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Old Left versus New Left

Post by Rapaille on Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:52 pm

I am searching for someone who can provide me with some good arguments about the fundamental differences between the old and new left, especially on the subject of the national question aswell as critizism on new left analysis and revisionism.

Since the 90s there developed a very strong anti-national tendency within the leftwing movement, which is dominant in most contemporary Western socialist/anarchist groups. In my opinion this is mainly a consequence of the practice of the new left studentmovement which lacked a solid proletarian basis and moved towards the cultural sphere. Also the identity- and ideological crisis after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR are to blame. By moving away from the proletarian struggle in favor of a mass movement fighting supposed symptoms of capitalism (antinationalism, antiracism, antisexism, individualism and so on) aswell as the apologism for past socialist manifestations (USSR, People's republic of China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Kampuchea and so on) by idealizing theorists who never put socialism into practice (Trotsky and so forth), the (new) left became a tiger without claws.

For me nationalism represents an essential condition for socialism, one cannot exist without the other. Instead of an new left internationalism that is magically supposed to drop from the sky, I think any revolution starts in a particular nation and national working class liberating itself from capitalist opression. Class war is the catalyst for revolution, in which socialism provides social justice and nationalism a sense of community. Only within that national context people are able to liberate themselves, joining other people who do the same in the international struggle against globalism and capitalism.

In this aspect I see the new left as a mean of the reaction because it moves not only misguided leftists away from the concept of class war, but also because it rejects nationalism which I think is a primairy condition for social revolution. The revolt of Mai 68 seems to been hijacked by the forces of the reaction and which was once a revolt against capitalism became neutralized, institutionalized and integrated with the capitalist system.

Any thoughts?





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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Red Aegis on Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:56 am

Rapaille wrote:I am searching for someone who can provide me with some good arguments about the fundamental differences between the old and new left, especially on the subject of the national question aswell as critizism on new left analysis and revisionism.

Since the 90s there developed a very strong anti-national tendency within the leftwing movement, which is dominant in most contemporary Western socialist/anarchist groups. In my opinion this is mainly a consequence of the practice of the new left studentmovement which lacked a solid proletarian basis and moved towards the cultural sphere. Also the identity- and ideological crisis after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR are to blame. By moving away from the proletarian struggle in favor of a mass movement fighting supposed symptoms of capitalism (antinationalism, antiracism, antisexism, individualism and so on) aswell as the apologism for past socialist manifestations (USSR, People's republic of China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea,  Democratic Kampuchea and so on) by idealizing theorists who never put socialism into practice (Trotsky and so forth), the (new) left became a tiger without claws.

For me nationalism represents an essential condition for socialism, one cannot exist without the other. Instead of an new left internationalism that is magically supposed to drop from the sky, I think any revolution starts in a particular nation and national working class liberating itself from capitalist opression. Class war is the catalyst for revolution, in which socialism provides social justice and nationalism a sense of community. Only within that national context people are able to liberate themselves, joining other people who do the same in the international struggle against globalism and capitalism.      

In this aspect I see the new left as a mean of the reaction because it moves not only misguided leftists away from the concept of class war, but also because it rejects nationalism which I think is a primairy condition for social revolution. The revolt of Mai 68 seems to been hijacked by the forces of the reaction and which was once a revolt against capitalism became neutralized, institutionalized and integrated with the capitalist system.  

Any thoughts?

I would agree that the New Left Movement consisted of a lot of students and did not properly mobilize the proletariat. That said, it may just have not been the appropriate conditions for the proletariat to have been mobilized. I would need to read more about the specifics of 1968 to answer that with more certainty.

As for apologism, there are many people on the left that argued against the USSR from nearly its beginning. There are entire movements that argued in disagreement with the USSR and its policies. This isn't even including China or the DPRK. Maybe you could give your definition of Socialism so that we can talk about those criticisms and see if they are valid.

