Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category
Responses to: The Battle for The Labour Party: Channel 4 Dispatches
The programme said it had uncovered fresh evidence that Corbyn-backing grassroots group Momentum is being influenced by “hard left revolutionaries”.
It said one has advocated a “flood” of leftists into Labour while others back mandatory reselection of anti-Corbyn MPs.
Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum’s Steering Committee but has recently been expelled by Labour for links to hard-left group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), was filmed at a Party meeting holding a copy of an AWL newspaper bearing the headline: “Flood the Labour Party .”
Footage shows her saying: “In 30 odd years of being politically active, I don’t think I can remember a time, apart from the miner’s strike, a time as exciting as this.
“If you haven’t already joined the Labour party, then you should join. If you haven’t already joined Momentum then you must join. We have to fight to shape the way the Momentum develops and the way the Labour party develops”
A Momentum spokesperson said: “Momentum membership is open to members, affiliates and supporters of the Labour Party and not open to members of other parties, those hostile to Labour or those that do not share Momentum’s objectives. All members must declare that they “support the aims and values of the Labour Party and (are) not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”
In a statement to Dispatches, Jill Mountford said: “We are open, honest socialists looking to discuss big ideas on how to create a better, fairer world for everyone.”
Momentum founder Jon Lansman said Ms Mountford was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Momentum.
Zac Goldsmith says Dispatches’ ‘weak’ investigation of Momentum will only help Jeremy Corbyn.
Conservative MP calls media impartiality into question. Independent.
Apart from Momentum’s official statements we are confident that there are many others who will stand their corner. Already: Dispatches won’t stop Momentum inspiring young people – we’re here to stay. Phil’s post which makes very accurate points, Momentum is Nothing Like Militant “an organisation that is totally transparent, easy to get involved with, and mirrors the properties of the network would do. There’s a reason why dull, plodding authoritarian outfits like the Socialist Party (despite its mini-Militant rebrand) and the SWP rape cult have been left out in the cold. As it stands, Momentum is a good way of consolidating these new members and turning them to campaigning activity, both with the party and in other labour movement campaigns.”
But what of the issue of Trotskyism and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty?
Much indeed has been made of ‘Trotskyism’ in recent weeks.
The AWL is, it says, a Trotskyist group.
What does this mean?
To begin from their practice: the AWL has played a positive role, for some years now, in defending the cause of human rights: from its backing for the ‘two states’ position on Palestine and Israel, its refusal to follow the implicitly pro-Assad stand of some in the anti-war’ movement in Syria, its opposition to those who stand with Vladimir Putin on a range of issues, including Ukraine.
In short, in the tradition of ‘Third Camp‘ Trotskyism (neither imperialism nor Stalinism but socialism) the group has stood against the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ of those who automatically side with the opponents of the ‘West’, nationalist dictators, Islamists and authoritarian of all stripes. Their stand indicates that the debate about theory indicated in more detail above can have relevance to the world today.
This has not won them universal admiration, particularly from those determined to blame everything on ‘imperialism’ in general and the USA in particular.
The AWL has also campaigned, over a long period (going back to the 1975 Referendum), for a Workers’ Europe.
This was their call in 2015:
We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:
• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism
• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU
• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity.
Many people, trade union, political and campaign group activists, far beyond the AWL itself, supported this call.
Just before the Referendum in June they stated,
Theory: for anybody genuinely interested in what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty means by Trotskyism the place to start is there: The two Trotskyisms. Sean Matgamna followed by Reviews and comments on The Two Trotskyisms. These debated a range of points about ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ Trotskyism, and whether these had any meaning and relevance in left politics today.
The AWL published many of these contributions in its paper, Solidarity.
They included a long article (carried over 2 issues) critical of Trotskyism from a democratic Marxist stand, by somebody that modesty forbids us to name ( Raising Atlantis?)
It is clear that comrade Sacha is right to say, “We always argue for our ideas through open discussion and debate. People either reject what we say or are convinced by it, and that’s fine. Our members and supporters make no apologies for trying to influence policy. That is what democratic politics is about. On that last point, we are no different from members of Progress, the Fabian Society, Compass and other Labour Party groupings”.
