A Reflection on the Ideological Roots of the Post-Modern American Left

For months now, I have been trying to better understand the evolution of the old socialist left into today’s “progressive left,” which has suddenly, since last summer, become so dominant in our media, institutions of higher education, elite culture and politics.

When I was in college, the first stirrings of the “new left,” as it was then called, were of some interest. I remember the 1962 Port Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society. That heralded the beginning of a shift in fixing blame for social injustice on culture and not on economic class.

My tutor during junior year was the brilliant American Marxist scholar Barrington Moore, who was firmly set in the classical socialist tradition of class antagonism as the cause of injustice and the economy as the primary determinant of class power and prerogative.

But today’s progressive left in American seems to have switched out economic class for racism as the villain in our society.

The summer’s protests, some violent, led by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, provoked me to read Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence and discover, really for the first time, the historic occurrence of syndicalism, which evolved into national socialism in the 1920s in Italy and Germany.

I had overlooked the long-standing division within the socialist movement between internationalism – classical Marxist preference for the proletariat class in every society – and a more ethnic, even tribal, socialism, which sought justice in one society only. National socialism needed a narrative with which to engage both the workers and the bourgeoisie together in the same national community. The foundational concept was that of a “folk,” an identity construct. The economic system was a corporatist one where production was largely left for profit enterprises under state direction.

To explore the possible emulation of today’s progressive left in America, a cultural force at the root of our current distemper in politics and of older national socialist models, I wrote this personal essay.

I would be grateful to learn your thoughts on reading it.

Request for Support

I ask you to consider supporting the work of the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism with a donation to our operating budget.

I attach our 2020 Year in Review (annual report) to document our contributions and successes during last year.

We seem to have a unique role to play – in a free space to expand and have influence in between business, academia, foundations and governments, drawing on all, but dependent on none, to fashion with our round tables sound, new departures for action and vision.

At a time of pandemic, when so much in our lives is uncertain, uneasy and stressful, reliable, but most importantly, determined leadership, is more necessary than ever. Leadership, as always, depends on ideas and moral conviction. We, therefore, seek to support all with both, so that their leadership will rise to the demanding challenges of our time. My father used to say “Never show the white feather,” especially when others on the team look to us for reassurance and steady stewardship.

For 2021, our priority will be to launch online certificate educational programs on the theory and practice of moral capitalism and moral government. These web-based modules will be accessible globally. Through education, we plan to inspire and stimulate individuals to make their respective contributions to better outcomes in business and civic justice.

Secondly, we will propose more collaboration and coordination among the now many efforts promoting sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and alignment of enterprise with care for the environment, society and governance.

Thirdly, we will continue to provide thought leadership through round tables, our newsletter Pegasus and workshops on modernizing valuation.

Given the difficulties caused by the pandemic for traditional means of outreach in solicitation of support and personally engaging with donors and supporters, we hope you can be especially generous with your contribution this year.

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Lord Daniel Brennan’s Remarks on the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad

On February 4, the United Nations General Assembly celebrated the Day of Human Fraternity to honor the Document of Human Fraternity, jointly issued by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo on February 4, 2019. Religions for Peace held an online conference that same day. Lord Daniel Brennan, Chair Emeritus of the Caux Round Table, is a member of the advisory council of Religions for Peace. He spoke on the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with Christian communities as a model for human fraternity and engagement with others.

You may read his remarks here.

In America, the Center Cannot Hold

The collapse of moderation as a political culture in America as demonstrated by the decline in trust and tolerance of Americans on the left and on the right towards those who disagree with them is an existential crisis for the American Republic.

Such collapse, one, removes a social foundation for vigorous fidelity to the Caux Round Table Principles for Government and, two, threatens the survival of our constitutional arrangements.

I have attempted to show in two graphics how the American political system has changed from a centrist modality of compromise and collaboration to a bi-polar confrontation, encouraging more and more aggressive tit-for-tat escalation between the extremes.

I add to this presentation three graphs I designed for my classes some eight years ago when the process of polarization was getting firmly underway. There is one graph for each of the three major cultural orientations of Americans – left, center and right.

You may read this explanation of where we are here.

Competition Helps the Common Good

Just recently, I commented on Apple CEO Tim Cook challenging the business model of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook in giving users a free service in return for their supplying Facebook with valuable information to sell to advertisers, thus turning “customers” into “suppliers.”

Cook announced that Apple would provide a filter so that users could gain control over the use of their personal information.

Facebook has now bowed to the morality of Apple’s concern for its customers by inserting a prompt in its app to educate users about the use of their personal information. The new Facebook screen will ask users for permission to use data collected from third-party websites and apps.

Thus, competition from Apple has forced Facebook to give its “suppliers” more respect, as persons with dignity.