Left for Dead

by Automnia on October 19, 2013

(Originally published here)

The left is fucked. It has no present, no future and no hope. Despite this, it remains incapable of engaging with the majority of the population, whose lives are defined by the same three realities.[1] The peculiar imagined community around which the left is built coheres with all the tenacity of a spinning lie. The great combined forces of labour and the academy are bound together merely by the stories they weave and the delusions they perpetuate. The closeness is claustrophobic, but instead of breaking for air they huddle ever closer, crushing themselves together out of fear for the dark around them.

We are approaching true dystopia. As the last remnants of the welfare state burn to warm the bourgeoisie, people freeze to death on streets of empty houses. Work is given for free, education for a fee and tax breaks for a kitchen supper. And should the people take to the streets? Well the ambush is well set. The batons that beat them down will be the same ones their taxes provided, the poison pens that libel them the same they paid with the morning paper. In fact, the ambush has already been sprung. They won’t let you find a place to work or a place to sleep.[2] They will shake the trust you put in those you organise with, live with, love.[3] You are no longer a subversive, you are a domestic extremist.[4]

And where is the left? It cowers in half-filled assembly rooms, ossifying to the cracked voices of Labour hacks, petrifying in the flickering light of films of ‘forty-five. In the twilight it may venture out to push a paper at the alienated masses, shout mock defiance at unheeding stone, then march away to wallow once more in existential despair.

And still the left cannot understand the people’s indifference. It has handed out so many papers, held so many conferences, filled a thousand columns with a million words, worn tracks in the paving slabs of London squares. Its petitions could wind around the nation, smother the bourgeoisie in the terrible order of names and addresses. “John Holmes of Milton Keynes”, thanks for aiding the revolution.

Into the rich archives of its failure the left may add the notion of “Left Unity”. Why if only our piteous strength was united, then we could really smash capitalism! Think of the insurrection we could bring with a UKIP of the left![5] To Parliament, comrades, for I have always wished to sit on one of those green seats!

The left is fucked.

“The Left” is a construct of the 18th century.[6] As the King of France struggled to protect divine autocracy, the Constituent Assembly of 1789-91 split; the radicals moved to sit together on the president’s left whilst the reactionaries coalesced on his right.[7] Over time spatial and ideological positions became interwoven, ideas of an elected legislature, a broad franchise and progressive taxation became the politics of “the left”.[8] It is worth noting that even in its nascent form the left was overtly reformist. Time since has seen the ceaseless agglomeration of ideas to the original core. If the identity was ever cohesive and intelligible, it certainly is not now. When anyone from Bakunin to Blair can look into the same amalgam and draw out their inspiration, the absurdity of describing a humanweltanschauung through this concoction is clear. Blair wished to embrace the State and Capital, Bakunin wished to smash both, yet the two of them can fairly be termed to of “the left”, for the only thing the term has rejected from its ever-widening embrace is any real meaning.

The desire to protect or perpetuate such a clear absurdity is perplexing.[9] It destroys attempts at understanding, and instead means that intelligent and pleasant human beings are neatly categorised alongside Stalin, Mao and Harriet Harman. This is clearly insufferable. The USSR was left wing, as are both China and Cuba. If that sentence incensed you, good. Direct your fury at the terminology, not its critic. Under the hopelessly nebulous definitions of the left, all three nations fit into the category; they all pursued a vision of society where the means of production were altered in order to advance a (however deluded) idea of democracy. These are state-capitalist, authoritarian basket cases, but they are also of the left.

These are the bones of the left’s skeleton, an osteological form steadfast in its refusal to be returned to the cupboard. Of course the past is not merely an embarrassment for the left, its obscurity offers refuge too. A leftist can look behind themselves and see Diggers, Luddites, Chartists, Communards, Suffragettes, Black Panthers, Stonewallers, Zapatistas, Pussy Rioters, Occupiers, or the countless millions who were too busy fighting to think of a name. It is an insult, however, to take these human lives, rich in suffering and costly victories, and lump them with some of the very people they were struggling against.

The left today is splintered, yet resistant to disunity. The idea that those who apologise rape for the SWP, torture for the WRP or statism for the SP are part of the same movement which unceasingly criticises them is deluded.[10] The party form upon which the SWP, WRP, SP and all of the other muddles of sovietised letters depends is based on an oxymoron. “Democratic centralism” is a contradiction dressed up an ideology, an impossibility arrogant enough to wear its dissonance as a name. [11] The idea that a narrow party can blossom into a mass movement, then bear fruit as a government for the masses is pure fantasy. The structures of the bureaucratised tyrant lie sleeping within the smallest cadre.

Even in the party stage the organisation of top-down governance is the midwife to authoritarianism. The SWP’s reaction to the rape of one if its members by a high ranking party official exemplifies this truth. The central committee carried out its own investigations, and delivered the inevitable verdict; “innocent”.[12] When faced with criticism from within the party, the committee laid down its zero-tolerance attitude to dissent, which presented an opportunity to compare it to their exceedingly liberal attitude to sexual assault. Comrades were purged for offences as serious as discussing the leadership on Facebook, or forming factions fully endorsed by party rules.[13] The subsequent deterioration of the party is depressing in that those who left in disgust represent a minority. That a section of the left is willing to forget rape in pursuit of party discipline is testament to the necessity of never letting these people come close to power.

Currently the left seeks to reanimate itself though the pursuit of unity. The social democratic wing will continue its deification of the people’s assembly, whilst the revolutionary left experiments with left unity. Though both warrant a full examination, in passing one can remark on the delusions inherent in both. The people’s assembly is formed around a base of Labourites, Greens and Trade Unionists. These groups have relatively little interest in the people, and presumably use the term “assembly” in the primary school, rather than radically political sense. The revolutionary left meanwhile seeks unity. One needs to only look back at previous Trotskyist unity experiments to predict the result.

We need an alternative to “The Alternative”. Unity is a false idol, the desire for “one” in  the left is that of the principle of negation;

“the negation of all singularities, of all singularities, of all pluralities. One is an empty abstraction… One is the enemy.”[14]

The pursuit of unity is to desperately chase our own nemesis. Fuck that. There are not seven classes, only two.[15]  One is our enemy, and one is us. What more unity do we need? We need solidarity, we need people organising within the struggle rather than trying to organise it into one cohesive whole. The struggle shall be disparate, amorphous, discursive. It will intersect more times than the threads of a spiders web, and find the infinite strength that brings, it will ensnare any and all and care for them despite it. We don’t need parties, we need bodies. We need people willing to stand on picket lines, protect occupations, block evictions but we also need those who can explain why the evictions will continue, why the occupations and picket lines are not actions atomised in history. There can be no struggle without education, but not the teaching of the school room. It is essential we have education as mutual aid, the exchange and sharing of learning without recognising any hierarchy.

