In an unpublished article circa 1934 entitled “The Fascist Virus”[i] Karl Polanyi sketches a theory of fascism that remains relevant. This theory is further elaborated in an article entitled “The Essence of Fascism”[ii] and in The Great Transformation (1944). In light of current politico-economic trends, this theory is worth revisiting. Continue reading
Everyone agrees that the left, especially social democracy, is a mess. But what should be done about it? Continue reading
In responding to the threat of today’s fascist tendency, an effective strategy depends upon a robust diagnosis. It is clear that right-wing populists, the harbingers of this tendency, are channeling the resentment and rage of substantial segments of national populations. But where precisely does the anger come from? Continue reading
Many of us are drawn to the idea of a New Left because we yearn for change of a certain type: toward a more democratic, egalitarian, cooperative and sustainable society. In practice, however, the left is in a perilous state in many countries. Reactionary populist and nativist movements are making inroads among constituencies, especially the working class, who might be expected to favour progressive causes.
What needs to be done to rejuvenate the left, to build a new left in sync with the 21st century? No one has all the answers. But at least we can identify the key questions and reflect on the possibilities.
The working class is in revolt against neoliberalism. But there is a problem. The revolt is led, not by the left, but by far-right populists. How did this happen? And how should the left respond? Continue reading
When I showed When the People Awake to an undergraduate class in the mid-70s, the militant documentary received a strongly favourable response. It had been made in 1972 by left-wing Chilean film-makers who supported the democratic-socialist administration of Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular. When I screened the same stirring documentary in the same course 25 years later, the students responded negatively. In fact, they voted with their feet, most of them withdrawing from the classroom under the cover of dark. What had changed in the interim? Continue reading
Tolstoy observed that there are only two essential questions: how shall we live, and what should be done? A vision effectively answers these two questions.
But the left’s vision is no longer as compelling as it once was. The failures of socialist and social-democratic movements in the 20th century and new challenges in the 21st century demand a rethinking. The absence of a compelling and viable worldview has allowed far-right, populist movements to step into the breach and make headway everywhere.
Fascism is much in the news. In Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey and elsewhere, we read reports of the rise of right-wing nationalist-populism, while, in the Middle East, “Islamo-fascism” is blamed for vicious and unending wars. In the United States, Donald Trump is now routinely dismissed as a #fascist. Is the US falling into the same deadly pattern so evident elsewhere? Continue reading
“A young person who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old person who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.” Is this true?
This old adage suggests that an attachment to the left is merely a romantic and naïve phase that should eventually pass as we mature and gain a more “realistic” understanding. Realism from this viewpoint involves the acceptance that There is No Alternative (TINA) to presently-existing capitalism and liberal democracy, that the most we can expect is some minor tinkering.
But this conservative viewpoint is unconvincing for two reasons. Continue reading