Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Call for Political Clarification


Since I don't have time, this week, to problematize the role of left-humanist ideology in the social reproduction of oppression, I figured I'd simply link to this excellent survey of emerging best practices in neo-Socialist polemics.

Every word is a sermon in itself, but points 7, 9, and 10 are dearest to my heart:

7. Your opponents are dogmatic and sectarian, unless they are not, in which case they are opportunists....

9. What people say is less important than what they imply. What they imply is what the correct political analysis leads you to decide that they imply. Don’t take their account as to what they are saying: tell them what they are saying. Be abusive if necessary. You have been provoked.

10. Welcome the new audience for socialism and always remember what they find of interest. What they find of interest is minutiae, because they are interested in political clarification and to that end the smallest details are important. Do not neglect the political ferment inside Skegness SWP, a council byelection in Oxford or what was on the front of Socialist Worker in 1969. This should fascinate a younger audience who missed the discussion the first time around (or the first two hundred).
These points can't be overemphasized, particularly if we wish to avoid falling prey to the sort of Zinovievian factionalist opportunism that marred the Fifth Comintern Congress.

Consider yourselves warned.

(Link via Moonbootica via rootless. Illustration by yours truly, stolen lazily from an earlier post.)

7 comments:

jaytingle said...

It's funny, but... why can't the right make fun of themselves? Self-awareness is empowering, yet oddly constricting. I guess this means Obama really is a socialist. The movie "Eat the Rich" covers similar ground, also lampoons the right, and is really funny. Fittingly, a number called "The Hangover" now provides the big cinema laughs.

Phila said...

It's funny, but... why can't the right make fun of themselves?

The glib answer would be that authoritarians can't afford to make jokes about themselves for fear of breaking whatever spell they're trying to cast. I don't think that really explains it, though.

I think there's a particular left-wing pathos that this piece reflects -- which I often catch myself lapsing into -- that's based on a recognition of past failure, and an expectation of continued failure; it encourages a sort of gallows humor. I don't think that attitude is as common on the right, which tends to interpret almost everything as at least a prospective victory.

At the risk of sounding utterly daft, maybe we're dealing to some extent with the difference between linear and cyclical time: a lot of people on the right seem to see themselves as moving towards an apotheosis and settling of accounts; a lot of people on the left seem to see things going 'round and 'round (God knows I do). Which may possibly give them a somewhat deeper sense of the absurd.

Self-critical left-wing humor tends to be a little melancholy...I know mine does, anyway. And it is constricting, in a way. Or symptomatic of being constricted, maybe.

That said, I've certainly known lots of leftists who have absolutely no sense of humor about themselves. As does the author of this piece, evidently....

rootless-e said...

right wingers can't make fun of themselves because they are mentally ill people whose politics derives from a desperate effort to shore up their own sense of dignity.

On the other hand, people like openleft's paul rosenberg, who could have been using this recipe assiduously over the last 3 years, probably don't find it funny either.

Phila said...


At the risk of sounding utterly daft, maybe we're dealing to some extent with the difference between linear and cyclical time:


God help me...I just realized that I sound like Jonah Goldberg!

Talk about constricting self-awareness....

jaytingle said...

You'd only sound like Goldberg the younger if you'd referenced the Star Trek episode that best illustrates your point. Here again, you'd fail to replicate Jonah in that you'd have made a point.

Phila said...

Here again, you'd fail to replicate Jonah in that you'd have made a point.

Further proof that I'm not a member in good standing of Hard America.

Jazzbumpa said...

In a perfect world devoid of constricting self-awareness, , Sounding Like Jonah Goldberg with be the title of a very bad Adam Sandler movie.