“Let a thousand machines of life, art, solidarity and action sweep away the stupid and sclerotic arrogance of the old organisations”.[16]

To progress in the pursuit of the total emancipation of humanity, the left must liberate itself from itself. It is time to free ourselves from the tyranny of obscurity and go forth either unlabelled or more truthfully described. Before the 1780s, “the left” did not exist, yet the world was not one of unquestioning obedience to authority and unchallenged oppression. The old forms which typify the established left will not help us, the war for the future will must be fought against hierarchies, not from within them. We must atomise to unionise, divide to multiply, break apart to discover form with true potential. Friends, let us smash the left, from its rubble we can build barricades.


[6]. T. Ball and R. Bellamy (eds.) The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought Lukes, Steven. ‘Epilogue: The Grand Dichotomy of the Twentieth Century’  .p.7

[7] Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002) p.17

[8] Ibid. p.17

[9] Owen Jones, “Chavs, The Demonisation of the British Working Class”.

[14] Antonio Negri and Anne Dufourmantelle, trans M.B. Devoise, Negri on Negri (Routledge, New York, 2004) p.165

[16] Toni Negri, Felix Guattari, Communists Like Us, (Semiotext, New York, 1990) p.132

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson October 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

We must disorganize more before we can organize? No thanks, speak for yourself. ‘Cast down your buckets where you are,’ deal with the instruments history has put in front of you, reshape them for the present and the future. In brief, as Joe Hill put it, ‘Don’t mourn, organize!’ Now get off your butts and talk to your neighbors.

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Anthony Shull October 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Carl, it’s a lot easier to whine than it is to talk to strangers.

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Pavel Dubrovsky October 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

The author was involved in the Occupation at Sussex and wrote this after those experiences. I think you should quit the silly ad homs when you know nothing about the person and engage on the content.

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Harriet Logan October 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Automnia is exprssing a sentiment here that many frustratred people on the Left have.and share with her Automnia is talking to strangers so she is doing a little bit more than just ‘whining’ about her assessment of the sad state of the Left.

Automnia is exprssing a feeling of complete hopelessness. I agree with Carl that that sentiment doesn’t really get us anywhere though. It’s a completely understandable feeling but still one that doesn’t advance us forward.

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:22 am

This isnt whining, this is a call to rip shit down.

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Anthony Shull October 21, 2013 at 1:35 am

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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Jeff K. October 21, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I sure don’t. “Ripping down” the left? Sounds like a fascist wet dream. I’m sure they would be thrilled to know that there are actual anticapitalists willing to help them.

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Cel West October 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

See, it’s not strangers who are rapey, racist cunts. It’s that guy down the pub. It might be you. (Hint: it is you)

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sartesian October 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Hooray for Carl! Sure. Only a cad, an ungrateful cur would stoop so low as to point out that Carl’s words lose their luster, and become a little less inspiring, when you realize that when he’s talking about “instruments of history” he means the Democratic Party, “progressives,” professional trade union bureaucrats, congressional representatives, and other assorted fans of capital– which capital, as he has told us, will be around for a long long time and will be part of the construction of Carl’s new society. Carl’s new society, of course, will do nothing but mimic the old.

Guess that ungrateful cur is me.

Could be when automnia is talking about the “fucked left” they have Carl in mind specifically. Not sure. Just saying..

There’s infinitely more potential in automnia’s venting, its spleen, than in Carl’s shilling for the the church of the latter day”roll up your sleeves and get to work” saints…. as the object, the goal of Carl’s flag waving is the same old same old popular front.

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Carl Davidson October 20, 2013 at 1:33 am

Goodness, someone give Sartesian a hug. I suggest talking to your neighbors, in my case the working class all around me, as a good cure for being frustrated, and he goes on a rant, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. I just spent the day talking with a few hundred or so of the 10,000 of so young members of the ‘precariat’ at the Powershift convergence in Pittsburgh, and came back quite inspired and energized by the new generation of fighters. Try it out…

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sartesian October 20, 2013 at 2:10 am

Wow, that is so wonderful Carl, because we know, first and foremost you being inspired and energized is so important, is of the utmost importance.

Here’s the thing, Carl, it’s about content, you know, substance, you know. So the issue is not how you felt, but the content of your interaction.

I think there is more potential in automnia’s nihilistic evaluation of the left.

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Carl Davidson October 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I agree, Sartesian. I wasn’t the one who started this by venting subjective feelings about ‘the left is fucked’ and then defending it. I offered a simple cure. As for substance, I spent my day at Powershift discussing Marx, socialism and the ecological crisis, and how to deal with contradictions among the workers at ‘ground zero’ for fracking’ here in Western PA. Had a great time, and I’m off to do it again today. Funny, though, that 10,000 young rebels have gathered, and there are only two socialist tables up, CCDS (mine) and the ISO. Everyone else has missed out. Too gloomy over whether ‘the left is fucked,’ I suppose.

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Aaron Aarons October 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm

It certainly makes sense for anti-capitalists, Marxist or not, to be there with their own propaganda. But there’s not much benefit from the presence of those who invoke Marx and socialism in order to reinforce the legalistic reformism of the great majority of those attending such a conference, including the organizers.

How much, BTW, how much were they charging for tabling, and were there rules that might have excluded some radical leftists?

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sartesian October 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Except Carl, automnia is not “venting subjective feelings.” He/she it are using the language of disgust to emphasis what is in fact an historical evaluation. Now you can disagree with that historical evaluation, but to not be able to see it is an ideological blindness, not a critical, Marxist response.

This:

“The desire to protect or perpetuate such a clear absurdity is perplexing.[9] It destroys attempts at understanding, and instead means that intelligent and pleasant human beings are neatly categorised alongside Stalin, Mao and Harriet Harman. This is clearly insufferable. The USSR was left wing, as are both China and Cuba. If that sentence incensed you, good.
Direct your fury at the terminology, not its critic. Under the
hopelessly nebulous definitions of the left, all three nations fit into the category; they all pursued a vision of society where the means of production were altered in order to advance a (however deluded) idea of democracy. These are state-capitalist, authoritarian basket cases, but they are also of the left.

These are the bones of the left’s skeleton, an osteological form steadfast in its refusal to be returned to the cupboard. Of course the past is not merely an embarrassment for the left, its obscurity offers refuge too. A leftist can look behind themselves and see Diggers, Luddites, Chartists, Communards, Suffragettes, Black Panthers, Stonewallers, Zapatistas, Pussy Rioters, Occupiers, or the countless
millions who were too busy fighting to think of a name. It is an insult,however, to take these human lives, rich in suffering and costly victories, and lump them with some of the very people they were struggling against.

The left today is splintered, yet resistant to disunity. The idea
that those who apologise rape for the SWP, torture for the WRP or statism for the SP are part of the same movement which unceasingly criticises them is deluded.[10] The party form upon which the SWP, WRP, SP and all of the other muddles of sovietised letters depends is based on an oxymoron. “Democratic centralism” is a contradiction dressed up an ideology, an impossibility arrogant enough to wear its dissonance as a name. [11] The idea that a narrow party can blossom into a mass movement, then bear fruit as a government for the masses is pure fantasy. The structures of
the bureaucratised tyrant lie sleeping within the smallest cadre.”

is a political, social, material critique, not a cry of anguish. It is an articulation of rebellion against what the author(s) regard as a continuum, so to speak, of repression, where the “left” serves to destroy the prospects for revolution. If the language includes anguish– it’s historically determined anguish– and certainly requires something other than the “Up with People” response you offer.

