The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why the Left Keeps Losing and What They Must Do to Win

In 2018, I wrote an article, Seven Rules For Running A Real Left-wing Government.

The article was based on an ur-fact that wasn’t made explicit in the piece:

Centrists and right-wingers don’t consider left-wing government legitimate.

When I wrote about the seven rules, it was in reaction to the turn of the tide in South and Central America: the loss of left-wing governments there. Since then, Bolivia has suffered a right-wing coup.

What is remarkable about these reversals is that they were either done illegitimately, or, once done, the full power of the prosecutorial state was used against the left. In Brazil, Lula, who would have easily won, was locked up on bogus corruption charges. In Bolivia, electoral fraud was alleged. It turns out there was none. The government which took charge did not, however, win the election by any measure.

Once governments were in power, they used the force of the state to destroy their left-wing enemies.

They did things they would never do against right-wing or centrist opponents.

That’s because, to them, the left cannot ever be allowed to take or hold power, period. If a left-wing government gets in power, it is prima facie illegitimate.

This is a profound and genuine belief.

And it has an effect even before the left gets into power. The best recent example is that UK Labor party staffers were working actively to lose the 2017 and 2020 elections. We have emails, we have proof. They went so far as to micro-target Corbyn with Facebook ads tailored just to him, so he wouldn’t see the real ads that they were running–ads meant to make Labor lose.

In part, this is a case of the iron law of institutions: It’s better to run a weaker institution than to lose control of one.

But it is also an ideological matter: The left is considered illegitimate. Therefore, you do not have to play by they rules when fighting it.

The left, bless their hearts, tend to think that there are rules, and that they can play by them, win, and be allowed to rule. But all along the process, the left’s opponents do not and will never play by the rules when facing the left.

This has a long history. The US overthrew multiple elected governments overseas if they considered them left-wing. At home, coincidentally, JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcom X were all assassinated within a period of less than ten years, and we are expected to believe that the US security apparatus had nothing to do with that. (This doesn’t even pass the laugh test.) There was a LOT of violence in the late 60s and early 70s, to the point of bombs going off every day, because there was, in fact a war going on and when the left realized their leaders were being killed and that peaceful victory would not be allowed, some of them actually fought.

They lost.

This is war. It is not a game.

Corbyn was deliberately sabotaged by his own bureaucracy, because he thought there were rules. His MPs sabotaged him. The press lied about him over 75 percent of the time. Sanders was taken out when every opponent except Biden all dropped out at the same time–a coordinated action for which I can’t recall a precedent. It was NOT normal, and it is not what would have happened if a centrist had been beating Biden. That theoretical centrist would have been allowed to win, and there would have been no hand-wringing about how that was happening because of a split field, because split fields are normal.

So, as with the seven rules, which include facts like having to restructure and (non-violently) purge the press, the same is true of being a left-winger. If you get into a place like where Corbyn was, you have to get rid of all the internal enemies. Not people who just disagree. This means all staffers who are not ideologically-aligned. As for MPs, test them; the moment they do something traitorous (as Labour’s MPs did over and over again), remove them from the party. For all MPs, re-select. Note that Boris Johnson immediately removed all MPs who challenged him on Brexit (his main issue) when they crossed him. He then won the election handily.

You do this because neoliberals and conservatives cannot be trusted because they do not believe that left-wing government is, or can be, legitimate. They already view it as war and they will cheat, lie, and put you in jail if they can. Failing that, they will engage in coups and assassination if they can.

You can’t play a game by the rules if the other side is determined to cheat and thinks you shouldn’t even be on the field.

Oh, and, if it’s not obvious, the police and the military always must be brought under control. This is a somewhat delicate process, but you cannot leave the violent institutions run by right-wingers, as they are today. The second they have an excuse they will turn on you. (This is one of the things that Venezuela got right and why Maduro has not yet been overthrown.)

This is a violent conflict. Centrists and right-wingers don’t even see old-style New Deal liberals as legitimate, and they will do anything they can to destroy them. This is how it has always been: They always hated FDR, they always hated the New Deal, they always hated and wanted to destroy the welfare state. They bided their time, used their power in the conservative institutions of the deep state, like the FBI and intelligence outfits, and they won. They learned by starting in peripheral nations like Iran, then they transferred what they learned back home.

More on that in another article.

For now: If you are left-wing, the right and the center see you as an enemy, and they will do anything necessary to destroy you if you reach a level they consider a threat.

Understand that in your bones.

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  1. Thank you!! You can’t repeat this enough. People, especially DSA types and the like, need to have this tattooed to their foreheads. Metaphorically speaking.

