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What IS a "Leftist"? July 15, 2004 by RedStar2000


The word "left" remains part of the common political vocabulary.

Many use the word and "think" they know what it means.

As shown in this collection of posts, some things are not self-evident.


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quote:

You've missed my point. If we take a cross section of, for example, the population of the UK we'd get a scale of 'extremity' from one side to the other. On such a scale he would sit just left of centre - and this would make him a 'leftist'. It's a term that is - but should not be - used subjectively, as it can be measured.


I disagree.

I do think "left" can be objectively determined, but not on the basis of a nose-count.

"Left" is a political term that should be "measured" according to political criteria.

To do it in the fashion that you suggest is to retreat to bourgeois political "science"...indeed, to sink to the level of George Gallup.

And as bourgeois political "science" usually does, it gives you absurd "results" -- like he or John Kerry are "leftists".

By any meaningful political criteria, they are nothing of the sort.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 2, 2004
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quote:

What defines a leftist? Against what political criteria do we measure them?


Short answer: in the advanced capitalist countries, a leftest is in favor of resistance to capitalist hegemony now and in favor of its ultimate replacement by proletarian hegemony.

The more one is "attached" to one or another aspect of the prevailing social order, the less one is entitled to be considered a leftist.

John Kerry is squarely in the mainstream of bourgeois politics, hence not leftist at all.

Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky are "critics" of right-wing policies but within the over-all context of bourgeois legitimacy...hence, not really leftists.

The Leninist paradigm is quasi-leftist...it condemns bourgeois hegemony in theory but usually "adjusts" to it in practice. Also, it contains a good deal of bourgeois ideology re-phrased in "Marxist" terminology. When a Leninist party gains power (a rare occurrence), those bourgeois ideas usually emerge in a short time...and very forcefully.

Only real communists and a substantial number of anarchists fit the definition of leftist in the sense I defined it...that is, resistance now and revolution when it becomes a practical possibility.

A real leftist unconditionally rejects the legitimacy of capitalist hegemony.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 3, 2004
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quote:

We should also observe how Redstar2000 makes himself look quite silly when he calls people "Stalin" given his extremely authoritarian belief of sending those who hold beliefs different than his to the camps (OI).


Predictably, any opposition to superstition is immediately equated with "Stalin's camps".

I have sent two people to OI thus far, both in accordance with a clear majority of the CC votes. In neither case did that "ticket to the camps" have anything to do with religion.

No matter how many times I explain that I am not in favor of "punishing" anyone simply for what they believe, in the eyes of the faithful, I will always be "Stalin"...based solely on the fact that I flatly refuse to respect their superstitious nonsense or treat it as anything other than self-evident crap.

That, in itself, is a "mortal sin" and perforce makes me "another Stalin."

At least in their eyes.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 3, 2004
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quote:

TOLERANCE... isn't the left supposed to support tolerance?


No.

The idea that "tolerance" is an "abstract virtue" is probably compounded of historical ignorance and a generous bucket of bourgeois propaganda.

Back in 16th and 17th century Europe -- the era of the religion wars, the reformation and counter-reformation, etc. -- there were progressive voices of the nascent bourgeoisie that argued strongly on behalf of "religious tolerance" and "separation of church and state".

While cloaked in much lofty rhetoric, the fundamental argument was much earthier...since it was no longer possible to win a religious war, therefore "religious tolerance" is better for business.

This sensible position gradually won out...though most of the clergy resisted bitterly, of course.

And since the clergy are usually found allied with the most reactionary elements in any class society, the perception emerged that the "left" was "tolerant" compared to the right.

Thus tolerance itself ascended into the "heaven of absolute virtues"...even while the bourgeoisie was ascending to earthly supremacy.

To this day, the bourgeoisie still boast of the tolerance of their ancestors...even though they themselves are less and less tolerant of any opposition to their hegemony.

