What does it mean today when the challenges to the status quo are no longer clearly identifiable as originating from the Left? While it seems implausible that Left ideology has been transcended because people still explain social currents in terms of Left and right, there is a sense in the present that to end exploitation will demand a measure of realpolitik—a better tactical response—rather than ideological clarification. One has the uneasy feeling that existence of the Left and the right only persist by virtue of the fact the concept of the Left has somehow become settled, static, and trapped in history. But wouldn't this be antithetical to any concept of the Left?
If it did not come to end in 1989, as conservative critic Francis Fukuyama expected, this is because, in Hegel's sense, as freedom's self-realization in time, History had already ceased. Long before the new geopolitical configurations and institutional forms of the post-Soviet world, a new and unprecedented, though scarcely recognized, political situation had taken shape: The last threads of continuity connecting the present with the long epoch of political emancipation were severed. In the second half of the 20th century the history that stretched back through modern socialism and the labor movement to the Enlightenment and the bourgeois revolutions that came before, became bunk. Yet, unlike Stalinism's well-publicized (if exaggerated) collapse, the passing of History and the death of the long-ailing Left in our time has passed almost wholly unnoticed and unmourned.
The contours of the present day Middle East have been shaped by a mid -20th century triptych of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The first panel in this triptych is the “Holocaust” (“Shoah” in Hebrew, “Khurbn” in Yiddish) the systematic murder of approximately two-thirds of European Jewry by the Nazis in 1941–1945. The second panel is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionists in 1947–1949, the “Nakba,” and the third panel which does not have a commonly accepted name is the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Mizrachi Jews from Arab countries, most of whom ended up in Israel where they strengthened the Zionist state in crucial ways even though frequently they encountered racial discrimination there at the hands of Ashkenazi Jews. Each of these catastrophes was both a product of the failure of the Left and paved the way for further defeats.
In subsequent issues Platypus will serialize a “History of the Left”. The phrase has a strange ring to it! A human being has a history, a nation, a people have a history. One is not the “same person” one was twenty years ago perhaps, yet one can not make sense of who one is now without a sense of who one “was” even if that person has come to seem as alien as a stranger. A people too may “remember” its past, its becoming, its suffering, its ancient glories and yet no living member of that people may have experienced any of these. Such remembering and rethinking what has been whether personal and collective is obvious to us. But “the Left”?