  2. Stirling S Newberry

    Ah the Crane of Brinton’s
    Serving up un revolution d’quabash.
    Amidst a Campbell of creme droop Jung
    With tomatoes in soufflés CS Lewis.
    Oh nonce de Beauvoir slaking Camus
    And being revelled trop cher Austen.
    Hark, Hark the lolly lens The Differences Engine forsooth
    Gnash the Akutagawa over Death’s Own Gate
    To sampling linear Sherlocke crash.
    Oh for curlicues and curlocks de Sindarin
    But Balzac to utter Prince of Discourses.
    To find the Nature of our Circles peoplesplain
    To tread down Jacobs ladder to new fresh town,
    Of Muir and gotterdame d’ Soul of a new machine Carson
    A Devil Take the Hindmost struggle,
    Das Kapital fights with Wealth of Nations
    Till homo economiche faine the Neutral allele
    And we are dead, every one.

    The ur-problem with the left is that there are rules and they don’t follow them. They don’t follow a liberal economy, and so let an ultraliberal one into place (there is, in fact, a difference.) South Korea, for all the problems, runs a liberal economy. US runs an ultra-liberal economy.

    Now the centers and the rightist don’t follow them either, but the have boatloads of money. The left does not.

  3. Grimgrin

    The interesting thing is this. The motivation to destroy a prospective left wing government can easily be “They’re a bunch of Stalinist psychos stroking themselves through their pants at the thought of throwing all their ideological opponents into the gulag. They must be stopped.”

    When you have people like the Labour Vice-Chancellor John McDonnell talking about wanting to invent laws to try their political opposition, or people like your self essentially arguing “One man, one vote, one time” at which point the state will be used to crush any political opposition; honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to consider the left to be illegitimate.

    Of course you might object that this is just fear-mongering. It would be the small elite targets, not ordinary people, as long as they sign their loyalty oaths the state will leave them alone. Yes. And the moment the left wing manages to field the angelic hosts as candidates and staffers, I will believe they can do that with no corruption, error, settling of scores, or other inevitable petty human bullshit that leads to it all spiralling out of control.

    It’s a cute trap isn’t it?

  4. bruce wilder

    A large part of the left considers itself illegitimate: that is, leftish political sympathies are often married to a squeamishness about power. There is an ambivalence about political authority and its uses built into left politics; that ambivalence is part of what defines the left as left.

    Ian prescribes a kind of ruthlessness. I do not have to explain why that prescription will make many identifying with the left uncomfortable and, I believe, rightly so. I say that, though I agree with everything he has written here about the tactical failures of Cornyn and Sanders. I am saying those tactical failures are related to a grand strategic failure, which involves some deep dilemmas of left thinking.

    Fundamentally, the right is the right because they believe the exercise of power thru hierarchical authority is inherently legitimate and opposition from below is inherently illegitimate. It is a view friendly to the interests of social classes occupying the upper rungs of social and political hierarchy. And, it is possible to get popular support or at least acquiescence to authority from below by promising and delivering order. Threatening or creating disorder in hierarchical polities is a strategy as well as a tactic of a right that feels its grip on power threatened.

    Many on the left are in one way or another so deeply ambivalent about hierarchy that they refuse to think clearly about political power, which is the product of authority in hierarchical organization.

    One aspect of that left ambivalence makes much of the left particularly stupid and self-destructive concerning the political attitudes and understanding of the people who make up 50% or 80% of society: the poor and the working classes and even the merely middle class — the people occupying positions of dependence and varying degrees of precarity in a hierarchical polity. The so-called “authoritarianism” of the people can be very troubling to liberals and leftists; it is, of course, an opportunity for sociopaths.

    It is the Herculean task of the left to reform political hierarchy in the direction of making it work better: repairing, rebuilding, reconstructing. Which entails making society as an hierarchical whole smarter and more efficient, more powerful as a whole. Strategically and tactically, many on the left, like Bartleby, would really rather not.

  5. John

    There is an interesting little book out now about how Carribean slaveholders maintained control despite being outnumbered by huge ratios
    Divide and conquor, precarity and viewing the slaves as subhuman are an effective combination.
    The centrists and reactionaries, with their fear and contempt, view the left and the little people as animals to be restrained and managed….just as the sugar cane planters view their slaves.

  6. krake

    Cue the pacifists and the cop-timid, with this one.

  7. Krystyn Podgajski

    We on the left have been subjected to gaslighting since the 1930’s. The Centrists and the Right have lit those lamps as an offering to the Capitalists and the Capitalists have rewarded them and continue to reward them. Even the poor who are looking for some hope will light those lamps in some disturbed hope that maybe they will be that capitalist boss one day.

    There is no left and center and right, there are only Capitalists and Anarchists, farmers and hunter/gatherers. You are either setting up the bankers tables in the temple or you are kicking them over. Pick a side.

