"I am very much afraid that the real Left may turn out to have been an unrepeatable phase in the evolution of political societies. It relied on clear and obvious injustices that needed addressing, on clear and obvious political and economic targets that needed attacking, on a mass working class base, on communities organised around the workplace, on a discourse of class-based solidarity and economic justice, on middle-class supporters and on politicians close to the concerns of ordinary people. None of that now exists."

I'm afraid all of that not only exists, but with more intensity than ever. Clear, obvious injustices: genocide of Palestinian innocents before our eyes for months. Clear obvious targets that need attacking: a billionaire class that dictates nearly everything in society to the disadvantage of the majority of the population and is accountable to nobody in the west. In particular the FIRE sector of the west as pointed out so clearly by Hudson. A mass working class base: globalization has created a working class of former peasants so massive as to dwarf the western working class of the 80s.

Really the only thing that doesn't exist in your list here is this: "a discourse of class-based solidarity and economic justice, on middle-class supporters and on politicians close to the concerns of ordinary people."

And there's a clear reason it doesn't exist. The ruling class, recovering politically from the mid 70s into the 80s and early 90s was able to co-opt a handful of former lefts. These new "lefts" used idpol to supplant a rational class based analysis of capitalism with an irrational identity based model that looks left and anti racist, but is in fact meant to divide and stupify the working class of the west. This has created a political cover so that as you point out, there are no powerful political groups that actually care about the working masses. Under this discourse they don't need to, they just need to be anti racist, sexist, homophobic and with these tokens are accepted as left and virtuous and thus can more easily advance WW3 while reducing the western working class to the status of atomized peasants begging for crumbs and worshipping their billionaire overlords.

For an essay on the left, I find it curious that capitalism was not mentioned once. Also, the French Revolution is given quite a lot of attention, despite the fact it occurred between two socioeconomic systems (fuedalism and capitalism) but the ideas and politics that originally animated the successful Russian Revolution are not seriously treated at all. That's curious. What happened before Stalin took power? What were the slogans and policies of the Bolsheviks who ended WW1 with a revolution?

You mentioned trotskyists. What about Trotsky? Some review of what he actually conceived of as leftism should be present. Instead, we hear of what some epigones of Trotsky did in 80s UK.

I like the target of the article, but let's really aim at it!

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Another very satisfying and enlightening piece - thank you! I wonder if the downward plummet of ordinary people's living standards now, currently bolstering radical populism, will eventually work its way over to something of the point of view of the old left. After all, in the end, either all of society benefits, or the inequalities give rise to at least chaos, if not revolution. But it can take a long time. My husband's family got out of South Africa at the beginning of apartheid, because they thought "everything would blow up". It took what, 50 years or so? The downtrodden lack the energy or resources to fight for change, at least initially. And then, when they have power, they generally lack the experience and philosophical coherence to make it work towards their goals. I wonder if that's why some of the most effective movements for change (in the far past, at least) arose from religious and spiritual leaders. It tapped into something other than self-interest. The next decades will be instructive, no doubt.

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McCarthy's red scare was show!

In the media enforced empire of beltway neocon DC, there is no right or left. There is on one side's disdain for the deplorables (used to be the rugged individualist accused of anti collectivism), and Trump supporters aka deplorables.

Between those miniscule poles is the immense, unitary blob mind.

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Quite nice, indeed! Although a little too focused on the Anglo-American sphere - but it's ok, the idea that the Democratic Party in the USA is the left, since left= liberals, It's as widespread as it is wrong. Anyway, it would be nice to bring some other regional spheres to the discussion, like, say, Latin America, or even China (or Russia, by the way :))

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Examples of what a left movement might be:

Corbyn in UK, Sanders in US, Mélenchon, Wagenknecht in Germany, several in Latin America

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Dear Aurelien,

Thank you very much.

I hope that Sahra Wagenknecht's new party in Germany will revive the original values of the Left. I read a description of the Left's most important missions in this publication (in German):


Andrej Hunko, a German politician, mentions two main missions in his opinion: "social welfare mission" and "peace mission" - Sozialauftrag and Friedensauftrag. He left the party "Die Linke" together with 10 other personalities to join the new party initiative of Sahra Wagenknecht, because in his opinion the "peace mandate" was obviously violated. The "peace mandate" was also a driving force behind the original Green Party in Germany. A well-known personality in this context is Antje Vollmer, who unfortunately passed away a few months ago.


In your article, you don't mention the "peace mandate" as an inherent characteristic of the Left, although it developed later in history. It would be nice to have more historical context and more insight on this topic as to how the „Peace mandate“ originally developed among leftist movements in different countries. It might have been an opposition movement to the interventionist policies of the Right? The reasons why this mission, together with other principles of the left-wing movement, is no longer practiced are already well described in your article.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell in Switzerland and France, I don't see any political party like Sahra Wagenknecht's that would be prepared to return to the original values. In Switzerland it is definitely The Right party which stands up for neutrality and no arm deliveries to Ukraine as opposed by an aggressive pro war policy of The Left.

best regards


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> "... organised political parties existed by the Eighteenth Century, but they represented constellations of interests more than abstract political ideas."

