The problem of the neoliberal left

Hvordan går det med den kontinuerlige vurderinga, Solhjell? Er dere fornøyde med innsatsen?

The political left has undergone a metamorphosis during the last twenty years. Externally it shows by the lack of class struggle, while their involvement in identity struggle is all the more notable.  It shows by the fact that parts of the political left started supporting imperialistic warfare already in the 1990s. In addition, it shows by the vast majority of the left’s total failure to oppose the wars in Libya, Syria and Ukraine. What has happened?

Translated by Anne Merethe Erstad


Hvordan går det med den kontinuerlige vurderinga, Solhjell? Er dere fornøyde med innsatsen?
The Socialist Left Party of Norway supported actively the illegal war on Libya

«Progressive» support of imperialism

When the Norwegian Socialist Left Party (SV), a former peace party, supported the Kosovo war in 1999, it marked a watershed. It made it possible to call yourself a “leftist” while you supported imperialistic warfare – on the condition that you applied radical rhetoric, of course. Well, words are free of charge and practice makes perfect, so it worked.

However, this goes further back in time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialism fell into disrepute in large parts of the world and neoliberalism won the ideological hegemony. Now everything was all about including the whole world in the globalised capitalism. This is an economic program to maintain and extend capitalism, in a period where the capitalist system staggers by the burden of its own contradictions. Then it was important to open up all markets to the corporations, demolish the nation states and remove all obstacles to privatisation and capitalist control.

This is what the EU’s Maastricht Treaty is all about. This is what the EEA Agreement is all about. Moreover, this is what TTIP and TISA is all about. However, to promote this economic program, which serves the interests of only 0.1 percent of the people on the planet, you need rhetoric that appeals to much larger group of people. Neoconservatives in USA developed such rhetoric; which appeared in its globalism almost like a political right’s version of Trotskyism. In Europe, the Socialist International (that is, the social democrats) joined the conservative parties to develop a program where neoliberalism and the fight against the nation states became the norm of a “progressive” project.

Accordingly, the imperialist wars were promoted as progressive projects, as fights against “dictators” and for “freedom”. This applies to the wars on Iraq, the wars to destroy Yugoslavia and of course the war in Libya as well as the coup d’état in Ukraine and the Syrian war.

To varying degrees and with varying reasoning you find both “socialist” and “leftist” supporters of all these imperialist wars. (This is not entirely new. There was “socialist” support of imperialist war during World War I and the Algerian war; just to mention a couple of examples.)

The immigration crisis

On the issue of the refugee or immigrant crisis most of the political left have positioned themselves as defenders in principle of as much immigration as possible. They argue that people in poor countries can solve their poverty problems by migrating to rich countries and share in the wealth. This is not fundamental anti-imperialist arguments. This is neoliberal argumentation. This is the program of the speculator and multi billionaire George Soros and the Goldman Sachs man Peter Sutherland.

soros flyktninger

George Soros, who has spoken up for Ukraine, by suggesting that the European Union should provide Ukraine 20 billion euros in loans – or more if needed –  to wage war on Russia, has also argued that Europe should receive a million immigrants every year. Moreover, he sponsors organisations all over Europe working towards this goal. Soros opposes national self-government and wishes to create a European super-state. To him, mass immigration is a tool in order to reach this goal.

Peter Sutherland was the Chairman of Goldman Sachs International for 20 years until 2015. He has served as European Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy and Founding Director-General of The World Trade Organisation. He was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, where he is now one of the heads.

He has stated as follows:

 “…the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine… a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others”. Source: BBC

He is a strong spokesperson advocating massive labour force immigration to Europe as well as multiculturalism. Moreover, he does not think the EU should take into account the local citizens’ objections to this.

The neoliberal left is pretty close to Soros and Sutherland in their argumentation and they do not realise that they act like instruments for the most aggressive capitalism’s attack on the working class.