Solidarity, is known in the movement for its serious articles on trade union issues, reliable reports on subjects such as Welfare and Women’s rights, and an approach to anti-racism that does not dismiss the problem of reactionary Islamism and the persistence of anti-Semitism.
To continue on Europe to illustrate the group’s activity: during the EU Referendum, the AWL, like Momentum, (EU referendum: Momentum movement campaigners drafted in to rally support for Remain vote) actively backed the themes of Another Europe is Possible, the left ‘Remain’ campaign.
On this key issue, which defines present British politics, the group showed its commitment to backing Labour Party policy, campaigning not in order to ‘recruit’ for its group but to further the interests of the movement as a whole.
After the vote to Leave comrade Martin Thomas wrote,
What is to be done now is to conserve and extend workers’ unity, between workers in Britain of all origins and between British and European workers; to defend migrant rights and the worker rights which have entered British law under pressure from the EU; to fight to redirect the social anger expressed in Brexit votes towards social solidarity, taxing the rich, and social ownership of the banks and industry; and to stand up for socialism. None of that can be done if the left falls for the fantasy that the Brexit vote already took things our way.
A broad swathe of democratic socialists would agree with this.
This Blog, a left European democratic socialist site, has no hesitation in defending the AWL against the accusations of undemocratic practice made by Dispatches and others.
Full text of Sacha’s video talk here: Dispatches attacks Workers’ Liberty.
Spain in Our Hearts. Americans in the Spanish Civil War. 1936 – 1939. Adam Hochschild. Macmillan. 2016.
Arthur Koestler wrote in 1937 of Spain’s civil war, “Other wars consist of a succession of battles; this one is a succession of tragedies.” (Spanish Tragedy) As a Soviet agent, a correspondent with the Republican Army who had been captured and then freed from Franco’s gaols, the author of Darkness at Noon (1940) embodied the sadness of twentieth century history. In that record the Spanish conflict was exceptional. Spain in Our Heart opens by noting that the Caudillo launched the “fiercest conflict in Europe since the First World War marked by a vindictive savagery not seen even then.” (P xiv).
Hochschild is the author the landmark Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2005). It put centre stage the activism of Thomas Clarkson, the radical Quaker and admirer of the French Revolution in the British campaign against slavery. The present work explores the lives of American (and three Englishmen) involved in Spain, International Brigade volunteers and reporters, Hochschild manages the difficult task of honouring those who fought for the Spanish Republic without losing sight of the broader catastrophe in which they had become involved.
2,800 Americans fought in Spain’s battles, with an estimated 750 dying during these crucial years in the country’s history. About three quarters of the US volunteers were members of the Communist Party, or its youth league. With the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Great Depression sweeping the world, the Soviet Union “became a place into which millions of people projected their hopes.” (Page 11)
Some had not stay at a distance building dreams of the Soviet Union. In 1935 the Merriman couple moved from Berkley to Moscow, as Robert, Bob studied the newly collectivised farming joined by his wife, Marion. But fired up in 1936 by the defence of the elected Popular Front government against far-right military rebellion the couple, despite her misgivings, left for the Iberian Peninsula. As they arrived in 1937 the drama of the desperate combats, socialist, anarchist and republican democrats facing the anti-Semite, feudal and arch-Catholic Franco-led military rebellion with its reactionary social support, was already unfolding.
As a an officer in the US Army reserve, with ROTC training (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) fresh from Moscow (with an exaggerated ‘year’ at a Communist Academy’), Merriman was appointed by that harshest of task-masters André Marty, the American Lincoln Brigade’s second-in-command. He joined the Spanish Communist Party. The volunteers, few of whom “had ever been under military discipline”, were flung into the battle to defend the Madrid-Valencia road. It did not help that their arms, from the only country willing to supply them the Soviet Union, initially were as antiquated and obsolete as to be “barely usable”. The Spaniards called one set of artillery pieces “the battery of Catherine the Great” (Page 118)
Wounded under fire, his wife Marion accompanied Bob, and joined up to work in International Brigades Headquarters in Albacete. He was a committed supporter of the Soviet Union. Above all, “Physically fearless, he inspired such loyalty that at least two Lincoln veterans would name children after him.” (Page 289) Spain in our Hearts does not lose sight of this brave couple, right to the final confirmation, in 1987, of how Bob Merriman died under Nationalist fire in Gadensa.