As I see it, political parties always represent both and so they should. I like to simply the language further into "theory" and "practice". All political parties exist to put their hands on the levers of state power. Real politics should offer 1) a practical plan of what you propose to do with that power, i.e. what you want to change, and 2) a theory explaining why that's the _right_ thing to do.

What's interesting about our current period is that the practical plans are largely missing in the political discourse and, it appears, in the heads of the politicians vying for our votes and many of their most vocal supporters.

A tidy example of this is the SNP in Scotland. Independence is never properly explained. How will the independent nation be established and function thereafter and who will win/lose what in the process? In my profession some are wont to say, "That's arm waving not engineering." In the political discourse it's fine to wave your arms on the theoretical side but not so much on the practical.

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1. Most of what we see as "left" vs" right" in western society has little to do with coherent ideology and everything to do with a series of ad hoc coalitions. For instance, in the US, Team D can be viewed as a shotgun marriage between certain idpol grievance groups and the PMC. None of these have all that much in common other than their enemies, and inf act they don't even like each other all that much.

2. "The second mistake was one of imagination. At the beginning of her reign, Thatcher was such a divisive and in many ways ridiculous figure (she was nicknamed “Attila the Hen” in Whitehall because of her outbursts of temper) that it seemed impossible that she could last very long. And indeed had it not been for a great deal of sheer luck and the utter incompetence of the Opposition she would not have done so. By the time her political enemies realised that she and her clique were serious, the machine was loose, rampaging through the country and destroying everything, as well as invading other countries."

In the US, something much the same could be said about Ronald Reagan and, for that matter, Bill Clinton. Had Ross Perot not run in 1992, Clinton probably would have been a footnote in history, and after taking office, Clinton was catastrophically unpopular until Team R overplayed its hand and Waco gave the fat boy a chance to look presidential.

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This is a very good and very timely piece. Also explains why so many of us have become Fierce Independents!

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The Right wing has traditionally had another political advantage, namely the sympathy of the military. In a political crisis the military often steps in to restore order--usually a traditional (right leaning) order.

In the U.S. today (and probably Europe and increasingly Latin America) the officer corps is populated by pretty bland members of the PMC, like the upper ranks of the business class and most bureaucracies. Although the working class is attracted to Trump's revolutionary theatre, a re-elected Trump won't help them much because he is really an oligarch with his own class interests. As Trump proved in his first term, he is just a typical self-aggrandizing and corrupt opportunist. He has no program, only slogans (MAGA!). In this respect, he is a traditional (if much more extreme) version of the last three or four Presidents we've had.

One danger of another Trump presidency is that, historically, a successful Right-wing coup doesn't require the support of the entire military. Often a well-organized fanatical group within the officer corps is enough.

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Where do anarchists fit into thie picture here?

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Brilliant. I have been struggling to write on the subject - a brick compared with this gem. Many thanks! I would like to translate the article to Dutch. How do I contact you?

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Why do you say that all of rural France opposed the Revolution and fought against it when this was the case only for the most backward area, the Vendee?

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Thank you Aurelien 🙏

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Aurelien, your piece is a short and concise reminder to me of why I found Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas" so appealing.

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Overall a great essay, although I would like to point out that the definition of the left can't be made without a proper definition of the right, and the right contains more than just "Conservatism", which is and has always been a defined as a backwards liberal. There is no such thing as a Conservative intellectual tradition. The intellectual traditions on the right are reaction or traditionalism, like de Maistre, or libertarians like Hayek and Mises. With a special case for Schumpeter and Spengler who are definitely on the right but hard to place in these traditions.

What unites these, against the liberals, socdems, fascists and communists is not that they want to maintain status quo. If you look at a modern libertarian bitcoin permaculturists such as myself, I'm perfectly willing to embrace full in societal collapse. I am however not trying to achieve it through political means. This because I don't think that a bunch of midwit bureaucrats sitting in a commission can be entrusted with anything.

What the traditionalist, libertarians and Conservatives have in common, is our mistrust of the state which is seen as a necessary evil and bereft of creative powers. Thus the creative force has to be placed elsewhere.

For a libertarian such as myself, that is technology and markets, with technological change being the real driver of social change, markets being the best mean of transmission and the state generally being a sclerosis protection racket for established interest groups.

For a reactionary, the creative force that moves through history is divine providence.

This of course in opposition to the liberal who thinks it is rules and regulations (ie, the above mentioned protection racket), or the leftist who thinks that history is moved by class interests and material models of production, through a predetermined fashion towards a set future utopia I'm which everyone has a job but no-one seems to work. Much like a leftist mini utopias of the academy, journalism and state and corporate bureaucracies.

For the left, history is progress and thus it has a telos. It is going somewhere Good. This is the key difference. For a reactionary, ie a Catholic this is heresy and the immeminization of the eschaton. For the modern libertarian, or new right, history moves in cycles and we are headed for a full on collapse caused in large by the hybris of politicians who thought they could bend reality by politics.

That all of that largesse could be maintained indefinitely by letting money printing go brrr.

Did I mention bitcoin already?

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