Leftists versus Liberals

The 2016 Democratic defeat has two factions of the Democratic party - liberals and leftists - struggling over the future of the party and of resistance to Donald Trump. Before we can move forward, however, we have to define our terms.

The 2016 Democratic defeat has two factions of the Democratic party – liberals and leftists – struggling over the future of the party and of resistance to Donald Trump. Before we can move forward, however, we have to define our terms.

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17 thoughts on “Leftists versus Liberals

  1. This is the conversation – but which one?

    Immanuel Wallerstein has a straightforward criterion: until recently, there has been a (slow) move towards equality leading to a split: conservatives who are wary of change, liberals who embrace change, and radicals who want things to change even faster.

    At first sight Ted’s cartoon captures a conversation between a radical and a liberal. Problem is that in the neoliberal age change towards inequality has been arrested and reversed so there really is no liberal middle-ground anymore. If liberals open their eyes, they need to become radicals temporarily until progression towards equality is restored. However, the lady on the right apparently still thinks we only need to keep doing incremental changes for our future to be bright and shiny for everyone, the present difficulties being just a blip on the curve (i.e. “globalization” and “technology”).

    Historically there have been conversations with similar elements among multiple tendencies within the left, roughly split according to their strategy vis-a-vis the system: social democrats want to take power democratically and reform the system from within, while communists aim at overthrowing the system and replace it from without, and anarchists strive to build the new in the shell of the old, working alongside the system.

    The weird thing is that in the U.S. for historical (violent) reasons the place “on the left” is occupied by liberals instead of social democrats, although this is now being challenged by the Bernie Sanders revolution which is really about going back to social democracy or the U.S. version thereof (Roosevelt-Wallace).

    So the conversation could also be between a radical leftist who want real revolution and a completely new system (of what kind?) and a social democrat who still wants Bernie Sanders style revolution-lite (which would still technically keep and improve the system) as opposed to mere incremental changes.

    Which one is it?

    • Revolution hurts. The benefits are reaped by the survivors’ descendants. That is a good thing in the long term, but most humans are more concerned about the short term. .

      The current system is unsustainable, it’s going to crash sooner or later. Will it be ‘Global Revolution’ or ‘World War Last’? Does it matter? By 2116 AD, the most common form of government will be ‘tribal.’

    • She, the liberal, wants fairness and inequality, but in wanting both, she wants neither fairness nor equality wholeheartedly, because inequality is intrinsically unfair.

      So some class must fall through the cracks to support the system she says she fears change.

      Maybe she would settle for inequality before the law and in wages for herself, and therefore truly wants things to remain as they are, making her both a conservative, which is how liberals unfailingly and regularly present themselves to the left today, and also willing expoitee.

      Ask not what the capitalist can do for you, but ask what you can do for the capitalist who purchases your labor and who eventually makes claim to your your very soul.

      And therein is the liberal’s slave mentality revealed.

  2. It’s very simple. Liberals believe in (very minor) income redistribution. Real leftists believe that the workers should own the means of production. Very very very different things. Wat Tyler hit on something, identity politics is a way for liberals to try and encourage the support of leftists, since real leftists believe that’s all basic stuff. Real leftists don’t buy into that, and won’t vote for liberals, since they represent the same people as conservatives, the people who own everything. But plenty of almost leftists, people who could become real leftists, have bought in, out of desperation. It has to change.

  3. Are liberals and leftists sisters under the skin, like the Colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady ? I suggest that in fact, they can easily be distinguished, despite, at times, points of similarity on domestic policy – the liberals want to bomb the heathen into compliance with the desires of the «indispensable nation» ; the leftists look askance at such policies. Alas, as there exists a plethora of nations that deserve bombing, some people fall in the middle of the scale between bomb ’em all and don’t bomb anybody. One of those terrain and map problems, I suppose….

    Henri

  4. Americans have a political vocabulary more limited than the Proles in 1984. Most people at this point think that there is some kind of natural similarity between liberals and leftists, when they are really just ninety years or so into an uncomfortable alliance.

    If you ever wonder why so many people keep flogging identity politics even when that proves to be a losing strategy, the answer is simple: Identity Politics is the only area where liberals and leftists are actually on the same page. The rest of the time, liberals call leftists a bunch of stinking commies and leftists call liberals equivalent to Republicans.

  5. Look around you, Ted – Where do see an economic system working as well as you would like to see it working?
    No where – some places work better, some worse. Why don’t you offer some positive advice or suggestions instead of just pounding on the problems that EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS EXIST? “Bullshit detector” ? – “Super pundit’? There are thousands of bullshit detectors and pundits for everything – but no one who will actually DO anything. Yes, I know, you can’t make any money at doing anything else, so you have to keep whining and “bullshit detecting” for a living…Lefties vs. Liberals? Most of these people can’t even see the differences between themselves, so how about “Mindless Killer Sociopaths” vs. “Drooling ignorant nice people”? We could easily have a better, fairer government if we just droned a few hundred of the existing ones. Could it be called collateral damage?

    • Such a modern way of dealing with problems:

      The presentation must be made in mass media advertising format. A problem must not be presented unless a solution is also presented (sold) within the same message.

      By that standard, cancer must not be recognized as a problem except in the context of a cure being sold.

      This is another symptom of the post-literate orientation toward reality, that being solely as a consumer waiting to be served.

    • “Drooling ignorant nice people” seems an apt description of “liberal” to me. Certainly not as bad as the appellations liberals apply to leftists.

      Democrats will say that I voted for Trump, because a vote for Stein was, by their measure, a vote for Trump. And so my vote for a woman named Stein makes me a misogynist.

      Maybe a liberal is a reactionary leftist. This is similar to Luther’s license given to prosecute Anabaptists for their annoying adherence to the ideas expressed by Jesus Christ, contra to Luther’s own reactionary Christianity.

      Reactionary Christianity vs Liberation Christianity, where Christian-capitalist governance kills liberation theologist Christians as Reds.

      Anyway, “Drooling ignorant nice people” attacking Ted seems to be the gist of this post in response to Ted’s cartoon.

      • > a vote for Stein was, by their measure, a vote for Trump.

        Both sides of the duopoly play that game, but it’s not actually true (‘spect you knowed ‘dat already)

        Voting for Hillary gives her +1, voting for Trump gives him +1; voting for Stein gives both of them +0.

        But the duopoly would have you believe that 0.5% of the voters have more power than the 49% which voted for Trump, or the 60% of the electorate which stayed home. If that were the case, Jill would be president elect today.

        Note to picky people: my percentages are from memory, feel free to supply more accurate ones.

      • @CH

        “Both sides of the duopoly play that game”

        Too many similarities between the duopoly parties makes it easy to dismiss both of them from the left, leaving many to vote for a demagogue poseur like Trump for lack of a better option with which to send a message. Trump is president elect due to bad decisions by the Democratic Party and their taking working people to be eternally forgiving chumps.

        Obama went from promising to get rid of NAFTA, to then saying he was only kidding, then to backing the TPP.

        Maybe Obama’s TPP is dead now, after people have abandoned hope in Democratic Party good intentions for working people and the party being rewarded with a big loss.

        The Democratic Party is home to reactionary leftists, aka liberals in the common parlance, not the left.

    • You know Ted’s solution–violent revolution *or* as included right in this very cartoon, remake the Dem party into something more radical.

      And if everyone could agree what the problems were, then why aren’t they solved? Or specifically, why are there so many silly liberals fighting people like Ted?

      • How are you solving anything? Just go back to complaining how all Americans are morons and bigots. And how the internet is the new Tower of Babel.

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