Moving left

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Michelle
Moving left

This is an interesting article from a new contributor to rabble, Eric Mang, who is now in the NDP after having been a Harris Conservative and a Gordo Liberal.

I thought it might be interesting to have a broad discussion about moving left politically - perhaps our own experiences with it, or how easy or difficult it is to move left, etc.

 

janfromthebruce

I read Eric's article and commented. I found it heart-felt and in some ways it was similar to my progressive progression - no I was not involved with the conservatives.

But prior to 1994, I mindlessly voted liberal and it wasn't until I became actively involved in my own education of my political compass, so to speak, and researching political parties that I realized that I talked like a NDPer but voted and supported Liberals. I was also helped out on that journey by friends and political aquaintances who supported my progressive journey.

One thing Eric spoke to was his involvement started in a "social context". I think it is important to recognize that young people's involvement generally is social rather than political in main substance and is food for thought for the NDP, and also for progressive organizations overall.

Caissa

I read the article yesterday and was blown away by it. A great addition to Rabble's stable. Thanks for drawing our attention to it, Michelle.

Slumberjack

This should be an interesting topic.  Personally I've come to appreciate the dedication and resourcefulness that accompanies discussions which expand upon the segue between NDP membership and left leaning persuasions.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

In a weird way, I've moved to the right since my "younger days"...although not very much :D

I started my activism in my teenage years as a member of a small left-wing "alphabet soup" sectarian group...the kind you see flogging newspapers at demonstrations.

I was active in the NDP at the riding association level...after I left "alphabet soup"... a big move to the right for me :D

But most of my activism over the years has been in the labour movement and secondarily in peace/international solidarity stuff.

I've also been heavily influenced by many of the activist political currents that have developed over the years i.e. anti-racism, feminism, environmentalism, the LGBT and anti-globalization etc. movements.   They've caused me to constantly re-evaluate my thinking on alot of issues.

I'm still (I think) a member of the NDP...not sure if my membership is up-to-date...and remain what I would call "critically supportive" of the NDP.    I just don't happen to think that the NDP is brave or bold enough on many issues.

But...I can pretty much say that I've always been some shade of "leftie".

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

A quick comment - American Bertell Ollman has written about this subject quite a bit.  I think his book on Alienation would be worth checking out. Here is his web site.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Mang's remarks aren't really "class consciousness" - which is the dividing line as far as I'm concerned - but it's an interesting read anyway. Here's something from Ollman that may be relevant ...

 

How to Study Class Consciousness and Why We Should.

remind remind's picture

Excellent article, and not just because I am a NDP partisan, but because it was an authentic voice, refusing cynical negative posturing and co-option by the erroneous belief in crumbs from "the elite" table, and yet detailing what is going on behind the scenes on the right.

This below is bascially where I come back to in my political deliberations:

Quote:
And that's what it all came down to for me. Equality. No more disparities, or chasms, or rifts, or lonely individuals set out on an ice floe to suffer in solitude. Come together as a community. Right now.

I found these things in the New Democrats. As often as they are chided and ridiculed by the media and Liberals and Conservatives, in hindsight they are usually on the right side of history.

Though I would use the wording "on the correct side of history", not the "right side of history". ;)

*bolding mine

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

With respect remind, it's a thin gruel of classless analysis. How does someone come to be an unshakeable partisan for working people, for a particular social class? That's of more interest to me and many other "leftists" who BEGAN their political evolution where this guy seems to have ended his. Not that I want to rain on your parade. Heh.

Caissa

I'm not sure he has ended his journey. The title ofr the thread is certainly in keeping with  E.P. Thompson's Making of the English Working Class, with emphasis on class as process.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Enjoy your porridge. I'm reading Ollman again and might comment on it once I'm done.

Caissa

I despise porridge, N. Beltov.  How did this become a food thread?

I think the value is in understanding how someone can over time move across the spectrum and what are the issues that lead to this happening.

remind remind's picture

NBeltov, I did not say it was deep and rich analysis of anything. And writings do not always have to be such, sometimes a distillation to the bones to get the essence across, is just good enough.

Moreover, life is a spectrum upon which we all move, as you note, you started somewhere and then moved. So, I am not sure why you would diminish another's recount of his movement on the spectrum, into a position where you say you started yours. As that presumes more movement will not occur, and perhaps indicates that maybe you do not see the depths contained within the wording distillation conceptual framwork.

