Norm's regulars won't be surprised by any of the reasons that he advances, and I'd I'm among those who would generally agree with him on things like this. But I think that there is one possible explanation that is missing here. I say 'possible' because I've never really tried it out properly. So here goes:
Is it possible that the biggest problem that the entire left has is that it doesn't understand the central role that liberal democracy plays in advancing its aims?
Could it be the case that, when presented with a choice between supporting...
- a political programme that was long on generic socialism (Union rights, common ownership, secular republicanism, internationalism, anti-racism, etc), but short on ambition to improve the general quality of standard liberal democratic practice, or....
- a political programme that is broadly indifferent, or even mildly hostile to the general demands of socialists, but that places a high priority on improving the institutions of liberal democracy
I would suggest (and at this stage, it's only a suggestion) that leftists would generally achieve their aims more effectively, and in a more sustainable way by supporting the latter. I would qualify this, of course, by insisting that only a representative democracy (no plebiscites, strong parliamentarians, unconcentrated media ownership, bicameralism, etc) can be treated as genuine 'liberal democracy' for the purposes of this argument. So Switzerland or the US can't really be used to contradict me here.
And I'd argue this because I can't think of an example of any state achieving lasting progress of the kind that socialists would like to see without it also placing a premium upon the values of liberal democracy. Labour - in the 1960s - can put it's greatest achievements down to liberalising reforms rather than any red-blooded socialist policies.
I can also think of examples of states that have had a political leadership that is indifferent - or even hostile - to many of the totemic socialistic demands, but that have nevertheless become much more acceptable societies from a left-wing point of view. Almost every EU state would fit this description over the past 50 years. And states where the quality of democracy hasn't improved (or has even deteriorated) - see Italy for details - have also resulted in a lack of social progress.
On the other hand, there are numerous examples of states failing to effect lasting change (indeed, becoming objectively less progressive) despite the protestations of their supposedly left-wing leaderships.
Is the problem with the left that it is too busy striking postures to see what is under its very nose? That liberal democracy has achieved more socialistic progress than active socialism even has? Is it time to park socialistic demands and instead to focus upon democratic renewal?
Now where did I put that hard hat?