Monday, October 15, 2007

The leftover left

Two critiques of the left-over left: one from an anarchist (from a text I don't otherwise agree with), the second, a bit more complicated, from a Marxist academic.

Chuck Munson on the anti-war left:
Meanwhile, the Leftover Left(tm) continues to organize through other coalitions, including the Communist Party-dominated UFPJ and the various front groups being organized by the Revolutionary Communist “We Worship Bob Avakian” Party. It’s been amusing to watch the RCP start a front group for IMPEACHMENT, of all things, called “World Can’t Wait.” I pointed out early on that WCW was the RCP’s rather clever effort to suck money out of the pockets of angry liberals. It worked, to the point where the RCP was able to open new offices and buy ads in newspapers. ANSWER, taking a cue from the Stalinist robots that run the Worker’s World Party, has evidently decided to start their own pro-impeachment money-laundering operation.
Moishe Postone in interview:
The collapse of the Soviet Union in no way signals the end of the socialist project – in the sense of a fundamental critique of capitalism that points to the realization of the emancipatory potential that capitalism has both historically generated and, yet, also constrained and undermined. And, yet, it has made manifest a great deal of disorientation. This disorientation expresses, in part, the negative historical effects of Marxism-Leninism on the socialist imaginary. It also expresses, in part, the difficulties of formulating a socialist critique in a post-statist epoch that, on the one hand, while critical of the market and private ownership of the means of production, is not focused most fundamentally on such bourgeois relations. And yet working toward such a critique – which would also entail recovering a notion of internationalism that is not simply an ideological formulation of an essentially nationalist worldview (defending the “socialist camp”) – is absolutely crucial. It is crucial because capitalism is truly global and cannot be adequately understood as colonialism, that is, as the imposition of western values and institutions on other parts of the world. Capitalism may have contingently arisen in the West, but it fundamentally transformed the West, Just as it is transforming the rest of the world. The only theory that provides an adequate foundation for a rigorous critical theory of global capitalism is that first articulated by Marx. The critical theories that were so apparently powerful in the 1970s and 1980s, such as post-structuralism, are helpless in the face of global capitalism. Failure to build on the intellectual legacy of Marx by formulating a post-traditional critical theory of capitalism leaves the field of critique over to extremely reactionary and dangerous forms of “anti-capitalism” and “anti-imperialism” that are no more emancipatory than fascist “anti-capitalism” and “anti-imperialism” had been in the first half of the 20th century.


The New Centrist said...

As is standard practice for Munson (and most of the anarchists I have known) he expects that ANSWER--an organization with far more money, activists, and organization than any anarchist organization--will simply wither away:

“I predict that we won’t hear much about ANSWER after their last G.A.S.P. in September. Well, the cadres running ANSWER may still continue their annoying practices of disrupting grassroots coalitions and organizing competing protests to exploit the work done by other activists. It will be good riddance to the ANSWER vampires after September.”

This is worse than wishful thinking, it is naive. You can be certain that any “significant” leftie event, whether it involves anti-capitalist economics, anti-racism, anti-war, anti-imperialism, etc. etc. etc. and ANSWER will be there. Don’t get me wrong, I would be happy if all of them disappeared tomorrow but they are not going away that easily. They must be confronted directly. Something contemporary anarchists seem unable or unwilling to do.

We get the standard anarchist opinion that passes for analysis:

“The problem with the grassroots anti-war activists in the U.S. is that they are too fucking timid…You know folks, we’d be better off if you didn’t wave signs and just stayed at home. At least you wouldn’t be fooling yourself that you were “doing something” to stop the war.”

Yes, that’s the problem. Most folks disagree with you and your politics. The solution? Denigrate them! That always works…

Re: Postone, you may be interested in reading some of William Robinson’s works especially “Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, U.S. Intervention and Hegemony” and “Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class and State in a Transnational World.” I have read the former but not the latter.

Here is a link to some of Robinson's articles:

BTW, Robinson almost made it on my top 5. His work had a major influence on my thinking when I was a first-year graduate student. I have deviated from his militant anti-capitalism outlook but I still recommend checking him out.

The New Centrist said...

Apologies for the numerous typos.

Anonymous said...

It's news to me that any anarchists, including myself, have some kind of standard practice that assumes that organizations like ANSWER will wither away. I'd like to hear some examples of other anarchists saying this--you'll be hard-pressed to find any citations.

ANSWER at this point is an irrelevant organization. I think this is clear to many veteran activists in the anti-war movement. Their D.C. protest in September was a wash. It was evidently so bad that Brian Becker issued a statement explaining that a protest had happened and was important in some fashion. The anti-war movement has figured out finally that mass protests in Washington, DC are ineffectual, especially if they are led by opportunistic, unimaginative organizations like ANSWER. I full expect ANSWER to wither away, but it will take a few years. ANSWER's leaders are too interested in having power over a movement to disband the organization. They will probably employ their standard practice and find a new social movement to take over. They are eyeing the Jena movement, but evidently ANSWER isn't stupid to try and take that over.

ANSWER may have more resources than any existing anarchist organization, but the anarchist movement is quite widespread these days. Collectively we have far more resources than ANSWER has, but not in the money department. And if anarchists really thought that emulating the ANSWER national organization model and it reliance national mobilizations were worth pursuing, we certainly would out-organize ANSWER. Anarchists have rejected ANSWER's model and strategy.

Remember, we anarchists were the primary organizers in the successful anti-globalization movement. We had lots of non-anarchist NGOs, unions and organizations who wanted to work with us. I'll put up our track record against ANSWER's any day of the week.

Chuck Munson

bob said...

Thanks for the contributions Chuck and NC. I'd like to think that ANSWER will wither away, but the organizational strength and discipline of the Leninist machine can be remarkably robust, even the absence of the sort of imaginative, creative energy with which anarchism is able to captivate people.