[Marxism] Re: Tracking the evolution of former ex-leftists: Why?

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sun Nov 13 12:06:23 MST 2005

On Sat, 12 Nov 2005 08:43:20 -0500 Marvin Gandall
<marvgandall at videotron.ca> writes:
> Jim Farmelant wrote:
> > ...there are many examples of people who after
> > having establishing reputations as left-wing
> > thinkers or leaders have defected to the right.
> > I think the most obvious answer is that there
> > are very significant rewards to be gained from
> > a defection to the right, both monetarily and in
> > terms of social prestige and access to political
> > power...
> > There are certainly other factors too.  People
> > who are active in struggles for social change
> > often burn out after a while.  It requires very
> > considerable inner strength to stick it out
> > over the long haul.  Participants in such
> > struggles often take heart by becoming
> > attached to some particular
> > country such as the former Soviet Union
> > or China to which they develop very idealized
> > images that may not correspond to the
> > realities of those places.  When these
> > people realize the imperfections of
> > these idealized models they may become
> > very disillusioned and so give up entirely
> > on the struggle for social change.
> >
> --------------------------
> There are also deeper historical factors at work, from which no one 
> is
> immune. While high-profile defectors like Horowitz and Hitchens have
> profited from their past by defaming it and aligning themselves with 
> the
> most powerful and reactionary forces in in the society, it is 
> misleading to
> suppose that the vast majority of "people who are active in social
> struggles" abandon them because they lack "inner strength" or 
> sufficient
> understanding.

I think though, that we should make a distinction between
people who withdraw from political activity but may well
still hold on to progressive political views versus those
people who change their views in a more conservative

> There were three major periods of political upsurge in the advanced
> capitalist countries in the last century - the great revolutionary 
> wave at
> the end of the First World; the organization of the industrial 
> unions and
> expansion of the left during the Depression through World War II; 
> and the
> anti-imperialist wars and student rebellions of the 60's and 70's.  
> All were
> followed by downturns and dashed expectations. To suggest that 
> millions of
> workers, farmers, and intellectuals over three generations "burned 
> out"
> primarily because of psychological or intellectual shortcomings is 
> not a
> satisfactory, ie. materialist, explanation of a mass phenomenon 
> which has
> been more characteristic of our times than successful social 
> revolutions.
> This is a surprising slip from Jim Farmelant whose contributions are
> typically very sharp.

But I think that we have to make a distinction between those
people who responded to the endings of those three
periods of political upserge by simply withdrawing from
political activity, from those people who responded by
moving to the right.  Many of the people who had
responded to the ending of the political upsurge
of the 1930s-1940s by dropping out of politics,
would later provide a base of support for the new
upsurge of the 1960s. On the other hand, those
people who had responded to the ending of
the upsurge of the '30s and '40s by shifting to
the right, later on would become the implacable
enemies of the civil rights, antiwar, and student
movements of the 1960s.  It was these folk who
gave us cold war liberalism and neo-conservatism.

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