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Fundamental flaws in progressive ideology

Cassiodorus details the ways in which progressives fail to provide an alternative to neoliberalism. But what he calls a flaw in ideology is more a flaw in execution, a flaw of will.

Progressive ideology, however, offers only a half-hearted resistance to neoliberal power. Here are some of the ways in which it succumbs:

  • Minimal demands
  • Aversion to the class struggle
  • Incrementalism
  • “Realism”

The problem clearly is that progressives offer no alternative vision and are averse to political combat, hence the continual caving in and incrementalism. Do they want genuine change? Not really.

I am not going to suggest a sweeping abolition of the “free market,” here, as the solution to everything, nor am I going to suggest anything which looks like “Marxist dogma.” We get out of “discussion-on-the-cheap” by real discussion, discussion between actually existing people and not utopian constructs, about what has to happen if the political/ economic situation is to get any better.

Goodness, let’s have none of that socialism stuff instead let’s go to Starbuck’s and talk about what might be done. Sigh. Look, capitalism is clearly in big trouble. What we have now is more a theftocracy than capitalism anyway. The patient needs major surgery not a bandage.

There are a large number of obvious ways in which we can do this: collectives, for instance, and modes of “exchange” (or, more straightforwardly, gift) which are independent of the regimes of corporate production and of money.

This is similar to what John Robb is proposing. But you can’t really live outside the system. Hippies tried that, and found you can’t drop out completely. Plus, the system will intrude upon such modes of exchange. Thus the answer has to include politics and confronting / changing the existing system. That means getting into the battlefield. There is no alternative.

Big Bill Haywood leads march in Lowell MA 1912. He once said "A liberal is the guy who leaves the room when a fight starts." (Library of Congress)

  • ” But you can’t really live outside the system. Hippies tried that, and found you can’t drop out completely. Plus, the system will intrude upon such modes of exchange. Thus the answer has to include politics and confronting / changing the existing system. That means getting into the battlefield. There is no alternative.”

    These projects are not meant to be the full solution but are a necessary part of changing the system. People first have to have an idea of what they want from the change, there is no point in “getting into the battlefield” with no idea where you want to go after the battle. A fight for a fight’s sake solves nothing. If we have the seeds of what we want already growing in the communities, it is one step closer to that type of society that we want, we’ll know what to do when the chaos starts to hurt. Radical change will hurt. In science the change from one state to another is usually accompanied by a violent action. So it is with political systems.

    • My point was more that if you alter things enough through dropping out / creating alternatives, the fight will come to you because established powers will be unhappy with you.

  • The powers that be will always come to you if there is a hint that your radicalism might catch on. However, I don’t want a fight unless I have a purpose and a direction, chaos is not a comfortable place to be in for long. Unless the people involved know where they want to go, it is pointles to talk of struggle. I would rather struggle to get somewhere, rather than just struggling to get away from something.

  • I love that Big Bill Haywood quote

  • DJ

    “real discussion, discussion between actually existing people ” – hard to see how you could ridicule that, since its lack is exactly the flaw you and I both see in most conventional left-leaning approaches.

    As for “dropping out,” I don’t think that’s what he’s suggesting. Rather, what has worked in other places is making the system irrelevant by circumventing it. The banks don’t help little people? Start your own! The government doesn’t provide services? Provide your own! If you think that’s impractical in this country, you might look at how many children are being home schooled, for example. And that’s not just a right-wing rural phenomenon – a liberal friend of mine in LA home-schooled her kids through Junior High.