And that’s why I think auomnia’s “spleen” such that it is, is of greater potential, and greater importance, than the support and applause offered to that apotheosis of the “fucked left” called a popular front.

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

Thank you, its good to know that you can rely on the kindness of at least some strangers :)

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

Thank you, its good to know that you can rely on the kindness of at least some strangers :)

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:07 am

Thank you for your comment Mr Davidson, audacious if not perspicacious. However, sadly it appears you have failed to grasp the main tenets of the article you are apparently so disgusted by. My argument is precisely that we must seize whatever tools we can and make them our weapons. The organisations I have encountered in my time have all been rigidly set against this. If you are actually involved in activism, I am sure you will know that most contemporary leftist groups have no interest whatsoever in supporting real struggle. Trade union bureaucrats scab on their members, student unions ignore student occupations, Trotskyists let fascists march and instead aid cops in the arrest of antifa. Sexism, racism and transphobia are endemic, oppression comes from our “comrades” as much as our overlords. This article was the product of a year of struggle and organising, in which my comrogues and I were fucked over again and again by people we thought were on our side. This ceaseless betrayal was the reason I wrote Left for Dead. If you think we can achieve anything with the organisations we have at the moment, then you and I are on different sides.

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Carl Davidson October 21, 2013 at 1:32 am

We work with the human material at hand, warts and all, including our own. And whatever the errors of our egos and mistakes, they pale in comparison to those of our main adversaries. Learn the spirituals of the Southern civil rights movement. Let you ‘little lights shine,’ and the darkness recedes, and fear along with it. Then you find the strength to ‘keep on keepin’ on’.

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Aaron Aarons October 20, 2013 at 4:45 am

[I was just reminded of another reason to hate Disqus when I lost a comment I had been writing, but I have mostly reconstructed it here.]

Autonmia makes the same mistake it criticizes by treating ‘The Left’ as an entity. One can accept that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ have meaning in describing political polarizations based on more or less support for social and economic equality. Thus there was a ‘left wing’ of the NSDAP (until it was wiped out in the Night of the Long Knives), although it would have been considered right-wing by most of those regarded as ‘left’ then or after. One can also speak of left wings inside bourgeois parties like the Democrats without regarding them as part of the left one might try to unite with (even while one tries to win over portions of their support base).

There are not seven classes, only two. One is our enemy, and one is us. What more unity do we need?

Nonsense! While one can define ‘class’ in such a way as to divide humanity into just two classes, it is not a useful division, and is usually done in such a way as to obscure the material conflict between proletarians and middle strata, both of those groups overlapping with the ‘working class’.

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:16 am

There are two classes, and nothing you can say will overcome that material reality. One group is forced to sell its labour-power so that it may continue to reproduce itself, the other is not. These classes are not monolithic, and, like intricate timepieces, contain a thousand struggles within them. This does not make them any less real, or any less antagonistic.

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Carl Davidson October 21, 2013 at 1:27 am

There are three modern classes–workers, self-employed small producers and capitalists. There are some left over from earlier periods, landlords, sharecroppers and such. But for the most part, there are these three, ‘be their payment high or low.’ to use Marx’s phrase.

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sartesian October 21, 2013 at 2:51 am

Christ on a crutch… there are still artisans, still some peasantry, subsistence agricultural producers, blahblahblah– none of that matters. Really.

What matters is THE DOMINANT MODE OF PRODUCTION, which is industrial capitalism. Consequently, the classes that really matter are the classes that personify that dominant mode of production– which is to say bourgeoisie and proletariat; capitalists and working class. Get it?

And one class, because it, in its existence as the expression of the social organization of labor power, is the DETERMINANT of that dominant mode of production. That’s the working class.

And because that class is the DETERMINANT, it is also the NEGATION of the dominant mode of production.

Doesn’t mean we ignore everything and everybody else. Does mean we get rid of all this JUNK, this clutter, that finds expression in “vanguards” “peoples’ fronts” “peasant based armies” ad nauseum ad infinitum.

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Aaron Aarons October 21, 2013 at 5:03 am

Every social revolution of the last 100 years or so, with the partial exception of the Russian Revolution and its military extensions, has been made possible by “peasant based armies”, even if their leaderships were nominally, and partly in reality, based on the industrial working class.

Of course, many comrades here don’t recognize that social revolutions have been made — even if in many cases (just as in Russia) later reversed — in China, Vietnam, Cuba, et al.. Which is ironic, considering that many, if not most, are willing to consider the slaveholders’ revolt of the 1770’s to be a bourgeois-democratic revolution despite its glaring violations of bourgeois-democratic principles, but refuse to recognize the socialist or proletarian character of less tarnished socialist or proletarian revolutions.

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sartesian October 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Slaveholding was no obstacle to developing capitalism no more than the “improving landlords” of England in the 17th, 18th, centuries were obstacles to capitalism.

I don’t know what you call the US events in 1776, I call it a war for independence. It was hardly a social revolution. While slavery certainly dominated the nascent US economy, there were other elements emerging and the 1812 war and its aftermath provided a big impulse to the expansion of capitalist agriculture….soon thereafter, by 1818 the alliance between the slaveholders-merchant encounters growing resistance in both New England and the new Northwest.

In any case, neither France in its capitalist revolution, the US in its war for independence saw or produced the deliberate destruction of the foundations of requirements for the “ascendant’ class’s exercise of economic, social power.

Not so the case in Russia after 1918; not so the case in China; not so the case everywhere and anywhere the Stalinist system expanded.

Acknowledging that the revolution was defeated does not mean that the revolution was ever successful– represented more than an interruption to, and a transition to the restoration, imposition of capitalism.

What some might call successful social revolutions were in fact an extension of the Stalinist system. Maybe that counts as a victory for the proletarian revolution for you. Not for me. The war in Vietnam occurred because of the Soviet support for the defeat of the workers in 1937 and again in 1945.

So you get a war after that that kills what? almost 3 million Vietnamese– over 30 years; and then when the US pulls out and the old regime collapses, that’s supposed to count as a victory for “social revolution”? And then 15 years later that so-called social revolution begins to unwind itself directly into the network of international capital? With “victories” like that, who needs defeats?

It’s a complicated issue, but it sure isn’t resolved or clarified by calling those formations “workers states” or imagining them as products of the proletariat’s revolution.