When you are talking about national liberation movements I agree. People should fight and join others in their fights. The thing is that the nationalism that is developed in a proletarian revolution will not be the bourgeois nationalism of today. It must include - to avoid being a reactionary force in the new society - Internationalism by default. Workers must unite across borders and would immediately if some differences were overcome, but that hasn't happened yet. The revolution will certainly come on the national stage and spread; that is, if the increases in communicative power don't allow for much faster spreading of revolutionary sentiment.

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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Rapaille on Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:04 pm

Red Aegis wrote:I would agree that the New Left Movement consisted of a lot of students and did not properly mobilize the proletariat. That said, it may just have not been the appropriate conditions for the proletariat to have been mobilized. I would need to read more about the specifics of 1968 to answer that with more certainty.

You're right that the conditions after the Mai '68 revolt, especially later in in the 70's and 80's, where not appropriate for the mobilization fo the proletariat due to social-fascist reformism. As a reaction on the revolts of '68 the capital launched a strategy of social reformation, that let to a situation in which the proletariat had good workingconditions due to social reforms, democratization of the working space and membership in the major bourgeios Trade Unions. This greatly impacted the revolutionary potential of the proletarian movement ofcourse.

Therefore I would not say that all new left analysis is by definition wrong, they merely seeked for new ways to keep the struggle going. Most attempts of student activists to infiltrate the proletarian movement simply failed because of the cultural differences. So its not unlogical that the new left more and more layed the emphasis on the cultural sphere and on building a mass movement, which in my opnion represents the biggest break away from old left theory. However I think by doing so the traditional leftwing ideology was revised that at some point it stopped being oppossed to capitalism, but became institutionalized and thus a product of it.    

The new left, and with that most contemporary socialist/anarchist movements in the West, has alienated itself from the proletariat it claims to represent. The new left became dominated by subcultures (music, art, and so on) and minorities (immigrants, LGBT and so on) which turned it into a freakshow, rather then a movement which represented the working class. Their visions are unworldly rather then revolutionary.    
 
As for apologism, there are many people on the left that argued against the USSR from nearly its beginning. There are entire movements that argued in disagreement with the USSR and its policies. This isn't even including China or the DPRK. Maybe you could give your definition of Socialism so that we can talk about those criticisms and see if they are valid.

I'm a proponent of council communism and syndicalism. So ofcourse I have my critics on the statecapitalism of the USSR and other socialist manifestations.There is no denying that putting theory into practice comes with major problems, faults and bloodshed. But many new leftists reject any association with socialist manifestations because they are afraid to be connected with any abuses; this apologism led to the promotion of pacifism and even worse the promotion of the idea that more democracy somehow equals more socialism. Many critize past socialist manifestations, but also comtemporary revolutionary struggles, from a democratic (bourgeois) perspective. They view the world no longer from the perspective of class struggle, but from new laft values and morals on democracy, equality and so forth.  


When you are talking about national liberation movements I agree. People should fight and join others in their fights. The thing is that the nationalism that is developed in a proletarian revolution will not be the bourgeois nationalism of today. It must include - to avoid being a reactionary force in the new society - Internationalism by default. Workers must unite across borders and would immediately if some differences were overcome, but that hasn't happened yet. The revolution will certainly come on the national stage and spread; that is, if the increases in communicative power don't allow for much faster spreading of revolutionary sentiment.

I do not oppose internationalism, but I see national liberation as a matter of the national working class. However for me internationalism represents the unification of all free people worldwide on the basis of their selfdetermination organized from the basis in a federalist structure, not somekind of a cosmopolitan "world-multiculturalism". Integration must be a natural process, not one of compulsion.
 
The new left has widered away from that principle because they saw the national working class as to passive, so they sought for new potentially revolutionary classes like immigrants and new concept like the mass movement (a reactionary "volksfront' concept). But this never led to revolution, the new left has only aliented itself from the national working class. The anti-nationalist tendency of the new left even snubbed the national working class by accusing them of rascism and nationalism, when they simply opposed the unfair competion that was created on the labour market by capitalist immigration. In my opinion its exactly this development that gives reactionary and bourgeois nationalism a chance to find backing among the proletariat, because the working class feel betrayed by the new left that has embraced capitalist multiculturalism.    

