Why the ‘alt-left’ will succeed where centrists fail | Bhaskar Sunkara | Opinion | The Guardian

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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83 Responses

  1. Road Scholar says:

    The problem with centrism is that it isn’t an actual position, much less an ideology. It’s just an accommodation. You can’t really count on a centrist to do any more than just go along to get along.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Road Scholar says:

      That is complete BS* that is grounded wholly on a false dichotomy.
      Once you reject the dichotomy, you see there is no “center.”
      In fact, there is no “Right” and no “Left.”

      Those signposts were conjured to describe events that happen, but events that happen are in no way constrained by them.


      * Of course, I mean “That is complete BS” in the nicest possible way.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Road Scholar says:

      By “centrists,” the author means people who are left of center but not out in crazy territory. Not going full Sanders isn’t an accommodation to anything but reason and economics.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I get it.
        It’s not like I haven’t heard it before.
        My problem with this line of reasoning is that it inherently implies that there are exclusively two ways of doing things.
        Not to mention the concepts of fluidity and context.Report

        • Damon in reply to Will H. says:

          Well, as someone who’s an political outsider, there does seem to be two broad camps encompassing the “left” and “right”. Those who prefer a different path don’t seem to get much traction.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Damon says:

            What you’re talking about there is called “hedging.”
            It’s where the money goes.
            The choice is essentially that of Camels vs. Marlboros.
            It’s a matter of branding.
            Some people even say that Budweiser is their favorite beer. Or Miller.

            Even with flipping a coin, there are three possibilities: Heads, tails, or the edge.
            With something as complex as proposing modifications to social programs, there are bound to be a plethora of options.

            Operatively, within the binary, everything which is not Hivemind is Nonhive.
            To be a Democrat means to hold the same position on a number of issues, the same as all Democrats, while to be a Republican means to be anything other than having the same opinion as everybody else.

            Again, that is descriptive, and in no way limits thoughtlines possible, which are numerous, if not endless, rather than binary.Report

            • Damon in reply to Will H. says:

              No, I’m not hedging.

              I’m talking about two political camps, who think the same way, and use similar methods to achieve their goals. One camp just has different goals than the other camp. Then there are individuals/groups who do neither of the above.

              Yes, within each camps the hive-mind exists and all the associated in fighting. Being a republican does NOT mean ” to be anything other than having the same opinion as everybody else” It just means the repub hive-mind operates differently and wants different goals.. If you’d said anarchist or libertarian such, I’d agree.Report

  2. notme says:

    Meh, when I hear alt left, all I think of is a bunch of spoiled sjws that use violence to protest free speech.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to notme says:

      Yeah, I’d do the same if someone made me define such an absurd term. It’d be the analogue of the ‘alt right’ which is comprised of white supremacists, Christian-state nationalists, etc. Crazy peas in a fringe pod. A pox on both their houses.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to notme says:

      Yeah, that would of course be the point of the very first sentence in the quoted excerpt – that you have fallen for the manipulations of the trash media you so zealously consume is unsurprising.Report

      • notme in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Except the folks at Berkley self identified as alt-left. I guess you are trying to work the no true alt left would protest speech? Try harder.Report

        • pillsy in reply to notme says:

          Except the folks at Berkley self identified as alt-left.


          • dragonfrog in reply to pillsy says:

            You’ve asked notme for a citation. Are you volunteering to read through the non-sequitur drivel they post, and follow up the misquoted out of context references on halfway relevant claims it makes?Report

          • Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

            I don’t think notme’s claim needs a citation since the article is arguing that the term “alt-left” be re-purposed (which is itself the basis of the linky writer’s confusion, I think) to identify standard democratic socialist types. In other words, just the left. There’s nothing “alt” about it. So for the term to have any meaning along the lines of an analogous term – “alt-right” – it has to refer to an ideological orientation outside of established norms.Report

  3. pillsy says:

    This seems to be lumping together three different politicians in three very different environments, none of whom have (yet) actually managed to win a national election, and said that together, somehow, they’re the future.