Both the Marxist and the anarchist traditions -- the modern left -- are, in fact, bitterly opposed to reactionary ideologies...most definitely including religion. If you think Stalin was tough on the godsuckers, check out any thorough history of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists -- they routinely executed any member of the Catholic clergy that fell into their hands!

In today's world, the defenders of "tolerance" as an abstraction seem reduced to a relative handful of bourgeois intellectuals (the ACLU or Amnesty International are good examples)...who hearken back to the old bourgeois virtues and don't realize that they've long since been overtaken by events on both ends of the political spectrum.

Reactionaries and revolutionaries have never been "tolerant" of their class enemies or the enemy's ideologies.

The notion that the left is "tolerant" is based on a...mistake.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 4, 2004
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It's kind of funny about how some of these discussions reveal more about the participants than they do about the subject that's nominally in dispute.

quote:

I would just keep troops in Iraq until things become a bit more stabler, pulling out now will just lead to the insurgents taking control and setting up some kind of quasi-religious Muslim state. Which is good for no-one.


The only "stability" that imperialist troops provide or can provide in Iraq (or any other country they occupy) is that of a universally despised quisling "government"...in other words, no stability at all.

The Israelis have been occupying the West Bank and Gaza for nearly four decades...notice any stability?

Beyond this, how is it that you can even suggest that it is or could be the legitimate task of Anglo-American imperialists to "establish stability" anywhere?

What the hell kind of crap is that???

You have no rights in Iraq, period! The U.S. and the U.K. have no legitimate purpose in Iraq whatsoever!

The only left position on this is very clear: IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF ALL IMPERIALIST TROOPS!

Whatever kind of regime is established in Iraq after the imperialist troops are withdrawn or (hopefully) driven out will be up to the Iraqis...and will be superior to what exists now.

I think you have failed to grasp the fundamentally reactionary nature of modern imperialism.

You really need to work on that.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 4, 2004
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quote:

Now if you go back and read what I said, in its entirety I said I wanted troops in Iraq to prevent their new government being replaced with a fundamentalist religious dictatorship.


Their "new government" is a dictatorship and will continue to be one...whether they have ceremonial "elections" or not.

Quisling regimes are always dictatorships.

quote:

I never said it was our task to "establish stability" rather maintain now that it has been lost, rather then just leaving the country in a huge mess which, if you used an ounce of common-sense, you would realise is not viable.


Common sense? I repeat: there is no way that "stability" is going to be "maintained" by imperialist troops.

Iraq is not "stable" now...and the longer the troops remain, the worse things are going to be.

quote:

Well I'm a lefty and my position isn't the same as your "correct" one.


Yeah...a "lefty" who presumably "tolerates" torture and rape as long as it's "his imperialists" who are doing it. In order to "maintain stability", of course.

Those who support imperialism are not leftists!

Period!

quote:

Would a quasi-fascist and religious fundamentalist be superior to a bourgeois democracy?


That is for the Iraqis to decide, not you and not the imperialists!
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 4, 2004
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quote:

I've been reading some of the threads in CC and I discovered something I find quite disturbing - some members who are essentially leftist/socialist, etc are being restricted (possibly even banned).


This is because of the on-going controversy about what it actually means to be "leftist/socialist".

Some believe that if an individual claims to be "on the left", that's "good enough"...no matter what else they may say or do.

I could offer illustrations, but I think you know what I mean.

Others -- like me -- insist that the totality of what people say and do is what "entitles" them to be considered left...or not.

Does that "rule out" differences of opinion on the left in favor of some kind of rigid "line"? I don't think it does.

What it does rule out is conscious collaboration with the ruling class...in any form.

Naturally, I'm not concerned with trivia here. If someone wants to put their tail between their legs, crawl off to the polls when no one is looking and vote for Blair or Kerry, I'm not going to put them in front of a (verbal) firing squad.

When people advocate that publicly, that's different!

It's not a "legitimate difference" on the left; it's a public endorsement of the "legitimacy" of voting for the ruling class, period.

I think it's flatly unacceptable.

This applies even more strongly to the case of imperialist war. Since the utter disgrace of 1914, it's been unacceptable to support "one's own" ruling class in its imperial ambitions.

