Prof. Norm Geras, an old-line English Marxist, identifies the two main failures of the Western Left post 9/11.
First is the sin of Marxist reductionism. In his own generation's Marxist development, Geras says that,
[I]t labored in its literary output, in dense and prolific works of argumentation, theory, historiography, social and political analysis-to separate itself from the earlier simplifications and reductions of the tradition it came from and that it sought to enrich. This was a generation for whom anti-reductionism was a constant watchword. A reductionist Marxist was something that, even at the height of Marxist intellectual fashion, no one wanted to be. Whether by way of the cultural themes of the Frankfurt School, of Gramscian "hegemony," Althusserian "relative autonomy," or the more empirically grounded methods of Anglophone socialist research, an enormous effort was made to establish a complex and multilayered theoretical sensibility, so that henceforth we might be in a position more effectively to grasp the multiple determinations of both the present and the past. It was a generation claiming to know that such determinations, in their range and variety, were intractable to being unified within one simple, all-encompassing story.
But all this theoretical work seems to have been for nought:
In affecting the general alignment of most of the socialist left in the conflicts that have preceded and followed the events of September 11, 2001, all this effort that I have tried briefly to characterize might just as well not have taken place. For even if more advanced models of theoretical explanation are now available to the left, it nonetheless seems to suffice in any given international conflict to know that on one side is the United States, and that the United States is a capitalist power that always has designs on the natural and human resources of the rest of the world. If you know this, everything else falls instantly into place; all other levels of analysis, all other considerations, are superfluous. They can either be ignored altogether, or they can be conceded in passing, but as merely secondary and hence ignorable in practice. ...
Knowing what the United States is-hegemon of global capitalism-and knowing what it must be up to, you have no need to allow any explanatory or strategic weight to other social, political, legal, or ideological realities. No need to give any decision-making, choice-determining weight to mass murder, or torture, or the fundamental rights of human beings; to the laws of war, the effects of specific political structures and belief systems, or the effects of the operational and moral choices made by movements cast by part of the left in an anti-imperialist role; to the character of the regimes opposed to the United States and its allies, however brutal those regimes might be; to the illegalities and oppressions for which they are responsible, whether at home or beyond their own borders; to genocidal processes actually ongoing and about which something cries out to be done; to the threats posed to democratic societies by movements that have already shown their deadly intent.
The second main fault of the Western Left is related to the first. Geras terms it "a poverty of moral imagination," which he defines as,
... a seeming lack of ability, of the imagination, to digest the meaning of the great moral and political evils of the world and to look at them unflinchingly. ...
They come to be treated, generically, as the product of class societies and, today, as the product of capitalism. The affinity between this overall intellectual tendency within Marxist and other left thinking, and the practical reductionism I have just described-in which America is identified as the source of all worldly wrongs-should be transparent. ...
The Taliban in Afghanistan; Saddam's Iraq; the reduction of a human being by torture; the use of terror randomly to kill innocents and to smite all those by whom they are cherished; mass murder; ethnic cleansing; all the manifold practices of human evil-to look upon these and at once see "capitalism," "imperialism," "America," is not only to show a poverty of moral imagination, it is to reveal a diminished understanding of the human world. A social or political science, or a practical politics, that cannot rise to the level of what has been understood, in their own mode, by the great religions-and I say this as a resolute and lifelong atheist-and what has also been understood, in their own mode, by all the great literatures of the world, is a science and a politics that can no longer be taken seriously. It should not be taken seriously by anyone attached to the democratic and egalitarian values that have always been at the heart of the broad socialist tradition.
My politics certainly aren't Marxist like Norm's, but I always enjoy reading his material. Read the whole piece, it's quite worthwhile. See also his blog. And see as well Ron Rosenbaum's October 2002 essay, Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee.