I recently read Nikos Malliaris’s Freedom from progress: Donald Trump, Christopher Lasch, and a Left in fear of America in the March Platypus Review and am hoping to write more on his positive discussion of “reactionary leftism” and its Laschian critique of progressivism – but that’s for another post.
In reading this piece his repeated description of the left’s commitment to “the emancipatory project” caused me to reflect a bit on how the nature of the left has changed. Obviously, the use of this phrase to describe the fundamental goal of the left has become pretty typical over the past decades, so I don’t present that here as any revelation (and, to give Malliaris credit, he argues that what distinguishes the “reactionary left” for which he advocates is its recognition of the need for limits).
Still, I can’t help thinking back to my own years on the left. For me, the end was not freedom but virtue – the goal was the creation of a right and good social order, not “emancipation” as an end in itself. (While one might argue that my leftism was just a secularized version of an internalized – and mainly pre-Vatican II – Catholicism, I think that it was also consistent with the “old” left – probably the reason why I was always drawn to those elements of the pre-60s left which lived on for a time within the New.)
No matter how elaborately its proponents dress this concept up in Theory and no matter how deeply they genuflect at the feet of Marx, et al, its adoption is a reflection – and a particularly telling one – of the left’s absorption by the system as a loyal, albeit utopian, opposition.
“To foresee, or even try to foresee, is a sickness of the heart.” – Charles Maurras
I don’t exactly agree with the above but it’s as good an excuse as any to avoid predictions for the new year. That said, 2017 is certain to be a difficult time, promising many trials and at least some disappointments. Let us hope that the challenges confronted (successfully or not) will outweigh the surrenders.
The sight of the weeping and wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth on the part of all the right people is so satisfying that one is tempted to simply stand by and drink it up – especially when you live and work in an area like mine, where one would risk immediate lynching should one indulge in the least bit of public gloating.
That said, making sense of recent events and understanding how to move forward is the task that faces us now. In my own modest way I will be trying to contribute to that discussion in the days and weeks (and months?) to come.
If you are interested, please stay tuned.
I’ve spent a fair number of years in political activism, have written a reasonable amount and have even published a few things here and there. However, in my old age I have been increasingly tempted by the prospect of simply tending my own garden, leaving politics to another generation.
And yet, the world is too interesting a place – especially today – to retire from quite so soon. The established order is in crisis and the relative political stasis of the past decades, with its narrowly restricted window of allowable political discourse, seems to be giving way – although to what is still unclear.
The populist revolts from both the right and left are challenging the elite’s existing political-ideological dominance here in the US and abroad. Regardless of what you think of it, the rise of the Trump candidacy and in particular its success in the face of nearly unanimous elite opposition makes almost anything seem possible.
Now is not the time for silence.