Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Problem with the Left Today

I know that this will probably annoy a lot of people who read this blog. So I am going to preface what I am about to say with one simple dictum, or one simple truth, using the word in the most ambiguous sense.

Nobody knows what the fuck is going on.

Those at the top, prone to a more conservative ideology due to the fact that they have shitloads of cash and stand to lose the most if it all comes crashing down, blame the left with their supposed "liberal agenda" for all the woes of society. They wish to get back to a purer time that probably never existed, when they were beyond reproach. Perhaps this actually hides the desire for an end, a death wish all of their own. Because they do not, I repeat, do not run things. On the surface they may seem to. And at times they may get away with a certain amount of string pulling and puppeteering. But society, culture, our connections, our relations to one another, all these things amount to something much more complex than that.

I wish to give this blog post a second preface, more personal in nature, in case anyone mistakes me for some Right wing nut job. I choose the Left as my target only because of my sympathy for it, my allegiance (I hesitate to use the word, but I will) to it. I wish only to shine the light of critical thought upon that which I know so well. I ask you to suspend any reactionary retorts for the moment, and listen to what I have to say.

Nobody knows what the fuck is going on.

The Left blames those in power, the fat cats, the bankers, the politicians, as they all cling on with fright and desperation to what power they have, which is always less than is assumed. Forgotten is one of the greatest insights of Marxism, if not the greatest. It is not purely the fault of the people at the top, neither the people at the bottom, perhaps not even those awkward fuckers in between. They all play out roles which, Marx held, can become so codified and stratified into social life as to become predictable, perhaps, certainly open to critique. 

In other words, even if it is a certain group's "fault", there is a wider problem. People will exploit and rise up within the system, and people will be crushed by it. In the end, you're left with the system, still standing, that edifice which lives on past all the reactionary fervour.

I mean this profoundly. It is the system of our modern democracy that allows for the blame game to play out. It is its core tenet. It has evolved to the point where the blame game is the thing which constitutes our democracies as they play themselves out. This is not to spit on the ideal of democracy. In fact, it is to separate out its own ideal from the political system which we find ourselves. As Derrida held in Spectres of Marx, democracy is always to come, never completely realised, always being striven towards. This is what makes it so apparently weak, yet far tougher than it at first seems.

So, our Western democracies, our political systems, have evolved to the point of being constituted by the left versus the right, the blame game. This may be a natural enough evolution, an expression of an understanding of how the system runs and functions. But it can no longer lay claim to its radical origins because of its evolution from a radical social movement towards an acceptable form of rhetoric in social life. 

In the nineteenth century, laissez-faire (let the market decide, it'll work itself out, the old and new arguments) was not so much an ideology, but simply the way things were done. A child would be sent up a chimney, or under some stalled machine so that their little fingers could resuscitate the iron cold progress of marching industry, risking a finger or two in the process. In terms of voice, in part Marx invented one for these people, for they had none.

The modern expression of class divide is codified into ideology these days. It has a voice, and a very prominent one at that. As ideology, it is presented as a choice. It is robbed of its ironclad class undertones. You can choose to be Left wing or Right wing. Yes, class does come into it. But it is presented as choice. This was most certainly not the case in the nineteenth century, when socialism began as a radical critique of the oppressive rise of industry.

We live in different times, and Marxism is now a historical object, a relic of a time gone by. It's potency remains, however, but not in the rhetoric of the Left, not in tit for tat politics, not even in the expectation of revolution, overthrowing all that came before in some orgiastic return to true humanity. Rather, the true, living potency of Marxism is not its edification, its deification, or the worship of his work like some sort of written word of God. It is, rather, the critique itself, coupled with its removal from officialdom and, I have a sneaking suspicion, from the university itself. That is the spirit of Marxism that must be re-embraced. It came from the outside, always to upset. It is not so today.

It seems to me that the Left  today has to redefine the alienation of the contemporary being that we call human. The critique has to take into account the fact that class warfare has become a codified aspect of our contemporary political system, a rule book with guidelines that only serve to keep the wheel in perpetual motion. And it must take into account recent technological advances, good or bad.

Mostly, though, we need creative thought, which guides any critique like a lighthouse on a darkened stormy sea. 

That is the challenge, for you, for me, for all of us, if we are to honour the spirit of the Left and its radical beginnings.

If you don't feel that there is a new critique to be made, or that we should simply rest upon the tradition that Marx has left for us, then you fundamentally fail to understand or inhabit the true spirit of Marxism, the spirit of the Left, and you're just another conservative, under a different name, waving a different flag.

See, I told you that you wouldn't like what I had to say.

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