How Class Disappeared From Western Politics

How Class Disappeared From Western Politics

Recent political developments in Europe and America present two apparent paradoxes. First, much of what remains of the radical left has aligned itself with extreme Islamic political movements that promote the establishment of religious regimes in Asia and Africa, with the ultimate objective of a global caliphate. In Europe a not insignificant part of what currently passes for the liberal left also expresses sympathy for these movements. Second, in the United States, working-class voters consistently and consciously vote against their class interests by supporting conservative Republican politicians whose plutocratic economic policies they reject. Although these phenomena seem to be unrelated, it is possible to discern a connection between them when one looks at the more general historical context within which they have emerged.

The Radical Left and Anti-ImperialismThe current state of left-wing politics today, particularly in Western Europe, offers a bizarre and counterintuitive sight. The Stop the War Coalition in Britain is led by an alliance of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), an Islamist organization closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. George Galloway, expelled from the British Labour Party for urging British troops in Iraq to disobey orders, established the Respect Party. This is an electoral coalition of the SWP and the MAB, for which he successfully contested a parliamentary seat in London’s immigrant East End constituency of Bethnal Green in the election of last May. Galloway appears regularly on Islamic and Arab television stations singing the praises of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq and calling on the Arab world to rise up against the American, British, and Israeli occupiers. London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, pursues a Galloway-lite strategy of courting the MAB and welcoming Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential cleric supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was expelled from Egypt for militant political activity (he is now based in Qatar). Al-Qaradawi endorses Palestinian suicide bombing on the grounds that he does not see a distinction between Israeli soldiers and civilians. He calls for the imposition of Sharia law throughout the Middle East and for the eventual creation of a universal Islamic regime. He promotes homophobia and the subordination of women. In the wake of the London bombings in July, putatively progressive newspapers such as the Guardian and the Independent, as well as news and public affairs programs on the BBC ran a steady stream of apologetics and appeasement on behalf of the bombers. Commentators identified “Muslim anger” at Western aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the marginalization of Muslim youth in British cities as the “root causes” of the attacks. They spoke piously of the need to address these issues as the only effective way to stop terrorism. Variants of this coalition b...


Duggan | University of California Press Gardels