  8. krake

    @ Bruce

    The Paris Commune is only a rough analog, is outdated and is marred by defeat, but it did understand (in its membership) that an effective countermeasure to the problem of authority is to make it unprofitable. Those charged with executive function are at liberty to do so, but with no extra or special remuneration, and no heredity of control.

  9. Z

    Step one is you have to destroy the credibility of the media. Sanders and Corbin didn’t do enough of that.


  10. highrpm

    “just calm down”

  11. Daniel Lynch

    This is one of Ian’s better articles.

    “I used to get things done by saying please. Now I dynamite ’em out of my path.” ~ the Kingfish

    “They say they don’t like my methods. Well, I don’t like them either. I really don’t like to have to do things the way I do. I’d much rather get up before the legislature and say, ‘Now this is a good law and it’s for the benefit of the people, and I’d like you to vote for it in the interest of the public welfare.’ Only I know that laws ain’t made that way. You’ve got to fight fire with fire.” ~ the Kingfish

    Read T Harry William’s bio of Huey Long, then sleep with it under your pillow. Yet today’s “left” despise Huey, if they are even familiar with him. In his time, he was hated by the high-browed left, but the people loved him, and he got stuff done.

    Now, I am not saying might makes right, or the end justifies the means. I am saying, as Ian, that the other side does not play by the rules, and they will eat you alive if you play nice all the time. Kindness does not work when dealing with psychopaths. Be kind to the powerless, but smite the powerful.

  12. someofparts

    big strikes scheduled for May day, two days from now

    gonna be interesting to watch, to see how big and organized they manage to be

    be interesting to see how the msm ignore/downplay them

    interesting also to stop by this place and see what the conversations are like next week, if the strikes rise to the level of having any significant impact

    will be a relief if conversation on the real left finally moves past mourning over Bernie and starts centering on real time action on the ground that might make a difference

  13. GrimJim

    A Big Strike?

    In the US?

    It is to laugh.

    It is not a “strike” until the axe handles start falling on strike-breaker’s heads, and the American “Left” wouldn’t know a!n axe handle if they saw it in a history book…

  14. Eric Anderson

    bruce wilder:
    I’m having a hard time fathoming it, but we agree on something.

    An anecdote:
    My father is a retired army airborne officer of the viet nam era. He is rightwing to his bones. We we’re quibbling as we did often in my early 20’s about what it meant to support what seemed to me like an entirely unjustifiable war. My question to him was how he justified it and his chilling answer consisted of a two word argument … “MORAL CERTITUDE.”

    Yup. The absolute certainty that killing other humans is justified because their ideology is immoral. Wrap your head around that. That’s the ur-problem with the left.

  15. krake

    Killing is neither justified nor unjustified. If you can remove an enemy, and live or die with the consequences, killing (rather banally) works. Obviously, killing humans builds nothing, creates only corpses and bad memory, and scars or ruins empathy. But, the point is to degrade an enemy’s ability to be an enemy. (See neo-liberal pandemic policy, overtly pursued, right now.) Not to make nice.

    It’s not a problem for leftists. It’s a problem for Enlightenment humanists, left, right or ‘moderate’.

  16. GlassHammer

    Maybe the left (in the U.S.) just doesn’t want to govern or decide how the economy should function.

    It looks like the things they would have to fight for are just not acceptable to them, like they are accepting the role/character but rejecting the motivation of that role/character.

  17. bruce wilder

    Part of being on the left is embracing a high degree of idealism concerning just rules. If you accept that conflict is legitimate — acknowledging there is a part of the left that rejects the legitimacy of conflict directly or indirectly — then rules to resolve those conflicts in an orderly way with a minimum of violence is kind of important. Fairness is taking the rules seriously.

    Much of what passes for conservative politics in the U.S. today is a mutual aid pact for cheaters and conmen.

    Much of the failure of the left comes down to a failure to call them on it effectively.

    That failure to make scandal work is reflected in centrist willingness to cheat and unwillingness to support enforcing just rules.

    I posit that the fundamental division in politics between left and right is founded on the conflict of interest between top and bottom in a political (and economic and social) hierarchy. The top — the elite vested in power that the hierarchy generates — is always tempted and corrupted by that power, tempted to become and act as predators and parasites, even though it tends to undermine the society as a whole.

    The ruthless willingness of the right to violate the rules does reflect who they are to some large extent. I affirm it. I also think the willingness of centrists to cheat in general reflects the failure of the left to do their damn job. This reflects some serious decadence, that few politicians of the center even bother with the fig leaf of hypocrisy.

    So, yes, wield power with purpose when you have it. But, do not trash the rules. Honor the rules and make sure the cheaters pay a visible price in power and wealth . . . for cheating.

  18. bruce wilder

    like they are accepting the role/character but rejecting the motivation of that role/character.

    Great observation, but who is doing the casting?