It was an opinion article, not a book.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

To Caissa - Yes, My point is that, as a socialist,  "class consciousness" is the most important "issue" that leads to this happening.

Caissa

To any movement or to movement beyond where the author currently is?

remind remind's picture

nbeltov, I am not sure that such is the case that class consciouness issues are only thing that leads to this happening.

But it is something well worth exploring.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Caissa - Well I'm spelling out a prioritization of social class, an objective variable with subjective aspects, because I'm especially interested in how someone becomes a socialist. How someone becomes an NDPer is interesting but hardly comprehensive. Nor does such a change of consciousness, by itself, make someone an advocate for fundamental social change. And fundamental social change interests me ... because that's what socialism is to me.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I agree with you remind about not limiting things here. Gender, race and other social variables are important here, of course ... and for a particular individual can even play a more important subjective role in how they "move to the left" than social class or class consciousness. 

The problem here is partly terminology. "Move to the left" is too vague and we're tripping over it.

Caissa

I think we are tripping over the terminology. I'm using the phrse to indicate any movement in a left-ward direction however small.

remind remind's picture

Well, in this context residing anywhere in the spectrum other than in the camp of the Campbell BC Liberals and the ON Conservatives, or to the right of them, is a move to the left. ;)

In the case of this article, Mang, has definitely indicated he has moved further left, than to  just a centrist position.  Center is where people exist in order to maintain present status quo class and social structures, and not much more.

Mang's word exhibit thought that is well beyond center,  awareness wise, which is quite the leap from working for Gordo and Harris.

Are you doubting that this could happen?

 

janfromthebruce

And only using a class analysis is not as rich as interwieving class/race/gender analysis to drill down, as well as positionality and context.

Historically the feminist movement really lifted off because the "labour movement" which was male dominated paid lip service to feminine issues and concerns. It was always "yes it's important, but we'll get to that later." Later just never came tomorrow.

Hence, "bread & roses."

Michelle

How's "moving left", N.Beltov?  I see what you mean, and perhaps that is more specific.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
"Move to the left" is too vague and we're tripping over it.
 

It's vague because "the left" is vague.

But I love this thread. If the Cons ever found someone who'd left the NDP, embraced Conservative thinking, and was willing to talk about it, they'd call that a win. When we find someone who's left the Cons, embraced progressive thinking, and is willing to talk about it, it's porridge because it fails to cite Marx.

Quote:
I thought it might be interesting to have a broad discussion about moving left politically - perhaps our own experiences with it

Ya.  Let's all open up and share.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

It's porridge, Snert, because it's watery and vaguely opaque. I see that you characterize the left in that way, generally, but I don't.

 

Michelle

Well, that's another aspect that I was thinking about as well.  Will Eric be accepted into "the left"?  Will he be viewed with suspicion? 

More importantly, if we're too insular, how do we expand our ideas and get support for them?

Caissa

It seems to be an ongoing problem. The term progressive is defined widely and now we are seeing Left being defined narrowly.

Do we need a tent or a phone booth?

KenS

Its an interesting piece.

When you get involved in the NDP you inevitably get to know some grassroots activists who have been members of and volunteered for other parties- at least thats the case in Nova Scotia.

But I've never known anyone who was even a lowly drudge over on the dark side. so the read of the journey was interesting.

For myself: I was born someone who kicked at the order of things- in school first. From there I pretty naturally fell into the left at a very early age, even though I had not a single person to fall with. So I haven't a journey to comment on.

Or not a journey like that anyway.

Decades and decades wandering the wilderness- "I think I've been here before you know"- thats a journey I could address.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Snert wrote:

Quote:
"Move to the left" is too vague and we're tripping over it.
 

It's vague because "the left" is vague.

But I love this thread. If the Cons ever found someone who'd left the NDP, embraced Conservative thinking, and was willing to talk about it, they'd call that a win. When we find someone who's left the Cons, embraced progressive thinking, and is willing to talk about it, it's porridge because it fails to cite Marx.

Perhaps then for the purposes of this discussion it might be useful to define "the left" as those who favour a shift to a less hierarchical and more egalitarian and democratic society.

One of the more famous folks who shifted from "right to left" was Philip Agee,  who  was a  CIA  agent in Latin  America in the 1950's and  '60's.    When he left  the  CIA, he  wrote  "Inside  the  Company,  CIA  Diary"  and  ended up living in exile.

