Kautsky parle

Christopher Niles cniles at ricochet.net
Fri Sep 11 08:57:24 PDT 1998

>Some of the Left knows it's FOR socialism:

Precisly my point: SOME of the left, not all of it. There are various idealogical "committments" among those who call themselves leftist that make for critically different--that is, mutually incompatible--organizing strategies, making it extremly difficult to build an effective movement/opposition/ for a post-capitalist society. My experience as an agitator (I've become unfomfortable with the terms "activist" and "organizer" but that's another story ) is that when somebody tells me they are a "leftist," it usually means that they see, however vaguely, capitalism as a serious problem; but it does not imply anything specific about that person's beliefs in regards to how the capitalist system can be displaced and replaced with something different. Leftist, in general, know what their against, don't really agree on what their for and, therefore, don't have any coherent strategy for getting where they want to go--wherever that is!

>These goals
>are pursued with minimum and maximum
>programs or with reform and revolutionary

Again, the logics of "minimum programs" vs "maximum programs" and "reform" vs. "revolutionary" imply very differnt types of political--or non-political--behavior. Identifying oneself as a "leftist" often serves to hide more than it elucidates. For purposes of intellectual clarity and precision strategic and tactical planning, it is much more informative for one person to say "I am a reformist socialist" while another says "I am a revolutionary socialist." If they both call themselves "leftist," we've learned nothing about their strategic committments. Indeed, it is not at all clear--and probobly not likely--that these two parties could work together productively. In fact, they often times look down on each other with a great deal of disdan. The so-called "revolutionaries" usually think of the "reformers" as sell-outs to the bourgeousie while the so-called "reformers" think of the revolutiories as being sentimental and impractical. Where is the hope of "leftist" solidarity here??

>The idea that
>the Left does not have an affirmative program
>as well as a negative critique of what is now is slander.

Well, it is certainly true that all kinds of self-identified leftist have all kinds of affirmative programs. But to say that "the left" has an affirmative program is...well, let's say a bit over the top. I mean, there are lots of VERY SPECIFIC reasons for why the "left" is splintered into a bewildering arrary of idealogical and political tendencies. Lumping everbody who has a gripe with capitalism into the "left" creates, to say the least, a false sense of unity and frustrates attempts to develop a precision understanding of the roots of dis-unity among anti-capitalist. Since many "left" "activist" and "organizers" lack any critical understanding of their roots, they end up making the same mistakes repeatedly--or at least they don't make any new ones.

Also, the "left" that is for the abolition of private property and the establishment of the working class as the ruling class does not, for all practical intents and purposes, exist beyond academia. There are massive numbers of "activists" who call themselves "leftist" who, for one reason or another, refuse to use (or are disallowed from using) words and phrases like "capitalism" and "abolition of private property" in their work.

By the way, I find your use of the term "slander" to characterize my criticisms of the left a bit scary. I have found that many leftist are protective of the left to the point of being reactionary; and many seem to equate criticism of the left as an attack on all they hold dear.

>The "elusiveness" of the concept of the
>Left is the result of the influence of bourgeois
>disinformation on some people, bourgeois
>anti-democratic/anti-civil libertarian
> conduct to disorient and destroy the Left
>such as McCarthyism and Reaganism, etc.

Well, to a significant extent, yes. The power of propoganda can never be underestimated. But not all, or even most, of the problem can be attributed to bourgeois disinformation. The fact is that the discourses of the so-called left are rooted in a Marxist analysis which is long on brilliant critique but very short on developing and debating practical (not utopian!!) ideas for a post-capitalist political and social economy that can be used by agitators to propose specific and sustainable non-capitalists solutions to specific forms of oppression. Any perusal of leftist literature--indeed, any examination of the exchanges in leftist chat rooms--will bear that out. Again, it is difficult to mobolize people to fight for a left vision when it is not at all clear what that vision is.

>The idea that such classic fundamentals as
>the abolition of private property are no longer
>feasible is a gross error in historical perspective.

I never said that they were! This is a perfect example of the kind of reactionary filling-in-the-blank responses that I get from other leftists when I enter into any criticism of the left.

>The fact that the abolition of private property
>takes multiple generations and goes through
>ebb and flow , and now the process is in
>an ebb is typical of historic processes

This is, ironically, pure non-material, ghost-in-the-machine millenial speculation--not atypical of leftist discourses.

>took longer to replace feudalism than the
>Marxist Left , multi-generation process is taking.

Wow! You gotta crystal ball? That might turn out to be the truth but you write as if it is a sure thing. Are the "historical forces" gauranteed to make this happen?

By the way, I'd like to know what distinguishes the "Marxist Left" from the rest of the left?


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