The Relevance of the Western Left

Alan Bradley alanb at
Wed Feb 14 06:48:54 MST 2001

> From: "Henry C.K. Liu"
> Of course the Asian Left is not single dimensional.   Liberal democrats
> in Asia may be dissidents, but they are not the left, despite the fact
> that they may be viewed by the West as the left. No leftist in Asia would
> promote liberal democracy or human rights, although many groups do, but
> they are not leftist groups.

First, liberal democrats are not the left anywhere.  I was not saying that
they were.

Secondly, no leftist anywhere would be a supporter of (neo-)liberal
economic policies.

However, because many of the capitalist states in Asia possess distinctly
authoritarian characteristics, it is inevitably going to be the case that
Marxist forces are going to end up campaigning for democratic demands, just
like they have in the West.

It would be nice to be able to skip over that and just take state power,
but that isn't usually going to be on the agenda.

Indonesia is the clearest case:  the Indonesian Marxists consciously worked
to overthrow the Suharto dictatorship, knowing perfectly well that they
were not strong enough to immediately carry the struggle through to
socialist revolution.  That is, they struggled for bourgeois democracy, for
individual rights, and all the rest of the liberal democratic stuff.  They
did it consciously and deliberately - and as a part of their strategy for
Socialist Revolution - their version of "Where to Begin".

I think Henry is conflating a couple of different phenomena.  It is of
course true that the Imperialists are using all kinds of liberal chatter to
attack China, Vietnam, etc, to attempt to undermine popular movements and
make their clients look more attractive.  At the same time, the left will
necessarily find themselves struggling to bring into reality the things
that the imperialists and their allies promise but can/will not deliver.

Yes there is a potential conflict here, but it is one usually best resolved
(IMHO) by the left forces maintaining a consistent stance and being the
"democrats that are actually serious", and let the fake democrats ("fake
reformers" in Indonesia) destroy their own credibility.

For historical reasons, and at least partly in order to defend the
revolution, China does not maintain a particularly open political system.
That is, the involvement of the working class in running their state is
heavily mediated by the Party apparatus.  This makes it vulnerable to
"liberal" imperialist attacks, and makes it sensitive to any "liberal"
critique of any nature.

This, I feel, is reflected in Henry's "anti-liberalism".  He is not _just_
criticising liberal bourgeois chatter (which I could side with him on), but
he is tending to ignore the actual dynamics of the revolutionary struggles
which are being waged in Asia at the moment.

This is why I have felt the need to join the discussion.

Alan Bradley
alanb at

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