In search of an independent left and right (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
In this short series, Mark Wegierski tries to grapple with the conceptual implications of the post-2008 financial crisis, suggesting there are difficulties with the conventional views of both Left and Right.
The financial crisis which has overtaken America and the rest of the planet since 2008, certainly strains the conventional views of what constitutes capitalism or socialism, or indeed conventional Right and Left. The U.S. government has extended over a trillion dollars in aid to the banking and financial sectors. This seems to be a situation where profits are private, and losses are made up for by the public. One can’t even think what this type of system could be properly called – banker’s socialism, perhaps. The financial and banking sector does not seem to be averse to be part of the “welfare-state” gravy train.
At the same time, the strictest competition continues to exist for small-businesses – who will not be receiving bail-outs in this increasingly difficult economic climate. Considerable numbers of persons – especially in the private sector -- are losing their jobs – and without those sorts of golden parachutes available to the highest-ranking executives. The current real unemployment rate in the United States has been estimated by some economists to be around twenty percent.
At the same time, President Obama has attempted to extend government-funded healthcare “for everyone” – which cannot seem to be a seriously possible undertaking in the face of a massive financial crisis and a federal deficit that has been be reaching over a trillion dollars – year after year.
In the face of this conceptual confusion, it could be posited that the central conflict of our current-day period is not between nominal right and left, but between two contrasting visions. One of these could be termed hypermodernity -- the extension of various negative tendencies of the late modern world such as American imperialism, consumerism, antinomianism, and “political correctness.” Hypermodernity is the system of what has been called “the managerial-therapeutic regime” – a combination of soulless capitalism and the total administrative state. The alternative vision is so-called postmodernity – a term which is specially used here to denote a better synthesis of the old and the new – such as a return to heroism and “the erotic” sense of belonging, a more artistic and creative existence, and real ecology. There are elements of both the traditionalist Right and the ecological and alternative Left that participate in this type of postmodernity.
Unfortunately, there are a series of processes today by which the so-called New Class (the worldwide corporate/media oligarchy centered in North America) tends to delegitimize certain concepts and programs, whether these are critiques emanating from an anti-consumptionist and consistently anti-capitalist left (typified by figures like Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, and Ivan Illich), or those associated with the pro-ecological and pro-cultural aspects of certain serious thought on the true right (typified by figures like G.K. Chesterton, Wendell Berry, and J.R.R. Tolkien). It is argued that the contribution of serious-minded forces, conventionally said to be on the right, can be a critical element in the struggle against hypermodernity. Therefore, the New Class propaganda and conditioning techniques, which act as "inhibitors" toward even the slightest consideration, of the most serious thought, when it is considered "right-wing", and therefore unacceptable, might well tip the ultimate balance in the struggle in favor of hypermodernity.
It can be pointed out, first of all, that one of the greatest propaganda weapons handed to the New Class -- which they have not hesitated to mercilessly use, over and over again, as the ultimate smear and scare-tactic -- has been the excrescence of Nazism in Germany. The historical ghost of Nazism has served to undermine and discredit much of the critique of late modernity today. Such forces that arise to challenge (or even mildly protest) the contemporary order of things, if they are in any sense seen to be "on the right" -- regardless of the honesty or possible perceptiveness of their positions -- are immediately taunted by the accusation of fascist (which emotively signifies something like "Nazi-camp-guard-and-baby-killer" -- the very worst thing one can be). Hitler's Nazis were certainly one of the most horrific political phenomena in human history. A wholehearted and visceral rejection of the theory and practice of Nazism (that is, of what Nazism actually was), at the most fundamental level, must be seen as a precondition for entry into serious intellectual and political debate today. The rejection of the practice of the mass programmatic murder and coercion carried out by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others of that ilk, should be seen as another precondition. Finally, a certain "openness" or genuine liberality -- as opposed to intellectual totalitarianism -- is needed, if there is going to be any real debate opened up today in the public-political arena. Although those who, for whatever reason, are seen to be "on the right" today, are almost invariably derided by many pejorative terms, the overwhelming majority of them remain convinced, in their own consciences and self-understandings, of their honesty, moderation, and ultimate humanity (in terms of a “world-historical”, not current-day North American spectrum), and they generally strongly resist, refuse, and refute various negative and snide characterizations directed at them.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.