    It’s not very convincing, no matter the extensive flaws of “centrism”.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to pillsy says:

      First step, gather three heads. Second step, get surgical needle and thread. Third step, commit crime against nature. * * * Fifth step, permanent governance in place TBD.Report

  4. Zac Black says:

    *snorts* Alt-left? It’s not alt-anything, it’s the actual left. And thank agnostic god for it: if anything good comes out of this giant mess the West has gotten itself into with the rise of the neo-fascists, it would the rise of enduring leftism to strike it back down.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Zac Black says:

      The Fascists are leftists.Report

      • Zac Black in reply to George Turner says:

        Only in your little fantasy world. Real-life fascists have made it very clear where they stand, and it’s on your side the fence, bucko. You can’t pretend your way out of the fact that modern fascists are a creature of the right’s nurturing, any more than I could pretend that the left didn’t produce communism. Own your monsters.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Zac Black says:

          The only real-life fascists are in Venezuela – and Berkeley and Seattle.

          They are closely related to Marxist revisionists and anarcho-syndicalists. To find anarcho-syndicalists, go check IndyMedia. It’s chock full of them.

          Right-wing fascism wouldn’t even make sense. “You! Yes you! I demand that you let me make you have more personal freedom and economic independence, and do whatever the heck you want, or I’ll, I’ll, I’ll.”Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to George Turner says:

            “Right-wing fascism wouldn’t even make sense. “You! Yes you! I demand that you let me make you have more personal freedom and economic independence, and do whatever the heck you want, or I’ll, I’ll, I’ll.””

            This sounds like the low y-axis right. The high y-axis authoritarian levels of the right have little problem denying personal freedom and practice authoritarian measures that do not have the interests of economic independence of the individual weighing into account.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Joe Sal says:

              But who is in that quadrant. The other day I was watching a documentary on North Korea, and one of the analysts said North Korea was best described as a right-wing fascist state. Really? So Marx is on the right now?Report

              • Brent F in reply to George Turner says:

                Juche ideology is more a fusion of Japanese Emperor worship and the totalitarian bits of Stalinism. Marx figures very little into it, even more so after the patronage system for communism dried up when the wall fell.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Brent F says:

                The only took down the giant portraits of Marx and Lenin last year. I can also guarantee that they didn’t add any bit of Japanese emperor worship. They revere and worship their leader, Kim Il Sung, who claimed he led the first big fight against the Japanese (According to Japanese war records, he lied about that).

                Kim Il Sung is the eternal leader of the Workers Party in a communist state, and Juche is based on socialist Korean self-reliance. Being authoritarian and militaristic doesn’t move him over to the right on the economic axis.Report

              • Brent F in reply to George Turner says:

                The Kim dynasty built their ideology back in the 50s with the human resources they had availible to them in Korea. The intellectuals/propogandists they had on to conscript to the task were the left overs of the Japanese regime and they naturally built the ideological justifications for the new regime in the style they’d been accustomed to work. Hence the national greviance ideology of the poor nation victimized by foriegn powers, protected and led by a leader with divine standing.

                Throw in the Stalinist social structure and that’s the bizarre world of Juche. There’s very little in it that Marx would recognize.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Brent F says:

                Probably because their was never much in the world that Marx recognized. He never held a real job and just sat in his basement crafting an elaborate conspiracy theory about what having a job must be like.

                Also, the Kim’s aren’t a dynasty. Kim Sung Il was the leader because he was the most dynamic, wise, brave, and selfless person in Korea. His son was selected to succeed him because his son, gifted with incredible genetics and raised with his father’s wisdom, was likewise the wisest, surest, and most able person in all of Korea. And now Korea is lead by the grandson, an excellent horseman and warrior who also carries the genes that make him the smartest and most steadfast person in all of Korea.

                Each was an invincible general totally dedicated to protecting the Korean people from harm. Each was completely selfless and honorable. Each would have been chosen as leader even if there were no family ties.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to George Turner says:

                Sorry I missed your question over the weekend, which quadrant were you refering to?Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to George Turner says:

            Do you realize how deranged this sounds? The original Fascists of the 1930s openly described themselves as being on the Right rather than the Left. It was rightest opponents of the New Deal and other forms of liberal social and economic programs. Their post-World War II descendants see themselves as part of the Right and spend a lot of time arguing against Communists and other Marxists as leftist scum.Report

            • George Turner in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Mussolini was on the right because his former colleagues in the Italian Socialist Party (who stiffed him out of their leadership position) sat on the left in the Italian Parliament. Mussolini wanted to sit as far away from them as possible.