Hochschild traces the stories of many others engaged in the fight to defend the Republic, including those who perished in the increasingly difficult journey to Spain. There is the Briton Pat Gurney, Oliver Law, the black CP organiser appointed Captain, the machine-gunner David McKelvy White, and Toby Neugass of the mobile American medical team. There was also Vincent Usera, who resurfaced in the US Navel Academy in 1939 lecturing on the war. With a full US military career during the Second World War, he ended in military intelligence. One of his last posts was “as a military adviser in Vietnam” (Page 233).
The US ‘Moral Embargo’.
Could America have been brought to support the Republic? A propaganda and information war was fought out in the American press. In the New York Times there was an “indirect duel” between the reporter on the republican side, Herbert Matthews, and the very pro-Franco William P. Carney.
A film, directed by Communist fellow-traveller Joris Ivens, The Spanish Earth, which involved Hemingway, which many expected would powerfully influence American opinion in favour of the elected government, failed to change Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to back a “Moral embargo” on weapon sales – while Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy showered military support on Franco The official arms ban was accompanied by turning a blind eye to Texaco boss, and dictator admirer, Torkild Rieber’s gift to Franco of an “unstinting stream” of oil, on credit. (Page 248) When, in 1938, there was an apparent move toward lifting of the embargo, it never materialised.
Spain in our Hearts both brings to life individual lives, through memoirs, books, letters, through events, grief and passion, and to make cautious points about the battles going on inside the Republican camp. It lends support to the view that winning the war had to be a priority over social revolution. He asks if the moral economy of the collectivised enterprises in Catalonia and elsewhere would have long survived in their initial, pure, non-capitalist co-operative form. In the event the Spanish Communists and Socialists were determined in an attempt to win middle class support and international respectability, to restore market norms and crush the anarchists and independent Marxists of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista. Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista) along with this spontaneous socialisation. Was it also possible to run an army democratically? Some would agree that it was equally right to end this experiment. Ernest Hemingway said, “I like Communists when they’re soldiers. When they’re priests I hate them” (Page 290)
Could the Communist military commissars escape the paranoia and distorted morality of the Stalin priesthood? Not everybody was a hero of the stamp of Bob Merriman. Louis Fisher, who appears in the present volume as the quartermaster of the International Brigade, wrote that “André Marty, French Communist leader and the chief commissar of the Brigade “loved power and abused it, in the GPU way, through nocturnal arrest sand similar outrages.” (In The God That Failed. 1950)
Perhaps this is the final judgement of this deeply researched, insightful, and moving work. Portraying the devastation wrought to secure Franco’s victory and its aftermath, Hochschild states, “If the Republic had won, Spaniards would not have had to endure 36 years of Franco’s ruthless dictatorship.”(P 353)
Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Abraham Lincoln says Counterpunch.
Political confusionism is an ideological trend on the rise
As the word suggests (from the French leftists’ ‘confusionnisme‘: see this site) is means the confused politics of merging left and right, of adding conspiracy theories to wild assertions, the anti-imperialism of fools to ‘anti-capitalism’, that goes in search of red-brown alliances, acknowledged or not.
Its starts with Israel, ‘anti-Zionism’, travels to Putin’s Russia (often), visits Syria, looks at the IMF, TTIP, Globalisation, Occupy Wall Street (what was that?), NATO (a bit boring this stuff..), supports Lexit/Brexit, ‘sovereigntism’, and, hey presto, always gets back to Israel.
Counterpunch (a long time ago described as “left wing”) is the best known example of confusionism in the English-speaking world, though its echoes may be felt in, say the ramblings of British supporters of the idea that there’s a transnational Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. It is so easy to find confusionists at work on Twitter and Facebook that’s it barely worth bothering citing them,
US left-wingers (on the Marxism List and no doubt elsewhere) are up in arms about this article in this august journal of reference for international confusionism, patronised by such weighty figures as Tariq Ali and some people who should know better.
There seems to be series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W. Bush.
There follows some garbled ‘history’ about the unification of Germany, the Berlin to Bagdad railway, and the “convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Nelson W. Aldrich.” and the interesting information that ” differences between neocons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical.”