Espacially during this new crisis the proletarian struggle will once more become of major importance because of social demolition, precarity and mass unemployment. The new left analysis is a typical product of the student movement, which has lost all its significance in the current situation. In that sense we have to grab back on the traditions of the old left rather then on the deceptions of the new left. Only by leaving the freak show behind that is more busy with subculture, LGTB activism, immigrant rights, feminism, antiracism, no border politics instead of class struggle, a new movement can be formed which is able to represent and which comes forth from the national working class.
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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Red Aegis on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:52 pm

Rapaille wrote:You're right that the conditions after the Mai '68 revolt, especially later in in the 70's and 80's, where not appropriate for the mobilization fo the proletariat due to social-fascist reformism. As a reaction on the revolts of '68 the capital launched a strategy of social reformation, that let to a situation in which the proletariat had good workingconditions due to social reforms, democratization of the working space and membership in the major bourgeios Trade Unions. This greatly impacted the revolutionary potential of the proletarian movement ofcourse.


Therefore I would not say that all new left analysis is by definition wrong, they merely seeked for new ways to keep the struggle going. Most attempts of student activists to infiltrate the proletarian movement simply failed because of the cultural differences. So its not unlogical that the new left more and more layed the emphasis on the cultural sphere and on building a mass movement, which in my opnion represents the biggest break away from old left theory. However I think by doing so the traditional leftwing ideology was revised that at some point it stopped being oppossed to capitalism, but became institutionalized and thus a product of it.

The new left, and with that most contemporary socialist/anarchist movements in the West, has alienated itself from the proletariat it claims to represent. The new left became dominated by subcultures (music, art, and so on) and minorities (immigrants, LGBT and so on) which turned it into a freakshow, rather then a movement which represented the working class. Their visions are unworldly rather then revolutionary.

I see what you're saying, but I'd like to explore what you meant by a mass movement being a break from the 'old' Left. What in your view did the old left center around? If you are to say workers' control and empowerment then I think that an argument could be made for that, but there were also plenty of aberrations in this trend such as fealty to the party over the class interests due to a misallocation of whose interests belong to whom. There are other examples, but the struggle to keep the Communist movement within the sphere of the proletariat and its emancipation above other concerns is ubiquitous through history.

As for the onset of Identity Politics as a primary center for activism I fully agree that it is a mistake to hold these things above the class war since the class war is what is necessary to bring society into a position to better address these issues. I do think that these goals are worthy though, but they are not explicitly communist in nature. It is in logical consistency for communists to support these progressive sentiments and even to work to bring their realization into existence. The problem comes when these goals are made dominant over the end of Communism. Without that being the primary driver of action one cannot be a revolutionary, only an activist with communist sympathies.
   
I'm a proponent of council communism and syndicalism. So ofcourse I have my critics on the statecapitalism of the USSR and other socialist manifestations.There is no denying that putting theory into practice comes with major problems, faults and bloodshed. But many new leftists reject any association with socialist manifestations because they are afraid to be connected with any abuses; this apologism led to the promotion of pacifism and even worse the promotion of the idea that more democracy somehow equals more socialism. Many critize past socialist manifestations, but also comtemporary revolutionary struggles, from a democratic (bourgeois) perspective. They view the world no longer from the perspective of class struggle, but from new laft values and morals on democracy, equality and so forth.

I see what you are saying. People sometimes 'throw the baby out with the bath water' as they say. There were some good things that occurred in the USSR and other ventures, but there are also mistakes that we can learn from. We can reject their bad practices and uphold the good. I just happen to think that the bad practices far outnumbered the good, but that is another topic.

When you bring up Democracy as a value that many leftists hold I can understand where you're coming from there as well. No one is for Democracy under all circumstances, such as the classic example of two muggers voting on whether or not the third party should give all their money. There certainly is a pacifist current running through what some consider to be the Left, but I think that they mainly just disagree on protest tactics and aren't pacifists in every situation. That discussion is one that would require a scenario to answer, in other words, it is an ad hoc judgement call.

