Should liberals feel nostalgia for the old-school left?
“The tradition of all the dead generations,” Marx wrote 150 years ago, “weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” Today, with our politics trapped in capitalism’s endless fugue state, the nightmare that troubled Marx may seem to contemporary left-wingers like a pleasant dream of days gone by.
At least the dead generations took Marx seriously. At least they had a powerful labor movement and center-left parties that believed in the welfare state. And at least Ralph Miliband, the dead leftist whose son is the living leader of Britain’s Labour Party, would never have answered a question about capitalism with a grudging obeisance to the creative power of BlackBerry.
It’s easy to get nostalgic.