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What is "the Left"? Ten remarks

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Soviet cogitations: 3618
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 22 Oct 2004, 15:15
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 15 Aug 2015, 20:22
What is "the Left"? Ten remarks


SYRIZA MPs sleeping in Parliament during "fast-track" imposition of the third Memorandum by their Party

What is "the Left"? Ten Remarks
Originally published in Greek, in Lenin Reloaded, 21 June 2014

1. In Greece, "the Left" exists since 1951, and the foundation, during that year, of the United Democratic Left (EDA). As a category of political thinking, it had no significance in the country in the period before the 1950s. "Anarchism" was far more important as a designator of ideology at the beginnings of the Greek worker movement than "the Left" -- not to mention the significance, for an anti-bourgeois politics, of terms like "Bolshevism" and "Third International". Structurally, the precondition for the birth of "the Left" was the self-censorship of the self-designation of a sector of the population as "communist" as a result of state terror. "The Left" is born under conditions of state repression as a defensive misnomer and as a pseudo-apellation for purposes of self-protection.

2. The defeat of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), in combination with state terror and repression, however, also created the preconditions for the pseudo-category of "the Left" (as a nominalist abstraction, rather than as a concrete designator of a tendency within a worker-socialist party -- a use with an entirely different genealogy) to acquire its own substantive meaning. It created, to put it more simply, the possibility for a section of the communists to really (and not just superficially) make the transition to "democratic ideology", which in conditions of unshakeable capitalist domination necessarily means the transition to the side of bourgeois democracy. "The Left" is the product of the effective surrender of a section of the communists to the victorious bourgeois state.

3. Economically speaking, "the Left" signifies the demand for "a more just distribution of wealth", or of the "social product". It never means the struggle to change the mode of production, never the change of relations of production, never the socialization of the means of production. Already in 1875, Karl Marx showed, in his Critique of the Gotha Program, how contradictory the very concept of a "fair distribution" of wealth within capitalism is. The cultivation of the delusion that the stakes of "the Left" were ever anything more than this vague demand for a "fairer distribution" was something enabled by the compulsory co-existence, under the regime of state terror of the 1950s, of social democrats and communists. This coexistence was used to foster confusion and generate pleasant placebos for a disarmed and defeated movement.

4. Because "the Left's" ultimate demand is "fairer distribution" of capitalist accumulated wealth, the Left is by definition on the side of Reform against Revolution.

5. Because the financial crises of capitalism render the margins for satisfying the demand of "fairer distribution" extremely narrow, "the Left" can have no economic content that is different from that of bourgeois parties in such periods. It can acquire such a content only in periods of economic development of the rates of capitalist accumulation, always under the precondition that it has in its grasp means of exerting pressure such that it is allowed to appear as a "provider" for the working class and a "negotiator" on its behalf. But the subversion of actually existing socialism means that no such means exist, either during financial crises, or during periods of capitalist development. Consequently, "the Left" cannot be expected to obtain an economic content that differentiates it from any bourgeois political formation in the near future either.

6. Given the absence of a distinct economic content in the category of "the Left", both in Greece and abroad, the term evolved, beginning in the 1960s and in the 1970s, into a category of the superstructure.

7. The first fundamental sphere within which "the Left" obtained a content was aesthetics, in all its forms. For this reason, it remains far more easy today to locate a "Left" cinema, poetry, painting, imagery, rhetoric, than a "Left" economic program that would be distinct from bourgeois economic programs at large. After the 1960s, "the Left" became predominantly an aesthetic category; a proposition for an aesthetic.

8. The second fundamental sphere in which "the Left" obtained a content, during the same period, and as it was being disseminated in the terrain of aesthetics, was "social rights", conceived as individuated rights based on "difference". These, inevitably, are rights that presuppose a norm they simultaneously question. All the social movements "the Left" created since the 1950s are determined by this contradiction between the non-questioning of the existence of a norm --the acceptance of the stability and the sustainability, effectively, of the capitalist mode of production-- and its questioning on the ideological and rhetorical level; as well as by the derivative contradiction between the rejection of normativity as such and the effort to make it more "inclusive" than it has been in the past.

9. In periods of recession, the victories of "new social movements" do not so much disappear as reveal themselves as mirages; for no deviation from the necessities of capitalist accumulation is possible, so "social rights" are either revealed to be devoid of substance or utterly "safe" for the social system, even during periods of social repression. This is the era in which gay marriage can be perceived as a far less radical demand than the right to a home or to medical care, because the latter have a cost for capital, whereas the former only demands "ideological adjustment" in the bourgeois state.