I do not oppose internationalism, but I see national liberation as a matter of the national working class. However for me internationalism represents the unification of all free people worldwide on the basis of their selfdetermination organized from the basis in a federalist structure, not somekind of a cosmopolitan "world-multiculturalism". Integration must be a natural process, not one of compulsion.
 
I agree on this. How long integration will take will depend on the cultures involved. I hope that it happens faster than anticipated but I won't be surprised if it takes considerable time. Once workers realize that they have common interests and livelihoods they will likely come to some similar conclusions.

By that I'm referencing Historical Materialism and its effects on society over time, but you probably know all about that.

The new left has widered away from that principle because they saw the national working class as to passive, so they sought for new potentially revolutionary classes like immigrants and new concept like the mass movement (a reactionary "volksfront' concept). But this never led to revolution, the new left has only aliented itself from the national working class. The anti-nationalist tendency of the new left even snubbed the national working class by accusing them of rascism and nationalism, when they simply opposed the unfair competion that was created on the labour market by capitalist immigration. In my opinion its exactly this development that gives reactionary and bourgeois nationalism a chance to find backing among the proletariat, because the working class feel betrayed by the new left that has embraced capitalist multiculturalism.

I see what you're saying, but I think that the effects of immigrants isn't as big as most posit. I do think that this outright demonization of all forms of sentimentality for one's way of life is a problem that must be addressed by any future movement in order to be successful. The working class should feel some affection for their surroundings and must if society is going to exist when they are in charge. It just matters how much that empathy extends beyond their house, neighborhood, town, region, ect. I think that this circles back to the question of the pacing of internationalization through mergers of decision-making apparati.

Espacially during this new crisis the proletarian struggle will once more become of major importance because of social demolition, precarity and mass unemployment. The new left analysis is a typical product of the student movement, which has lost all its significance in the current situation. In that sense we have to grab back on the traditions of the old left rather then on the deceptions of the new left. Only by leaving the freak show behind that is more busy with subculture, LGTB activism, immigrant rights, feminism, antiracism, no border politics instead of class struggle, a new movement can be formed which is able to represent and which comes forth from the national working class.

I don't think that it is fair to call them a feak show but they do alienate the average worker with their clique centered activities and abnormal behavior. The activities of these groups have had some success in reducing that 'disgust' as you called it through their identity politics however. They are good at what they do in the sense that they know the PR game fairly well and can mobilize their respective membership quickly. Leftists that know that the real focus should be towards Communism first can learn from what they have to offer and reject what they do wrongly in terms of building towards the goal.

I'm still confused on what you mean by the 'old' Left though. Could you go into more detail about it?

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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Rapaille on Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:04 pm

First of all I shall define what I mean by old and new left: with the old left I mean the Marxist-Leninist tradition and with the new left I mean the post 68 leftwing movement in the developed world.

Red Aegis wrote:I see what you're saying, but I'd like to explore what you meant by a mass movement being a break from the 'old' Left. What in your view did the old left center around?

The old left had clearly a proletarian basis and centred around the concept of class struggle. The new left was mostly a student movement which lacked a proletarian basis, which led to an entirely different approach on certain issues and a search for a broader basis and new revolutionary classes.  

As for the onset of Identity Politics as a primary center for activism I fully agree that it is a mistake to hold these things above the class war since the class war is what is necessary to bring society into a position to better address these issues. I do think that these goals are worthy though, but they are not explicitly communist in nature. It is in logical consistency for communists to support these progressive sentiments and even to work to bring their realization into existence.

I agree that class war can bring society into a positioon in which its able to adress certain issues. But progressivism must not be a goal on its own, especially not in its current new left interpretation where absurdity and minorities are glorified and placed above the proletariat.  

The problem comes when these goals are made dominant over the end of Communism. Without that being the primary driver of action one cannot be a revolutionary, only an activist with communist sympathies.

I certainly agree. But that is also why I think the new left failed, because due to the identity crisis following the fall of the Berlin wall that left them without a ideological reference point, these sidegoals became the primary driver of action.

