An Interesting Look at the ‘New Newest Left’

So there is this response  to various calls — including Jacobin’s — for left renewal via consolidation, verticalism, alliance with liberals etc. I can’t give it a full endorsement because in far too many ways it typifies a lot of what I don’t like about lefty writing and thinking these days.  But a patient reading is rewarding and I endorse this bit completely:

it’s upsetting to watch smart comrades spend so much time shitting on radical leftists in the hope of forming a party acceptable to liberals in order to recompose a Keynesian state that quite simply will never come back. Reformism today is more utopian than revolution.

When I read Jacobin, I can’t help but think of one of Berlant’s points from The Female Complaint: the assumption of certain forms of conventionality allows for a feeling of being in proximity to a world, but at the cost of a crazy expenditure of affective energy and cognitive attention.

Left conventionalism is hard work, it takes a lot of time and effort to try to resuscitate the Party, and I wonder what might happen if this energy and attention were directed elsewhere. And it should be: the Party isn’t coming back, and long marches through institutions will always turn into highways through an interminable hell.

(Sidebar: If some party does come back, though, if you guys manage to get something off the ground—great! I’ll be at your marches, your gatherings, I’ll read your shit. Horizontals are always pretty okay with forming temporary alliances with verticals; anarchists are always at the anti-austerity demos, after all. It would be easier to be in the same cognitive and real space as you guys, though, if you could stop anarchist-bashing so as to be more appealing to liberals, okay?)

It makes an interesting contrast to the increasingly mystifying Freddie DeBoer’s rumination on the revolutionary potential of neoliberals and by neoliberals he clearly means Third Way Democrat neoliberals and by that he of course means Democrats.  Why are the taxonomies of taxonomy fetishists always wrong? Anyway, talk about your  ‘crazy expenditure[s] of cognitive attention.’

Party in the USA: The New Newest Left & the Organization of Sadness

What Neoliberalism Is To This Leftist

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3 Responses to An Interesting Look at the ‘New Newest Left’

  1. thedoctorisindahaus says:

    At this point I just think I’m plain better than academic writers and it’s been hard enough to cure myself of the ills of false objective distance that one must perform as a gigantic suckup gesture. This is something one learns as a student and to remove requires so much introspection that you just plain feel superior having done it. So I won’t go back to read the whole article. Two points:

    The section you’ve highlighted I did read while there. I liked the Berlant quote (though I don’t know who that is). For its universality. Like authoritarians who love the law and sentimentalists who love to love quaintly, being conventional surpasses all the muck of life and gets you to the final point of experience, without the experience. The lover not only loves his love, he knows what she’s thinking. And this feels closer to her than to worry about her independence. The authoritarian loves the cops because he imagines he knows the law so well, even feels it in his blood, that he will never have a problem with it. It’s delusional. Politics is no different. Any belief in the inherent relevance of a movement has some component of such delusion. If Occupy reflects The Times We Live In, then surely it shall return at some point, if things stay as they are.

    My second point: The other stuff I read, that you haven’t highlighted here, seemed to me to suggest that the history of communism in Europe (and since that was just used as an example, it applies to anything) was one of disintegration through corruption and through victory (such as it was). The party was no longer needed because its revolution had taken over everything. which was also its undoing, in that its purpose was forgotten and it was replaced by politburo style domination politics (not that it was really ever anything but, but we’re talking purpose and pretense here, not results). And this is where the writing got so bad I admit I take my own interpretation to be what I read, perhaps erroneously, out of laziness.

    Success in a movement comes from achieving its objectives. But there’s no need to assume that such success will occur by methods that have nothing to do with it. Vertical power structures are most def unrelated to anarchism or communism or socialism or democracy. Yet here we are looking at a social movement, with one shard that believes (so they say) that it needs a fairly martial, bureaucratic structure to get the gears turning to overcome the inertia. The question becomes, even if you credit it as a sincere and well intentioned strategy, will such a power structure, once in action, obligingly remove itself when it gets in the way, either organically or by leaving another vacuum for the newly empowered proletariat to live their lives and fit into the vacuum, somehow?

    That writer suggests that this all shows that we don’t need such a power structure. Such means to an end methods are inherently artificial and therefore impotent. They’re like accidental pests on civilization, that chugs ahead with or without them. I think this is true. The world will act according to its needs, as best it can, anyway. But it may and does “satisfy” its needs in horribly anti egalitarian, vicious ways. Anarchy and socialism are themselves artificial alliances among people. Capitalism, by its darwinism, whether honest or corrupt, is itself more natural. Politburo’s are more natural. So, to say that a world where the weakest will be safe, will come about by just letting the people rise, although a nice idea which seems to have been efficiently communicated by occupy, seems like the great something that never did and never will happen.

    You could even say that there’s no such thing, among individuals. If a big union goes on strike, and there’s no party leadership. The union itself becomes like a leader of the movement, in that moment. People follow it (whatever form that takes). And they’ll follow it if it serves their interests. If it doesn’t or if they don’t perceive it to serve their interests, well, I guess then the movement that sought to empower them, was mistaken, at least for that moment in history.To this I say, yeah, of course. Shit happens and shall.

    If he was trying to prove to the go-getter centrists that their martialling efforts are either mistaken or impotent but definitely questionable, it may serve that purpose. But it’s pretty easy to still dismiss the horizontalists as guys who don’t matter. The world is already horizontal. We don’t need to be paradoxically led horizontally. People who dream of being leaders will still dream of being leaders, for better or worse (likely worse). And if they find the right moment or ally themselves with a dominant power, they’ll succeed.

    The thing that makes centrists so suspicious to leftists is that they aren’t waiting for a perfect storm to achieve change and power based on people. They are already trying to get power before the people/movement has given them the opportunity. Which is why they want to find alliance with dominant liberals. Which is why they are destined to sell out. Which is why they are a waste of time. QED, they are unnecessary to any genuine social movement. They aren’t part of it but they want to cause it.

    It’s pretty weird. The whole thing. If that’s what he’s saying, I’m not saying he’s wrong. I’m saying “yeah, I know” and I’m saying his style is turgidly pretentious.

  2. thedoctorisindahaus says:

    Forcing me to engage with social theories of this nature forces me back into turgid writing myself. Just on re-reading.
    I blame my education!

  3. Justin Parker says:

    “Why are the taxonomies of taxonomy fetishists always wrong? ” I don’t know the answer, but I think you may have stumbled upon a Universal here: “The taxonomies of taxonomy fetshists are always wrong.” Can we call it Tarzie’s Law?

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