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Aaron Aarons October 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

Despite the counter-revolutionary actions of the Vietminh in 1945, the social revolution in the countryside started around that time or not long afterwards, so it didn’t begin to unwind until 45 years after it started, not 15. And, yes, almost 3 million Vietnamese died as a result of the counter-revolutionary U.S. war against Vietnam, and the country was left ecologically devastated and economically embargoed. The fact that the U.S. could get away with that is a reflection on us in the U.S. and in other countries where there were U.S. targets (military bases, embassies, consulates, businesses, etc.) that could and should have been attacked but rarely were. (Even the Weather Underground was limited by its commitment not to kill or even injure anybody.)

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sartesian October 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

What social revolution started in 1945 in the countryside? The one that restored the plantations to the colonists after the Japanese were defeated. What social revolution in the countryside established power and organized production?

The revolution in the countryside started long before 1945, with various peasant revolts and the actual establishment of peasant soviets and communes in 1931.

To argue that a “social revolution” started at the same time that in fact a social revolution was being defeated BY the official Big C communists who, suppressing strikes, breaking up workers’ militias, arresting and executing militants, proclaimed “ours is a bourgeois democratic revolution” and acquiesced to British occupation, is, almost, madness.

It is the peculiar dead end of “latter day Trotskyism” that sees, a “social revolution” occurring while the workers’ own organizations are crushed, and fashions from that defeat some twisted dialectic of “progress.”

It’s that type of disavowal of reality that makes automnia’s remarks seem so appropriate.

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Aaron Aarons October 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I don’t have time to deal with the complexity of social struggle and social change that occurred in Vietnam from the 1930’s to the 1960’s and after, with the Stalinists maneuvering in Bonapartist fashion between the working class and imperialism.

However, please don’t accuse me of being an advocate of abstract “progress”.

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sartesian October 24, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Guilty conscience? I said it’s the peculiar dead end of “latter day Trotskyism.” I have no idea what your political affiliation is.

That being said, it’s more important that you not give credence to the myth of a social revolution taking root in the countryside in 1945 while the Stalinists are paving the way for the return of the French colonizers.

Aaron Aarons October 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

sartesian writes:

What matters is THE DOMINANT MODE OF PRODUCTION, which is industrial capitalism. Consequently, the classes that really matter are the classes that personify that dominant mode of production– which is to say bourgeoisie and proletariat; capitalists and working class. Get it?

No, as a matter of fact, I don’t ‘get it’ because I don’t see any evidence to back up this assertion, or to demonstrate the usefulness of that conceptual framework.
sartesian continues:

And one class, because it, in its existence as the expression of the social organization of labor power, is the DETERMINANT of that dominant mode of production. That’s the working class.

And because that class is the DETERMINANT, it is also the NEGATION of the dominant mode of production.

Sorry, but this is just a lot of Hegelian, “dialectical”, verbiage that has been repeated, in one form or another, by thousands of “Marxist” intellectuals. It doesn’t actually prove anything. In fact, maybe the working class is not the NEGATION, but the AFFIRMATION, of the capitalist mode of production?

I’m curious, BTW, if Rosa Lichtenstein, who criticizes “dialectical materialism” as an abstraction without much in the way of concrete examples of the thinking she is criticizing, would agree with me, sartesian, or neither of us on this point.

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sartesian October 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Try reading Marx, Capital Vol 1; Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864. You’re ignorance is appalling.

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Aaron Aarons October 31, 2013 at 6:02 am

I have a great deal of respect for Marx as a social thinker. But I am not a “Marxist” in the sense of referring to Marx as the ultimate authority on questions of political economy or any other topic.

What is really appalling is the belief that whatever Hegelian formulas Marx wrote 150 years ago are somehow going to lead us today in the urgent struggle to save humanity and the biosphere from destruction by capitalist predation.

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sartesian October 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I guess this is where the conversation needs to end. I don’t think Marx is the “ultimate authority” because his name is “Marx.” I think his critique of capital, of capital’s immanent conflicts, of its organization as a social relation of production, of its dependency, indeed identity with wage-labor is the most thorough and accurate critique of capital.

It’s not the “Hegelian phrases” that makes Marx’s critique the AUTHORITATIVE critique– it’s the fact, actually the facts, that that critique actually describes how capital does reproduce itself and MUST reproduce itself in the current world that makes it an authoritative, and enduring, analysis.

So if there’s something in Marx’s critique that you think does not apply today, please feel free to provide that, and the supporting evidence from the real processes of accumulation that will support your “exceptions.”

Meanwhile, everything that’s been produced here in opposition to Automnia’s disgust with the left, his/her characterization of it as an agent of recuperation, only validates his/her assertions.

What hasn’t been dishonest in opposition to his/her arguments has been simply ignorant.

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Aaron Aarons November 1, 2013 at 7:09 am

So if there’s something in Marx’s critique that you think does not apply today, please feel free to provide that, and the supporting evidence from the real processes of accumulation that will support your “exceptions.”

On the contrary! If you want to assert that Marx’s analysis, or your interpretation of it, can serve as a guide to the liberation of humanity from the capitalist devastation that has continued and accelerated since Marx’s time, despite over a century of failure of those who claim to base themselves on Marx to achieve anything that you or automnia would call “success”, it’s your job to provide the argument and evidence for such an assertion.

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sartesian November 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

As I said, this is where the conversation ends. You make assertions about “socialist” revolutions, but can’t take the time to discuss the “complexities” of the actual struggles, as in Vietnam.

You make assertions about the history of the Atlantic slave trade, but “don’t have access to your books,” so the sole reference you provide is from the Nation of Islam, hardly an authoritative, or objective, source..

There’s no point in this.

Aaron Aarons October 21, 2013 at 5:27 am

Maybe a worker making $100K a year and living in a comfortable house that isn’t even partially owned by any bank is in the same abstract class as a Bangladeshi garment worker who works 60-plus hours a week for the equivalent of less than $1k a year, but such a concept of class doesn’t clarify, but rather obscures, social reality.

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:16 am

There are two classes, and nothing you can say will overcome that material reality. One group is forced to sell its labour-power so that it may continue to reproduce itself, the other is not. These classes are not monolithic, and, like intricate timepieces, contain a thousand struggles within them. This does not make them any less real, or any less antagonistic.

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Nick Razumic October 20, 2013 at 11:50 am

I don’t see any reason for this kind of despair. The past few years have seen more left-wing struggles than any in my memory. We’re in a process of rebuilding, and things will continue to grow and develop in ways we can’t see or predict easily.

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automnia October 21, 2013 at 1:21 am

This is not really true, many of those struggling would not identify as “left-wing” for a start. Talk to the people in Gezi park or Syntagma Square and a large number of them will tell you that they have no faith in “the left”, for it has participated as much in their suffering as the conservative forces. Before we can rebuild, we must destroy those groups who attempt to dismantle anything as soon as we construct it. Also, if you are not a cis, white male there is excellent reason to despair in the left entirely.

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Aaron Aarons October 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

These struggles are generally “left-wing”, especially when they are against “the left” as it appears to exist.

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Jack Blair October 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm

“Also, if you are not a cis, white male there is excellent reason to despair in the left entirely.”

I dunno, I’m pretty much that and I’m pretty much done with this shit. I also have the benefit of trying to get a good job, so maybe its the whole “not having to work for whole foods so I can keep the cult going” factor plays into it.

Also considering the main backstabbing left group here in the U.S. isn’t run by a white dude, kinda puts that point moot man. Hell, the other is run by a South American Woman. You got some reason to be there when you’re not white, cis, or whatever.

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Jeff K. October 21, 2013 at 4:33 am

Woah, now. I don’t think setting out to “smash” the left-as-it-exists is the best way forward to advancing the struggle. If the left organizations aren’t offering a way forward, then we need to build new organizations and try new strategies. If some group finds a strategy that works, then other groups will come on board and those that don’t will become irrelevant to the struggle – this is what history has shown us will happen.

“The old forms of the left won’t work anymore,” is a refrain I hear quite often on the left. Why won’t they work anymore? What caused them to fail? I think if we really search hard for the answers to these questions, they may end up surprising us.

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sartesian October 21, 2013 at 5:19 am

Uh…….maybe they won’t work anymore because they never really did work from the getgo… you know if the task was the conquering of power globally, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the abolition of capital, the emancipation of labor?

Maybe it’s time to recognize that the types of formal organization– like the “party” or the “national front for…” or the “popular front” or..whatever… were inadequate to, are always going to be inadequate to, must be inadequate to the tasks, depth, of the struggle. That’s kind of inherent to the condition of the struggle, don’t you think? I mean if these forms were adequate from the getgo, then the class would already be in power, and the revolution would have either occurred or…..not be necessary or both….

So let’s give the the Enragés some credit for pointing out how the organizations claiming to be of, for, by the class, for the revolution have become the conduits for disorganizing the class struggle; how when taking power these organizations split/separate and oppose “economic development” to the emancipation of labor and so become historical analogues, and mimics, to/of the bourgeoisie and administrators of the impulses to capitalist development.

The article refers to specific examples, and general historical results and as such is much more materialist than the responses of its critics who provide little beyond moral finger-wagging.

Denouncing everything as inadequate at its best, and an obstacle at its least may not be a complete strategy for victory, but it’s a pretty good start.

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Jeff K. October 21, 2013 at 6:08 am

You sound like one of those kids who concludes that bicycling is impossible after he gets on a bike for the first time and flops over.

Everything has “failed” until it succeeds. The reason the working class hasn’t overthrown global capitalism yet isn’t because the party form is inadequate, it’s because the bourgeoisie defeated us because they were STRONGER. In fact, the only time anyone has ever overthrown a capitalist state or come close to it was in times and settings in which left wing parties, unions, etc were strong, well-organized, and could count on a mass base.

It’s true that there’s a lot of “old shit” (to use a Marxist phrase) that needs to be cut out of the anticapitalist movement, but we ought to be using a scalpel, not a butchers’ knife.

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sartesian October 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Everything has failed until it succeeds? That’s not a materialist analysis, that’s a pathology, a repetition compulsion. The point, I think, of the “left is fucked” piece is that the left itself is the failure, is the pathology, is the repetition compulsion.

The reason the bourgeoisie have defeated us is because they”re stronger? And of what exactly does that strength consist?

What made the bourgeoisie stronger in Spain in 1936? The military? Not hardly. Not a bit as a matter of fact. The popular front? Sure did. The Communist Party? Yep. The Socialist Party? yep again.

What made the bourgeoisie stronger than the revolution in Chile 1970-1973? The CIA or the Unidad Popular government? You make the call.

What’s made the bourgeoisie stronger in South Africa? The ANC?

Who broke the LIP strike in France? Who broke the dockworkers’ strikes in Marseille after WW2?

That’s (part of) what automnia is identifying as the “left” as opposed to the revolution which is identified with the workers in Spain, in Vietnam in 1937 and again in 1945, at the LIP plant, in Chile, Portugal, South Africa etc.

You want to line up with that left? And its current iterations? I don’t think so. Exactly what are you holding on to, what is so valuable about the current “left” organizations? Hundreds of thousands of workers? The whole point is those organizations have been, and are capable only of creating disasters for those workers. If you have evidence to the contrary, then go ahead and produce it.

Oh….and not to put too fine a point on it– a butcher’s knife IS a scalpel.

Me? I’m partial to hammers.

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Jeff K. October 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm

What makes the bourgeoisie stronger? Partially their material wealth and their cultural hegemony, and partially their ability to pose as socialist and co-opt genuine revolutionary movements.

In Spain it was collaboration by the CNT and the radical socialists with the bourgeois government, coupled with the betrayal of the CP because it was following the orders of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Oh and the fascists pretty much DID have the military advantage.

In the other cases you listed, it was social democrats (hardly the left) or radical organizations co-opted by bourgeois elements because the working class base was unable to maintain control over its own organizations. In other words, betrayals of leadership.

The solution is not to build organizations without leaders (which is impossible), it’s to keep the leadership accountable to the base by guaranteeing open debate and ease of recallability.

If you really want to get rid of the current milieu of left organizations, you have to build something better first. To smash what exists without having a superior alternative in place would amount to reaction.

By the way, are you a member of the Platypus Society? Or some kind of anarchist?

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sartesian October 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Read your own answer again:

“What makes the bourgeoisie stronger? Partially their material wealth and their cultural hegemony, ”

Hmmm…….well the bourgeoisie are always going to have greater wealth (not always material, but certainly abstract– the means to command greater material wealth) and greater cultural hegemony……until they don’t, until they’re overthrown.

“and partially their ability to pose as socialist and co-opt genuine revolutionary movements”

You know, that sounds a lot like, or at least part of, a corollary to automnia’s argument. What are you, a member of the Platypus Society? Some kind of Anarchist?

I am neither by the way. Jason in another thread said he thought I was some sort of left communist, and I’ll accept that as close enough.

“The other cases” were not all nor only the “betrayal” of social democrats. Lots and lots of left organizations, stalinist, trotskyist, maoist, castro-ist, guevera-ist, etc have been involved.

Now you can take the standard line of Trotskyists that the “crisis of humanity reduces itself to the crisis of the proletarian leadership” and that might be OK, but it begs the question as to how those organizations which you claim are essential, important actually work, and if they work at all, other than as a means of disrupting, disorganizing, and destroying the prospects for revolution– which is exactly the question automnia is asking, and for which he/she/it/they deserve credit, and the class deserves an answer.

As for riding bicycles, being doing that for some 60 years..never had a problem getting back on when I fell off– BUT always made sure the bicycle had wheels that would stay on, a chain that wouldn’t break, and would go where I wanted it to go.

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Jack Blair October 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm

As much a I agree with the sentiment, I really hate the poetic shit. God that style of writing irritates me. Seriously, I want to punch you so bad for those pretentious-ass sentences in quotations.

but I digress,

People get very angry when people mention how shitty the political left is. The only thing we’re good for are fighting nazis and keeping stores that sell shitty things (from coffee to furniture that should have become woodchips, and books that quote wikipedia. Seriously, Sherry Wolf quotes wikipedia in Sexuality and socialism. people pay $20 for that).