The anti-national tendency is one important example of this, because they made "antifascism" into a goal on its own, rather then a mean to accomplish communism. Its a form of ideological degeneration, which also had its effect on the movement and proletarian solidarity itself because as a consequense all national tendencies where rejected without making a distinction between revolutionary or reactionary nationalism. The context of class struggle was lost. As apologists for democracy they reject all kind of revolutionary struggles and regimes worldwide out of the name of so-called human rights. This is in my opinion where the new left evenmtually has led us to and this is exactly where we should break with. In its most extreme and absurd forms this led to the development of reactionary movements like the anti-Germans, who completely broke away from the old left.  

When you bring up Democracy as a value that many leftists hold I can understand where you're coming from there as well. No one is for Democracy under all circumstances, such as the classic example of two muggers voting on whether or not the third party should give all their money.

Well the problem is that many of the new left fail to bind their critizism on violation of human rights and democracy, with a clear and consequent critizism on the capitalist state. The capitalist state is by definition fascist, wheter its democratic or totalitarian, the idea that making it more and more democratic will lead us towards socialism is ofcourse a huge deception. It also makes the new left critize any regime or movement that fights against capitalism by parroting imperialist propaganda. With this they support in the end capitalism rather then fighting it.    

I see what you're saying, but I think that the effects of immigrants isn't as big as most posit.

Mass immigration is a important capitalist working in the process of globalization. Immigration saturates the labour market provinding cheaper labour for the capital and also making way to the demolition of workers rights that are fought for, for over a century. Furthermore it polarizes society because of the erection of cultural contradictions breaking up the social solidarity which is needed to make a united fist against capitalism. Its part of the same divide and conquer strategy imperialism has always used to maintain and consolidate itself.  

I don't think that it is fair to call them a feak show but they do alienate the average worker with their clique centered activities and abnormal behavior.

Well with all respect, that is the feeling I get with the demonstrations that are turned into a true circus by some of these groups. Several decades ago this strategy did have its impact in attrackting youth and adressing the masses, but that time seems long gone.

In contemporary society where people are faced with the misery of the economic crisis, working their ass of, the image of a bunch of unemployed people turning a protest into a party has a reversed effect. It only strengthened the idea of the leftist movement as a being completely unworldly and degenerated only fighting to keep their alimony. Ofcourse this is not representative for the entire leftwing movement, but they represent certainly a big (and for me personally unwanted) part of it.

It would be a good thing as those who have a more serieus view on matters would adress these people or even repulse them from demonstrations. What we need is proletarians that fight for their rights, so other proletarians can associate themselves with them, not a bunch of hippy nostalgists, deliberately unemployed crusts and subsidized selfproclaimed artists.

This is ofcourse a gross generalization and caricature, but it is in my opinion a problem that the contemporary leftwing movement in the West need to overcome. On the bright side we see a development where the leftwing is proletarianized again in those countries in which the crisis has had its biggest impact and the masses are forced to revolt.
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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Celtiberian on Sun Jul 28, 2013 8:02 pm

Rapaille wrote:I am searching for someone who can provide me with some good arguments about the fundamental differences between the old and new left, especially on the subject of the national question aswell as critizism on new left analysis and revisionism.

The most fundamental difference between the Old and New Left concerns the latter's emphasis on identity politics, particularly the discrimination various minority groups suffer, at the expense of class politics. Accordingly, the New Left was/is hostile to hegemonic cultural and national identities, and came to the erroneous conclusion that it would be the combined efforts of lumpenproletarians, students, and oppressed identity groups which would lead humanity to communism, as opposed to the traditional working class. And although contemporary cosmopolitan leftists have largely abandoned that unorthodox theory of revolution (notable exceptions being organizations like the Revolutionary Communist Party), their political programs and rhetoric continue to retain themes divisive to class unity, e.g., denunciations of the family and monogamy, accusations that Caucasian and heterosexual workers are beneficiaries of forms of societal "privilege," etc.

