A new party to the left of Labour?

by Chris Bertram on March 25, 2013

Ken Loach, Kate Hudson and Gilbert Achcar are calling for a new party to the left of Labour in the UK.

Labour is not alone in its shift rightwards and its embrace of neoliberal economic policies. Its sister parties across Europe have taken the same path over the past two decades. Yet elsewhere in Europe, new parties and coalitions – such as Syriza in Greece or Die Linke in Germany – have begun to fill the left space, offering an alternative political, social and economic vision. The anomaly which leaves Britain without a left political alternative – one defending the welfare state, investing for jobs, homes and education, transforming our economy – has to end.

Well there’s lots to agree with in their statement: we need to resist austerity, and Labour isn’t going to do that effectively. The Labour leadership’s current strategy seems to be a combination of keeping quiet, appearing “responsible” by not seriously challenging the austerity narrative, and pandering to the right on immigration. Last week’s shameful abstention on workfare was the latest manifestation of Miliband’s pusillanimity.

But there’s a lot missing too. Loach et al focus on domestic bread-and-butter issues and don’t seem to have anything to say about Europe, let alone the wider world. And there’s nothing at all on climate and the environment, a silence that is all too common on the left, as Bill Barnes’s contribution to the Real Utopias symposium underlines.

There’s also the key fact about British politics which means that talk of a British left “anomaly” compared to Syriza and Die Linke misses the mark. The UK just had a referendum on the alternative vote, and that referendum was lost. With first-past-the-post and no prospect of electoral reform, voters will reliably back the party that promises to end the ConDem coalition. That party is Labour, however hopeless it has been in the past and however useless it will be in the future. I can’t see a way round this, and that leaves me deeply pessimistic. I wish Loach et al success, but I can’t see it happening.

Why Did Liberals Support the Iraq War?

by Corey Robin on March 25, 2013

In September 2005, on the fourth anniversary of 9/11, The Nation ran a long piece I did on liberal support for the Iraq War and for US imperialism more generally.  By way of Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Beinart—as well as Judith Shklar and Richard Rorty—it addressed what I thought and still think are some of the deeper political and intellectual roots of the liberals’ support for the Iraq War. On the tenth anniversary of the War, I thought I might reprint that essay here. Some things I got wrong (Beinart, for example, went onto have something of a turnabout on these issues; it wasn’t Oscar Wilde but Jonathan Swift who made that jibe). Other issues I over-emphasized or neglected. But still, it’s got some useful stuff there. Without further ado…

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It’s the fourth anniversary of September 11, and Americans are getting restless about the war in Iraq. Republicans are challenging the President, activists and bloggers are pressing the Democrats and liberal hawks are reconsidering their support for the war. Everyone, it seems, is asking questions.

Two questions, however, have not been asked, perhaps because they might actually help us move beyond where we are and where we’ve been. First, how is it that few liberals and no leftists in 1968 believed that Lyndon Johnson, arguably the most progressive President in American history, would or could airlift democracy to Vietnam, while many liberals and not a few leftists in 2003 believed that the most reactionary President since William McKinley could and would export democracy to Iraq? [click to continue…]