Saw this on Facebook today and read the comments underneath and it made me realise that in the UK we cannot even agree about definitions anymore, let alone strategy, tactics, policy or even our common aims and objectives!
The argument in the comments was about whether the description on the left is of Democratic Socialism or of Social Democracy. This might seem an arcane argument to some but it actually indicates an argument of some substance that is at the core of much of the political confusion of the last 5-10 years.
For the last 100 years to be ‘left wing’ was to be anti- capitalist, or at the very least critical of capitalism. ‘Left-wingers’ are anti-capitalist because they believe that all humanity is part of one family and that we are all born equal with a mutual responsibility to each other and that capitalism inevitably creates a privileged elite who become unjustly wealthy by exploiting the labour of others. Whether you are a Communist, Socialist, Anarchist, Social Democrat, Democratic Socialist, Revolutionary Socialist or Libertarian Socialist, the one thing you have in common is that you are anti-capitalist… or at the very least critical of capitalism.
Liberalism on the other hand, is the belief that capitalist markets are the only route to ‘freedom’ and prosperity for all; that unregulated markets provide a genuine equality of opportunity that interfering, inefficient, governments never can. Liberals often share with the left a believe in our common humanity and a desire for equality of opportunity but they believe that capitalism and free markets are the route to achieving those ends.
For many liberals equality before the law IS equality and as a result we often end up in the liberal world of Identity Politics, which is the idea that progress will be achieved by each identity group fighting for its own liberation… within the current capitalist system.
This is a profoundly liberal rather than a ‘leftist’ project yet with the profound shift to the right of UK and US politics in the 90’s, liberal identity politics is what many now regard as ‘being left wing’, although in and of itself it really isn’t because although the freedom for women, homosexuals and people of colour to be equally exploited by capitalists is progress of a kind, it is not what socialists are fighting for.