Appropos the national question, the Old Left espoused a plurality of views. Marx and Engels, as you're likely aware, wrote very little on the subject, but the following passage summarizes their stance fairly well:

"The character of Marx's internationalism was defined by his acceptance of the existence of many diverse societies and by his emphasis on the intensive organization of the individual society. He was decidedly not a cosmopolite in his picture of a world order although there were many traces of cosmopolitanism in his thought. Cosmopolitanism seeks to pass from the individual to mankind without the intermediate stopping place of social units less comprehensive than the whole species. The assumption of large societies seemed to Marx a more effective starting point for the establishment of a harmonious world. He was an internationalist, not only in the sense of advocating a system of cooperative world relations, but in the more specific sense of conceiving that system as the resultant or function of the friendly interaction of large nations which were organized harmoniously within.

Along with the too-small society, Marx rejected the vague and amorphous global society. He admitted considerable local variations, even within the same system of production. The socialist world of his imagination consisted of a limited number of advanced nations
."
Salomon F. Bloom, The World of Nations: A Study of the National Implications in the Work of Karl Marx (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941), pp. 206-207.

Marx and Engels's belief that the dialectical processes of history would lead to a world consisting of a few large, developed nations was obviously falsified by subsequent events. This failure in prediction can be attributed to their inability to grasp the endurance of national consciousness, even among small populations.

Three other approaches to the national question were developed by prominent figures in the (Marxist) Old Left. The most influential of these was the Leninist theory, which holds that national consciousness is real and has geopolitical implications, but ultimately ephemeral—as national identity is but an epiphenomenon of the bourgeois epoch. The Luxemburgist tradition, by contrast, argues that the proletariat has no fatherland and whatever nationalistic sentiments they may possess can be overcome in the process of developing class consciousness. The last theory was devised by Otto Bauer, who maintained that while material factors undoubtedly influence the manner by which national consciousness manifests itself throughout time and space, its source is biological, thereby rendering it a constant psychological characteristic of mankind:

"The members of a nation are thus physically and intellectually similar because they are descended from the same ancestors and have thereby inherited all those ancestral characteristics cultivated by the struggle for existence by way of natural and sexual selection, and perhaps also those characteristics acquired by their ancestors in striving to secure their livelihood. We thus understand the nation as a product of history. Those who aim to study the nation as a natural community cannot content themselves with interpreting a particular material—for instance, a germ plasm transmitted from parents to their children—as the substratum of the nation. Rather, they must study the history of the ancestors' conditions of production and exchange and attempt to comprehend the inherited characteristics of the descendants on the basis of the ancestors' struggle for existence."
Otto Bauer, The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 33.

Bauer's thesis is definitely the most persuasive among the contending schools of thought, and while many socialists espoused similar views on the matter in the past (e.g., James Connolly and John Maclean), it never enjoyed the level of support among theoreticians that the Leninist doctrine once had, or that the Luxemburgist dogma currently has. This, in my opinion, has been detrimental to the left.

However for me internationalism represents the unification of all free people worldwide on the basis of their selfdetermination organized from the basis in a federalist structure, not somekind of a cosmopolitan "world-multiculturalism".

Indeed, or as John Spargo once put it:

"...Internationalism does not mean for us anti-nationalism. Nor has it anything whatever to do with the vague doctrine of world-organization, for which no accurately descriptive name exists, symbolized by the picturesque ceremony of a flag burning. This much exploited ceremonial was a crude attempt to symbolize a conception of a nationless world.

We repudiate the claim made by some that loyalty to this nation is inconsistent with true internationalism. Those who say that Socialism involves the view that the working class has no nation to call its own, that all nations are alike, that there is nothing to choose between a militarist autocracy and a democratic republic, do not preach Socialist Internationalism, but pernicious reactionary nonsense.

"Internationalism presupposes nationalism. It is the inter-relation of nations. The maintenance of national integrity and independence is an essential condition of internationalism. This principle has never in the past been seriously questioned in our movement. It has been the guiding principle of our policies in the Socialist International
."
John Spargo quoted in Victor L. Berger: Hearings Before the Special Committee, Vol. II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), p. 627 (bold emphasis added).

