History is possibly the most important tool in the Leftist's arsenal. Successes. Failures. Knowledge to contextualize something contemporary. Modern parallels from historic experiences. An articulate example from history is often more persuasive to people than any argument derived from solely from logic. What do you think are some of the most important pieces of history a Leftist should know about?
Pics related to start the thread off. Knowledge of historic struggles over debt is key to developing an effective socialist strategy today. The finance capital class has today overtaken industrial capitalists as the dominant ruling class in society and we need to understand their power in order to wage an effective class war over productive work.
Most important is the concept of history itself, or more specifically of history as change. This view can be contrasted with a traditional Rankean history as a chronology of events in vacuum - a true account of the world in the past. However history has from the very beginning had an instrumental purpose as well, to learn of the past to the benefit of the present. For this purpose Rankean history isn't really fit for purpose: it denies the role of subjects present and past in writing history and any "lessons of the past" have to be written on top of it very artificially. The underlying structure or theory connecting past and current events as similar or of the same category (a history of revolutions requires the categorisation of "revolution" for example) is implicit and analytically weak. Hegelianism is in part an attempt at explaining history, and Marxism inherits its history-consciousness. For Marx the primary mover of history is class struggle, for the idealist Hegel it is the Spirit. It's no surprise many of the most important historians of the 20th century such as EH Carr or Hobsbawm were Marxists (or at least heavily sympathetic). History as a chronology of change attempts to explain the logic and mechanisms behind the historical currents that have resulted in the present. From this perspective it is impossible to ignore the monumental changes not only in societies but how people perceive them and themselves. For the radical left that seeks total change this is key: understanding the historical process of change in relations of production and social thought, for example, makes belief in a static human nature that justifies the status quo, impossible. If capitalism is human nature, what were we before capitalism? If states built around a "Volk" locked in eternal struggle are human nature, what were we before nation states?
Fukuyama's "End of History" is moreso an end of future, and as such is the perfect encapsulation of our postmodern banal dystopia.
Julius Caesar had amassed an insane amount of material wealth by the time he took over the Republic, all together his holdings would be in the trillions if counted today. Caesar did stuff to benefit the poor like the grain dole but that was mostly a measure to control the population.
I remind them that the current FCC chair was appointed by Barack Obama.
Well the Daily Express don't have a reputation for having foresight or offering anything insightful for that matter, I'm sure they were awful back in 1991 too.
You mean Ajit Pai?
Well Obama by design of the FCC had to appoint him, there were already 3 democrat commissioners on the board at the time of his appointment so to blame Obama is missing the big picture, which doesn't change that Obama was a bought corporatist shill anyway.
Obviously Leftists should be familiar with the betrayals and failures of Stalinist states.
In spite of centuries of failure, reforms and concessions were gradually extracted in a lurching one-step-backward-two-steps-forward march, both violent and peaceful, away from absolute feudalism.
In this light, socialism, dating back at most as a serious political phenomenon to the 1871 Paris Commune, may require centuries of effort before capitalism will be wholly defunct, and (like proto-capitalism under feudalism) has already yielded substantial material improvements to standard of life.
Learning the recent history of left/socialist parties and sects is pretty fun. You learn all about how Trots have been wrong about pretty much everything since the end of WWII, how inflexible and easily splintered Leninist organizations are, how many far-left activists swung into the hard- or fringe-right, the failures of idpol, and all manner of examples of betrayal and opportunism across the 20th century.
Though in all honesty, historical knowledge isn't that useful without knowledge of current events and material conditions so you know when lessons of history can be accurately applied. Knowledge of current labor laws and union regulations is far more useful for practical organizing purposes than knowing the early history of US labor activism, though the latter adds context to discussions of the present day. History should always be related to what's going in on the here and now. You don't want to be one of those tankies who can give you a laundry list of historical reasons why repressing the Prague Spring was justified, but has nothing to say about today's news other than calling the president a fascist.
I was thinking more like the Hanseatic League during the middle ages. Assuming that was indeed an example of capitalism (production for exchange; not merely a bunch of merchant capitalists), were there others too?
The history of how capitalism and republicanism supplanted feudal governance and economics made me realize how important it is for the left to support militant industrial, not artistic unions, and form large coops and networks of coops in diverse industries around the world.
I get that those aren't socialism on their own but they're vital tools and history has shown that the supplanting of old orders occur over long periods when a certain section of society becomes economically ingrained and can use that position to promote its interests against a stagnating establishment.