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The Transformation of the Left into a Neo-Fascist Movement (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Andrei S. Markovits 01/27/05)Source: http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16788 Front Page Magazine.com Front Page Magazine.com Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the European-along with the much weaker American-left has been in a crisis that has challenged its very identity. In fact, this profound crisis predated the events of 1989; it was in full swing by the time the Wall tumbled in good part because of the ineptitude and moral bankruptcy of at least part of this left. Still, with the events of 1989 and 1990, a period that began in the late 1860s and early 1870s and entered its political salience in the 1880s came to a close. A political manifestation and social formation that defined the very idea of progressivism in the advanced industrial societies for exactly one century collapsed. Some would say that the radicalism of this period, its revolutionary potential to transform capitalism, ended with the tragedy of 1914. After all, it was then that the left realized that its internationalism and perceived universal class solidarity had lost its primacy to the much more powerful sentiment of particularistic nationalism. The left´s innocence was most certainly lost by the early fall of 1914. Others would date the crisis from the end of World War I, the events of 1918, which already pointed toward the coming of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and National Socialism in Germany.

Still others see the death of a progressive alternative in the internecine battle between social democrats and communists that contributed to-though it wasn´t responsible for-fascism´s triumph, particularly in Germany. The Hitler-Stalin pact, the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, a replay of that in Czechoslovakia twelve years later, the Sino-Soviet altercations, the war between China and Vietnam, the Cambodia fiasco with all its implications- there were plenty of sobering experiences for the progressive project in Europe. And yet, it was none of these political events that initiated the fundamental transformation that was to be completed in 1989. It was really a conjuncture of social, economic, generational, and cultural shifts that changed the very identity of the left over the last twenty-five years. At least in this instance, I will argue for the primacy of economy and society over politics.

I argue that there have been four periods in the history of the left since World War II that have affected the position of the left today. American developments will be mentioned only when they were essential contributors to the shaping of the left in all advanced industrial societies. Although it is evident that "the left," as commonly understood, was predominantly a European phenomenon throughout the late nineteenth century and all of the twentieth century, the United States did contribute significantly to this political formation precisely in the postwar period.

The Orthodox Period: 1945-1968

I have called the first era the orthodox period because it witnessed a continuation, by and large, of the left´s ideological and political topography since the Bolshevik Revolution. Whereas 1945 represented a major hiatus in the arrangement of global politics, it did not alter the essential identity and topography of the left. Yes, communism seemed ascendant vis-ŕ-vis social democracy on account of the Soviet Union´s emergence as a global power. Communism was a serious contender for governmental power in Italy, France, Greece, and Czechoslovakia before it was defeated by American-sponsored opposition in the first three cases and by Soviet tanks-twice-in the last.

But the political landscape of Western Europe, as delineated by Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, still pertained. Two fault lines-both of which had been "frozen" by 1920-defined the identity of "the left." The first was the external line that separated it from the rest of the political world, notably liberals, conservatives, fascists, clericalists, and the representatives of "cleavages" other than the "owner-worker" cleavage that defined the essence of the left as a whole.* And second was the internal line that separated social democrats from communists. The earlier relationship between these two was by and large resumed during the postwar period. Where social democracy was the stronger of the two before the war, it emerged so again afterward-and vice versa. The character of left-wing politics, the culture of socialists and communists, was barely changed by the war. The working-class-dominated milieus of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries remained by and large what they had been. Associations, colors, insignia, songs, tastes, and leisure activities that had been institutionalized in the decades before the Second World War- in many instances even before the Great War-continued in a completely different world.