    Surely not the left of conviction, which owns nothing and has little money.

    The casting is done by forces and institutions that does not want to chance having sincerity get of control.

    The people assigned to play liberals on teevee and on op-ed pages are chosen for their stupidity and lack of moral character. Even those responding to popular demand on blogs and Twitter are often dancing a subtle line in symbiosis with an audience that has not experienced a critical thought in 20 years.

  19. GlassHammer

    “Who is doing the casting?” – Bruce wilder

    I guess I am supposed to say “the voters” but…. who are we kidding, no one really accepts that.

    I think it’s ideologies that are ultimately doing the casting.

    I think those ideologies have gotten out of the control of their creators and are memetic/thought virus that is just wreaking havoc everywhere. I mean it’s so obvious that neoliberalism will kill it’s creators, it’s very hard to believe that they still want it around.

    The information age just creates a ridiculously effective conduit for harmful ideas.

  20. Eric Anderson


    You’re right. But you have to agree it is decidedly more pronounced among the leftist crowd.

  21. GlassHammer

    Eric Anderson

    It’s more pronounced the more you live your life in a narrative.

    The more detached you are from the real the more engulfed in fantasy you become.

    Maybe the ur truth is that we are way too story driven.

  22. nihil obstet

    Remember Lord Acton on power (you know, it corrupts). A major problem is that the left is fairly egalitarian, and its goals tend to be giving each person a full and dignified life. When good lefties do form the kind of organizations which most effectively fight the right on inequality, they risk falling into the trap of power. In a hierarchy, decisions affecting those at the bottom are made at the top. As one goes up the hierarchical ladder, it makes more sense for the top to have more power and the bottom to suffer any consequences. That’s the corruption here.

    How do we keep the original vision? Mao tried it with various uprisings against those with petty power, with disastrous moral, social, and economic effects. Simply hammering the ideology doesn’t work — look at medieval monasteries. Mancur Olson’s Power and Prosperity, which Ian has reviewed here, says that Stalin’s purges probably didn’t hurt Soviet manufacturing because they kept managers from lasting long enough to develop networks of selfishness.

    Leftie groups in the U.S. have tended either to avoid leaders (Occupy) or keep the leaders around long enough for them to start identifying with the power structures. And neither way seems to work very well.

  23. Stirling S Newberry

    “A large part of the left considers itself illegitimate: that is, leftish political sympathies are often married to squeamishness about power. There is an ambivalence about political authority and its uses built into left politics; that ambivalence is part of what defines the left as left.”

    Excellent point.

  24. Eric Anderson


    Or, too story distracted. I’ve said on here more than once that revolution (from left or right) will never occur in this country until a large enough mass can’t afford a television. And, as the ptb well know, that would be fatal for them as it’s their primary mode of disseminating capitalist propaganda in the form of our euphemistically termed “advertising.”

    That, is what’s driving narrative. MSM. Capitalist “advertising.” Capitalist themed movie and TV. An endless barrage directly targeted to various demographics from cradle to grave.

  25. Stirling S Newberry

    See piles of money, GDP shrank by 4.8%. And that is just with March. On can see why the manager class wants things open – they need cash even if it has to be bought with corpses. The gag is the could have had this contained, but the loss of profit was too much too bear.

  26. GlassHammer

    Eric Anderson

    Yeah you can’t learn to trust your own sense of reality by consuming someone else’s 24/7.

    The slow and steady atrophy of the mind is just awful for your health but sadly people are comfortable with it happening to them.

    At this point I just relentlessly encourage the non tech/media habits of my friends and family, anything to get them away from that stuff.

  27. GlassHammer

    Stirling Newberry

    The manager class is rich with a steady flow of resources but utterly broke when relying on an existing stock for more than a few months.

    It’s wealth only if a certain state/arrangement of things is present. Otherwise they are screwed.

    I mean the just look at the management class, they aren’t deep thinkers. The systems they are in just rarely put them to the test.

  28. Stirling S Newberry


    I agree that the management class is woefully inadequate for the level that they reward themselves. Slowly it is dawning on them that the rate of dying is less than they scared with, but it is valuable workers. The NYT looks up the data and finds it higher than normal, but what’s important is the number of valuable workers. This is important because the management class refuses to pay but wants their labor.

  29. Willy

    Most American blacks, specifically older blacks, went for Biden over Sanders although it should be obvious to anybody who’s studied MLK who he himself would’ve endorsed.

    I recently had an online discussion with a staunch white evangelical conservative, who claims she was once a “lost lefty”, who was absolutely certain that conservatives have no equivalent to George Soros, nobody who will fund conservative “troublemaking” the way Soros does for the left.

    My Republican sister once told me that Obama was a socialist.

    Another long time conservative blogger proclaimed that he frequently views CNN and MSNBC “to better understand progressive thinking”.

