1989 marked not only the defeat of the Communist State-Socialism, but also the defeat of the Western Social Democracy.
Nowhere is the misery of today’s Left more palpable than in its “principled” defence of the Social-Democratic Welfare State: the idea is that, in the absence of a feasible radical Leftist project, all that the Left can do is to bombard the state with demands for the expansion of the Welfare State, knowing well that the State will not be able to deliver.
This necessary disappointment serves as a reminder of the basic impotence of the social-democratic Left and thus push the people towards a new radical revolutionary Left.
Needless to say, such a politics of cynical “pedagogy” is destined to fail, since it fights a lost battle: in the present politico-ideological constellation, the reaction to the inability of the Welfare State to deliver will be Rightist populism. In order to avoid this reaction, the Left will have to propose its own positive project beyond the confines of the Social-Democratic Welfare State.
This is why it is totally erroneous to pin our hopes on strong Nation-States, which can defend the acquisitions of the Welfare State, against trans-national bodies like the European Union, which, so the story goes, serve as the instruments of the global capital to dismantle whatever remained of the Welfare State. From here, it is only a short step to accept the “strategic alliance” with the nationalist Right worried about the dilution of national identity in trans-national Europe.
(One of the crazy consequences of this stance is that some Leftists support the Czech liberal-conservative President Vaclav Klaus, a staunch Euro-sceptic: his ferocious anti-Communism and opposition to the “totalitarian” Welfare State is dismissed as a cunning strategy to render acceptable his anti-Europeanism …)
So where does the Left stand today? Alain Badiou wonderfully characterized the post-Socialist situation as “this troubled situation, in which we see Evil dancing on the ruins of Evil”: there is no question of any nostalgia, the Communist regimes were “evil” – the problem is that what replaced them is also “evil,” albeit in a different way.
In what way?
[Extract. Appeared in ABC on January 16th 2012. This article also appeared in ABC on October 3rd 2011.]