              Fascism is only on the right on some completely different metric, such as whether socialism should be nationalist or internationalist. Mussolini had been a staunch internationalist socialist until the outbreak of WW-I, and then he had a series of epiphanies that the horror of the war, pursued for nationalist ends, could bring about the proletarian revolution he longed for.

              So he recast the Marxist vision of class struggle as a struggle between exploitive capitalist nations and exploited working class nations, and said the goal wasn’t to overthrow the owner class but to get all classes to unite as one, like a bundle of sticks that are stronger together, to make a strong Italy.

              The workers, owners, managers, and government would work together for common goals. Liberals and progressives poured accolades on him for the next sixteen or so years.

              Then he joined in a pact with German National Socialists to displace the old capitalist order, along with correcting the horrible mistakes of the Bolsheviks. But they lost, bigly. Mussolini was betrayed and fled to northern Italy, where he set up the Italian Socialist Republic. Then he got shot by partisans.

              The rest of the Italian Fascist leaders rebranded themselves and stayed in politics, forming various coalitions over the years.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to Zac Black says:

          Facism typically finds its leaders from the right, but not always. There are a few from the left that rise out of the collective. Their degree authoritarian put them even well beyond the national socialist rabble. At the top on the y-axis and far to the left on the x-axis.

          True dominate authoritarian socialists. They make a killing machine of the collective. This is where folks like Stalin are typically found.

          The natural opposition of a leftist facist is a right wing anarchist. People like me really have a strong dislike for those characters.

          How are you liking Trump? Ha, Trump is in the general area of right wing facism. The strange part of his rise and power was that in the right there are authoritarians. Conservatives have a relative large mass of national socialism, makes you wonder why they are on the right eh? Well most of them probably aren’t.

          Trump, being mostly a right wing facist, with a following of a quasi right wing collective is the natural opposition to left wing anarchists. Notice I didn’t include syndacalists which would be higher on the y-axis.

          If I remember correctly you Zac plotted pretty low on the y-axis and to the left, so from that I can probably predict Trump and the collective that lend him authority really disgust you on a ideological level.Report

          • Zac Black in reply to Joe Sal says:

            Joe Sal:
            If I remember correctly you Zac plotted pretty low on the y-axis and to the left, so from that I can probably predict Trump and the collective that lend him authority really disgust you on a ideological level.

            Yeah, I literally don’t think there’s a word in the English language that can encompass the total tonnage of venom I feel for Trump and his cronies. For comparison, I thought W was a terrible President but I didn’t hate the man himself; I mostly just pitied him, because I think he at least earnestly wanted to do good in the world but was just preposterously ill-suited to do so.Report

            • Damon in reply to Zac Black says:

              So what are your thoughts about Obama, who promised so much and ended up being “the drone killer”: Drawing that bright red line in Syria, than backing away, ruining Libya (and the associated “refugee problem in Europe”, Ukraine, and involving us in Yemen, and other African states.Report

              • notme in reply to Damon says:

                Hey Obama won a peace prize so he is alright.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to Damon says:

                I was pretty vocally unhappy with a lot of Obama’s foreign policy, particularly the drone stuff and especially the al-Awlaki assassination, which I made known regularly to friends and family. Of course, when it comes to foreign affairs, I think the Democrats are merely terrible whereas the Republicans are a fucking nightmare (as with most things, really). So Obama was simultaneously awful in that area and still the least worst I had any reasonable right to expect.

                I was actually pretty happy he backed down over Syria, “redline” or no…I don’t give a shit that it put a dent in our credibility, we were never that credible to begin with and it was still better than putting boots on the ground in Syria.Report

              • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

                You are so right. Why does the US need any credibility? Who knows how credible we were before Obama made his redline comment? I know how credible we were after he tucked his tail.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to notme says:

                I know how credible we were after he tucked his tail.

