The Relevance of the Western Left

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at
Tue Feb 13 19:31:41 MST 2001

  I think that Alan has put the issue in perspective. It is true that there is a
wide range of diversity among the Asian left concerning the question of how to
advance the leftist movement toward a desired socialist transformation. There is
also a problem of choosing the right kind of socialism. In their book
_Development, Crisis and Class Struggle: Learning from Japan and East Asia_.
Burkett and Landsberg devote the last chapter to an examination of  the
neo-liberal structuring in the region and its social effects on Asian working
classes. As opposed to neo-liberal/IMF/state centered development, they propose
"worker community centered visions of development" and "socialism from below". I
agree with the first part of the equation, *but*  they also promote this model as opposed
to central planning and state socialism. Unfortunately, they do not detail *how*
to build such a movement without using the state as an instrument o! ! f
transformation. Their anti-statist rhetoric largely slides into a
communication/utopian vision of socialism occupying the western left after the
collapse of communism (Robert Hahnel  variety of socialism)   The other problem associated
with the difficulty of building  a leftist movement in Asia comes from the
authoritarian capitalist character of regimes in the region (South Korea,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan etc..). So, whenever the left  gives a struggle
against their own bourgeoisie, they automatically slide into a libertarian
discourse of defending "liberal values", "representative democracy" and "civil society",
idealistically separating political liberalism from its class base--economic
liberalism-- and hence giving a lip service to imperialism's mission of
*promoting democracy* in the region. This makes it hard for Asian working
classes to build an anti-capitalist block without at the same time being
swallowed by imperialist demands. For example, the same problem exists among the
sectarian Turkish left. On the one hand, they misidentify the class character of
the Turkish political regime as being fascist. On the other, they cheer
democracy from the European Union (whom they  also denounce as  a conspirator of
the Turkish fascist regime) to come and defend Ocelan. Thanks to our liberal
leftists and their representatives in the government that the EU used the trial
of Ocalan as a weapon in the issue of  Turkey's entrance to EU as if  EU will
bring any good to Turkish economy . All sorts of confusions and inconsistencies
dominating the left currently.     Henry's thesis remains essentially true: 
that of restoring socialism, and transcending divisions among the left to bring about a
socialist transformation in Asia. This should be state socialism in principle
and direct democracy as its superstructure where the worker's state organizes
economy-- not idealistic visions of community centered developments and socialism
from below.   bye   Xxxx   --- Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx Ph.D Student Department of
Political Science SUNY at Albany Nelson A. Rockefeller College 135 Western Ave.;
Milne 102 Albany, NY 12222  

----- Original Message ----- From: Alan Bradley To: marxism at
Sent: 2/13/01 7:14:37 PM Subject: Re: The Relevance of the Western Left

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 right.   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 Henry.  
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.    

  --- Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx Ph.D Student Department of Political Science SUNY at
Albany Nelson A. Rockefeller College 135 Western Ave.; Milne 102 Albany, NY

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