    It’s no secret that Rachel Maddow was buddies with Roger Ailes.

    A commenter right here, somebody named “anonone” once called me a racist for believing that poor enforcement of Americas illegal aliens was a problem for native taxpaying workers.

    I’d think that these events are part of a pattern. It seems that the information getting to these very different kinds of people has influenced (I say addled) their thinking to where objectivity is becoming quite difficult, if not nearly impossible, anymore. Maybe it’s corporate brainwashing via constant advertisements. Or all the stress-induced tribalism. Maybe it’s just me and most people have always been that way.

    But as a kid I remember frequently playing devils advocate, with all of my interlocuters knowing that I was doing so, and them being able to suspend their current belief system to entertain a few thought experiment concepts of: “But what if…”

    Today most people just get reflexively pissed off.

  30. Sid Finster

    @Bruce Wilder.

    Very well put. Now consider the careers of V.I. Lenin, I.V. Stalin, Mao Zedong, or for that matter (h/t to Daniel Lynch) – Huey P. Long.

    Say what you will about each of these individuals, none of them were squeamish about holding or using power, and none of them were under any illusions that their enemies played by any sort of rules.

  31. Liberals Are Just Rightoid-lite

    \”honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to consider the left to be illegitimate.\”

    Centrists and right-wingers (small fry, not the Leaders, who desire only power) have this in common: a child\’s understanding of the world.

  32. GlassHammer

    That most members of the managerial class think this is a worker problem (a supply problem) says a great deal about their competence.

    Its 100% a customer problem (a demand problem) which means most of them are screwed.

    Heck if even say 20% less customers engage with your company your still screwed due to already locked growth targets connected to already locked debts. The margins for sucess were razor thin before the crisis.

  33. krake

    @ Eric

    I’d like to disagree, but I cannot. Television is Spectacle. It colonizes; it negates. So, the lights have to go out, which puts the people who kill the lights on the side of the devils, in the public imagination, so-called.

    As for squeamishness, liberals and social democrats and process progressives are humanists, and come pre-hobbled, so to speak. The French and American right abandoned humanism two generations ago, and have been winning the class and social wars ever since.

  34. Hugh

    1. Present a vision of society you want
    2. Present your path to getting us there
    3. Organize. Organize. Organize.
    4. Be willing to leave your blood on the floor
    5. Stay focused

    It is the right which is illegitimate. They are already a minority, and they know it. It is why they are so into gerrymandering, voter suppression, no limits on campaign money from the rich and corporations, and exploiting anti-democratic relics like the Senate and electoral college. It is why Mitch McConnell is so hellbent on stacking the federal judiciary with unelected right wing hacks. They are fighting a rearguard action against a future in which they have no place. And they are perfectly willing to destroy as much of the country as they need to to delay that result as long as possible.

    And the Establishment and Democrats are not far behind them in this. Go through my list above again. When has a Pelosi, Schumer, Clinton, Obama or Biden ever done one of these things, let alone all of them? Even Sanders and Corbyn did only some of them in a sort of, kind of way. Both of them left themselves open to and acquiesced in the coups that ousted them. In doing so, they failed I do not want to say their supporters, because that makes it about “personalities,” but those who supported the same policies, and albeit nebulous vision.

    If the left wants to be taken seriously, it has to get serious. It has to make clear that it is more than this or that leader. It has to ditch its own intellectual sloppiness and conspiracy-theory-mindedness. This does not mean becoming cold and doctrinaire, but as I said above, it must stay focused. It must do the work and organize to keep that the benefits of that work from melting away as they so often have.

  35. Grimgrin:
    I see you’re engaged in a bit of projection. Why do you think the U.S. attempts to overthrow any left-wing government that comes into power? Hell, Ortega sold out to the right long ago and the U.S. is trying to overthrow him now. They called Corbyn a Stalinist and yet look what he got for it? Exactly what Ian describes. So don’t give me that nonsense about the “center” and the right.

  36. nihil obstet

    The great revelation about liberal and right and power came in 2000. First, the right wing candidate’s brother, governor of a state with electoral votes, illegally culled registered voters that usually vote Democratic off the voter lists. The ballot design was confusing as to how to vote for the Democrat. Voters who marked Gore on the list and then wrote in Gore to be clear were not counted because their ballots constituted an “overcount”. Then when the news media called the state for the Democrats, a high-level pressure campaign got them to retract the projection, and say a recount was necessary. The right shipped in demonstrators for the “Brooks Brothers riots”. When the Republican was ahead in a very restricted recount, the conservatives on the Supreme Court jumped in to stop the recount right there.

    The Senate has to certify the election. Members of the House tried to challenge the results, but could only be recognized if they had the support of a Senator. Al Gore, as President of the Senate, held the Democrats firm not to recognize the challenge.

