Battle of Ideas

Populism: a dead end for the left

In recent decades, there has been much discussion of “populism” as newly significant form of political movement. Some on the left even say we should embrace it.

Admittedly, there are major conceptual difficulties when discussing “populism”. Even if we limit ourselves to examples on the ostensible left, movements labelled “populist” can be so different in their substantive politics and theoretical groundings that they conflict directly.

Can Sanders win?

According to most polls, Americans have had enough of Donald Trump. A majority wants him impeached. And most voters say they will vote against Trump in November 2020.

Despite those polls, many are terrified that Trump might somehow win re-election. For them, the candidate who deserves our support is the one most likely to beat him. Little else matters.

Rosa Luxemburg on 1905

“The extent to which the party rises to the occasion [of a revolutionary upsurge] — that depends in the greatest degree on how widely [the Marxists have] known how to make their influence felt among the masses in the pre-revolutionary period...”

It depends on “the extent to which [they were] already successful in putting together a solid central core of politically well-trained worker activists with clear goals, how large the sum of all their political and organisational work has been”.

Was “permanent revolution” the flaw?

A discussion of Jacques Texier's book Revolution et democratie chez Marx et Engels

Reformist socialism? Who is there, who could there be, who would hold to such a doctrine today?

As a positive scheme for a society of free and democratic cooperation, rather than as a negative reluctance to see working-class struggle rise too high?

Labour's 2017 manifesto was a refreshing break from New Labour. But it did not propose to replace a society of the rich Few and the hard-up Many by equality. It proposed only to take a little from those Few to alleviate the Many.

Learning from the rich debates of the past

The Communist International (Comintern), founded in the aftermath of the October 1917 Russian revolution, was the greatest forum for Marxist strategic debate so far.

The first five years of the Comintern, between 1919 and 1923 were a school for learning and discussing how revolutionary parties should be built, how to assess the situation and orientate, and how to win a majority of workers to socialism.

Immanuel Wallerstein 1930-2019

Immanuel Wallerstein died at the age of 88 on 31 August. He was one of the last great exponents of the 1950s-60s theory of imperialism known as “dependency theory”, and continued to write until only a few years ago.

He was born in New York, the son of Polish Jews fleeing antisemitism, and worked almost all his life in US universities. He named Marx first among those to whom he “acknowledged a continuing intellectual debt”.

Socialist Party split still unclear

The first issue of the monthly newspaper of the new Socialist Alternative group (a splinter from the Socialist Party) is now out.

Unfortunately it has little to mark it out politically from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party. The editorial on Boris Johnson is completely evasive on the question of Brexit. The only real difference is that Socialist Alternative have realised, correctly, that it is embarrassing for them to talk about “Lexit” after all that has happened, especially when their main selling point is that they are more hip and trendy than the Socialist Party.

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