Left wing influences

Good influences:

Tony Benn: A hero of the left and socialism to whom the Labour Party, through its creation and trade union voice, will always be the home of democracy – the foremost principle of socialism.

Evo Morales: No pretensions, a leader who applies a principle that no society will be fair until it adopts: you contribute to society according to your means. In so doing, indigenous families living in the Bolivian altiplano are able to enjoy solar powered lighting and roads where they were without before the presidency of Evo.

Slavoj Zizek: Here is someone who makes the case, in popular philosophical and political discourse, against the fashionable postmodern and post-ideological left which has come to saturate leftwing politics in the last few years, as well as all the other shit that it leaves in its tracks (i.e. cultural relativism, nonchalance towards fundo Islam, tolerance of Naomi Klein etc etc). Zizek needs to be taken more seriously.

Gary Younge: A convincing, decent left wing journalist, who cannot be called wet, and fashionable as other writers for the Guardian or the Nation, he sticks to his guns, and his not put off by detractors, hence the title to one of his notorious articles: I hate tories. And yes, it’s tribal.

Bad Influences:

George Galloway: A slippery man who relies too much on dodgy votes. As a debater he is second to none, enter a law court against him and you’ve lost, but he is of the greasy political view that there is a vulnerable group and an oppressive group, and they each have the same skin colour.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: If she spent more time understanding class as she does spend it denigrating the “lazy white working class” then maybe she’d be relevant, but, alas,  she is a pompous bourgeois liberal with a chip on her shoulder (through no good reason).

Naomi Klein: Has spent the work of 1000s of pages and newspaper articles explaining capitalism, but her critique offers little more than environmental capitalism. She’d make a good bedfellow of George Soros and all the other philanthrocapitalists weeping at poverty.

Moazzam Begg: Seen by Marxists and Liberals alike as a symbol of injustice at the hands of Americans, and this is proven by the airtime he is given by amnesty international to the socialist workers party. But just do two things: watch him on BBC Hardtalk squirm and squeeze out of the question of whether he thinks the Taliban’s actions are justified as self-defence. Listen to the interview he conducted with Anwar al Awlaki. Tell me then whether this is someone the left ought to offer a pedestal. Then ask yourself why so many leftists do offer this.

HarpyPhilDaveJamesJim, Bob

Update: I forgot the final part of this meme, which is to include a list of those I feel are not influential enough, they are:

Kenan Malik: I expect with a couple more books under his belt and a regular column or focus on the blogosphere he will be someone with a voice like Nick Cohen’s, Peter Hitchens, and David Aaranovitch, by which I mean an authority who one wants to read again and again.

Dave Osler: This blogger got the above writer to sign my copy of his book at the Orwell Awards – an act I’m ever grateful for. But this is not why he is here; he is a fantastic writer who remians of the left tradition that seems to be dying out in the post-ideological landscape of left wing politics – that is politics of class and anti-fascism. He also levels a cracking argument on the topic of religion, which is by no means a battle between believer and non-believer; it is more than that, it is between those who can see the radical kernel of Christianity and those who cannot – I think Osler recognises this too.

John McDonnell: In the next four years we are likely to have two things: Firstly a Tory led government intent on spending cuts and job losses, an economic model supported by no received wisdom, mass unemployment and depression. Secondly, an opposition led by David Miliband who does not oppose enough of the Tory led programme, and himself wants to cut the deficit drastically by 2014 – against better judgement from within his own party. He might even support the anti-Trade untion laws to which he is heir (in Blair). All the time, it will be a passing thought every night, that John McDonnell is a sadly missed individual in politics.

Alain Badiou: His recognition in this country is owing to Zizek’s obsession with his work, but this is not enough for me. He is not nearly as influential on left wing politics as he should be in this country – though he is in his native France. His concept of the Event, something he attributes to the radical universalism of St Paul on the road to Damascus, is the one philosophical assertion able to question the legitimacy of Marx’ Historical Materialism.

Marx’ assertion of the end of history in Communism was neither mechanical like the earth travelling around the sun, nor was it miraculous like God’s creation of light, but with the force of working men free to create their own history with the lending hand of history entering from economic phases of Feudalism; Capitalism; Socialism and finally Communism.

But for Badiou, the Event is created from conditions neither harnassed by the free will of working men, nor the path of history so told by Marx, rather, it arrives like Damascan conversion, often contradicting the hitherto narrative of history. Subsequently, Badiou has been described as a Communist without being a Marxist.


18 Responses to Left wing influences

  1. harpymarx says:

    Dunno who’s putting Moazzam Begg on a pedestal but the attacks on him from Gita Saghal were unjustified and without basis…. show me the evidence!

    Bit hard on Naomi aren’t ya?

    Liked your list re “good influences”…

  2. Moonbootica says:

    re. Slavoj Zizek

    an interesting critique of him – Ok, Ok, I Confess, calls him a ‘Male Camile Paglia’

  3. harpymarx says:

    Good to see John McDonnell there!

  4. Carl P says:


    You know this already, but Amnesty made him their poster boy for human rights abuses, and the swappies have allowed him to speak at their marxism festival – these are pedestals for a man who would not give a straight answer as to whether he supported the Taliban justified on BBC Hardtalk. Ask me? no. Ask yourself? no. Ask him? Hmmmmm – why hmmmm, should be no.