Any thoughts?

I fully agree with your analysis of the deleterious effect the New Left has had on radical politics, and I hope you will consider joining this forum and looking into the Revolutionary Syndicalist Federation.


Last edited by Celtiberian on Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:31 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Rapaille on Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:29 pm

Celtiberian wrote:The most fundamental difference between the Old and New Left concerns the latter's emphasis on identity politics, particularly the discrimination various minority groups suffer, at the expense of class politics. Accordingly, the New Left was/is hostile to hegemonic cultural and national identities, and came to the erroneous conclusion that it would be the combined efforts of lumpenproletarians, students, and oppressed identity groups which would lead humanity to communism, as opposed to the traditional working class. And although contemporary cosmopolitan leftists have largely abandoned that unorthodox theory of revolution (notable exceptions being organizations like the Revolutionary Communist Party), their political programs and rhetoric continue to retain themes divisive to class unity, e.g., denunciations of the family and monogamy, accusations that Caucasian and heterosexual workers are beneficiaries of forms of societal "privilege," etc.

I fully agree, although it must be said that not all analysis of the new left is by defintion default. Its a product of its time and some new left tendencies of '68 and the studentmovement certainly qualify as revolutionary. In my opinion the problems started when the movement lost its ideological reference points after the fall of the USSR and the social reformism of the capital after the '68 revolt mainly in the '80's aswell as the institutionalization of the new left. The latter led to a situation in which the proletariat became passive and lost its revolutionary potential; its in the search for alternative revolutionary classes and the creation of a reformist new left bureaucracy within the capitalist system, the new left degenarated into the reactionary mess it is today.

Appropos the national question, the Old Left espoused a plurality of views.

Indeed, but the anti-national tendency within the new left became a controlling power for the movement in the West, resulting in a hysteric aversion of all that is national. The plurality of views on the national question has become a total taboo, thereby undermining any serious analysis on this important question. In that sense it has driven a wedge in the movement, dividing it by using capitalist multiculturalism as an excuse. Also in the sense of international solidarity it has led to a problematic situation because third world liberation movements and anti-imperialist forces are judged on a bourgeois democratic stance rather then a anti-imperialist stance, many times resulting in the new left entering the imperialist camp rather the truly opposing it.        

Three other approaches to the national question were developed by prominent figures in the (Marxist) Old Left.

I am aware of these approaches, the problem begins with the total neglection of the new left on this question.  

Indeed, or as John Spargo once put it:

"...Internationalism does not mean for us anti-nationalism. Nor has it anything whatever to do with the vague doctrine of world-organization, for which no accurately descriptive name exists, symbolized by the picturesque ceremony of a flag burning. This much exploited ceremonial was a crude attempt to symbolize a conception of a nationless world.

We repudiate the claim made by some that loyalty to this nation is inconsistent with true internationalism. Those who say that Socialism involves the view that the working class has no nation to call its own, that all nations are alike, that there is nothing to choose between a militarist autocracy and a democratic republic, do not preach Socialist Internationalism, but pernicious reactionary nonsense.

"Internationalism presupposes nationalism. It is the inter-relation of nations. The maintenance of national integrity and independence is an essential condition of internationalism. This principle has never in the past been seriously questioned in our movement. It has been the guiding principle of our policies in the Socialist International
."
John Spargo quoted in Victor L. Berger: Hearings Before the Special Committee, Vol. II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), p. 627 (bold emphasis added).

Very interesting quote, I was not familiar with the works of John Spargo. I will certainly look into them some time soon.  

I fully agree with your analysis of the deleterious effect the New Left has had on radical politics, and I hope you will consider joining this forum and looking into the Revolutionary Syndicalist Federation.

Good to find some like minded revolutionaries, also good too see that there are still some free havens that are not corrupted by misleading and dogmatic new left thought.  Very Happy

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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Celtiberian on Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:44 pm

Rapaille wrote:I fully agree, although it must be said that not all analysis of the new left is by defintion default. Its a product of its time and some new left tendencies of '68 and the studentmovement certainly qualify as revolutionary.