Whatever the actual reasons for the predominance of one leftist camp over the other, there was an obvious North-South divide in Europe during this period of orthodoxy. The countries north of the Alps (with Finland and Norway being the useful exceptions proving the rule) exhibited a social democratic identity, whereas their counterparts to the south embarked on a communist path. These collective expressions of working-class identity remained largely intact between 1918 and 1968. One of the most characteristic manifestations of orthodoxy all over Europe was the domination of the party over the unions. In the communist as well as the social democratic version, the party was in charge of "big" politics; that is, all matters pertaining to the state, society, economy, and culture, whereas the unions´ domain pertained almost exclusively to "small" politics, the realm of industrial relations however defined. There is, of course, the exception of the British Labour Party, whose identity and policies were much more directly influenced by the party´s constituent unions than was the case for the continent´s three social democratic giants-Sweden, Austria, and Germany. To be sure, the big union organizations were major players in these countries´ social democracies, but they took a back seat to "their" parties in politics.

No doubt, the party´s primacy over the unions was much more pronounced in the communist model than in the social democratic one. After all, Leninism had designed the transmission-belt pattern of party-union relations precisely in order to eliminate unions as autonomous actors-and thus prevent syndicalist tendencies from developing as viable options for left politics in advanced industrial societies (though they did develop in semi-agrarian settings such as Spain, Italy, and southern France). But even in the social democratic variant, where no concept equivalent to the transmission belt existed, the party was hegemonic: it designed strategy, took charge of the theoretical debates, and prevailed in shaping economic policy. In short, it led, and the unions followed.

Of course, there were immense differences between social democrats and communists in this orthodox period. The former had reached an accommodation with capitalism, even if they had not quite accepted it yet; whereas the latter still saw their raison d´ętre in fundamental opposition to the dominant social system. As a consequence of this difference, communists and social democrats also found themselves on opposite sides of the cold war, then in a hot phase. All communists- without exception-rejected the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, opposed the United States, and favored the Soviet Union at least in some fashion, whereas most social democrats were hostile to the Soviet Union, if initially also guarded in their support for the West, NATO, and the United States. This issue contributed to an open break within Italian social democracy (between the Socialist Party [PSI] and the Social Democratic Party [PSDI]), and similar fissures- without the ensuing break-opened in German, British, Danish, and Norwegian social democracy as well. By the mid-to-late 1950s, however, the "Westernizers" had carried the day. For the ensuing thirty years, social democracy was unequivocally pro-Western. John Maynard Keynes triumphed over Karl Marx, and the Godesberg platform prevailed all over Western Europe-well beyond the immediate confines of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Still, the immense similarities between communism and social democracy were more characteristic of the orthodox period than the obvious differences. These in fact rendered them the unchallenged representatives of a clear political formation that was known to itself and the rest of the world as "the left." Here are some of these shared traits: both were sociologically anchored in the male, industrial, mainly skilled working class; ideologically, both were ardent advocates of growth at all costs; politically, they were believers in collective arrangements countering the inherent fragmentation of the market and liberal individualism; strategically, both were hopeful about "mega" solutions-"mega" state, "mega" bureaucracies, "mega" technologies, "mega" progress. This was a time when the left, both social democratic and communist, placed its hopes in the "clean" energy of nuclear power. The changes that came in the late 1960s were nothing short of revolutionary, though-in contrast to the two subsequent periods-they still followed the major vectors of what it meant to be "left."

The Heterodox Period: 1968-1979

It would not be an exaggeration to say that virtually all the tenets defining the left during the "orthodox" period were substantially challenged, if not superseded, by events during the legendary sixties. Thus, it is not by chance that in Germany, France, Italy, and the United States, the "´68ers" (achtundsechziger, soixantehuitards) have attained near mythical status, and generated a considerable nostalgia, in the postwar histories of these countries´ left-wing politics. Be it the events at Berkeley, Columbia, and the National Democratic Convention in Chicago for the United States; "the events" in Paris; Italy´s Hot Autumn; or the politics of confrontation embodied by the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) and the Student Socialist Organization (SDS) in the Federal Republic, there developed a clear challenge to the existing lefts in each of these societies.