    Any one of those actions made the election outcome illegal, but the Republicans accomplished them all and the Democrats rolled over. Admittedly, the Bush family has a long history with the CIA and it’s hard to see a lefty running the kind of evil that the CIA routinely does — terrorism, torture, assassination.

    This makes a mockery of all the “centrist” Democrats whining about how the Republicans won’t let them do anything and how they believe in following the laws.

  37. Ché Pasa

    The United States does not have a Leftist major party. As I have said and Ian has sometimes echoed, the Democratic Party is a moderate conservative party, not a Left party, certainly not in the sense of the Socialist and Communist Lefts of the 19th and 20th centuries. FDR was no leftist, he was a pragmatic conservative. He saw his mission as preserving, protecting, and defending the capitalist system come hell or high water (he got plenty of both) by doing what he and his administration felt was necessary and practical under the circumstances to keep the People from rising in revolt and please enough of the Big Money interests to keep his head.

    The Left in the United States — in the sense of the remnant old line Socialists and Communists and the nascent Democratic Socialists — is biding its time, watching, waiting, and finding ways to stay relevant mostly outside the political party and governmental process. There is no way at present for them to be viable within the standard political process, so they largely stay out of it.

    Democrats and Republicans have a symbiotic relationship in US politics and government and they know their roles well. If, as sometimes happens, the Rs completely fail in their efforts, the Dems are capable of stepping in and fixing the mess the Rs made and completing their main projects. This has happened over and over since Reagan, and I don\’t see it changing barring an intervention from outside that essentially suspends business as usual and introduces/imposes something else again. The Rs like to play that game but they always screw it up, and the Dems always step in to fix the mess, and Rs come back roaring and chest beating to make more mischief and screw more up.

    Neither is a Left party, but I think it\’s interesting that 1) Trump can easily outflank Dems from the left (in the sense of using Dem ideas/programs/policies in ways that can actually help people) and 2) there is a constant online effort to destroy or take over the Democrat(sic) Party while holding Rs harmless for almost anything.

    The Left has no interest in taking over or necessarily destroying either party. They are much more interested in systems changes, overthrowing and replacing the whole rotten apparatus of politics and rule in this country. But they are in no position to do so. The time isn\’t right. The masses aren\’t ready. Etc. Etc.

    But I\’ll be interested to see how the Monster Strikes play out in the coming days. Strikes combined with crisis-emergency rule can be a very volatile mix. And if it goes kablooey, even without a political left in this country, we\’re liable to see something arise \”like we\’ve never seen before.\”

  38. Zachary Smith

    And it works even before the left gets into power. The best recent example is that Labor staffers were working actively to lose the 2017 and 2020 elections. We have emails, we have proof. They went so far as to micro-target Corbyn with Facebook ads tailored just to him, so he wouldn’t see the real ads that they were running, ads meant to make Labor lose.

    In my opinion we ought to assume that non-acceptable political movements (in the case, The Left) are infiltrated and subverted by paid spies and hell-raisers. Big Intelligence has unlimited money, and many talented people don’t give a hoot what they do to earn that money.

    BTW, excellent essay.

  39. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    The 20th Century produced perhaps the two most evil forms of human society ever, certainly in modern times: Communism and Fascism.

    The three major Fascist regimes made themselves so obnoxious that the non-Fascists were compelled to gang up on the Fascist powers and destroy them.

    Communism was shrewd enough to pull in its horns, and so was allowed to survive long enough to collapse of its own failings. The nuclear stalemate did play a major role in that, but even if The Bomb had never been invented, both superpowers were unconquerable–too big, and too far away from each other, except across the Bering Strait, and I would NOT want to try an invasion through either Siberia or Alaska. (Yes, “Communist” China remains a great power, but, though certainly an authoritarian one-party state, it is Communist in name only now.)

    I suspect modern Fascists can say to one another: “Our philosophy was never given a fair chance.” (Damn right; it did not deserve one, and may it never rise to significance again.)

    Communism did get its chance, and it produced a frightful record.

    Modern Communists, and other revolutionary Leftists, are inhibited by the legacy of the gulags and the killing fields, if they have consciences–and if they don’t have consciences, they would just be the leftist version of Fascists if they ever came to power, so who would want to support them? “Meet the new boss…”

  40. mago

    As Big Daddy (Rat Fink) Roth stated back in the 60’s “Cheaters never lose” and of course nice guys finish last. So true in politics and power of course, but karma’s a bitch and usually not instant. In the meantime, suffer little children.

  41. Benjamin


    What Welsh actually said: “You should fire anyone in your government who isn’t committed to your progressive vision.”

    What you pretend he said: “Make people swear loyalty oaths and throw those who refuse in gulags.”

