The Political Legacy of the Manifesto

Colin Leys, Leo Panitch


We are living in interesting times. The tide of reaction is still flowing, but with diminishing confidence and force, while the counter-flow of progressive feeling and ideas gathers strength but has yet to find effective political expression. As the contradictions of unbridled neoliberalism become increasingly plain, fewer and fewer people any longer mistake its real character. 'Stubborn historical facts' are breaking through the illusions fostered by neoliberal rhetoric - and equally through the pseudo-left illusions of 'new times', 'radicalism of the centre' and all similar dreams of a capitalist world miraculously freed from alienation, immiseration and crises.' At the peripheries of the global economy - in most of Africa, in Central America, in South Asia - historical facts have never permitted most people the luxury of such illusions, even if the elites of these countries embrace and foster them. Such recent experiences as the misery and barbarisms provoked by 'structural adjustment' in dozens of countries in Africa, or the rape of the public sector in Mexico, have done nothing to make neoliberalism more beguiling to ordinary people anywhere in the former Third World. Where the propagandists of the 'Washington consensus' did achieve some ideological sway over working people was above all in the 'North'. But there too, after nearly two decades of capitalist restoration, painful reality increasingly prevails over corporate newspeak.

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