For the first time in the history of the left, the essential impetus for this development came not primarily from Europe but from the United States. Concretely, these changes were anchored in two major struggles that informed American politics at the time: the civil rights movement at home and the Vietnam War abroad. Both of these developed into absolute icons for all lefts in the world. Mainly carried by students and not by the traditional subject of the left- that is, the industrial working class-this massive transformation of the discourse of the left was deeply anchored in the cultural climate of the United States, which the rest of the world, particularly Europe´s students and its young generally, embraced with enthusiasm. One cannot understand the rise of the New Left in Paris, Berlin, Milan, and London without understanding the massive influence of American rock ´n´ roll, folk music, protest songs and poetry, and the civil rights movement´s tactic of the "sit in." Posters of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Allen Ginsberg adorned the homes of thousands of European New Leftists alongside such other icons as Che Guevara and, of course, Ho Chi Minh. On both sides of the Atlantic, this generation was equally formed by the first seemingly democratic and impromptu rock festival held in the muddy fields near Woodstock, New York, and by one of Europe´s foremost intellectual émigrés who, unlike others in his immediate milieu, proudly remained in America while becoming one of this country´s most challenging critics. I am talking about Herbert Marcuse, whom many have-quite rightly-called the New Left´s most influential thinker. The deep American roots of the New Left in Europe, both in form and substance, are beyond debate.

In notable contrast to the subsequent time period, which entailed a paradigm shift, the New Left challenge developed within the Marxist paradigm-though it was profoundly threatening to the existing world of socialist politics. If the subsequent era was to transcend socialism and develop some sort of post-socialist politics, New Leftists in the period I have labeled "heterodox" wanted a "true" socialism, freed from what they viewed as related perversions: social democracy in the West and Leninism/Stalinism in the East (though some New Leftists were mesmerized by Leninism in its Maoist version).

The authority that parties of the established left enjoyed during the orthodox period eroded in this decade of heterodoxy. On the intellectual level, the New Left offered a radical critique of the politics of the hegemonic parties. On the institutional level, there emerged small, but intellectually influential parties to the left of the traditional social democratic and communist parties in terms of their programs as well as their strategic approaches. Though small in actual numbers, these parties represented the legacy of the "68-ers" in the left´s "party space"-a standing challenge to the orthodox left. The Parti Socialiste Unifié in France might perhaps be the best example of this genre: small in number of voters, members, and officeholders, but important in intellectual influence.

On the other hand, the relationship between parties and unions changed substantially. Several points are worthy of mention in this context:

1. Everywhere in Europe there occurred at this time a clear politicization of the unions. They expanded their horizons from the confined world of industrial relations and shop-floor affairs to include issues of "grand politics" hitherto left to the respective "sister" (or "mother") party. Unions catapulted themselves into a position of quasi-equality with "their" parties. On the one hand, they entered into various macropolitical arrangements with employers and the state that gave labor an active role in economic management. Even though often defensive in nature (and also demobilizing), these neocorporatist arrangements signaled a new union strength. In addition to this activism "from above," the unions also engaged in an activism "from below." Largely propelled by a restive rank and file that wanted to cash in on its superb position in a tight labor market, the unions bargained for the most impressive "quantitative" and "qualitative" gains attained by labor at any time in the fifty-plus years of the postwar period. Even though these two activisms clashed with each other, they emanated from the same optimism, power, and self-confidence that redefined the role of unions inside the European left during this period.

2. This, of course, led the unions to distance themselves from their respective parties. Nowhere was this more obvious than in Italy, where the three union confederations (allied with different parties) discovered that as many things united as divided them. Similar, though not as effective, distancing maneuvers on the part of unions also occurred in Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Austria. Only in France did the old transition-belt model between the Communist Party (PCF) and the communist-dominated trade union federation (CGT) remain largely intact. There too, however, independent union power figured significantly in the discourse of the left, particularly because the former Catholic union, sporting the new acronym CFDT, shed its former clericalism and became one of the most vocal advocates of the New Left.

