I was contacted by the good people at State of Nature, not too long ago, about participating in their “one question” challenge – which in this case was: “What are the challenges and opportunities for the Left in Europe?”
My response is below. For all fourteen responses, follow the State of Nature link.
I like to think back to a time – not that long ago, in the broader context of things – when it was much easier to discern who was on the Left and who was on the Right, and what the right thing to do was for everyone, depending on where they stood along this cognitive line. Simpler times, in a way, even though their brutality does not really leave much space for positive reminiscence of any kind. Yet surely enough, those brutal times made for stark divides – and these made, in turn, questions of the kind you are posing here way easier to handle: ‘Who’s on the Left’ is simpler to see when you are faced with the option of taking to the mountains in Greek partisan resistance, facing exile, torture or death.
And the ‘what to do’ question was sorted in a way, too – resist, even if victory in the sense of liberation from the occupying force or the restoration of anything resembling a democratic apparatus seemed like a fleeting fantasy. Today, of course, we live through a time riddled with a great historical irony. At the exact time when the two camps fighting for hegemony over the course of the past century have now morphed into a disoriented, single blob of introvert confusion, the Left (in its broader sense: the wide church of those fighting for a better world, from a socially progressive angle) are equally sucked and lost into this blob. The lethal calamity of ‘realism’ drags progressive governments into submission to an all-encompassing system that is, ironically, on its own last stand.
If there is one challenge for ‘the Left in Europe’, then, surely this must be to get rid of these two small words from its mindset: this ‘of’, and this ‘in’. To stop thinking of itself as a force to the left ‘of’ the mainstream, which it has to somewhat lure into an attractive enough proposition, as if by doing so History’s great clogs may ever stop or even change direction. And it has to stop thinking of itself as a Left ‘in’ Europe, as if it is forever historically bound to the great fallacies brought about by social democracy in our continent, and as if it has to limit itself to the thought traditions that stemmed from this land.