The idea the shitty left groups need to die is not this whole concession to fascism thing, or whatever people are freaking out about. It’s being sick of old fucks that steal kid’s money to run a crappy publishing company. Almost every left group has this (ok maybe not anarchists, AK Press actually runs itself fairly, from what I can tell) . They sit around, go to some protest, sometimes accomplish some good things (ISO’s work on the Death Penalty and the Teacher’s Strike), but in the end, build this fucking dead end.

That aspect is completely fucked.

But at the same time, Author guy here, Automina or whatever, doesn’t really bring up, they’re still a part of this thing. You think that what you are advocating isn’t some new group? You think that these groups, as shitty as they are, aren’t doing pickets? Magically, everything will be fine when all the left groups go the fuck away? Give me a fucking break man!

You ever heard of the Indignados? Or Occupy? They did that shit you asked for already! It didn’t work. Factions still arose and bickering quickly developed (here in chicago, arguments are what did us in) Unfortunately, organized groups accomplish things or join decentralized movements anyway. in revolution, It’s never been just an amorphous blob, there was always some kind of leadership. Sons of Liberty, Freemasons, Liberals, Bolsheviks, Clerics, it goes on. Even the Zapatistas have some level of leadership.

and what are you worried about as an Activist? Your struggles still will go on as long as the detritus exists. I mean, people have been fighting evictions, for labour rights, etc. for a long fucking time. New groups will arise when the old ones die. You think the SWP or the ISO just fell out of the sky? Nope, they came out of something. The groups you don’t like will go away once they lack a base for their ideas. it’s happened before. But the true believers will stay, and the group will be an old folk’s club. So even after the left groups get marginalized a group will still replace them.

The problem is that the Left (outside of the cults, bureaucracy, and power mongering, which you mentioned) can’t get out of it’s own self righteousness and admit/do things outside its code. It’s a subculture full of gen Xers, hippies, and now liberal upper middle class Millennials with money to burn. it’s a self perpetuating group that supports a lifestyle of activism rather than a political movment.

What does the left need to do? Grow up, Get a better job, and start talking to people outside it’s circles. and maybe unify, but really unify. Like sit down with the other leftists, discuss political actions like adults, and try and put forward some agenda, like any other political group. maybe that leads to “reformism” or whatever. But, doesn’t half of the activist shit have the same end?

BAH

I remain pessimistic, so Imma watch from the cheapseats and post shit like this when I’m bored.

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sartesian October 22, 2013 at 12:24 am

Whom are you addressing here. I don’t recall using a “poetic style,” so I figure you want to punch somebody else. If you want to punch me, that’s OK too, but you need to get the reason right and make it clear who and why.

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Cel West October 22, 2013 at 9:43 am

We’re ” liberal upper middle class Millennials with money to burn” who “need to get a better job”?

Go and bile your head. Articulacy and feminism don’t make me an “upper middle class liberal”.

I want to punch you.

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Aaron Aarons October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

sartesian writes:

Now you can take the standard line of Trotskyists that the “crisis of humanity reduces itself to the crisis of the proletarian leadership” and that might be OK, but it begs the question as to how those organizations which you claim are essential, important actually work, and if they work at all, other than as a means of disrupting, disorganizing, and destroying the prospects for revolution […]

Actually, the question it begs is this: what is a materialist (“historical” or otherwise!) explanation for this “crisis of leadership” that has lasted for at least a century despite the wide variety of solutions to this “crisis” that have been proposed and attempted? This question is far more of a challenge to sartesian and autonmia than it is to those, like me, who believe that, despite all the obstacles, (limited, bureaucratized) socialist revolutions have taken place in many parts of the world.

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sartesian October 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm

So, the fact that something is “a challenge” to explain is supposed to be criticism of its accuracy? The fact that you don’t think it’s a challenge to explain how the left has functioned in the recuperation of class struggle, in the defeat of revolutionary movements is an index to your own lack of understanding.

Socialist revolutions have taken place around the world? Fantastic. Socialist revolutions without the seizure of power by the working class? Even more fantastic. Not “socialism in one country” but “socialist revolution in one country”? Most fantastic of all.

I think if you look back at the first of these revolutions, you’ll see that it characterized itself as a proletarian, not a socialist, revolution.

That’s the significance of uneven and combined development: that there can be a proletarian revolution which is not immediately or directly socialist, if it is confined to the area of its origins where advanced capitalist relations have been fused with archaic relations of land and landed labor. To BECOME socialist (and that’s the key condition to Marx’s analysis — and one he took over from Hegel) what’s needed is the establishment of the proletarian power internationally. Hence while there can be a proletarian revolution, emerging as a moment in the overall international class struggle, that is NOT YET socialist, there can be NO socialist revolution that is not directly proletarian.

Those of us who think Marx was serious when he talked about the IMMANENT conflicts of capitalism being a conflict between labor and the CONDITION of labor think he was serious when he argued that the very condition that augments capital accumulation, that DETERMINES the historical specificity of capitalism– labor power organized as a commodity for the production of value– is exactly that condition, labor power as a commodity for the production of value, the becomes the NEGATION of capitalism and can abolish capitalism, which is again, the condition of labor power as a commodity for the production of value.

Don’t care if you call it dialectics, or “schmialectics”– that specific condition of labor is the basis for Marx’s critique of capital and his insistence of the need for its overthrow.

Tell me something Aaron, have you ever read Marx?

Anyway, the more you write, the more you validate automnia’s thesis.

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Aaron Aarons October 31, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I became convinced of the need to/and or desirability of destroying capitalism back in 1956, before I ever read Marx, although I have read several thousand pages of Marx’s writings, and many thousands of pages of writings by various Marxists, since then. My opposition to the continued existence of capitalism has little to do with your explanation, however correct it may be, of “the basis for Marx’s critique of capital and his insistence of the need for its overthrow”. In fact, I see little evidence from the social struggles of the last 165 years (since 1848) to validate the idea that the waged working class as such is, or embodies, the negation of Capital, although sections of that class — particularly those who are genuinely exploited — are certainly essential to achieving that negation.

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Cel West October 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

Hint: the answer is you

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Aaron Aarons October 23, 2013 at 1:28 am

Automnia concludes:

To progress in the pursuit of the total emancipation of humanity, the left must liberate itself from itself.

To make any progress in the emancipation of the oppressed majority of humanity, or even to stop imperialist capitalism from making the world worse day by day for most living beings, the left must liberate itself from such nonsense as “the pursuit of the total emancipation of humanity”, as well as from the opposite delusion, that there can be long-term betterment of the condition of humanity and the ecosystem without the virtual elimination of capitalist domination.

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sartesian October 23, 2013 at 4:21 am

Really? You think pursuing the total emancipation of humanity, which means the emancipation of all human beings FROM privation, misery, exploitation, oppression, discrimination, bigotry, and TO a “free association of free producers” is nonsense?