3. Central to this activism was the role of hitherto marginal elements within the labor movement. Although labor´s core-that is, male, skilled, industrial workers-also participated in the general mobilization, it was often its lesser skilled, female, and foreign colleagues who were the political vanguard at the grass roots and on the shop floor. Add to this group a substantial presence of tertiary- sector "intellectual" workers, and the new working class had become a politically meaningful reality.

4. There was also a noticeable "intellectualization" of the labor movement. Through the influx of a large number of academic researchers, many of whom were veteran "68-ers," the unions developed a more sophisticated theoretical approach to problems that until then remained largely beyond their purview. Union leaders always had a very ambivalent relationship to left-wing intellectuals, but now a "march through the institutions" on the part of New Left activists changed organized labor´s mentality to a noticeable degree.

But something wholly new also happened at this time: the rise of left politics outside of any established institutions, parties, or unions. It was in this milieu that the new meaning of "leftism" in Europe and the United States was forged. It was at this critical juncture-the decade between 1968 and 1978-that tendencies developed whose influence persists to this day, in Germany especially, but also in Europe generally. In my article "The Minister and the Terrorist" (Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2001), I described four groupings that emerged at this juncture within the New Left.

I call the first group the "Westerners." Germany´s current foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, is exhibit A. This group, though vehemently against the war in Vietnam, totally supportive of third world liberation movements, and bitterly opposed to Western-as well as West German-capitalism, began to reorder the hierarchy of its negative preferences. Crucial in this reordering was that tyranny rather than capitalism was put at the top of the list. Put positively, at the top now was not the emancipation of the working class or even the liberation of third world peoples from imperialism, but rather democracy, due process, constitutionalism, and human rights. For reasons that probably have more to do with the personal psychologies and histories of the relevant individuals than with macro-sociological factors such as class background, education, religion, geographic origin, and gender, the Westerners successfully differentiated between American culture (which they loved, as is evident from Fischer´s well-known admission that Bob Dylan had a greater influence on his life than Karl Marx) and American politics in the world (which they disliked). Above all, they did not develop a visceral hatred of all things American. And they also began to look at the Holocaust as a development sui generis and not merely as an epiphenomenon of what the rest of the German left then still called- and continues to call-"fascism" rather than National Socialism. As a consequence, the Westerners committed a major blasphemy in the eyes of the rest of the left. They argued that the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany could-and did-on occasion produce good things, such as a stable and democratic order in Germany and Europe; and that liberal democracy, though capitalist, was indeed preferable to tyranny, even of the people´s republic kind. They saw the West also as an occasional force of liberation and emancipation, not only as one of repression and exploitation. Lastly, members of this group upheld the value of universalism-already at this time a ready target for various relativizing particularisms that came to define other groups on the left, to which I now turn.

The second group I call the "Third Worldists." They considered imperialism the most important political issue of the day and rejected everything that the developed world stood for, including Western values and industrial modernization. The Third Worldists would later constitute the bulk of the "Fundamentalist" (or "Fundi") wing of the German Green Party and fight a bitter rearguard action against what they believed to be the sellouts by Fischer and his "Realos." During the 1970s, the Third Worldists believed that the Federal Republic was second only to the United States in its objectionable character. They detested its parliamentary institutions, disdained its market-based economy, hated its role as a driving force in modernization´s inevitable destruction of the environment, and feared any manifestation of nationalism, which they saw as a harbinger of the ever-looming "fascistization" of German politics and society. They were vehemently anti-Zionist (although not necessarily anti-Semitic) and found in the Palestinians an emblem of noble suffering and anticolonial resistance.

