Are recessions better for the left or right?
On my mailing list, we have had a debate about whether the current crisis is good for the left or the right. I am only now jumping in.
The Chinese character for crisis supposedly combines danger and opportunity, although I’ve been told that it is not true. Even so, it should be true. Uprisings occur during good times, such as the 60s, when people expected better. I’m not sure whether any such uprising ever created lasting changes.
Bad times make people desperate. Desperation makes people vulnerable to demagogy, but it can also create opportunity for long-term organizing. Here, the Great Depression offers the most obvious example.
Opportunity is no guarantee of success. Sometimes demagogy wins out. Sometimes organizing can, but I suspect that generalizations are impossible without looking at context. How would the New Deal have turned out without the prior existence of the Communist Party in the United States? As an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to drive Norman Thomas around Ann Arbor. He thought that Roosevelt had appropriated the Socialist party platform.
Here in the US, the corporate-oriented Democratic Leadership Council might be the strongest operative “left” organization. We have bloggers and e-mail lists on the left, unfortunately only a few of us have any record of organizational successes.
In any case, I suspect that we have little grounds for optimism within the context of the current crisis in the US economy.