                I doubt that, since you regularly demonstrate you understand the world about as well as the average cocker spaniel.Report

              • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

                Liberals lambasted Bush about the lose of US credibility over the gulf war but now you say it doesn’t matter when Obama threw it away. What hypocrisy.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to notme says:

                Ah, so you must be furious about the total bottoming out of US credibility that Trump has caused, right? Or else you’d be a giant hypocrite yourself?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to notme says:

                Liberals lambasted Bush about the lose of US credibility over the gulf war

                No, they didn’t. They correctly accused him and his administration of lying about WMD to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign country which would lead directly and predictably to civil war and an escalation of terrorism in the region and beyond.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to Zac Black says:


              • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

                It would be nice if the mods enforced the commenting rules. I really get tired of two sets of rules.Report

              • gregiank in reply to notme says:

                Governments say one thing then change their mind all the time. Lot’s of time this is a negotiating position. You see it all time in business or sports negotiations. “We will never do this” Week later after negotiations or new circumstances “This is just fine. We all got what we wanted.”

                We have threatened stuff and not followed through before. We have taken out forces out of places before (remember Reagan). Nothing new about that. And of course we still have forces all over Asia so it’s not like we weren’t bombing and blowing up stuff.Report

              • notme in reply to gregiank says:

                So that’s your excuse for Obama? Wow, you two are really desperate to absolve him of incompetence. Obama was clear, if you do x, we will bomb. They called his bluff and then everyone knew he was impotent.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to notme says:

                The only desperate one here is you. And everyone can see it. Except you, clearly. But go ahead, do your little dance. I would almost pity you if you weren’t such a colossal fuckwit.Report

              • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

                Once again with your pathetic personal attacks. It lets everyone know how weak your arguments are since you must resort to them.Report

              • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

                I was rereading your comment and I think that I may cry.Report

              • gregiank in reply to notme says:

                Nobody called his bluff. He changed his mind. The red line was stupid. Since i didn’t think we should get involved in Syria i was fine him changing his mind. There is far more to strategic decisions then just credibility. If something is going to be a quagmire it’s better to suck up the loss from saying something stupid and not get involved then blundering because he said something stupid. Going into Syria was a bad idea so it was best we stayed out.

                It’s ridiculous to think that people didn’t think we would use force after the red line guff. We had forces all over Asia and were actively engaged in killing bad guys. They all knew we were still using plenty of force in all sorts of places. You are over focusing one thing without looking at all the other things that were happening.Report

              • notme in reply to gregiank says:

                Obama never talked about going into Syria if they crossed the red line. He was threatening airstrikes, the same kind the Trump did. He has more credibility in Syria than Obama b/c they know he will do something You are honestly trying to argue that we really didn’t lose credibility over Syria b/c we were carrying out other action in Asia? You are really stretching and desperate.Report

              • George Turner in reply to notme says:

                It’s not that Obama decided not to bomb. He decided to hand the responsibility for the decision to Congress.

                But it gets worse. Kerry blabbed that we’d forgo the bombing if Syria would agree to get rid of its chemical weapons. Putin jumped on that and ran an editorial in the New York Times, which was essentially Putin doing donuts on the White House lawn. After that, in many foreign circles Obama was a laughing stock.

                Kerry and Obama’s blunders allowed Putin to send Russian soldiers into Syria under the guise of rounding up his chemical weapons. We weren’t ever going to bomb areas where there were Russian soldiers, so what the two idiots did was make Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles off limits to US airstrikes. They went from d*** waving to cutting their own nuts off. And of course as we’ve seen, Assad’s chemical weapons were still there and he kept using them.

                Yet its worse still. The reason Congress balked at attacking Assad was that Obama’s plan would essentially turn the US Air Force into the ISIS/al Nusra air force, taking out hard targets so they could conquer the rest of Syria and set up a sustainable caliphate. Obama’s original plan was essentially the ISIS victory plan.

                And he hardly bombed at all. We were delivering more air-dropped ordnance in Iraq, with our soldiers on the ground, when things in Iraq were quiet, than Obama was dropping in Syria. He talked about Syria as a multi-generational conflict, and at the rate he was prosecuting it, it would be.