The third group were the "orthodox Marxists," who located the source of the Federal Republic´s ills not in industrial modernization but in capitalism. In contrast to all other New Leftists, members of this group considered the industrial working class not only a worthy ally but as an "objectively necessary" part of any major social transformation. Adherents of this tendency reached deep into the SPD and some German trade unions, notably the metal workers´, printers´, journalists´, writers´, and bank employees´ unions. They also developed cozy relations with East Germany, whose Marxist-Leninist system they regarded with tolerant admiration if not outright enthusiasm. This group´s strength explains why serious criticism of "actually existing socialism" in the Soviet bloc was unpopular in parts of the German left well into the 1980s-so much so that the Polish Solidarity movement was often denounced by German unionists and social democrats as retrograde and reactionary. (During his JUSO [youth organization of the SPD] days, the current chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was closest to this wing of the New Left.)

I call the fourth and last remaining group the "neo-Nationalists." The New Left focused mainly on opposing the war in Vietnam, demonstrating solidarity with developing-world liberation movements, and transforming bourgeois society. But in Germany it also had a nationalist component provoked by the country´s division and limited sovereignty. Left-wing nationalism has a long history in Germany (National Bolshevism and the Strasser wing of the National Socialists are two cases in point), and it is hardly surprising that such feelings were represented among the ´68ers as well. Nationalist sentiment grew over the controversy surrounding the 1983 deployment of American intermediate-range nuclear missiles on German soil and was later intensified by German unification. By the mid-1990s, in fact, a substantial number of ´68ers had completed a journey from extreme left to extreme right, with the constant factor being their hatred of the West. Today, this antimodernist, anti-Western sentiment is alive and well throughout Europe among those on the extreme right and left who invoke nationalism in their opposition to globalization. The two most prominent German radicals to undergo such a shift are Horst Mahler and Bernd Rabehl. Along with two other prominent ex- leftists, Mahler-now the far right National Democratic Party´s official legal counsel-recently declared that the ´68er movement had been "neither for communism nor for capitalism, neither for a Third- Worldist nor for an Eastern or a Western community of values." Instead, it had been "about the right of every Volk to assert its national-revolutionary and social-revolutionary liberation." In this view, the Germans were no exception. Already then, the main root of Germany´s trouble lay in its solid anchoring in the West-controlled by that double-headed evil, the United States and world Jewry. In marked contrast to the Third Worldists, adherents to this path developed an anti-Zionism that could barely, if ever, be differentiated from anti-Semitism.

This is also the period when the left´s enmity against Israel, begun in the wake of the Six Day War of June 1967, became a salient issue for its politics, its identity, and also its internal divisions. Indeed, I would argue that perhaps the most defining gauge of where somebody stood politically, how she/he saw the world, was that ubiquitous triangle of Israel, the Jews, and the United States. Roughly speaking, to the Westerners, the plight of the Jews was a serious issue, which meant that they developed a much more favorable view of Israel than did the other three groups. To the Third Worldists and the orthodox Marxists, the plight of the Jews-though real-remained unimportant, massively subordinate to the plight of third world peoples (to the Third Worldists) and of workers (to the orthodox Marxists). In the nationalist camp, by contrast, the plight of the Jews was either never acknowledged or even viewed with outright contempt. It is here that the nexus between the völkisch left and the völkisch right, which manifested itself so vigorously in the streets of many German and European cities in the spring of 2002 and again in 2003, was forged.

Paradigm Shift: 1980-1989

In this era most fundamental assumptions of the socialist project underwent major challenges. Above all, the 1980s witnessed the weakening -perhaps even severing-of an alliance that once had defined the left, with the working class as subject of history and driving force of progressive politics. From circa 1880 until 1980, the most fundamental dogma of social democrats and communists alike was that the working class would be the decisive carrier of social transformation beyond capitalism. Both theoretically and empirically, there was a tight logical connection between the working class and the left: not all workers had to be left, but there could be no left without workers. All other movements, social groups, and individuals were in principle subordinated to the working class in the endeavor of attaining socialism. This changed drastically in the course of the 1980s. Briefly put, the working class lost its position not only as a theoretically compelling feature of all socialist orientations but also as an empirical necessity of quotidian politics. This radical change has three salient features.

