by UnHerd Staff
Wednesday, 27
April 2022

Aaron Bastani: the Left is turning away from anti-war activism

The Ukraine invasion was a 'stake through the heart' of the historic position
by UnHerd Staff

Left-wing writer and commentator Aaron Bastani has described Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “stake through the heart” of anti-war activism on the Left. The Novara Media editor told Freddie Sayers that across Europe, Left-wing figures are “terrified” of saying that they’re anti-war because of the feared backlash. Bastani added at the UnHerd panel on whether Putin has killed populism that he thought that this was “not necessarily a bad thing” since it would push the Left towards workplace organising and labour rights. Full comments below:

Freddie Sayers: So, the question on the ballot paper, has Putin killed off populism? Do you feel that the Populist Left is dented by this? Do you think that the movement that you’ve been part of will be harder to win votes for because of what we’re seeing going on in Europe?

Aaron Bastani: No, I think it changes the contours. It does in the short term, of course, change the contours of politics. We all know that politics is 5, 10, 20, 30 years — Marxists aren’t saying we want to persuade somebody next month. They’re thinking in decades, as does the Post-Liberal Right. And I think in terms of thinking in decades, not especially no, in the short term, you’re absolutely right. 

The heartbeat of the 21st century radical Left has been anti-war activism. And so this is kind of like a silver bullet, a stake through the heart of that, absolutely. And you’ve got people in Finland, the centre-Left government and you’ve got the Left Party in Sweden, the Vänsterpartiet. They are terrified of saying that they’re anti-war. So clearly, in that respect, it’s changed. It is not necessarily a bad thing that the Left moves towards workplace organising and labour rights. 

And I finish with this: look at the United States right now. You’ve got trade union struggles at Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks. These are iconic American brands now seeing workers asking for higher wages. So if that’s the future of Left organising, rather than anti-war activism, which I think has its place, then I don’t see that as a net loss for the Left. 

I think that, in a strange way, we’ll take it closer to blue-collar workers. Don’t be ashamed of it. But we’re clearly in a different phase now. We’re not in this unipolar, post-9/11 moment anymore. And I think some people on the Left haven’t necessarily understood that, but I think those that do, will recognise anti-war activism plays a very different role.

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
4 months ago

I said it before on here – to many downvotes – and I will say it again. In the past, the Soviet Union had its useful idiots. Naive people on the left. Fabians, the ladies of Greenham Common, Jean-Paul Sartre – people who were overtly sympathetic to Communist tyranny, or were not exactly opposing it. People like this are still around today and they are still idiots. But now, they all have little yellow and blue flags in their twitter profiles – not useful to Russia. But Putin is smart – he has moved on and found other idiots that are useful to him. These useful idiots happen to be on the right – the Tucker Carlsons, the Patriarch Kirills, who think that Vladimir Putin is out to save western civilization. Putin doesn’t care if the pro-Russia idiots are left or right, they are useful just the same.

4 months ago

Spot on, thank you.

Nell Larkin
Nell Larkin
4 months ago

Liberals have to deal with the fact that they despise all wars, except for the war against Hitler. That was a war in which liberal democracies committed numerous atrocities, namely internment of “enemy aliens” and carpet-bombing of German and Japanese civilians. But then nothing is too awful for Nazis and fascists, is it?

Last edited 4 months ago by Nell Larkin