People will sometimes bring up the "exception" of World War II...but we know the reason for that "exception", do we not? The left, correctly or incorrectly, perceived the defense of the USSR to be of such "over-riding importance" that support of one's own ruling class was "justified" if it would contribute to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Ever since then, it has been a "left dogma" that one does not support one's own ruling class, period!

Now, we have some members of this board who think imperialism is "ok" if it conquers some small country with a particularly odious tyrant/tyrants. Naturally, imperialist propaganda will paint all of its potential targets in the darkest possible hues...they're not obligated to tell the truth when they're drumming up popular support for their next military venture.

So where do these self-proclaimed "leftists" draw the line? If it's "ok" to bomb/invade Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, just when is it "not ok" to support imperialism?

And other self-proclaimed "leftists" oppose the various wars with complete sincereity...but when imperialism wins, they turn right around and support the occupation of the conquered land -- in the name of "order" and "stability". It's as if their view is "imperialism is only bad when it loses...when it wins, it's ok to support it".

quote:

For example: many people have been pushing for religious persecution...


Well, is religion acceptable on the left? Right now it is, but should it be?

I don't think it should; in my opinion, religion is so fundamentally reactionary that anyone who "believes" is not a real leftist and should not be considered one by anyone who is.

That's a minority view at this point...but I hope to see it become a majority view in the future.

If it does become a majority view, then I do not see it as "persecution" to send the godsuckers off to OI...it's where they belong.

quote:

My point is that from my view it appears that members who are fundamentally leftist, etc are being persecuted for disagreeing with our 'doctrine' (isn't being leftist the actual loose doctrine?) in as low as one aspect, e.g. religion.


As before, I ask: what does it mean to be "fundamentally leftist"?

That's what this controversy is all about.

quote:

It is a sad day at Che-Lives.com if such persecution continues.


One way to look at it, I suppose. I think it will be a great day at Che-Lives when people are clear enough about what leftism means that they will instantly send folks with reactionary views to OI.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's coming any time soon.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 11, 2004
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quote:

I would like to ask Redstar on what authority he bases his opinions?


I base it on evidence and argument, of course. What else?

quote:

Since when have you dictated what is considered leftism, and what is not, and what right do you have to state that religion and leftism are mutually exclusive?


I do not "dictate" anything; I argue for that definition based on the evidence of religion's track-record.

I have every right to argue for that or any other definition...as does anyone else.

If and when people decide that my definition is accurate and useful, then practice follows.

quote:

I was always under the impression that social, economic and political equality were the aims of real leftists.


Is just a verbal declaration in favor of "all good things" sufficient?

If someone says "I'm a leftist in favor of equality" and then also says "I think we leftists should all vote for Blair/Kerry", has not the second sentence utterly destroyed any possible meaning of the first sentence?

If you disagree, then where would you draw the line? Because everybody does. Everybody has a "no go" zone...even if they don't necessarily spell it out.

Everyone has some idea that "leftists don't do X"...and if someone does do "X", they are rejected as "leftists".

Even the people who argue most vigorously for the untenable thesis that "leftism means tolerance" are expressing their (verbal) intolerance of those who think otherwise.

quote:

So obviously if a person is in support of numerous leftist progressive changes to society, yet have one or two small matters which do not fit your stated definition of leftism, does not stop them from being leftist?


What's a "small matter"?

Is supporting imperialism a "small matter"?

quote:

This is not a case of all or nothing, there is room [for] deviation.


A truism...but which "deviations" are acceptable?
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 11, 2004
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quote:

But your stance on religion borders on the dogmatic.


No, it doesn't "border on" the dogmatic, it is dogmatic.

quote:

Things like racism, sexism, homophobia etc. are obviously not to be tolerated.


And that statement is also dogmatic.

Overt racism was common "on the left" up until the 1920s (in the U.S.). Only in the 1970s did sexism begin to go "out of fashion" in the American left. And only in the 1990s did homophobia become unacceptable.