1. The appearance of the new social movements and their political offspring, the Green parties. In the course of the 1970s and increasingly in the 1980s, progress began to mean almost the opposite of what it did before. The term had always been associated with some sort of growth, but now the desirability of growth was questioned, if not entirely rejected. If being left and progressive meant building dams and steel mills during the previous two eras, it now implied saving little fish and rare birds from the destruction wrought by those very dams and mills. The universalism of class as a primary political identity was superseded by the particularism of groups. Faith previously placed in technology, centralization, and the state was now conferred upon localism, decentralization, and community power. The left moved from growth, state, class, economy, and politics to identity, gender, empowerment, and deconstruction. Tellingly, much of critical social science, formerly engaged on behalf of a progressive agenda, was now superseded by an increasingly philosophized Marxism, which in turn drifted toward literary criticism and various other poststructural and postmodern intellectual endeavors.

It had become clear by the mid-1980s that green was the left´s trendsetting color instead of the century-old red. Increasingly, also, the color purple denoted the arrival and staying power of politically meaningful women´s movements in the public arena of all advanced industrial democracies. Possibly no other change wrought by the New Left had such a tangible impact on virtually all aspects of private and public life as did the rise and establishment of the women´s movements. In brief, protecting the life-world, reclaiming lost intimacy, defending vulnerable groups, extolling smallness-all this replaced the previous faith in the liberating aspects of technology and the obsession with "mega" projects that had dominated the European and American left´s discourse for exactly one hundred years.

2. The weakening of union power. If the 1970s was the decade of the unions, the 1980s could be called the decade of union setbacks. Absolutely crucial in these were the massive offensives led by hard- right governments such as Ronald Reagan´s administration in the United States and Margaret Thatcher´s in Great Britain. On every conceivable front and in every country, organized labor suffered one defeat after another, leading to a substantial weakening of its position in the political arena and the labor market. The losses covered many areas: receding or stagnating membership; failure to attain even the most meager compromises in collective bargaining; seeing the arena and timing of conflict determined by management; being unable to strike; facing serious problems with one´s "own" parties, be they communist or social democratic; confronting harsher conditions of production; dealing with a hostile state preoccupied with creating favorable economic conditions for an increasingly difficult global economy.

Interestingly, the losses were particularly severe in those countries where labor had been the least "compromised" by corporatist arrangements during the previous two decades. In other words, where labor´s conflict with capital remained the "purest" in the sense that it preserved the market as the main arena and adjudicating mechanism of this conflict, the unions´ setbacks were particularly severe. Thus, the losses incurred by American and British labor were more profound and long-lasting than those suffered by German, Austrian, and Swedish labor. Although the political character of governments mattered, more important still were the deeper social structures. Thus, for example, even though Helmut Kohl´s government in Germany was by most measures as conservative as Reagan´s in the United States and Thatcher´s in Britain, it simply could never roll back labor in Germany to the same degree. Wherever labor´s struggle with capital was mediated by various public or para-public institutions and neocorporatist arrangements, the losses were less drastic.

3. Labor´s inability to pursue a genuine policy of international solidarity. Marx got it right: capitalism, an inherently depersonalized and rootless form of productive relations, was indeed international in its structure, and this international system of production exploited labor on an international scale. But just as Marx the social analyst was more often right than wrong, the opposite is true for Marx the normative thinker, the revolutionary, the activist, the political man. He believed that because capitalism exploited the working class internationally, the working class would sooner or later realize the international dimensions of its predicament and confront capitalism with its own internationalist solidarity. Alas, we know from too many tragic events how erroneous this wishful thinking was. If anything, labor has emerged as the most nationalistic among all major social groups in advanced capitalist countries. In the United States, Canada, Britain, France, and even in supposedly "open" and export-oriented countries such as Germany, the trade unions have consistently been active supporters of some sort of protectionist measures. And for a good reason: labor indeed stands to lose an inordinate amount of power and tangible material gains in a "free" global market subject only to the laws of unbridled capitalism. This is a very serious problem for organized labor and its progressive allies in advanced capitalist societies because it fosters an especially problematic particularism.