Thereafter lost, we only resurface at this point,
In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint.
A brave thing to say.
Plunged again into the deepest confusionism we get this,
They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months. (1)
Althusser would not doubt endorse the view that backing for Bernie was proof of his theory of ideological state apparatuses. The Sander’s campaign showed capitalist “know-how”, the ” high priests of the ruling ideology” mould subject positions and domination for the “the reproduction of the conditions of production” within the Democratic Primaries.
Thank you for the warning about the way the Shachtmanites have colonised the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).
We are now aware of how these misleader tout the ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence
Finally there is this,
We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws.
Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to NATO and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and white men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.” This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.
German dialectical thinking and, hop, we can see Putin’s challenge as a “progressive goal and challenge”.
It’s called the unity of opposites and the ‘aufheben’ of dialectical contradictions: the very rational kernel of the revolutionary programme of Counterpunch….
Inspired to back Putin and Assad, to the tune of Counterpunch new Battle Hymn of the Republic, Andrew, if I may call a fellow Andy, concludes,
The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.
Hats off Comrade Stewart.
It’s all kicking off, everywhere!
(1) We have been asked, what is Shachtmanism?
Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communistcountries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky‘s description of Stalinist Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state“.
Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste accuses of ‘left’ Presidential candidate Mélenchon of using far-right rhetoric.
Accused of being nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.
Reports the Huffington Post French edition.
Leading Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste figure, Olivier Besancenot, said this: one gaff too many?
The NPA has published a virulent – to say the very least – attack on ‘populist’ Mélenchon who standing as a candidate in next year’s French Presidential election and is the leader of a small group, the Parti de gauche (left party), essentially a political club around his own personality.
At present his campaign « La France insoumise, le peuple souverain. » (internet JLM2017) has become ‘populist’ and aims to be mobilise the ‘people’ against the ‘elites’. (1) He has declared that unless the European Union changes France should follow the UK and leave (Brexit: «L’UE, on la change ou on la quitte», affirme Jean-Luc Mélenchon)
He is neck and neck in the opinion polls with the Parti Socialiste François Hollande and present President – which is not saying much since at 15% each not a single poll gives either any chance of winning.
More on this article here: « Travailleurs détachés » : Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre « la rhétorique de l’extrême droite » ,
Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a speech in which he accused workers employed in France, but still formally under the pay andconditions of their home countries (posted employees), of stealing the bread out of the mouths of local workers.
This is his expression: the “travailleurs détachés” qui “vole(nt leur) pain” aux travailleurs locaux.”
Travailleurs détachés : les curieux propos de Mélenchon
Je crois que l’Europe qui a été construite, c’est une Europe de la violence sociale, comme nous le voyons dans chaque pays chaque fois qu’arrive un travailleur détaché, qui vole son pain aux travailleurs qui se trouvent sur place. »
I consider that the Europe that has been built is a Europe based on social violence, as we seen in every country when a posted worker comes and steals the bread out of the mouths of the workers who are already there.
As the article title suggests, the original reads just as oddly as the translation which I have rendered into colloquial English.
Many on the French left are now criticising the former leading figure of the Front de gauche, who launched on his own initiative a Presidential bid, addressing ‘The People’, of being “nationaliste, chauvin, raciste, germanophobe et poutinophile” – nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.
The polemic continues.
After the Summer of Love the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power.
Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things Paul Mason.
Labour can become the counter-power.
My first experience of the labour movement was going to the Leigh Miners’ Gala, in the 1960s, aged about six or seven. I remember, amid the tight throng of people, one striking image: a boxing ring, in which a local slugger was taking on all comers.
The flesh of the fighters was red and bruised. One man had blood on his face, another a stupid smile: the challengers were mainly drunk. They slammed their gloves into each other’s ribs with such force I can hear it now.
And then my father’s hand slid up to my forehead and covered my eyes. “Don’t look,” he said.
That’s what the working class gained by forming a movement of its own. Something that could co-exist with the brutality of everyday life and at the same time shield us from it. Something that allowed you to live inside the system and at the same time nurture the ideal of something different.
