Today’s anti-capitalist left represents only random and dangerous nihilism
There was a time when I understood the value of political infiltration. As a young leftist activist who was encouraged to join any emerging movement for political change or social reform, I received very specific instructions: to always stress that the underlying injustice of the capitalist system was the root cause of any grievance to the heart. of this campaign. Use the fundamentals of Marxist ideology to educate both those who participated in the protest action and the general public whose sympathies might be garnered by it. Above all, aim to get involved in the more high profile and newsworthy aspects of the business. If possible, have yourself nominated (or be appointed) as a spokesperson.
The whole idea was to propagate the principle, at every possible opportunity, that all the discontents and injustices of society could be attributed to the evils of capitalism. Using the dialectical tools provided by Marxist theory, you could demonstrate that radical socialism – the abolition of private property and free markets – was the only real antidote to any human evil or systemic injustice subject to attack. meticulous examination.
Comrades who belonged to official Communist Party agencies were subject to strict discipline by the Soviet authorities. Those of us of the more Scissiparous Trotskyist persuasion (whose organizations always included the word “international” in our names to distinguish them from the Stalinist heresy of “socialism in one country”) had a little more room for spontaneity, and I believe that the Maoists (who called themselves “Marxist-Leninists” for reasons which remain obscure) were almost independent.
But we all had a pretty clear idea of where it was going. The presentation of an anti-capitalist alternative was explicit and, in its own words, consistent. The aim was to replace free markets and private property with a command economy led by what would admittedly, at least initially, be a dictatorship – “the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat”. The first step in this process was to persuade the whole population that democracy and the freedoms it seemed to offer were a sham until ‘the people’, that is, the state, possessed. not and did not control the levers of the economy.
Needless to say, I changed my mind about all of this – like most (but not all) of the organized left in the West. But I still see that there was a kind of logic in this program: there was always a precise idea of the objective and the type of system proposed to replace the current one. Which brings me to the whole different wave of anti-capitalist infiltration that is now sweeping through just about every publicity-worthy protest movement.
For my life, I cannot discern what is proposed to replace the free market economy with the neo-anti-capitalist armies that have so triumphantly taken control of the climate change or anti-racism campaigns. Of course, it is plausible to assert that the capitalist profit motive induces a kind of greed that ignores threats to the environment or exploits racial minorities, but these tendencies can be controlled or mitigated by democratic governments provided that they have the consent of their populations. And that consent can be obtained through persuasive arguments within the existing political arena – as indeed, it has already done to a large extent.
But this is where the diffuse, and quite remarkably ignorant, anti-capitalism of today’s infiltrators leaves behind the old model.
What is their ultimate plan? What exactly do they propose as an alternative social and economic order? As far as I know, in the case of the more extreme wing of the climate change movement, the only morally acceptable outcome would be some sort of pre-industrial (even pre-agricultural) primitive communism as practiced by the hunter peoples- pickers. These XR protesters who block bridges and hamper the livelihoods of ordinary people, do they have any idea how bad, brutal, and short life was in this innocent paradise that they presumably idealize – or so we have to assume since ‘they did not give us any details on other possible models.
Do they advocate state ownership of the means of production – or not? Do they want the abolition of all private profit or not? Do they see a place for entrepreneurial innovation in the fight against climate change – or are they in favor, it seems, of stopping industrial production and individual freedoms rather than developing technologies that reduce the harmful effects? Who knows?
All we see are random, nihilistic explosions of unnecessary obstructions that offer nothing but the disruption of what is, for the moment, the essentials of modern life. It is not so much socialist as anarchist: its antecedent is not the arrival of Lenin at the station in Finland but the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which started the First World War.
Then there is the extremely sensitive issue of anti-racism, the initial mission of which was turned upside down by Black Lives Matter. The great civil rights movement, which began in Baptist churches in the southern United States as a force for integration and tolerance, is now virtually unrecognizable. In truth, this original incarnation was contested long ago by the most militant black power movements. But what is new is the injection of an element which guarantees by its irreconcilable nature that an agreement can never be reached: a historic guilt over the original sin of slavery in which every white must participate, and for which there can never be redemption.
This makes little historical sense in the American context since the vast majority of people currently living in the United States are descended from migrants who arrived long after the abolition of slavery, but even if you accept the idea of guilt collective inherited, what is the proposed solution? More hate? An entrenched division? Endless recriminations? And how could the end of capitalism – and the mass prosperity it enables – help all of us to emerge from it?