about by parliamentary means afterall. Which is a fairly “left” intent. But that idea was always contested on the grounds it wasn’t logical or realistic. And after over 100 years with nothing to show on that front, I think we can safely conclude that social democracy is not a bridge between capitalism and socialism that we’ll all traipse across some fine day, but rather, just a variant on capitalism that reigns in aspects of market liberalism while tending towards authoritarian statism.
If people who self identify as Left can’t break with capitalism in all of its forms, as well as the parliamentary parties of capitalism and rediscover the political roots of what the Left is and always has been all about, then we have a problem beyond simply and for ever seeking to avoid authoritarianism of whichever bent.
As William Hawes puts it in a recent article entitled “Ecology: The Keystone Science”
there will be no squaring the circle of mass industrial civilization and an inhabitable Earth.”
before going on to observe that
“many with the most influence on the Left today, such as Sanders, Corbyn, and Melenchon want to preserve industrial civilization. Theirs is an over-sentimental outlook which warps their thinking to want to prop up a dying model in order to redistribute wealth to the poor and working classes.”
Taking that as a read – and I do – it’s just as well we drew a wee smiley graphic for ourselves then, aye? But what do you say (anyone with pretensions to be being left or progressive), that we stick two wee eyes on this post’s graphic, and then open them? (Might want to draw up a pair of legs to walk away on too 😉 )