Roundtable on the Future of the Left
Steve Brier: This is obviously a time of great insecurity and distress both emotionally and physically and of great confusion politically and ideologically across the globe. The realities we confront are imposed by a world capitalism that is at the same time vigorous and expansionist and in decline and crisis. How do we understand this current moment and the profound distress it is creating across the globe? How do we understand it and relate to it?
Maria Helena Moreira Alves: From my perspective, what is creating the greatest ideological confusion is not capitalism per se but rather what the so-called socialists are saying about their own beliefs. I am now talking about those who say that they are socialist but who hold positions of power within neoliberal systems. I’m living in Chile now, so a lot of what I say reflects that experience. It has been very painful to feel the ideological confusion produced, even in me, at the sight of ex-members of Allende’s government standing with Pinochet now on television and defending all the neoliberal policies that the Pinochet regime has been implementing. I think we need to discuss, “What is socialism?” and take back our heritage from those who have stolen it.
Daniel Singer: What strikes me is that capitalism is now shown in its whole nakedness. Even if you read their newspapers, their publications, what do you find? You look at the figures from the latest U.N. Human Development report and you find that the 225—I was going to say gentlemen but, I don’t know, men or women—who are the richest in the world, their combined wealth is equivalent to the income of half the world’s population, that is to say nearly 3 billion people. Capitalism is in crisis; their strength is our weakness. You have a situation like that and you get on the other side no alternative. “There is no alternative.” TINA, I repeat; this is the nickname given to Maggie Thatcher because she was saying it louder and in shriller tones than anybody, but it has not been proclaimed by her alone, it has been internalized by everybody, including the Left. I think we should be aware of the fact that we really must provide an alternative because otherwise the world is going to pieces.
Steve Brier: That serves as a fitting close to our panel. I’d like to thank everybody for joining us—you in the audience, give yourselves a hand. (appause)