Is centrist Jimmy Carter to the left of outgoing "new" labor socialist Prime Minister Tony Blair? In a BBC interview yesterday, Carter sharply took on Blair's support for the Iraq war, calling it, "Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient." He continued "I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world." Damn.Carter had previously critiqued Blair support of the war, as reported by Common Dreams last March. At that time Carter said both Blair and Bush knew their decision was based on faulty and fuzzy intelligence. Common Dreams reporter Andrew Bucombe wrote recently that, "In an interview with The Independent on the first anniversary of the American and British invasion of Iraq, Mr. Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, said the two leaders probably knew that many of the claims being made about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were based on imperfect intelligence."Carter's stinging critique coincides with Blair's current farewell visit to Iraq and much commentary accessing the Labor prime minister's political legacy and ideological residue, commentary that makes one wonder how is it that a centrist democrat from Plains Georgia arrived to the left of London-based Blair. In fact it makes one wonder, what in fact it means to be on the left today.
This problem was placed in bold relief this morning when listening to a National Public Radio rebroadcast of BBC debate between two erstwhile British leftists, one who had abandoned all hope of "traditional left solutions" (read public ownership), the other an editor of the magazine "Red Pepper" who still nurtured a belief in equality and democracy, even if of the "another world is possible" variety. Blair, they suggested, took his ideological lead from Democratic Council's Bill Clinton third way philosophy of triangulation, seeking to take the best of right and left and forge a new political synthesis. Labor's Blair and indeed the prime minister designate, Gordon Brown, with this "new" ideological dispensation, want to use the market to achieve traditional socialist aims. With the old Communist left in their view completely discredited, this only makes sense it was claimed, using China's "use of the market to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty" as proof positive of the assertion. To be fair, the editor of Red Pepper was less supportive of this pro-market view, but she (unable to find her name on the Red Pepper website) also declined old "Stalinist" solutions.
What is so striking is how deeply Thatcherism's There is No Alternative (TINA) ideology has penetrated this segment of left thinking. So much so, that what Carter criticized with regard to Blair political posture could equally be applied to these folks ideological perspective. "Abominable, blind, loyal, apparently subservient." No wonder, why Blair and company are viewed as lap dogs. Ok. Name calling doesn't help. But how else can you describe this bowing down before US imperial policy and the dictates of the market? As if the market were some value free panacea, without history, existing outside of time and space.
Hello!? Does anyone remember we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the end of the British slave trade, a slave trade that cost 60 million African lives? That's the capitalist market. Or how about World War I? Still too distant, another era maybe? Well, what about today's slaughter in the Congo, Darfur, or the Iraq War. All of these are demonstrably market driven conflicts.
It was striking too that Latin America's sharp left turn was notoriously absent from their Europe-is-the-center-of-the-world thinking. Here,
public, socially owned solutions are being attempted in new 21st century scientific socialist experiments. Attempts, that learning from the mistakes of the past, seeks to combine market mechanisms with public ownership, and democratic people run economies and governments. Perhaps here and in other parts of the world – including the US and Europe - a new "triangulation" might occur, jettisoning the right, but combining best of the old left, (while boldly ridding itself of the abominations of the past) with new 21st century scientific socialist initiatives. Sadly, though until these take firm root, what was left moves to the right, allowing honest "center" forces like Carter, to take defiant and principled stands on grounds once proudly occupied by labor's left.