I don't happen to think that there's any magic "formula" that causes folks to shift their views.   I think the reasons for folks shifting are totally a matter of the circumstances that folks find themselves in.

"I used to be a rugged individualist...I had no use for unions

What happened?

The bosses kept ganging up on me!"

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Eric is going to find that politics is just as much a dirty fight on the left as it is on the right. I hope that realization won't throw him back into the arms of the Conservative cretins (to paraphrase Eric's own previous description of socialists).

But what the fight is ABOUT is different.

KenS

N.Beltov wrote:
Eric is going to find that politics is just as much a dirty fight on the left as it is on the right.

I don't think you could have really read his piece, or not really taken it to heart.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

 

remind wrote:
In the case of this article, Mang, has definitely indicated he has moved further left, than to  just a centrist position.  Center is where people exist in order to maintain present status quo class and social structures, and not much more.

Actually, there is a very big element of truth to the claim that everyone, including Ken's revolutionary socialists, thinks they are in some way "in a centrist position" and everyone else is either "on the (far) right" or "on the (far) left".

 

Highlights by me.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

KenS wrote:

N.Beltov wrote:
Eric is going to find that politics is just as much a dirty fight on the left as it is on the right.

I don't think you could have really read his piece, or not really taken it to heart.

What happens if and when he attends a (left) political convention and participates in the inevitable conflict over issues? The left in the NDP gets "treated like shit" according to genstrike, and others, and no references to the joy of having a daughter, etc.,  is going to change that. Gah.

KenS

.

KenS

Caissa wrote:

It seems to be an ongoing problem. The term progressive is defined widely and now we are seeing Left being defined narrowly.

Do we need a tent or a phone booth?

Phone booths are for revolutionary socialists. And even they wish they were in a tent.

"Left" just as much gets defined broadly or narrowly, depending on who says it.

But for a lot of people the Left only barely includes the NDP, so that lens has implications when looking at someone like Eric who comes to the NDP from the right and after a long process

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

 

KenS wrote:
But for a lot of people the Left only barely includes the NDP, so that lens has implications when looking at someone like Eric who comes to the NDP from the right and after a long process ...

Certainly, if one was to, say, identify the left with socialist ideas then, yes, the left barely includes the NDP. That's hardly controversial.

Eric Mang remarked, in his article, about how Harper panders to the lowest common denominator. Some on "the left" do the same thing, it seems.

KenS

I'm a socialist too.

But I know you think I [we] don't really count as such.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Well, more to the point, I wonder if Eric Mang still uses the term "socialist cretins" in his discourse? Cheers.

KenS

N.Beltov wrote:
Certainly, if one was to, say, identify the left with socialist ideas then, yes, the left barely includes the NDP. That's hardly controversial.

I know that identifying the left with socialist ideas sounds matter of fact for you.

But that is  controversial, and exclusionary- within the left.

And thats even leaving aside the unspoken: that when you say "socialist ideas", you mean in practice Marxist or revolutionary socialist. [Or perhaps including soical democrats, but back in the golden age before we betrayed "the left".

KenS

N.Beltov wrote:
What happens if and when he attends a (left) political convention and participates in the inevitable conflict over issues? The left in the NDP gets "treated like shit" according to genstrike, and others, and no references to the joy of having a daughter, etc.,  is going to change that. Gah.

The two of us right now are giving a demonstration of that conflict. But thats nothing like the gutter work that Eric was referring to, and which he has been a party to.

And by the way- thats not at all the first time that I've heard people say having kids was instrumental in getting them involved in the NDP. Although the step taken in the other cases is "involved", not ran evolution of politics per se.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Ken, I'm not at all convinced that the left is any more principled in its in-fighting than the right is. And it was this that I was referring to in regard to things being the same for the newcomer to the left, Eric Mang.

Your other point requires more thought for an answer. I'm not happy with my reply so far.

Sean in Ottawa

N.Beltov wrote:

 

remind wrote:
In the case of this article, Mang, has definitely indicated he has moved further left, than to  just a centrist position.  Center is where people exist in order to maintain present status quo class and social structures, and not much more.

Actually, there is a very big element of truth to the claim that everyone, including Ken's revolutionary socialists, thinks they are in some way "in a centrist position" and everyone else is either "on the (far) right" or "on the (far) left".

 

Highlights by me.