    Come on man. You can troll better than that. It’s like you’re not even trying.

  42. Anonymous

    As long as the right captures enough of the working class, it’s over.
    Every union is an “international”, but whole nations are scab states,
    Calling out corruption is true bravery and never popular, often dangerous.
    Capital plays people like fiddles, speak out against it, and get pigeonholed, even though everyone that knows sees the truth. They just can’t say it, that requires true courage.

  43. anon

    Americans don’t have enough of us (real leftists and progressives) in the halls of power. No one was in Bernie Sanders’ corner. Every centrist dropped out before Super Tuesday to back Biden. Sanders couldn’t even get Elizabeth Warren to endorse him after she dropped out. Imagine what could have been if Warren, who was always the less popular candidate of the two, had done the same thing before Super Tuesday. Sanders still would not have won South Carolina, but he would have had a much better shot at winning a few more states and having a better argument for prolonging the race. Now that this sexual assault allegation against Biden isn’t going away, wouldn’t it have been better to have had a real fight until the convention so that at the bare minimum a decent man who hasn’t raped a woman could run for president this year? I was very close to holding my nose and voting for Biden as an anti-Trump vote, but with this sexual assault allegation, I will likely vote Green again.

  44. bruce wilder

    Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wa.) on Monday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president, showing further unification of the Democratic Party ahead of the general election.

    “While I have not always agreed with Vice President Biden on matters of policy, I am ready to work with him to craft and then implement the most progressive agenda of any candidate in history,” Jayapal, who was a vocal supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) campaign, said in a statement.

    “Our progressive movement of people organizing in the streets and in the halls of Congress has only grown bigger and more diverse, and we have made enormous strides towards racial, gender, and economic justice,” she continued. “We are ready for a President who will encourage us to be as big as we can be, with compassion and bold leadership.”

    “That President must be Joe Biden, and I will do everything I can to help him win back the White House, take back the Senate, and preserve our House Majority,” she said.

    Jayapal’s endorsement comes one week after the caucus’s other co-chairman, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) threw his support behind Biden.

    Pocan, along with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who endorsed Biden last week, served as co-chairmen of Sanders’s campaign.

    Sanders endorsed Biden earlier this month at a virtual event, pledging to do everything in his power to help Biden defeat Trump in November.


    my comment to follow – Bruce

  45. bruce wilder

    if the actually existing Right is all about hypocrisy and corruption, and profiting from predation and parasitism, the Left, if it is to be a reforming alternative, has to be something else, something better

    Biden is not something better

    and to mouth the words in order to keep the hopelessly corrupt and cynical Democratic Party “together” is a betrayal. it is not even that they play partisan politics in a two-Party system — that part I understand. what I do not understand is the unwillingness to tell the truth.

    Biden has dementia. He was the Senator from MBNA. He’s a war-monger.

    “the most progressive agenda of any candidate in history”??? really. Biden has said he’s opposed to Medicare-4-all. What good are you if you support a Presidential candidate who is opposed to your signature issue . . . AND is clearly incapable of doing the job?

  46. Zachary Smith

    The 20th Century produced perhaps the two most evil forms of human society ever, certainly in modern times: Communism and Fascism.

    I’m not sure about that. There have been some awfully ugly societies in the past. IMO there is little to admire about the Romans except for their engineering skills. Few good things came out the advance of the Mongol Hordes, either.

    Then there are the ruthless expanding Empires. The Spanish were total beasts in Central and South America. The British colonists – which included my own ancestors – directly or indirectly killed far more people than the Commies or Nazis (combined!) in North America, Australia, and India. Other Europeans caused untold grief in Africa and China. Japan’s late entry into the Imperial game caused a death count in the tens of millions. Or higher.

    Look at the chaos caused by the efforts of Modern American Imperialists to create an Empire. Saint Obama was at least as bad as the Orange POTUS in this regard. Probably worse. If the cackling psychopath Hillary had been given access to nukes, she might have killed more people in Iran than Mao did in his Great Leap Forward in China. The ***** certainly made the threats. This reminds me there was no possible good outcome from the 2016 election. And the same looks to be true for 2020.

    There is a Wiki for most everything, and here is a quote from the one titled Comparison of United States incarceration rate with other countries

    The US incarceration rate peaked in 2008 when about 1 in 100 US adults was behind bars.[26] This incarceration rate exceeded the average incarceration levels in the Soviet Union during the existence of the infamous Gulag system, when the Soviet Union’s population reached 168 million, and 1.2 to 1.5 million people were in the Gulag prison camps and colonies (i.e. about 0.8 imprisoned per 100 USSR residents, according to numbers from Anne Applebaum and Steven Rosefielde)

    Even if you temporarily escape the American Gulag, your chances of living a good life are drastically curtailed. Hardly any chance of getting a decent job, and the graduates will be hard pressed to ever get to vote again.

