Thursday, 11 September 2008

What is "progressive"?

Progressive politics is an alternative to conservatism but not as far to the left as socialism. Progressive politics is about social justice and workers rights. Franklin D Roosevelt was a progressive. Of course we have shifted so far to the right nowadays, and the left is so weak and divided, that hardly anyone dares mention socialism (or even social democracy) anymore.

'Progressive' has been co-opted by 'modern' political parties because it sounds good - i.e. forward looking - and, for parties of the 'left', avoids using the dreaded 's' word.
But being 'progressive' has to be a pretty vacuous concept if it is being used by New Labour and the Tories. Of course, neither the Tories or New Labour are progressive parties in the true sense of the word - they both espouse reactionary free market policies. The reactionary right are trying to co-opt the term progressive to describe their politics thereby devaluing it as a concept, just as they have stolen to term 'reform' which means 'making things better'. Does this matter? Well yes it does because it confuses people and provides yet another distraction from the issues that we should be talking about.

I think socialism's obituary has been written far too soon.
But its interesting to read 'lefties' squabbling on CiF about what left wing politics means nowadays. What they need to understand is that nothing has changed - the same old conflict between Capital and Labour is continuing as it always has. Class is just as important as it ever was, and good old imperialism is going strong too - they just call it globalisation these days. All this has been well understood for well over a century thanks to someone called Marx, and others. Give these 'lefties' a couple of decades and they might manage to come up with some coherent ideas for a way forward and ... er ... call it socialism.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

But you yourself wrote that socialism was dead. Only a matter of days ago!
So why now declare it "too soon" to write the obituary? This is becoming an incoherent blog - to me at least! Then again, I'm just a social worker - am I missing the hidden meaning?!

Glenn

Howard Thorp said...

Hi Glenn, please re-read my blog on socialism. What I said was that there are two kinds of socialism. One is dogmatic, doctrinaire socialism i.e. Marxism, Trotskyism etc. - the kind that gave us the 57 varieties. This is what I call socialism with a big 'S'.

The other kind pre-dates Marx by a long way. It is not doctrinaire or dogmatic and has no great tomes. It is socialism with a small 's' - in England the socialism of the Levellers and the Diggers. Of course the Levellers had no manifesto as such but they wanted social and economic justice. This political current goes all the way back to the peasants revolt.

So, I am saying I am a socialist with a small 's'. That does not mean I reject the ideas of Marx and other Socialists, far from it. What it does mean is that I think we need to abandon the dogma and focus on the straightforward issue of achieving social, economic and environmental justice - and yes this does mean replacing the capitalist system.

I recommend you get hold of a book called 'A Radical Reader' Edited by Christopher Hampton. It charts the progress of the struggle for social justice in England from 1381 to 1914. Aside from being a very good read it shows that socialist ideas pre-date Socialism by a many years. You can find it on Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks - I'll have a look at a decent booksellers. I don't use Amazon, as they're a well-known anti-union employer (one that no socialist - big or small "s" aside - would ever consider using!). I'm pretty well-read, but always like a recommendation!
Cheers,
Glenn

Howard Thorp said...

Thanks for the info. The fact that Amazon is anti-union is news to me and I'm usually pretty well informed on those issues. I'll bear it in mind in future. Can you recommend an online bookseller that is OK?

Anonymous said...

Try Bookmarks, Howard - socialist bookshop (with both a big and small "s"!).

Re Amazon, they're pretty bad.... this link should work, or try a bit of a google?
http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=23

Cheers

Glenn

Anonymous said...

Or news from nowhere in Liverpool may be another option, H;
"www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk - the website for News from Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop, listing a selection of the kind of books you'll find on our shelves, plus information about us, local links and local events"
I use both pretty regularly

G

Howard Thorp said...

Thanks. I forgot to add that the great thing about the Radical Reader is that it uses the original writings of the 'proto-socialists' themselves - so we hear in their own words how they struggled against power and privilege to create a better society

Howard Thorp said...

I did find this....http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/08/15/amazon_faces_tribunal_over_trade/

Anonymous said...

If you're not left yourself, and clearly not right, can you explain to me what green politics means in practical, day to day terms please?

Is it truly progressive, or seeking us to go back to the "dark ages"? I've an open (left-wing) mind ann would like to hear your views.

Jill

Howard Thorp said...

Jill, I am definitely on the left. I am a socialist. I want to see the end of Capitalism. I quite like the definition of socialism from Wikipedia - which starts like this -

"Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."

Notice the word 'broad'. socialism isn't just about the ideas of Marx although he has made probably the greatest single contribution to understanding the dynamics of class struggle and capitalism.

I am a member of the GP because it is the only mainstream party which has policies and a programme that I can support - also because many mainstream socialists are still stuck in the past and refuse to acknowledge the importance of our impact on the environment.

The GP is not a traditional left party. Something I find quite refreshing. There are some people in the Party who would like to see us abandon the materialist consumer society altogether and live simpler lives - but that does not mean going back to living in caves as our enemies have suggested!

I have some sympathy with this view because modern capitalism is so environmentally and socially destructive. Of course I am aware that most people won't wear that and expect to maintain their material standard of living. I believe that we can be green and still maintain a modern, productive manufacturing sector and a good standard of living - but that will have to be based around renewables, resource efficiency and recycling - see Factor Four by Amory Lovins et al

I also believe that we will have no choice in this. Not necessarily because of climate change but because of peak oil. Not got time to go into all the details now but you should read the Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins which explains it all. An eye opener and a very good read.

Anonymous said...

Gosh - after reading this, I'm tempted to say I meant you're not right in the head!
;-)

Jill

Howard Thorp said...

?? thank you for your cogent and well argued response