Years later I discovered there was a word to describe this: “counter-power”. A set of ideas, traditions and actions that lets you both survive within capitalism and fight against it.
After 2008, the counter-power was reborn. No longer centred on the old working class, it was simply “us” — the crapped-upon masses. The barista, the courier, the lawyer, the shipping clerk. Those were the people I met occupying Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. Anarchists in black balaclavas yes — but also pissed-off guy with gym membership and a Besiktas season ticket.
The 2011–13 uprisings — Tahrir, Occupy, the Spanish indignados, Taksim, Brasil — were mass phenomena that, even when suppressed and defeated, left a residue: ideas, patterns of organisation, networks, as Manuel Castells put it, of “outrage and hope”.
Finally came the Brexit referendum: the ultimate act of miscalculation, in which Project Fear 2.0 misfired and the UK kickstarted the breakup of globalisation.
You can take the state, said Gramsci: but capital has line after line of trenches and fortifications beyond it.
Corbyn’s victory in 2015, Brexit in 2016 and the near victory of the Scottish yes campaign in 2014 all held out the possibility of a effortless exit from a dying and unpopular neo-liberal structure.
A kind of “free revolution”, handed to you by a hapless elite, where all you had to do was tick a box.
But revolutions are never effortless. The revolution that’s put Podemos on 20% in Spain, and Syriza into power in Greece, involved masses of people on the streets, resisting the elite’s attacks, and creating a new kind of power in communities and on the streets and in universities and schools.
This is the modern counter-power, and Corbyn’s election was only ever a reflection of it.
Detailed comment would be superfluous on such momentous thoughts.
We can only suggest that people read the full version.
Brief Notes for further reflection on Cde Mason’s theses.
- The break-up of globalisation begun by Brexit. Really?
- Near victory of pro-business nationalists in Scotland as a near triumph for opponents of neo-liberalism….sure….
- Podemos, who recently failed to get anywhere near power (despite predictions that they would win) in recent election as example of ‘counter-power’. (Spain’s Conservative PP wins rerun election, Podemos upset by surprisingly low results: 2016 election results PP 33.02%; PSOE 22.68%; UNIDOS PODEMOS 21.11%; Abstentions 30.16% #ELPAIS26J #26J #Spain)
- The latest version of the Indignados, Nuit Debout, in France, already disintegrating in abstraction and futility.
- Ah yes Syriza, Greece. Well.
I never liked Boxing me.
Or the film Fight Club.
Frédéric Lordon: Diamond Geezer of Nuit Debout?
In the March’s Le Monde Diplomatique Frédéric Lordon’s Pour la république sociale discussed the end of social democracy and its surrender to the “empire du capital”. He called for the “socical republic”, a slogan with deep resonance on the French left, going back to the 1848 Revolution, and to the writings of Jean Jaurès.
The goal of this republic should be expanded ‘total’ democracy but equally,
…l’abolition de la propriété lucrative — non pas bien sûr par la collectivisation étatiste (dont le bilan historique est suffisamment bien connu…), mais par l’affirmation locale de la propriété d’usage (6), à l’image de tout le mouvement des sociétés coopératives et participatives (SCOP), des entreprises autogérées d’Espagne ou d’Argentine, etc. : les moyens de production n’« appartiennent » qu’à ceux qui s’en servent.
The abolition of profit-making property – not by state collectivisation (whose historical balance-sheets is sufficiently well known…) but through the local assertion of the right to use property, on the model of the broad co-operative and participative movement, self-managed enterprises in n Spain and Argentina, etc; the means of production belong only to those who make use of them.
Having read Lordon’s writings (see also his Blog), with respect if rarely complete agreement, for some years it was nevertheless a surprise to see his rise to national prominence in the wake of the Nuit Debout movement.
Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement.
Verso has just published (amongst other Lordon material) a translated an interview with the radical economist and social theorist which carries some important observations about the Nuit Debout movement, and more widely, about the crisis of the European left.
Apart from an illuminating account of the origins of the protests (which have spread to scores of French cities and towns, though drawing predominantly educated crowds rather than people from the banlieues) and the role of François Ruffin’s film Merci patron! this section is of great interest to those tending to emphasise the convergences between Nuit Debout and the political expression, Podemos, of the Indignados movement:
Podemos in Spain has repeatedly said that we should no longer speak of Left and Right, but rather of top and bottom, the 1 percent against the 99 percent. Do you agree ?