  47. someofparts

    Heard something about Trump that got my attention because of things Ian has said here. Seems that when he took office, he forgot to purge his enemies. Now they are coming for him. Jeff Flake will be voting for Biden. So now Flake is the new face of the Democrats. A pox on all of them.

    People like me and Bernie were raised by the first generation to benefit from the New Deal and we are old enough to remember what the economy was like before Reagan. One of the trillbillies said that in his family FDR was second only to Jesus Christ. It made me laugh because I came from the same kind of family.

    But the part that even the oldest geezers like me and Bern were too young to see was everything that led up to FDR. Now we are about to find out how that stage worked if we are lucky. Turns out there are a world of things to learn about how to do strike support, so that’s how I plan to use some of my quarantine free time.

  48. GlassHammer

    Look, most people will not stick their neck out for cause no matter how righteous it is.
    The character to do such a thing is rare and always has been.

    So the left needs a strategy to win that doesn’t require people to do something they are highly unlikely to do.

  49. krake


    One of the most entrenched regimes in history was swept utterly from power, and uprooted permanently, by people who, less than a year before, could not have envisioned as much. France, 1789.

  50. bruce wilder

    Yes, the French Revolution.

    The ancien regime failed because absolute monarchy as a theory failed in practice to solve fairly obvious problems in reforms of fundamental systems of the state: the most acute was fiscal bankruptcy, as the system of taxation was burdened with exemptions for the privileged, an expensive system of tax farming, and a severely underdeveloped banking system. It was not the only problem. The system for regulating the pricing and distribution of brain during famine (and there were recurrent food shortages due to crop failures) had lost legitimacy in the eyes of the emerging bourgeoisie, who were embracing laissez faire liberalism as an ideology. France was aligned with an alliance of losers internationally and had lost much of its overseas empire as a result of poor performance in the Seven Years’ War. The state was dependent on the Catholic Church, which was dominated in France by wealthy families. The system of law, civil and administrative, was impossibly complex, and exacerbated a political culture of resentment into litigiousness on an epic scale.

    The Revolution was remarkably ineffectual in solving many of these problems, though the outline of solutions was in several cases fairly obvious. In the end, it was the advent of Napoleon that marked their resolution more then ten years after 1789. Napoleon created a central bank, signed a concordat with the Church, and reformed the Civil Code. The model of the Great Man as authoritarian leader on a white horse imprinted itself on European politics.

  51. nihil obstet

    You won the internet today for best typo in The system for regulating the pricing and distribution of brain during famine. It works on both levels — literally as failure to bring managerial intelligence to bear on problems, and figuratively as the ancien regime being a zombie state eating its residents.

  52. Trinity

    Che gets it right … there is only one political party in the US, any differences noted are usually virtue signaling on something that doesn\’t really matter. Their main (really only) objective is to remain in power and amass more power by any means necessary.

    Michael Hudson has been saying for quite some time that the Democrats actually want Frump to win. He\’s doing a great job keeping them in power and money. And that\’s all that matters. If Hudson is correct, it explains a great deal.

    It\’s nice to dream that somewhere hidden from view a lefty super hero awaits the right moment to reveal himself/herself. That would make a great novel.

    Ian, I get it: there aren\’t many sociopaths on the left, so the necessary tactics just aren\’t in the toolbox. The only hope, as far as I can see it, is that the sociopaths are going to eventually end themselves (and quite a few of us in the process). The wheel will eventually turn, but it may well be very far into the future.

  53. Hugh

    I agree with bruce. Biden is not the answer. I still don’t think that Democrats, especially those in the leadership, even begin to get it. They can get all the endorsements they want from Sanders, Jayapal, whomever. It isn’t going to sway progressives or millennials. For Democrats, it’s TINA then, TINA now, TINA forever.

  54. Billikis

    I don\’t think of the rule of law as a Leftish thing. It\’s a republican principle, which I guess made it left wing a couple of centuries ago. I associate it with Rome, which was an aristocratic republic and later an empire, neither of which strike me as left wing. Besides which, as has been noted, left wing governments in the 20th century did not exactly play by the rules.

  55. Manqueman

    It’s not just the state always working to crush the left but the establishment media fully support it. You see in the press dissing M4A and everything/everyone progressive. Meanwhile, there’s apparently nothing the right — Republicans — can do that results in any serious condemnation while even center-right gets crapped on in the press for everything starting with just existing. The example of the day, I suppose, is Tara Reade’s accusation re: Biden. For sure, it’s something that needs to be addressed by Old Joe but the pressure from the media is many magnitudes more than they brought to Trump in 2016. So that media bias is a real hurdle to overcome.
    And of course this is an ongoing,

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