The metamorphosis

What exactly happened here? How did the left change their position and end up supporting the neoliberal agenda? The editor of the Swedish «Proletären» (The Proletarian) put me on the track. Jenny Tedjeza wrote an editorial (in Swedish) where – among other things – she said this:

“It is not hard to understand why the identity policy has come to have such an influence on the Swedish left. When the collective movements collapse, when anti capitalism is declared dead and the unity of the working class appears as a naïve dream from an Eastern Europe scented 1970s; the radical people still raised by the deeply unjust society need to find something to be sucked into. The “one-issue-activism” is close at hand and the struggle for a more equal representation of ethnicity, gender and sexual preferences in the public space is comfortable, because the fight can take place on a level that is more of a moral one than an intellectual and criticism-of-the-system one.

Originally, the identity politics may have been the struggle to make room for oppressed people to move forward in a progressive society climate, like black feminists in the Civil Rights Movement in USA. However, in the current time of bourgeoisie counteroffensive, moral and identity is all that remains. Liberalism in politics, postmodernism in the universities and the identity policy of the leftists are all expressions of the same reaction.”

This was a very important observation, and it was very helpful. I followed up Jenny’s article with this (in Norwegian): “Marx’ razor and the anti-imperialist movement in Norway”.

This is what happened to the majority of the political left: nicely and quietly, they replaced the pair of contradictions known as labour and capital with new pairs of contradiction such has racism and anti-racism. They no longer fight the class struggle; they fight the anti-racist struggle. The good thing is that a lot appears as it used to and they still use their radical language. However, the content is very different.

The neoliberal left and their goodbye to the class struggle

When you remove the class struggle from the centre of your policy and introduce “anti-racism” instead, you change both your explanatory model as well as the relationship between friends and foes. The majority of the working class people end up as foes while the liberal, imperialist bourgeoisie become friends. (This is never said out loudly, because it would cause the collapse of the rhetoric. Nevertheless, it is what happens – in reality.)

Racism and anti-racism are ideologies or ways of thinking, so the struggle transfers from the fight for the means of production to the fight for the minds. The evil ones are the racists and the good ones are the anti-racists. Moreover, the beauty of such a model is that the good ones are always allowed to define who are “the good guys” and who are the evil ones as well as what kind of racism you choose to fight – and what kind of racism you ignore or explain away.

(You probably will not find a single anti-racist rallying against a Muslim hate-preacher claiming “Jews are descendants of monkeys and pigs” although it is probably among the worst examples of racism expressed in today’s society. The reason is that the neoliberal left has adopted Muslims en bloc as a substitute for the oppressed people of the world. It becomes a new variety of “the orientalism” where the Muslims “act” as “the noble wild”. This demonstrates a paternalistic and condescending attitude through and through, but that does not seem to matter. It makes the anti-racist ignoring or explaining away racism among “the noble wild” feel even more good and tolerant.)

What happens to the classes and the class struggle when racism/anti-racism take over as the main model? Yes, the working class becomes invisible or disappears, and since the majority of the working class reacts negatively to the migration (due to lower wages, unemployment, weaker unions and a weakening of organised labour) the majority of the working class are describes as racist – and thus, belong to the side of evil. (They vote for the Swedish Democrats and Le Pen!)

Despising the working class

This is rather fitting to how the intellectuals of the petty bourgeoisie have regarded the working class in the past. That is, a negative and condescending view of the working class, their culture, their taste and their attitudes. The liberal, pro-imperialist bourgeoisie, on the other hand, those who actually benefit from cutting labour costs and workers’ benefits, they are unbiased and anti-racist and, therefore, belong to the “good” side. The upper class have no prejudice towards hiring underpaid, undeclared house maids or letting unorganised, underpaid Eastern Europe migrants redecorate their country house.

At the other end of the scale, it becomes even more noticeable. The leader of the Norwegian Labour Party, former foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, is a multi-millionaire.  He hesitated a short while before he turned around and supported the bombing of Libya and the destruction of one of the most well-functioning African countries. Along with the rest of the Norwegian red/green government, he has thousands of lives on his conscience. A class analysis would show that Støre belongs to the enemies of the working class. However, he is an anti-racist. He advocated that Norway should receive 10.000 Syrian refugees. (However, at the same time he supported the war and the sanctions, which drive the Syrians to flee.) Therefore, he is one of the good people. You will not find a single anti-racist even dreaming of harassing Jonas Gahr Støre’s cultured home.