10. "The Left" is the essential and organic aspect of the "Great Illusion" of an important sector of middle and lower strata; these strata derived erroneous conclusions concerning the nature of the capitalist system by limiting their observations to the period in which the rhythms of economic development and the pressure made possible by actually existing socialism allowed the demand for a "fairer distribution of the social product" to have some limited practical consequences for everyday life and its quality in western societies. Today, the only utility of "the Left" is to advance confusion concerning the real nature of a category that is far more historically important and substantive --Social Democracy-- and to assist in the reproduction of the intellectual and technocratic elites who use it to win popular legitimacy, thus leading to its ever higher delegitimation in the eyes of popular strata, with all the serious political consequences this may have for the conversion of the latter to Reaction. It goes without saying that the entire debate, in Greece and abroad, concerning what "the real Left" is and what political party "really" expresses something devoid of any real economic content is definitionally disorienting; the only purpose of such debate is the perpetuation of the political paralysis and impotence of the lower social strata.

http://indefenseofgreekworkers.blogspot ... marks.html

So this was brought on by the Greek situation, where it is acutely relevant because of the prospect of a "left government" which has since become the political reality. But a critical reflection on what "the left" means is useful in just about any given situation. For instance, in the UK, where we have the prospect of a "left" Labour challenger, or the US, with Bernie Sanders' presidential bid. And of course all this is enthusiastically supported by all sorts of leftists for no reason other than the fact that they are also leftists.

I recognised quite a bit from this article with regards to "left" movements in the Netherlands, but also in the US, UK, Greece, etc. A lot of the energy of "leftists" is spent on converging wherever "activism" with a leftist aesthetic is happening, searching for elusive "movements". One moment it's a university occupation, then it's gay marriage, next is Black Lives Matter, now you have to campaign for Bernie Sanders, and finally you end up debating whether it's OK for Black Lives Matter to disrupt Bernie Sanders' rally, unless of course you're travelling to Canada to protest against a "pick-up artist". Any or all of these activities may or may not have their place in a strategy to bring working people in confrontation with capital, but in fact the leftists engaging in them are not concerned with that question at all, they're just chasing after "activists", hoping to find that elusive momentum.

Ranting aside, I think communist parties cannot be contented with simply identifying themselves as part of an amorphous "left" as an aesthetic category with no economic, class-based programme. To phrase it this way makes it sound like something completely obvious that you'd have to be retarded not to understand it, but a graet number of leftists are doing exactly that, as mentioned above. And this is contributing to the total uselessness of "the left", which manifests itself in many first-world countries on a daily basis, or even to the left actually posing a vital danger to the working class, as apparent in Greece today.
Soviet cogitations: 12389
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Post 16 Aug 2015, 01:31
3,000 words which could have been summed up in 300 if they were really attempting to represent the People.

I mean, if this stuff is really being released for the masses to hear and get behind, how about cutting out the academy talk and using some good old fashioned populist buzz words to get the point across?

This is why Socialist/Communist parties are withering into insignificance all across the world, and why Bernie Sanders, a mainstream Democrat of the pre-Clinton type, is able to call himself a "Socialist." No one understands the term or what it means because no one can stay awake through an explanation.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
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Soviet cogitations: 3618
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 22 Oct 2004, 15:15
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 16 Aug 2015, 09:03
I don't know if any of this is "attempting to represent the People" or being aimed at the masses per se. The Greek blog that this was originally posted on is aimed at discussing political strategy and tactics from a militant communist perspective. The English blog that translated it is aimed at those who are already following the class struggle in Greece, and are at least receptive towards this communist perspective. And of course I'm not just posting this for some random people either.

I don't think any of this is necessarily wrong. Simplification is good, but it has its ends. At some point, you need abstractions, otherwise your politics becomes purely anecdotal (I wouldn't even say "practical" here, since it's impractical in the long run). The point of the article isn't to simply assert that "the left" is reformist or opportunist, but to demonstrate its origins.

If it were aimed at the broad masses, it wouldn't use terms like "aesthetic category" or "semioticisation", etc. This much is obvious. It's not something that I would send to a co-worker with the message, "Read this and you'll understand." But theoretical insights like this will inform all sorts of conversations with co-workers, unionists, etc. when they ask me how the communist movement relates to the left.
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Soviet cogitations: 208
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 May 2009, 19:37
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 15 Nov 2015, 15:20
Of course this didn't aim to the mass but to communists, in other word, our. And you shouldn't underestimate the class consciousness level of Greek workers who follow the KKE. I have read many Greek workers' blog who sympathize with the KKE (with the help of Google Translate), and I must say that they are very intelligent people who have a clear grasp of Marxism and history.
"Stalin brought us up — on loyalty to the people, He inspired us to labor and to heroism!" Soviet Anthem 1944.
Let's work hard and do valorous deed!
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