The Relevance of the Western Left

Alan Bradley alanb at
Tue Feb 13 16:56:40 MST 2001

I am a little reluctant to criticise Henry's post given the information
that has been provided about its context, but there are a couple of
elements that I think that he has overstated.

First, the very concept of an "Asian left" is problematic, given the sheer
diversity of "Asian" nations.  To at least some degree I think Henry has
universalised the Chinese case beyond the point where it makes sense.

Secondly, and following on from that, the anti-liberalism of the "Asian"
left is not universal.  The Indonesian left, for example, has taken an
approach to revolution that involves being the most determined and
consistent defenders of liberal democratic (yes, *bourgeois* democratic)
values.  In doing so, they hope to force aside the cowardly and elitist
liberal forces that are at the moment stronger than them while at the same
time challenging the more traditional conservative forces.  This method has
not been proven to work, of course....

The Philippines left is a mixture.  There are both "anti-liberalism" and
"pro-liberalism" currents amongst the revolutionary left.  A South Korean
left is emerging from the now massive working class there, independently of
the North Korean state.  (They are pro-reunification, of course, but only
on a socialist basis.)  The East Timorese left have established themselves
as the only consistent democrats, opposing the maneuvers of the aspiring
bourgeois forces.

Significant elements of the Pakistani left are waging a determined struggle
against the military junta in order to force a return to (bourgeois)
civilian rule.  The Indian left is a massively complex issue in its own

And so on...

I have only been talking about revolutionary forces.  In a range of Asian
states, the road to revolution passes, at the moment, through the defence
(or achievement) of "liberal" values.

This does not, however, give "Western" leftists the right to play the fool
with respect to China, Vietnam, Laos and so on.  In that, I agree with

Alan Bradley
alanb at

> From: "Henry C.K. Liu"
> The same attitude runs strong among the Western Left about their Asian
> counterparts.  This notion of the universality of leftism appears to be
> the main obstacle to universal leftist solidarity.   The Western Left
> came out of a tradition of the Enlightenment, from the rise
> individualism, personal freedom and representative democracy.  In Asia,
> the modern Left rose from a background of violent struggle against
> Western imperialism, sucking on the open sores of decrepit feudalism and
> bureaucratic capitalism.  Western imperialism arrived in Asian under the
> guise of individualism,  personal freedom, and representative democracy,
> terms that carry specific coded meaning for Asian revolutionaries.  To
> combat Western imperialism, the Asian Left has long recognized that the
> goals of nationalism, rather than individualism, class liberation,
> rather than personal freedom, and dictatorship of the proletariat,
> rather than respresentative democracy, are the guiding lights of
> revolution.  Neo-imperialism is now hiding behind the same slogans
> through neo-liberalism.

More information about the Marxism mailing list