Fragmentation and Polarization 1989/1990-Present

With the collapse of Soviet communism and the green and purple challenge to Western social democracy, the European left has lost the overall coherence of modernist universalism that defined it for more than a hundred years. On the one hand, one should rejoice in this development, because Truth and Progress (with capital letters) were too arrogantly defended by much of the left throughout the twentieth century. We will most likely be spared any repetition of the horrors of the GULAG or the genocidal mania of the Khmer Rouge-whose protagonists claimed to be acting in the name of justice, equality, and progress. But there exists a more fundamental problem. Although one can still identify many worthy causes that qualify as progressive, one would be hard-put to identify a subject of history that-like the working class of yore-could form the social basis of a unified left. Instead, we witness the proliferation of groups focused on particular forms of injustice, slighting, and victimization-in other words, on purely negative experiences. These experiences may all be real, but the groups that develop around them will remain largely powerless without the positive institutions of community that were so essential in the creation of a politically effective working class. And as a consequence of their powerlessness, they will turn inward, extolling their own particularism, which will only further fragment an already fragmented left. It is in this context that the old siren songs of nationalism and neonationalism seem especially appealing to the lefts of all industrial societies.

A new European (and American) commonality for all lefts-a new litmus test of progressive politics-seems to have developed: anti- Americanism and anti-Zionism (though not anti-Semitism, or at least not yet). I cannot think of two more potent wedge issues that define inclusion and exclusion on the left today. In a hierarchy of key items defining what it means to be left in contemporary Europe and the United States-pro-choice, abolition of the death penalty, equality in marital arrangements and official recognition of gay and lesbian couples by the state; progressive income tax; economic and social justice; support for third world claims against the rich first world; multilateralism as opposed to unilateralism; legalization of marijuana; and on and on-opposition to Israel and America figure at the very top. If one is not at least a serious doubter of the legitimacy of the state of Israel (never mind the policies of its government) and if one does not dismiss everything American as a priori vile and reactionary, one runs the risk of being excluded from the entity called "the left." There has not been a common issue since the Spanish Civil War that has united the left so clearly as has anti- Zionism and its twin, anti-Americanism. The left divided, and divides, over Serbia, over Chechnya, over Darfur, even over the war in Iraq. There are virtually no divisions over the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and over the essence of the United States. If one has anything positive-or even non-derogatory-to say about the United States or Israel, one always needs to qualify it with a resounding "but."

I remember calling myself a Labor Zionist in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was still possible in important circles of the German and the American left. Being a Dissenter was still acceptable in the large tent of the left. This has changed. To be sure, there are some small pockets among the German Greens-though much less in the SPD´s milieu-where Israel, Zionism, and America have not become automatic terms of derision and hatred. Few people will admit this, but the tone that makes the music is pretty clear. The hegemonic discourse of the left on both sides of the Atlantic features America and Israel as identity-defining issues that are largely nonnegotiable.

Finally, it remains an open question whether what is today called "globalization" is truly unprecedented in its altering of social relations and human life-as so many claim-or whether it is merely another of the constantly changing and highly disruptive stages in the longue durée of capitalism. This question lies beyond my scope here. I only want to suggest that on virtually all the indicators dear to economists, the restructuring that occurred at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries created dislocations far more massive than those produced by capitalism today. The dislocations of those years shattered the left´s internationalism, led it to embrace centrifugal particularisms, and then to watch its emancipatory dreams die on the battlefields of Europe. History, of course, never repeats itself. But to paraphrase a well-known political economist of the nineteenth century: it appears first as tragedy, the next time as farce.

*Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, "Cleavage Structures, Party Systems and Voter Alignments: An Introduction" in Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, eds., Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives (New York: The Free Press, 1967), pp. 1- 64. (©2005 FrontPageMagazine.com 01/27/05)


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