                As a result many tens of thousands of additional people were brutally murdered, ISIS thrived, and Europe got flooded with millions of refugees.Report

              • North in reply to George Turner says:

                Yeah it was tragic. 99% (1,300 tons) of Syria’s chemical weapons were dragged out of the country and destroyed and no American soldiers were mired up to their hips in the Syrian quagmire to perpetuate future American engagements! Thanks Obama!Report

              • notme in reply to North says:

                Who said it was 99% of the chemical weapons, Assad? Or was it Putin? They can really be trusted, right? Maybe Obam was naive enough to think so. This sounds like Hillary deciding which email were responsive.Report

              • North in reply to notme says:

                As I understand it the 99% figure came both from the Syrian governments acknowledged stockpile numbers and what the inspectors combing through the country estimated it was though they always acknowledged that Assad could potentially withhold and hide a small amount, which by all indications, he did.

                But it appears you and George are saying that Assad would have better off WITH the 1,300 tons of chemical weapons? Odd, I didn’t think conservatives liked Assad. Perhaps Obama should have flown over and dropped the editorial board of National Review and the Weekly Standard onto Syria. But then that would have been biological warfare.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                It’s not that Obama decided not to bomb. He decided to hand the responsibility for the decision to Congress.

                But it gets worse.

                C’mon, George. Now I know you’re bullshitting. How could it get worse than requiring the GOP-controlled congress to approve military strikes against Syria?Report

              • notme in reply to Stillwater says:

                Obama didn’t seem to need congress when he bombed Libya. I guess he was really looking for an excuse not to bomb Syria.Report

            • Joe Sal in reply to Zac Black says:

              I ended up not liking W the man. He was too quick to over reach individual sovereignty to gain a minor amount of national security.Report

    • notme in reply to Zac Black says:

      What giant mess? The alt left thinks it is okay to use violence to stop people from Milo and Anne from even being able to speak. The problem isn’t the alt -right.Report

      • Nevermoor in reply to notme says:

        I agree. The problem is the *actual* right. Which is so unable to wean itself from its own fantasies that it’s actively defending a guy who is explicitly selling influence, burning the one ally the GOP says it cares about for bragging rights, hired a doubly-compromised failure to run NSA, AND–I’d assume worst of all–is doing everything in his power to blow up the GOP agenda that would be sailing through Washington under competent leadership.

        The alt right is just an angry parade of horrible people.Report

  5. aaron david says:

    Wow, I couldn’t even get past the first paragraph of that stinker.

    Control Left is a better description. As there is nothing they don’t want to control, from what you read to what you eat, they “know” better than you…

    (Also, a good counter to the Alt Right, at least dialog wise.)Report

  6. Autolukos says:

    Will the Guardian stop printing Corbyn fanfic after Labour loses by 20, or is this a thing we’re going to have to live with for a while? At least Melenchon and Sanders beat expectations, even if they couldn’t beat their actual opponents.Report

  7. j r says:

    Didn’t The Guardian used to be known for investigative reporting?Report

  8. LeeEsq says:

    The comments are going as predicted.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    more popular engagement in the decisions that affect ordinary people’s lives.

    This is one of my pet peeves about the ‘we need less capitalism we need more democracy’ gang.

    First of all, we can’t get people to show up for lower level governance elections, where the decisions that actually affect ordinary people’s lives are made.

    Then, when there is a popular engagement process, half the time is taking up by cranks with hobbyhorses.

    And finally, popular engagement leaves you stuff like an 89 page report on whether or not to light a middle school ball field, and no conclusions after 4 years of effort.Report

    • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

      “less capitalism” I’m trying to figure out the proper unit of measure of capitalism to decide how to measure more or less. Friedman Units… no that is taken.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    But mainly, any version of the left that rejects capitalism as a central mode for economic organization is the one doomed to failure.Report

  11. North says:

    Ah the clowns arrive in force on the lefter fringes. On the plus side they haven’t taken over the left of center parties in most of the world* (yet- god[dess?] forfend) and perhaps this means that the good ol fashioned term liberal can be rehabbed and put back into proper usage.

    *With the dishonorable exception of England.Report

  12. Will Truman says:

    I should have done this a few days ago, but I’m closing comments on this post.Report