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Does this sound familiar… August 1, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left, US Politics.

…here’s an excerpt from a book on the lack of the left in the United States, on the NYT website.

The book, It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States,
was written by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks. Important to note that Lipset had started out as a leftist but moved sharply towards the political centre. Perhaps even further.

It’s just the first chapter or so, but it’s an interesting read if you’ve got the time. In terms of predictive power Marx et al were almost entirely incorrect about the part the US would play in relation to the future of the working class.

But what struck me reading it was not merely US exceptionalism, in terms of lacking social democratic, let alone further left parties, in any functional sense, but also that there was something very very familiar about aspects of it. Not least a quote part the way through that goes as follows:

The American community, one cannot too clearly insist, does not correspond to an entire European community at all, but only to the middle masses of it…. This community was, as it were, taken off its roots, clipped of its branches and brought hither…. Essentially America is a middle-class become a community and so its essential problems are the problems of a modern individualistic society, stark and clear, unhampered and unilluminated by any feudal traditions either at its crest or at its base.

I don’t much like the ‘middle’ or ‘middle-class’ terms in this context, because I think it would be easier to see those categories shifted towards the working class, but there does seem to me to be something in the concept, and that it can be mapped onto this island where a not entirely dissimilar situation developed where what indigenous aristocracy there was was limited (in part by religious, national and cultural differentiation) and also by the rupture of independence. And likewise although a Catholic middle class most certainly developed its allegiance to same was limited allowing for pan-nationalist sentiment to exist, to a degree, and thereby altering the nature of the post-independent dispensation.

It certainly would explain the remarkable lack of strength of the left here, not least in that Americanism and nationalism in Ireland operated in not dissimilar ways seeking to bypass class differentiation and conflict.

Now the trick is to work this into a broader approach that can explain divergences with newly independent states in Eastern and Northern Europe which came into being around the same time as the Free State.


1. Jim Monaghan - August 2, 2013

Perhaps the USA model is spreading. The modern Labour Party across the water, the SPs in France, Germany and Spain are morphing into equivalents of the USA Democrats.


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