Some New Left organizations were undoubtedly revolutionary in aspiration, but they lacked a sound material analysis to guide their activism. In that sense, they were akin to the utopian socialists of yesteryear.

In my opinion the problems started when the movement lost its ideological reference points after the fall of the USSR and the social reformism of the capital after the '68 revolt mainly in the '80's aswell as the institutionalization of the new left. The latter led to a situation in which the proletariat became passive and lost its revolutionary potential; its in the search for alternative revolutionary classes and the creation of a reformist new left bureaucracy within the capitalist system, the new left degenarated into the reactionary mess it is today.

The New Left simply failed to appreciate that capital had entered into a historically anomalous period wherein the aftermath of the Second World War placed North American workers in a privileged position vis-à-vis the global proletariat, thereby leading to rising real wages and a relatively comfortable middle class existence, and the Soviet threat pressured the ruling class into various welfare concessions which provided European workers with a similarly comfortable lifestyle. It wasn't going to last forever, as the neoliberal backlash attests. But the young radicals involved in the New Left were eager to get involved in something—partially out of sympathy for the victims of American imperial aggression and partially out of youthful adventurism—which is why they entertained such transparently silly concepts as the aforementioned lumpenproletarian revolutionary vanguard.

Those that retreated into academia after the Vietnam War had ended primarily got involved in post-structuralism and other useless disciplines. Some of them also turned to reformist politics, as you mentioned, and still others remained committed to anti-capitalism and became what some call 'professional activists' (i.e., annoying individuals who manically organize and partake in protests).

Indeed, but the anti-national tendency within the new left became a controlling power for the movement in the West, resulting in a hysteric aversion of all that is national. The plurality of views on the national question has become a total taboo, thereby undermining any serious analysis on this important question.

To be fair, there are a few Marxist theorists who have published decent material on the national question in recent decades. Of course, it has largely been ignored by the organized left, who are steadfastly Luxemburgist on the issue—but I suppose that is to be expected given the enduring cosmopolitan legacy of the New Left era.

Very interesting quote, I was not familiar with the works of John Spargo. I will certainly look into them some time soon.

John Spargo was a Marxist intellectual who resigned from the Socialist Party of America during the First World War due to the party's refusal to support the Allied war effort. He subsequently became involved in bourgeois politics, therewith abandoning his prior commitment to socialism. He is an interesting historical figure, but even at his most radical point he espoused objectionable beliefs; his critical introduction to the theory and practice of syndicalism—Syndicalism, Industrial Unionism and Socialism (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1913)—for instance, is replete with faulty reasoning, blatant disinformation, and generally atrocious analysis. It's a shame, therefore, that his remarks on the national question are so respectable.

Good to find some like minded revolutionaries, also good too see that there are still some free havens that are not corrupted by misleading and dogmatic new left thought.  Very Happy

I'm glad you found the forum, comrade. Welcome.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by nonation on Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:23 am

That quote by otto bauer is hella reactionary. Nations aren't products of natural selection. germans and poles haven't evolved differently. LOL. nations are bourgeois tools of oppression
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Re: Old Left versus New Left

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:55 am

nonation wrote:That quote by otto bauer is hella reactionary. Nations aren't products of natural selection. germans and poles haven't evolved differently. LOL.

To the extent populations exhibit phenotypic variation, it can be explained via sexual selection and/or genetic drift. Bauer may have been wrong to emphasize the role of natural selection in this process and to suggest that the minor evolutionary divergences of hunter-gatherer tribes influenced their psychological characteristics to an appreciable extent, but it would be absurd to deny the myriad physical differences that exist between national groups. These surface differences, regardless of how superficial they are, play a part in peoples' self-identification, as does the history and culture of their nations.

nations are bourgeois tools of oppression

Spare me the vacuous cosmopolitan sloganeering. National identity precedes the bourgeois epoch and will persist into communism, whether eccentrics like yourself agree with it or not.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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