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Chris Bertram Writes Something Smart

Buce sends us to Chris Bertram, and eschews snideness:

Underbelly: Chris Bertram on the Varieties of Leftism: Chris Bertram offers a brisk taxonomy of leftism which might be sound-byte-summarized as "market," "populist" and "pastoral."  He might have added another class: the cohort which take it upon itself to classify and evaluate the other classes.  I hope I do not seem snide here...

So let me jump in.

What caught my eye in Chris Bertram on May 22, 2011:

The fragmenting coalition of the “left”, some musings — Crooked Timber: the overt differences of aim and value between various currents calling themselves “left” are deep and irreconcilable. So what are those currents.... 4) The old Leninist hard left. Naturally they fancy themselves as the people strand 3) need to give them organization and direction. I don’t think so. Washed up, marginal, authoritarian and unappealing.

was how perfectly it condemned Chris Bertram. Consider his lament on the occasion of the retirement of the next-to-last Leninist dictator in the world, Fidel Castro, on February 19, 2008:

Castro retires: I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk. So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!

To applaud the next-to-last Leninist regime in the world with a "hasta la victoria siempre!" out of one side of your mouth while condemning Leninism as "washed up, marginal, authoritarian and unappealing" out of the other reveals a degree of mental confusion rarely attained even in this fallen sublunary sphere...

The broader point of Bertram's musings is that it is time for "the left" to abandon social democracy--which Bertram characterizes as:

keep[ing] the masses happy by improving their living standards... prone to [t]witter[ing] self-regardingly about “grown-up” politics. Fixated on... with winning elections... have achieved very little... haven’t done much to stem the rise of inequality, to protect working-class communities from the winds of globalisation, to end poverty, or, for that matter, to protect the environment...

and rely on a combination of "populist nationalism[:] culturally conservative, worried by immigration (and willing to indulge popular anxieties), anxious about the effects of markets on working-class community..." and zero-growth greenism.

Needless to say, I disagree: unless it is yoked to social democracy greenism quickly becomes a form of reactionary nostalgic agrarian conservatism; unless it is yoked to social democracy culturally conservative populist nationalism is simply fascism.