That’s odd…. I mean I find the prospect for that, just the articulation of that possibility positively energizing. You think the language is over the top? Actually, I think it’s a deliberate attempt to recapture and link to the terms of expression and the passionate content of Marx’s writings– his introduction to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right; parts of the German Ideology; the Economic Manuscripts–not the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, but the Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864 which hold various iterations of the themes expounded in Capital..

And it’s not like we haven’t hear that language before– and the users of that language have made some pretty decent contributions to revolutionary critique and revolutionary practice. Check out France ’68; the Hot Autumn in Italy… .

Yep, I think that “nonsense”– the complete emancipation of all– pretty much describes what’s at stake, in both its utopian and scientific aspects.

What I think is interesting is how offended, and threatened so many feel when somebody does exactly what Marx said to do: subject everything to merciless criticism.

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Aaron Aarons October 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

It’s fine if people are motivated to struggle in “the pursuit of the total emancipation of humanity”, just as others are motivated by the desire to create the “kingdom of heaven on earth”. But it becomes problematic when the pursuit of total emancipation becomes an excuse to not only criticize (mercifully or otherwise) limited accomplishments and the policies that limit them unnecessarily, but to fail to defend such limited accomplishments against the main enemies, i.e., against those who would defend and extend the domination of rapacious capital.

I’m thinking in particular of the Cuban revolution and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese revolution and even the social overturns brought about by the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, all of which I would defend against capitalist restoration, unlike those “leftists” and “post-leftists” who don’t see such societies worth defending.

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sartesian October 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

However, the total emancipation is exactly what Marx was writing about, and developing a scientific,not a religious basis, for.

Your noble sentiments about defending the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe against capitalist restoration become a tad less noble when and if we can comprehend 1) that occupation set back the prospects for socialist revolution by decades 2) that occupation led to, created the conditions for, and administered capitalist restoration itself 3)unlike those “leftists” who defended that occupation, the working class itself found little, if anything, worth defending.

I think in the context of class analysis, of historical materialism, you’re the one with the religious, idealistic, irrational, and anti-revolutionary argument, not automnia.

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Jeff K. October 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

So the workers didn’t see anything worth defending in that system? Why is it that nearly 80% of voters in the first referendum in the history of the USSR voted to preserve the union? What about the workers who built barricades to protect the supreme soviet from Yeltsin’s coup in August 1993?

See, the workers in the former Eastern Bloc had a much more intelligent view of their political-economic system than you seem to have. They understood state/party control of the economy wasn’t as ideal as genuine democratic control, but it was light-years ahead of the anarchic nature of private property and free markets. And they fought to preserve it.

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sartesian October 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm

What about it? What about the workers who took over the coal mines to protest the cancellation of rest days after Jaruzelski’s “autogulpe” and whom the state/party controllers of the economy proceeded to drown by flooding the mines? Were those workers fighting to preserve the “state party” control of the economy, or were they fighting to protect their living standards and their lives?

Why did Jaruzelski who was the supposed pro-Soviet hardliner who certainly attempted to clamp down on the supposed capitalist restorationists in/of Solidarity, cancel the rest days and demand 7 day a week production? Why so he could export the coal and use the revenue to service the debt.

So tell me again how the state/party control was light years ahead of private property when in fact the state party control served the private property, accommodated and facilitated capitalist relations of production throughout its existence.

Opposing the state/party control of the economy, which control in fact administered the impulse to capitalist restoration is not the same thing as endorsing private property or free markets.

Endorsing private property, in various shapes and form, whether internationally or internally was precisely the role of the bureaucracy.

Nor is supporting the class struggle, the workers’ struggle under the conditions that existed in Eastern Europe or the fSU require defense of the “state/party economy.” Conflating that struggle with that “defense” is exactly why capitalism triumphs.

The historical materialist fact of the matter is that the economic formation inaugurated by the Russian Revolution was in fact “finished” in the defeat of that revolution– a proletarian revolution not being simply a change in “property forms” that facilitates “development”– but requiring the emancipation of labor– that kind of total, complete PROCESS for emancipating labor that is dismissed so out of hand by some, who think that defending a “state party” economy is an adequate substitute for advancing that emancipation. In fact, the “state party” economy functions as a substitute, as an analogue to capitalism.

In country after country the economic/social basis for the restoration of capitalism was constructed by the “state/party economy,” and that construction included indeed was organized around subjugation of the working class.

When the end came, despite the formal, and forms, of organization of the work class, despite the colossal size of unions etc– what was the response? What was the organized response of the working class as a class?

I don’t think your trying to peddle any nostalgia for Stalinism here, but you really need to come to grips with fact that the “property forms” — the economic organization of labor– in the fSU was not “healthy,” was not “revolutionary.” These were the products of the revolution in isolation, in extremely backward conditions, where the economic conditions were dictated by interactionswith the world market because that’s the only international “path” that was available.

The property forms were developed after the dispossession and dismantling of the soviets; after the repression of workers; after the devastation of the countryside by civil war. That the “state/party” economy or property can be considered, at core, “healthy” under such conditions amounts to a complete disavowal of historical materialism.

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Aaron Aarons October 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

I’ve been searching for any reference to striking miners being drowned by the flooding of the mines and can’t find anything coming close. There was an incident where 9 striking miners were killed by paramilitary police at Wujek, but the closest thing to “drowning” was the use of water cannons, which had nothing to do with the actual deaths, which were the result of shootings.

Moreover, if the government had wanted to increase coal production, flooding the mines would have been a very bad way to go about it.

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sartesian October 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Pumps, Aaron, pumps. Coal mines require continuous pumping to remove water. You turn off the pumps. You bring in fire trucks with high pressure hoses. After you break the strike, you turn the pumps back on and pump the water out. .

I’ll track down the source. Meanwhile, let’s remove the water torture and replace it with “brutal repression.” Think you’ll find lots of references to that.

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sartesian October 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm

All I can find on the web are references to “brutal military suppression” (WSWS website, Sept 2, 2013–“25 years ago” for one)… so I’ll withdraw the flooding remark and stick with “brutal military repression,” which followed upon Jaruzelski’s decision to draft into the military any miner on strike– and sending in the Zomos to break demonstrations.

If I find the reference in the clippings I have from old “left” papers I have, I’ll reproduce it for you.

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Bezdan Razuma October 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Just to comment on this precious bit about “Negrist” crap, do notice the rather old fashioned and blunt statement in the article – there are only two classes. Now, anyone who is even remotely familiar with “Multitude” and so on will know that this is quite far from Negri’s current thought. So, the person is either deliberately slinging mud in the hope of associating the author of the article with Negri, or has no fucking clue whatsoever what they’re talking about.

As far as the article goes, yeah I agree to a large extent, especially on the imbecile notion and attempts at Left Unity. The point is not that historical contingencies became obstacles to the revolution by means of the Popular Front or the United (political) Front. The point is that the approach is self-defeating, IF one considers revolutionary rhetoric as an honest statement of goals, inherently self-defeating. One would say, the last barrier of capital and its rule. So, yeah, those who perpetuate this nonsense today are either total ignoramuses or actually incapable to studying history. Anyway, the idiocy of the “compulsion to repetition” and a good dose of “safety in numbers”, among other things.