The neoliberal left chase off the white working class by this policy – in the direction of the more or less right wing parties. In spite of the fact that these political parties often represent a worker hostile policy. This is how the Swedish Democrats has become the largest “labour party” in Sweden. The left could have prevented this from happening if they had fought the neoliberal migration policy on working class grounds. (The non-liberal left is fighting this for example by steadily opposing the EEA Agreement.)

The neoliberal left avoids this challenge and instead they blame “muddy attitudes” in the working class. The working class is racist, they imply. Consequently, the policy of the left is not to blame here; the fault is all due to the backwards working class.

What the left could have done, had it been proletarian and not neoliberal, was to take the concerns of the working class seriously and come up with a proletarian response to these questions. That would have made it possible to expose the bourgeoisie character of for instance the Swedish Democrats and win the workers back, away from the right wing party. A neoliberal left, who join forces with people like Jonas Gahr Støre or the Swedish Fredrik Reinfeldt (former Prime Minister) and Stefan Lövfen (Prime Minister) simply cannot do that. .

Of course, you find racism in the white working class, but you cannot fight it through condescending moral campaigns carried out by the liberal upper class or its neoliberal left twin. Racism in the working class can only be defeated through joint class struggle by proletarians of various ethnic origins. Together.

The neoliberals are not liberal

The term neoliberal can easily create an impression that its representatives are liberal in the traditional sense of the word. That is, that they should be adherent of traditional liberal liberties like the free speech, freedom to organise, protecting one’s privacy etc. However, they are not. Quite the contrary; they are very dictatorial. The globalists strive to abolish these liberties and have them replaced by total surveillance of the citizens. Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the NSA’s wide-ranging surveillance operation in USA and elsewhere shows this to excess. However, this is also notable from the increasingly dictatorial legislations in Germany, Great Britain and France. This surveillance is “justified” as necessary to fight “racism”, hate crime, conspiracy theories and intolerance. Moreover, the neoliberal left helps the dictatorial supporters in the upper class in their mission. The neoliberal left actively support this fight against whatever they deem to be crimes of the mind and thoughts, and they quickly characterise any criticism of the bourgeoisie’s manipulations as “conspiracy theories” just as they respond to resistance to the EEA Agreement or EU and defence of the nation state by calling it “racism”.

Seeing as an identity policy has replaced the class struggle for the neoliberal left, they have a strong tendency to support limitations to free speech. The old feminist Germaine Greer most certainly experienced this in Cardiff. Ultra-feminists had decided that Greer had allegedly offended transgender people, so they managed to prevent her from speaking at the university.

The neoliberal left love to engage in these kinds of “fights”, opposing what they make out as thought crimes. However, they have little taste for class struggle. If the real political left is to move ahead and make a difference, it’s high time to confront the neoliberal left and expose them as they really are; useful idiots for the globalised capitalism.        







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Pål Steigan. f. 1949 har jobbet med journalistikk og medier det meste av sitt liv. I 1967 var han redaktør av Ungsosialisten. I 1968 var han med på å grunnlegge avisa Klassekampen. I 1970 var han med på å grunnlegge forlaget Oktober, der han også en periode var styreleder. Steigan var initiativtaker til og første redaktør av tidsskriftet Røde Fane (nå Gnist). Fra 1985 til 1999 var han leksikonredaktør i Cappelens forlag og utga blant annet Europas første leksikon på CD-rom og internettutgaven av CAPLEX i 1997. Han opprettet bloggen og ga den seinere til selskapet Mot Dag AS som gjorde den til nettavis. Steigan var formann i AKP(m-l) 1975–84. Steigan har skrevet flere bøker, blant annet sjølbiografien En folkefiende (2013).