This is a critical point-- unless a person self-identifies as an extremist they see themselves at the centre-- centre is where you are. But one person's world view and another's is very different so my centre is not in the same place as someone elses. Good to be concious of this and how useless the concept of a political centre actually is-- it is merely the most popular prevailing political philosophy when discussed in a community sense and personally it means something different for each person.

Tommy_Paine

 

My first tentative involvement in politics was actually with the Conservative Party.  I was interested in politics and we had a neighbour who was very active in the London Progressive Conservatives.  I knew here since I was a toddler, and she was a nice person, a happy person and not the angry type of  Conservative we are accustomed to today.  

I can't say what motivated her.  I suspect it was the game itself, and maybe policy had nothing to do with it.  Not sure.  She passed away just a couple of years ago, and her passing was noted in the Free Press as one of the long  time movers and shakers in the Conservative ridding associations here, serving in all capacities save candidate.

Struggling to put this all in a coherent time line.  So, that must have been when I was in elementary school.  Because by high school,  I was certainly rock solid NDP, what with Bill Davis' handling of Grassy Narrows and the strike at Fleck Manufacturing at Huron Park.  (which of course we all remember, right?) 

My parents  weren't terribly political, though they voted always.  I'm sure my Dad voted Conservative, but this had nothing to do with Conservative policy, but everything to do with Mackenzie King and Canadian soldiers dying in Italy because of depleted numbers and the few untrained replacements who died quickly all because King wouldn't invoke conscription.  My Dad said they never even bothered learning the names of those guys they got killed that quick and sure.

The odd thing is, I identified left, and got my sense of injustice and class analysis from my mother, a working class war bride from a cotton mill town in England.  But, she never EVER voted NDP. 

Communists, you know.......

But she hated bullies.  Hated when the strong exploited the weak.  With that kind of influence, what other political orientation could I have possibly ended up with?

 

janfromthebruce

I remember once being told that the vast majority of people who became NDP were previously conservatives or liberals, as the NDP in relation to the other stable two parties is relevantly newer. It would be baby boomers children who now have young adult children who were more apt to grow up in NDP oriented households - the 2nd generation.

KenS

We'd be lost if we had to depend on recruits from the children of Dippers.

 

Even if we expanded that to be any kind 'pink diaper baby' or other children of activists.

janfromthebruce

Ken, I also know that - but it does help to have some sort of "home" base .

My Cat Knows Better My Cat Knows Better's picture

Politically, I define myself as left of the Waffle. I am not concerned in discussing what defines the Left, or who is progressive enough to be included. I vote NDP because they are the closest thing to a relevant political party of the left in this country. I am getting too old to engage in interminable discussions. Its time to get a move on and win. Change is necessary.

I have been reading "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff. It provides the basis for a start.

George Victor

In his early autobiographical, Dreams from My Father, Obama  recounts a battle to describe who represented the left in the foyer of  a Chicago suburb municipal hall - and the name calling that went with it (he was not involved) ...none of it relevant to the needs of south Chicago African American families.

 

Caissa

Obama's analysis seemed more to the left in that book than in his most recent one.

RosaL

I started in the NDP (I come from a CCF family in Saskatchewan) and moved left. My experiences in low-wage jobs and in the mental health and welfare systems were pivotal. 

While I have lived much of my life in what many are pleased to call "an intersection of different forms of oppression", it seemed to me that class was fundamental. I ended up as a marxist rather than a "post-marxist". 

Oddly enough, I am probably much closer to my grandparents' politics than the present day ndp is.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Caissa wrote:
Obama's analysis seemed more to the left in that book than in his most recent one.

Maybe the US President could get around to reading the book that Venezuelan President Chavez gave him.

Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

KenS

RosaL wrote:
Oddly enough, I am probably much closer to my grandparents' politics than the present day ndp is.

Unless your grandparents were Communists, or some type of syndicalist, probably not.

That question depends on whether you want to measure "what is left" by essentially imovable measures of what is being advocated; or you measure where you and your granparents stand/stood in relation to the mainstream of socialist politics. Your politics were pretty mainstream in the left of a couple generations ago- but definitely not today.

This of course overlaps the question of 'what is left' or the unspoken 'what is [legitimately] left'.

With the important difference that saying my politics were more like my granparents isn't exclusivist and imperious. As opposed to saying "me and my grandparents are left", with the clear but usually unspoken implication that the rest of you are not.

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