Critique of Left Politics

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R.C. Smith:

" the basic problem with the archaic notion of full communist revolution (i.e., Leninism, Stalinism, Trotsky – not to be conflated with a theory of the ‘commons’ or the ‘commonising’ of society) reside in how, in both theory and practice, it does not see the problem of ‘systemic change’ as being deeper than capitalism itself? Bracketing this thought for a moment, I think we need to be critical today of abstract ideological theories of social change and the often questionable politics that they entail, which depend on the idea of sudden total integration of an alternative economic or political system to which people must therefore adapt. Contrary to this wholly authoritarian approach, I will argue toward the notion of a radical dialectical political praxis rooted in a foundational, alternative philosophy of systemic change that works prefiguratively from the basis of a revolutionary grassroots political horizon.

In a previous paper on alternative economic theories set mainly in the context of today’s themes, I wrote that it is easy to criticise contemporary communist movements – especially communist party politics – who urge for revolution without offering any real foundational, holistic vision as to what an alternative might look like on a micro and macro level. What most modern communist theories also seem to lack (although not just communist movements) is a foundational philosophy of social change – that is a holistic, multidimensional, interdisciplinary, integrative and transitory perspective – as communism today tends to depend primarily on an archaic concept of revolution (i.e., Badiou’s event) that is symbolised by violently overthrowing the present Order and planting a red flag on parliament hill (or on a dogmatic and archaic emphasis on communist party politics, political hierarchies and the election of a dominant leader to drive change).

Besides which, isn’t the problem with archaic strands of communist politics rooted, in part, in the fact that it doesn’t take into consideration what will happen after the ‘big bang’ revolutionary event occurs? Moreover, isn’t the basic, fundamental problem when it comes to communist or ‘Leftist’ politics in how it is almost entirely one-dimensional and shorted sighted? In other words, it doesn’t take into consideration the longer term view, the sustainability of its political revolution (after the fact). Because the archaic concept of ‘revolution’ here is not anticpated as the result of a truly grassroots politics and the ‘many-sided human transformation’ that would need to underpin this politics, communism of old relies on the (authoritarian) logic that people will once again have to adapt to the new system in place. It relies, to put it another way, on the logic of a sort of top-down ‘total social integration’ which, as we’ve witnessed in different communist movements around the world, forces a more or less totalised single (ideological) model onto society without considering the differences of people’s needs in each particular sociohistorical-cultural context. Here, the universal is just as damaged as it is in global capitalism. A single vision of a ‘revolutionary alternative’ is forced onto every society, coercively and even sometimes self-dominantly, bending people at will and creating an entirely new ‘subordinate populous’.

As a result of the entirely questionable character of communism, of ‘Leftist’ politics as a whole today, which doesn’t take into account a more holistic, transitory and integrative perspective, we observe a type of self-titled ‘revolutionary politics’ and theory that relies on authoritarian, dominant and exploitative beginnings as well as purely political or economic notions of change, which do not consider the multidimensional or holistic needs of people and which are not integrative and sustainable, due to their very antecedent form at the outset which indicates the opposite of a grassroots, emancipatory politics.

Regarding this last point, wasn’t Erich Fromm entirely correct in his critique of communist party politics that the disaster waiting to happen is rooted in the (unhealthy and ideological) dependency that surfaces between the fetishisation of organisation – of the (false) bond between people and Leader, people and Party? When the Leader or Party is taken away, when ‘revolution’ happens and fades, ultimately chaos ensues in the form of the re-emergence of the same fundamental antagonisms of ‘(bad) society’ that the revolution sought to overthrow because, prefiguratively speaking, the Revolution was ultimately based on a lie of what it truly wanted to be.

I argue that this sort of politics is far from the sort of progressive, fundamentally alternative approach needed in 21st Century society. Bracketing a critique of communism – or of politics writ large – which I’ve offered elsewhere, I argue that what is needed today is a truly radical alternative approach: i.e., a fundamental alternative philosophy of systemic change, which, to sum up practically, is based around (we might say) a foundational alternative vision of life that includes a deep critique of the epistemological, anthropological and cosmological underpinnings of the historic genesis of ‘coercive society’." (