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The left vs. the working class

Flickr image. elhamalawy

Red Star Times has a thoughtful rant about how the left too often shoots itself in the foot when not backstabbing the working class it claims to champion.

In England, a country that is sometimes facetiously described as having a Trotskyist under ever rock, the trade unions and the Labour Party are considered sacrosanct leaders of the working class. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Exactly. The idea that such unions are bulwarks of IWW-style solidarity and the true leaders of the working class is laughable and Marxist wishful thinking and delusion.

Thousands, probably millions if we include people with faith in “leftists” such as Noam Chomsky and “progressives” like Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, have faith in the left to solve the world’s problems. But they won’t. History shows that figures such as these will stab any kind of militant working class movement on the move in the back at a very crucial movement. The left is not a big, happy family where everyone can come together and gripe about what they hate about the right wing. Or rather, it’s exactly that and that’s why I distance myself from it. They don’t want to build a fighting movement capable of taking power. They want to complain to one another in the leftist echo chamber.

Most Marxist parties use their front groups primarily to build the party, not to work on the issue at hand. Thus, they force moderates out and can never create a broad-based movement because they are self-limiting in size and ideology.

In the US, the working class is amorphous. What is it? Where is it?

Marxists and leftists too often show contempt for the white working class, especially if they are southern. Read Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting with Jesus” for more on this. He grew up redneck, became a hard left journalist, then moved back to the little town he grew up in and wrote about it and the stupidity of the left in spitting in the face of the white working class, a mistake Republicans do not make.

The left is not interested in building an independent, fighting working class movement. It is interested only in building itself. Regardless of the class makeup of the organization, the international left is largely oriented toward the trade union bureaucracy, the left wing of pro-capitalist parties, “radical” organizations, Black Nationalism and feminism. The working class is used either as an afterthought, for the purposes of exploiting its militant history or both. Breaking with the left and the organizations towards which it orients is one of the first major tasks of building a mass socialist movement.

In this huge crisis of capitalism we are in, the left has been virtually comatose, a failure of huge magnitude. Instead of focusing on the crisis, they’ve been pointedly fixating on other issues or just asleep and apparently not caring much about the plight of millions of workers who are getting screwed.

The left needs to reinvent itself, toss a bunch of dated ideology out the window, and reacquaint itself with actual workers rather than just theorizing about them.

  • Dave Riley

    Polizeros’ habit of generating a caricature of the left is almost like psalm singing as he goes looking for choristers.

    “In England, a country that is sometimes facetiously described as having a Trotskyist under ever rock, the trade unions and the Labour Party are considered sacrosanct leaders of the working class.”

    That’s US ignorance working over time. without an ounce of knowledge of the history of British trade unionism and the darstardly role of the British Labour Party. However, Laborism does exist much broader than just the left (and much broader than in the UK) — and Laborism is the belief that these social democratic parties are the quintessential political expression of the working class.

    You have a similar problem with the US Democrats such that even the US Communist Party has adhered to that POV for decades.

    The achievement of a section of the left is that it recognizes that we have to transcend Laborism (or the Democrats) . How, is the moot issue.

    Then there is this asinine dandy: Noam Chomsky and or Ralph Nader (both in their seventies after a life time of activism and engagement)are gonna “stab workers in the back”!

    After citing this piece of mouthing off rubbish we then read — ” They want to complain to one another in the leftist echo chamber.”

    polizeros jumps in for an extraneous whine (hello echo chamber) which has nonetheless a bit of truth to it: “Most Marxist parties use their front groups primarily to build the party, not to work on the issue at hand. Thus, they force moderates out and can never create a broad-based movement because they are self-limiting in size and ideology.”

    Thats’ the clincher I think. I consider that Bageant does indeed capture and articulate some of that need. But i assure you that even when the left — my left at least here in Australia — does “reacquaint itself with actual workers ” it doesn’t follow that it’s plain sailing.

    There are no ready formulas.and it aint that easy.

    The core problem in the US (as elsewhere)is that the radical socialist left is not being regrouped. I think this primarily is a tactical failure of the ISO which is well placed to initaite such a coming together. The related question is whether there is space to initiate a broad left party enterprise. i think there is — but groups like the ISO aren’t going to choose that route despite whatever unity initiatives it may embrace.

    If I was in the US I’d link up with the ISO and push for a broad left/regroupment trajectory — in the manner that Peter Camejo was doing in the lead up to his death — primarily because the ISO aggregates a strong gang of committed activists.

    I’m not about to make excuses for some of the ISO odd perspectives. See my further comments here: Re: Paul LeBlanc: Why I Am Joining the ISO.
    LeBlanc’s orginal comment is here: http://links.org.au/node/1323

    • The quotes you mentioned were from what I linked to, not what I said. I don’t necessarily have to agree with everything I link to, just that I find the POV interesting.

      But the failure on the left now is across the board. The mobilization on the Iraq War was huge. But there’s virtually nothing being done on the current crisis of capitalism, with people losing homes and jobs, etc. I just heard an acquaintance in CA who used to have a successful contracting business is now broke and couch surfing or sleeping in his truck. You want a broad-based coalition, that’s the kind of person that needs to be appealed to. And not with Marxist jargon either.

      Where are the Izzy Stones’ of our day? The hardball investigative stuff is mostly being done by libertarian leaning blogs, with Naked Capitalism and Zero Hedge being excellent examples. They have drawn blood too.

      I genuinely don’t get why the left is so comatose about the current recession / depression