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Aaron Aarons October 30, 2013 at 7:55 am

The Stalinists objectively paved the way for the return of the French colonizers by allowing the British in supposedly to accept the surrender of the Japanese troops there, and by murdering some of the most militant working-class fighters. But, despite that, they never gave the French what they wanted, but fought and defeated them. There was most definitely a social revolution, however bureaucratically controlled, in Vietminh territory, just as there was in every country where Stalinists took power rather than joining a government to manage the existing capitalist state (as they did in France and Italy).

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sartesian October 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm

You simply do not know what you are talking about. There was a social revolution in 1945, and it was defeated by the actions of the Stalinists. The French got exactly what they wanted, which was their sovereignty over Vietnam. It was 9 years later that, after defeating the French military, the Stalinists agreed to the partition of Vietnam, with French interests protected in the south by the US.

At the same time, Ho’s forces worked diligently to defeat workers’ autonomous organizations, and communes, that had developed in the north during the struggle against the French.

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Aaron Aarons October 31, 2013 at 7:02 am

Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to my books for a couple of years now, so I can’t look up things I read that aren’t on line. But I do recall that there was a widespread, militant strike movement in South Vietnam in the last few months of 1945, and that it was suppressed by both the imperialists and the Stalinists. But, even if the Stalinists had not played a role in its suppression, that movement would still have been too weak to take power. It probably would have required the active support of the Stalinists, with their peasant army coming down from the North, to do so.

Also, it would be useful to have more specific information, including dates, about the “workers’ autonomous organizations, and communes, that had developed in the north during the struggle against the French.”

[Thanks to the Edit function in these comments, I can postpone the rest of my points till after I get some sleep. A happy Halloween to all and to all a good night.]

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sartesian October 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm

The Stalinists had NO peasant army to “come down from the North” in 1945.

“Even if the Stalinists had not played a role in its suppression….” that movement, or the movement in Spain, or the movement in France, or that in Chile or that anywhere would… what? Be too weak to take power? Well so much for your “leadership crisis” theory.

So… we get this: only with the leadership of the Stalinists can a “socialist revolution” take power. Gee, that’s some socialism you got there.

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sartesian October 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm

The Stalinists had NO peasant army to “come down from the North” in 1945.

“Even if the Stalinists had not played a role in its suppression….” that movement, or the movement in Spain, or the movement in France, or that in Chile or that anywhere would… what? Be too weak to take power? Well so much for your “leadership crisis” theory.

So… we get this: only with the leadership of the Stalinists can a “socialist revolution” take power. Gee, that’s some socialism you got there.

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Aaron Aarons November 1, 2013 at 5:54 am

I could be wrong about the size, class composition and geographical concentrations of the armed forces at the disposition of the Stalinists in late 1945. Feel free to enlighten us.

I do think Spain, at least, was a place where a proletarian seizure of power could have taken place against the wishes of the Stalinists, but it would have required a revolutionary leadership in place of the centrist POUM and FAI leaderships. And it would have needed to defend itself by a combination of methods, including sustained rural as well as urban guerrilla warfare, and not just or mainly the positional warfare as was mostly relied on in the war against Franco’s forces.

WTF are you referring to, BTW, when you write, “Well so much for your “leadership crisis” theory.” I think I am the one who has made the point, including on this page, that blaming everything on “the crisis of proletarian leadership” is idealism, not materialism.

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Aaron Aarons November 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm

First of all, this is not a “conversation” between you, sartesian, and me, Aaron Aarons, but a public discussion/debate that included your reactions to my criticisms of the article by automnia.

Regarding ‘the “complexities” of the actual struggles, as in Vietnam’, you have made a number of assertions about the struggles in Vietnam from the 1930’s through the 1990’s without, in most cases going beyond vague generalizations and, in no cases, giving any references.

As for my citation of a work by the Nation of Islam, here is what I wrote:

the question of the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade has been widely discussed and debated for decades, especially since the publication in 1991, by the Nation of Islam, of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.

And when you criticized me then for citing this work, I wrote:

I mentioned the work published by the NOI as a stimulus to the debate on the issue. Since it was published over 20 years ago and has engendered the hostility of many groups and individuals with great resources, I would presume that any false claims it makes have been refuted by now. Also, most of its specific assertions of historical fact are from Jewish sources, so the main objections have been to its overall evaluation of the history rather than to its specific claims.

Maybe it would have been clearer if I had written, “as having been a stimulus” instead of “as a stimulus”, if that would have made it harder to misrepresent my purpose in citing it. But, clearly, I was in no way suggesting that that work should be taken as a final authority. Rather, I was pointing to the open discussion it had provoked as a source for arguments on all sides of the question.

As someone who makes all kinds of claims, particularly — but far from exclusively — about what you refer to as Stalinism and “the Stalinist system”, without the slightest attempt to back them up, or even to give enough specifics to allow intelligent debate, you, sartesian, are in no position to demand citations from anyone.

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sartesian November 1, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I don’t make “all kinds of claims” regarding Stalinism. I only claim that it has proven itself to be the gravedigger of proletarian revolution; knife, pistol, machine gun, popular front, “3rd period,” water cannons– whatever, Stalinism has served to suppress the possibility of the seizure of power by the workers.

You don’t think the Vietnamese Stalinists in 1937 broke strikes, and denounced Trotskyist and other militants to the French colonial administration? You don’t think the Stalinists in 1945 did the same thing again in 1945, proclaiming “ours is a bourgeois democratic revolution”? Read your history. Start with something like Ngo Van’s “In the Crossfire– Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary.” If you read French, try his “Vietnam 1920-1945: Revolution et contre-revolution sous la domination coloniale.” The Stalinists did then and there just what they did in Spain. You want references on that too?

As far as your nonsense about the “overrepresentation” of Jews in the slave trade– here’s what Hugh Thomas in his “The Slave Trade” has to say about the NOI claim:

If one is interested in Jewish history, one can explore Mr. Farrakhan’s accusations that Jews dominated the traffic in African slaves. But one would be hard put to fined more than one or two Jewish slave traders in the Anglo Saxon traffic. It is true that much slave trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in Lisbon was financed by converted Jews, New Christians, or conversos; though whether such a a person is to be seen as a Jew is not something on which I should wish to pronounce…”

Despite Portugal’s initial forays into slave-trading, winning and holding the first asiento for providing slaves for the Spanish colonial trade, Portugal’s “contribution” to this heinous traffic is “minor” compared to that Anglo-Saxon enterprise… an enterprise so widespread, so intensive, so consuming in Britain that William Pitt the Younger said in 1792 in the House of Commons: “No nation in Europe… has plunged so deeply into this guilt as Great Britain.”

Would you like a reference for that too?

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