    Naomi Klein, come on, she’s better than nothing but she is overrated; she’s good on green issues, and was before her time, but her softly softly critiques of capitalism are no more critiques than the philanthrocapitalist one by which we should feel guilty for the third world blah blah – when in fact hunger is the sum total of capitalism – no timid reform of that economic system will change that fact that capitalism is itself the problem, not the lack of green or compassionate capitalism, but capitalism, and this is the kind of vacuous pap that Klein is responsible for in her writing. And the cover sleeve to her last book was a yellow so bright and vulgar, I almost couldn’t see the exit to the shop.


    I don’t know Camile Paglia too well, but she is a feminist, which makes me sceptical as to whether Zizek really is the male her.

  5. Bob says:

    Just reading through now. Did you mean PETER Hitchens? an authority who one wants to read again and again? Otherwise, so far, so good!

  6. Bob says:

    I have to say I put Badiou in the same category as Zizek. No, actually, a far worse category, except (thankfully) less influential. Less funny, less clever, less readable, even more divorced from any possible actual real world politics.

    Camille Paglia is a great woman, of whom I am a bit of a fan. She is a feminist, but of a very un-orthodox and idiosyncatic sort. What she has in common with Zizek is razor-sharp intelligence and wit, enormously wide frame of reference, love of paradox, unashamed mix of ultra-high culture references and ultra-low ones, contrarianism, lack of fear of flying in the face of fashion and dogma.

  7. Bob says:

    Finally, my other disagreement with you is Benn. Although he was once a hero of mine, I have come to hate him. I’ve nearly finished, weirdly, a post about him. I’ll let you know when I finish it. (I have lots of nearly finished posts.)

    I notice, by the way, that neither you or Louise is passing this on to anyone new! I guess it doesn’t work too well as a meme.

    • Darren says:

      How can anyone hate Benn? Disagree strongly with him, of course, but hate?

      I’ll have to look out for Bob’s future post where he give his reasons.

      • Carl P says:

        I know, hate is very mean, but I’m sure Bob has his reasons. Maybe he has been at the wrong end of one of Benn’s pipes? A pipe to the eye can really smart.

      • Bob says:

        An advance extract from my forthcoming post:

        Although I greatly admired Benn, there was always something about him I didn’t trust. Maybe it was his perfect square jaw gripping the ever-present pipe, the icy gleam in his eyes or his aristocratic voice. Maybe it was his frequent double acts with arch-reactionary Enoch Powell, the oft-made claim that he was a “great parliamentarian”, his curmudgeonly-ness, his Euroscepticism, an odour of the Stalinist fellow traveller, or the terminal boringness of the few aging Campaign Group member in my Constituency Labour Party.

        To add to that is his Serbophilia, which led him to be very soft on Milosovic, his cozy-ness with Saddam Hussein, or his description of the Afghan and Iraqi insurgents as like Dad’s Army, his claim (in an interview with the fascist propaganda outfit Press TV that “Hamas must be seen as the agent of the Palestinian people” or finally (admittedly fairly trivial) his call for El Al to be banned from British Airports.

      • Carl P says:

        That’s whet my appetite.

        He was never hot on his foreign affairs – often unforgivable as you point out here – but he was a great parliamentarian and on the money domestically. I take your point bob, and look forward to reading further.

  8. Bob says:

    Sorry, I said “finally”, but I more or less agree about Naomi Klein, much as I like her books and much as she seems a likeable person. I have an un-started post about the shock doctrine and how the analysis is incompatible with any kind of materialist/marxist analysis, in that it gives such weight to “doctrine”. (I guess I don’t need to write that one now. I’ll concentrate on Benn and Furedi.)

    • Carl P says:

      where do I start: Badiou’s exegeses are mostly academic wanking material, particularly the Event or on being the new age Giuseppe Peano (for all those mathematics philosophers out there “wey heyyyyy”), but where he most certainly does come in handy is in his book on St Paul, where he traces in the apostle an historical figurehead for opposing the post-ideological, postmodern left, with their No Logo shirts and culturally relativist nonchalence towards middle eastern feminism and attitudes to post-colonial books about men jumping out of planes into India.

      In St Paul, Badiou identifies the Christian project as one of universalism, and not the particularism and racial hegemony of the local Jewish sects that Paul himself wanted to transgress.

      Re: Peter Hitchens, I did mean him, he is readable. If he says it, you can 99% sure it’s false, but he is still someone I want to read again and again.

      As with Benn, I take your point Kellie, he is a man of stories, but there is a man who has stuck to his principles and not bothered with the dingey world of politicking like so many after him. Plus, he remains the most ferocious left wing critic of European integration on the terms of big business, which the modern day Labour Party seem to want to enter into lock, stock and barrel.

      Will add more to the meme now.

      Look forward to reading all of your unfinished articles Bob, but on Klein, she is a grafter for what she believes in, I just see her as a spokesperson for the left bereft of ideology; it’s little surprise to me that the new left politics of sentimentalities has become saturated by liberal middle class faf (as so excellently described in this essay which about sums it all up).

  9. I used to hate the way when Benn was asked a question on any topic he would reply with some anecdote about himself. Recently when I’ve heard him on the radio, interviewers seem to have dropped questions on wider topics and are just going for the ever more banal anecdotes, all emitted in that irritatingly grandpaternalistic purr. I imagine he’s kept in a cupboard in Broadcasting House with his own tea urn.

  10. Put Benn in a room with Gore Vidal and the concentrated tones of drawn-out self-centred gravitas would probably cause the planet to implode . . . on second thoughts, don’t put him in a room with Gore Vidal.

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