I completely disagree with this stance of Podemos. In France the denials of the Left-Right split have had very bad echoes. We hear this in the mouths of both what I would call the general Right — namely, the classical Right and the new Right that is the Parti Socialiste; if you will, the general Right is the undifferentiated party of managing neoliberal globalisation — and the far Right. Someone in France who says he is “neither Left or Right” is unfailingly right-wing, or will end up being so. Similarly, I don’t think that monetary inequality — on which basis Podemos converts the Left-Right split into the split between the 99 percent and the 1 percent — is a very incisive political theme. The topic of inequalities is, in any case, becoming a kind of flabby consensus — we even find the OECD or a liberal magazine like The Economist talking about it…
The true question is not the inequality of incomes or wealth, but the question of the fundamental political inequality that capitalism itself establishes: that wage-earners live under relations of subordination and obedience. The wage-relation is less a principle of monetary inequalities than a relation of domination, and this is the principle of a fundamental inequality — a political inequality.
There remain issues about Lordon’s outlook.
New Left Review recently published this overview of his writing:
L’État général prend de nos jours la forme de l’État-nation ; et l’affect commun correspondant est l’appartenance nationale. Ces deux affirmations (peu fondées théoriquement) conduisent FL à minorer l’importance des clivages et des rapports de forces sociaux à l’intérieur des frontières « statonationales ». Mais on voit bien le lien avec la vision des institutions proposée par Imperium : l’État capte la puissance de la multitude, et produit un corps politique qui tient sur la base du sentiment d’appartenance nationale. Les institutions découlent de l’État. Dans ce cadre, le conflit social est complètement neutralisé — l’affect « commun » est majoritaire, la construction institutionnelle est cohérente et le corps politique viable —, ou alors producteur de chaos : l’affect « commun » ne permet plus la viabilité d’un corps politique destiné à mourir (et à renaître sous d’autres formes : mais la forme même de l’État-nation sera alors destinée à disparaître). Cohérence institutionnelle et reproduction sociale, ou bien explosion du conflit, chaos et bouleversement complet des structures sociales. Il n’y a pas de place, dans ce cadre théorique, pour le conflit et le compromis comme sources des changements institutionnels qui accompagnent la vie d’une société et le développement d’un État. Nous avons aussi signalé que FL a le plus grand mal à analyser les rapports entre État et capital sans faire violence à son propre cadre théorique. Et on comprend pourquoi : le capital a bien impulsé des changements majeurs non seulement dans l’architecture institutionnelle mais dans les formes mêmes de l’intervention étatique, sans besoin de rendre socialement minoritaire l’affect commun de l’appartenance nationale, et sans produire le chaos qui accompagnerait la mort des corps politiques « statonationaux ».
Mais les changements institutionnels qui caractérisent la réalité concrète dans laquelle nous vivons ne sont pas l’objet central d’Imperium, qui s’intéresse bien davantage au contenu d’une perspective « révolutionnaire » bien particulière. Celle qui consisterait non pas à renverser les rapports de domination sociale existants, mais à marcher (difficilement et éternellement) vers le règne de la raison, dans lequel les hommes « règlent leurs désirs et leurs comportements sur ce qui ne peut rien produire d’autre que leur concorde ». Idéalement donc, plus de pouvoir ni d’institutions. Cet idéal — nous dit FL — est inatteignable, mais on peut s’en rapprocher en choisissant les « bonnes » institutions. De façon là encore assez étonnante, FL indique dans les « institutions de la science qui contraignent les scientifiques à la vertu scientifique, au moins autant que leur désir propre de la vérité scientifique » un modèle à imiter : « la vertu devient l’objet d’une politique des institutions bien agencées » (p. 306). Il ne s’agit donc pas de lutter pour des institutions correspondant à des rapports de forces différents, à une modification de la frontière dominants/dominés, mais de sélectionner les institutions sur la base de leur teneur d’universalité, de leur capacité à créer un environnement favorable au développement de la raison : les « bonnes » institutions sont celles qui nous déterminent à la « vertu ».