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February 23, 2014

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Martin

Yes, the "Bonnie Tyler syndrome" is common.

I think it is innate. People (on average) have a natural desire for political leadership, and that's why they are especially drawn to charismatic ones, like Chavez or Mandela.

Marx himself is the charismatic hero of a certain blogger here, the leader in a partisan struggle, who keeps being defended and praised, his flaws overlooked.

The political lesson is to have a liberal regime of restraints on political power, in which ambitious charismatic heroes cannot do too much harm.

Socialism In One Bedroom

You could have added Dickens disappointment with the segregated USA.

"opponents of the US imperialism can easily find supporters in the western left"

Not true. Even worse, those leftist's who time and again line up with US imperialism and all it's monstrous crimes. You know who you are.

It isn't the words of the Chavez government we liked but the concrete policies that empowered those at the bottom, and frightened the hell out of those at the top. A scary concept for the hedge fund Marxists I suspect.

There is also the tendency for some on the left to be too pessimistic, to see absolutes. An analogy would be to see in the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 a defeat of the English revolution.

"The political lesson is to have a liberal regime of restraints on political power, in which ambitious charismatic heroes cannot do too much harm."

i.e. a return to the kleptocracy that preceded Chavez.

BenSix

The fact that Paul Staines and his employees are bashing Jones despite his open endorsement of Augusto Pinochet is entertaining. Now, they could of course suggest that Pinochet's virtues were greater than his faults while those of Chavez and his followers have not been, which would be consistent from a consequentialist perspective. What they cannot do, however, is demand absolute condemnation merely on the basis of human rights abuses.

Blissex

«The political lesson is to have a liberal regime of restraints on political power, in which ambitious charismatic heroes cannot do too much harm.»

The political lesson is that government by philosopher-kings has very big issues, and accountable voters ought in an ideal world invest time and money in political analysis and work, or else they will be taken for a ride by would-be philosopher-kings.

In other words what restrains charismatic power is not "a liberal regime", but smart, informed, engaged citizens. Governance is not a spectator sport, and good governance depends on the character of citizens far more than on the specific nature of the institutions of the regime.

Martin

@Blissex: "voters ought in an ideal world invest time and money in political analysis and work"

OK, but we also need to find ways to economize on such costs so people can get on with other things. A liberal regime is a good way.

"smart, informed, engaged citizens" are needed.

True, and without them liberal institutions are unlikely to persist. But alas there is a global bell curve of smarts (aka cognitive capacity). It is a scarce resource. And it is hard to produce.

Paul Anderson
Keith

Off course the big problem for liberal Marxists like Chris lies in the fact that the logic of this argument is that there have been no Marxists since Marx. At least almost all of the followers since 1913 support centralised state power and in the case of the USSR very brutal authoritarian methods. The fact many on the right do, or did during the cold war, support the same or similar methods used by right wing governments, is not much consolation. It is the mirror image failure to cherish and defend humanitarian and Conciliatory political methods.

Keith

Another thing this below,

"Governance is not a spectator sport, and good governance depends on the character of citizens far more than on the specific nature of the institutions of the regime.."

Is surely an example of Essentialism and is the thing Marx is rejecting. People do not have character separate from the social reality created by social relations. Before you can have a working liberal constitution the necessary developments must have happened. In England this was 1688 or the early eighteenth century when the elite started to follow customs such as not murdering or imprisoning the people who lost the struggle for power. In Ukraine this custom has not yet come about. The development of trade Unions the next century at least created the base for a system of workers power. Until the customs and institutions evolve the liberal/ Socialist transformation is a pipe dream.

It is not clear how you can introduce the habits and customs necessary for a free society where they have not already arisen.

Luis Enrique

I think it's not just about the desire for a hero, it's also simple ideological blindness - or maybe the hero in question isn't an individual but a heroic ideology (socialism). Everybody is inclined to look at the positives and ignore the negatives of whatever team they root for.

Staberinde

Do I have this right? Liberalism is a precursor for effective socialism?

So the Left should be arguing for liberalism, in order to create a culture and institutions that will be conducive to socialism, while also allowing liberalism to fail in such a way as to create demand for socialism?

Nobody could accuse it of being a short game.

SIS

"Do I have this right? Liberalism is a precursor for effective socialism?"

No, Capitalism is necessary for the ascent of socialism. Insofar as some aspects of 'Liberalism' coincide with the needs of the Capitalist class, then you might need to see those things at work.

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