Monday, March 03, 2014

The West Coast represents the future of the Left...and some problems

Namely, the problem of what happens after we win.

When I moved here from Florida, where I lived for about four years, I wasn't prepared for the fact that on the west coast people had been organizing, and had been successful at organizing, for quite a long time, and that the game had been in motion since before I was born. One of the reasons I moved out here was because I felt that the activist scene where I was in Florida paid too little attention to class struggle, and recycled rhetoric that was liberal instead of socialist as radical thought. I found that, yes, people out here were more cognizant of class struggle, but that on top of recognizing it, and a socialist society, as a good thing there were many people who used the slogans and the sympathy as excuses for their own failings. Not only that, but actively used them to try to get you to give them a break for their own fuckups, while casting doubt on you and where you were coming from. It was a game, one that played on liberal insecurities.

I somehow thought that people would  be above doing that. Wishful thinking, it turns out. A minority of people are willing to use any feature of themselves that the greater society has sympathy for to their own advantage.

 However, while some would use this as evidence that the Left as a whole, or leftist thought in general, is wrong or ill founded, I took and take a different approach, one that I feel is not only warranted but represents what the future will look like--if we want to maintain socialism and not let it slip into a degenerate state.

I feel that socialism, the idea of class struggle, victory of the working class, socialization of corporations, is right, but that as a secondary issue we have to deal with the venality of the hangers on who would use the rhetoric for their own purposes. How exactly they do this, and what it looks like, has been adequately cataloged and examined by people on the Right, who have also suggested, in a more philosophical sense, some ways to fix this. While there are a diversity of views there, I think I can say that in general those on the Right who criticize Communism and other socialist currents on the basis of the selfishness and self interest of those pursuing this throw the baby out with the bath water, and focus almost exclusively on the negative without looking at the genuine issues that are involved...and don't recognize that there are people who are genuinely pursuing these things without falling into those traps. Their critiques are one of the reasons that I advocate a Left-Right fusion politics.

The conservative critique, and the correlative focus on character and values as a corrective to some of the potential problems,  can be incorporated into the traditional leftwing doctrine without destroying its foundations. I think this should happen and that it's necessary to make a sustainable socialist society---and movement, while we're at it.

With this, and the disillusion that I've felt multiple times out here on the west coast, racial issues have actually been a small part of the focus. Despite commenting on, and critiquing, the failings of Occupy Seattle and the way it went, I see whatever hold overs of liberal racial politics their are as very secondary to the issue of the working class as a whole.  The fact that a small number of people are willing to abuse the good nature of others based on their skin color doesn't invalidate the realities of racial oppression anymore than similar abuses on the part of working class folks invalidates the real concerns about inequality and power in our society. I view race as an illusory concept, something that's a social construction, and I don't think that there's any particular profound insight that can be gotten from contemplating racial issues in any other sense than that.

The future on the west coast is showing itself in its first stirrings, manifested in movements as well as in life in general, and it's a future that the rest of the country will eventually have to catch up with. They could save themselves a lot of trouble by anticipating the potential problems that success in their ventures will bring, as opposed to pretending that the righteousness of the cause will conquer all, without the more depressing aspects human nature intervening and raining on the parade. 

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