UK Guardian: Socialism is dead. There now remain only socialists

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If leftwing Britons of 2007 saw themselves more clearly than they do, they would notice two big things. First, they would see what the leftwing Britons of 1907 would have grasped – that much of what the left of a century ago yearned for has actually been achieved, imperfectly and incompletely to be sure, but unmistakably achieved all the same. As Cohen points out, the 20th century may have been largely governed by the party of the right, but it is the worldview of the party of the left that triumphed.

Second, they would have to acknowledge the paradox that, while its agenda has triumphed, the left itself has in most respects wholly collapsed. It is one of the weaknesses of Cohen’s book that he never quite pins down what “the left” is. Discussions of the book risk reproducing the fault. But it is facile to deny that the problem exists. Neither socialism as a programme nor the parties that espoused it – and these are surely somewhere near the heart of any definition of the left – have survived into the modern age with credibility. Foul though they and their ideas are, the parties of the extreme right actually have more purchase on the politics of the early 21st century than the parties of the left.

That doesn’t mean there is no one left on the left. Self-evidently there are lots of people, even if they are neither as numerous nor as influential as the rightwing press imagines. But they lack anything remotely resembling a programme, let alone a programme that all of them agree on. With nothing to say to the rest of the world, the left tradition has taken cover in single issue campaigns, in inertia, or in the gesture politics of so-called defiance. Socialism is dead. There remain only socialists.

Ironically, I would submit that socialism is on the rise in America, a land largely untouched by the 20th century socialist movements that ran amok in Europe. And while individualism emerges from the socialist shells in Europe (and certainly has a long ways to go), individualism is under attack in the United States from many areas.

Some of this can be blamed on terrorism, some blamed on the laxity of our leadership. A great deal can be placed upon the temptation to believe good laws create good culture, when the exact opposite is true. Some of it has to do with complete arrogance amongst an elite few who believe the free market is better controlled and subjugated rather than allowed to prosper.

Most of these problems are inherently American, while our cousins in Europe are slowly realizing that socialism’s emphasis on the lowest common denominator destroys innovation and individualism — and ultimately culture itself by creating something grossly homogenized. Worse still, when socialism encounters a subsection refusing to be absorbed, it fails. Thus the failure of the socialist experience with Islam in Europe, and why Christian Europe continues to demand dialouge rather than the “clash of civilizations” seen as a near inevitability amongst a ever-growing minority.

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