Lazy and incompetent liberals

I read two good articles yesterday on the shoddy strategies of liberals in the United States and India.  The one on the United States was a Vox piece by Matthew Yglesias on how the Democrats are in pretty bad shape at the state level, and the one on India was a Scroll interview with Ravish Kumar, a respected Hindi news anchor, on how Indian liberals are lazy and opportunistic and disconnected from the masses.

The Vox piece pointed out that the Democratic Party, while looking pretty good right now to secure the White House in 2016, has seen its control of state-level institutions erode drastically–and has no plan to reverse this trend, instead focusing on the Sanders vs. Clinton debate.  Meanwhile in India, according to the Scroll interview, liberals have become increasingly cozy with prestigious academic and institutional power and using the state to enforce top-down notions of liberalism, and have thus become alienated from the average person and ceded organizing on the local level to far-right outfits associated with the Sangh Parivar.

There are important lessons here for radical leftists, especially insofar as liberal laziness is reproduced in radical left circles.  The key factor in liberal precariousness is the lack of local presence and local connection, and the growing irrelevance of established organizations to the day-to-day interests and needs of average people (or at least, significant sectors of average people).  In the United States, this irrelevance should be an opportunity for radical leftists to provide a real organizational and political alternative to the top-down, paternalistic approach of the Democratic Polity–but again, that requires us to cease the replication of liberal laziness and dive into the hard work of community organizing.

Its also worth noting that Yglesias’ conclusions about the Democratic Party–that it needs to be more ideologically flexible, and stop moving to the Left–assumes that the electorate has a static ideology, and that the role of a party is to chase popular opinion.  This is a false assumption, and to quote a Viewpoint Magazine piece I discussed a few days ago, an effective and radical party would seek to shape popular opinion and link people with day-to-day struggles:

It means not only that elections and parliaments cease to be the sole focus of party activities and that party activists become involved in other social movements, but that it articulates a comprehensive worldview, based on institutions that become the focal points of social life for masses of members and activists.

Of course, let’s not hold our breath waiting for the Democratic Party–the party of real estate moguls and Wall Street traders–to start taking its cue from Gramsci.


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