Prior to those years, one could be considered a "good leftist" and yet still hold and advocate all of those reactionary views.

I can clearly remember arguing with widely-respected veteran lefties in the 1970s about sexism. "What does this women's lib crap have to do with the class struggle?", they would thunder, "They're all a bunch of petty-bourgeois bra-burners; ugly lesbians who need a good fuck; blah, blah, blah."

It wasn't that long ago.

quote:

The fact of the matter is, a reactionary is a reactionary and a leftist is a leftist, how one arrives in one of those two positions is ancillary at best and irrelevant at worst.


No, actually the definition changes over time...as we learn to oppose class society in a deeper way. In Marx's time, for example, there was a pronounced tendency to see imperialism as "progressive"...it smashed the barriers to economic development in the colonized world, it taught the "savages" to read and write, etc.

We know better now.

Don't we?

quote:

...if I make the case for Gramscian style syndicalism, does it really matter if I go to mass every Sunday?


On its face, it would seem to make little difference. But what else do you do as a consequence of "eating Jesus" every Sunday?

If you donate money, what will the Church use it for? Does the name Opus Dei ring a bell?

The Catholic Church in Africa "informs" its victims that "condoms won't prevent AIDS" -- we can only speculate on the fatalities that will result from that lie.

The BBC reports this morning that 30% of all U.S. assistance for anti-AIDS programs must go to "faith-based organizations" -- about $4,500,000,000 over the next five years. A financial jackpot for the protestant and Catholic churches in the "third world" -- and they don't have to do anything to earn the money except what they're already doing...preaching abstinence. If "Saudi" Arabia can finance Islam, why can't the U.S. ruling class finance Christianity?

But why would a "leftist" want to do that?

quote:

The point I am trying to make is that religion is really nothing more than something that gets us bogged down in the muck of distraction as well as something potentially detrimental to left unity.


A common opinion. I just happen to think it's a wrong opinion.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 12, 2004
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quote:

Care to expand on this?


I've written many thousands of words on the subject, particularly with regard to both imperialism and religion.

I'm well aware of the fact that you find all of it unconvincing, if not downright incomprehensible.

Some people I cannot reach, no matter how much I try.

quote:

Sure you do, you make statements that "member A" is not a leftist because they believe in god. My question is really what makes you such an authority on the subject?


Experience and observation. That's how you get to be an "authority" on a subject; you learn and comprehend a ton of information.

Though it will seem like boasting to some, I strongly suspect that I am more familiar with the history of religion in all its aspects than anyone else on this board...especially its historic alliance with ruling class reaction.

I don't deny that a very small minority of believers can be sympathetic to leftism...but that does not make them leftists, it makes them confused.

In the modern era, a coherent definition of leftism can only mean resistance now to all forms of capitalist hegemony and proletarian revolution when it becomes possible.

Such an outlook leaves no "room" for religion except the one we call Opposing Ideologies...because it is an opposing ideology. It opposes resistance now and has always opposed proletarian revolution.

Sooner or later, those who believe in the supernatural but are sympathetic to the left will have to make a choice: Earth or Heaven?

My experience and observation has been that they nearly always choose "Heaven" and end up on the wrong side of the barricades.

quote:

There are other religious individuals and organisations which do not fit your hypothesis. So what does that say about your "evidence"?


If they really "don't fit" my hypothesis, I assert that sooner or later, they will!

quote:

It depends on the reasoning you provide. He openly supports the re-election of Blair and his Labour Party, yet it appears he has convinced everyone of his legitimacy as a leftist.


I'm sorry but he hasn't convinced me of his "legitimacy as a leftist". In fact, I'd go so far as to say his Trotskyism is of a religious nature. Trotsky had a historical analysis of the Labour Party of his era. He repeats that analysis with a Catholic coda: The "Labour" Party "was, is, and ever shall be" a working class party.

The fact that when he votes "Labour" he is really supporting both the British bourgeoisie and its imperial ambitions (as a junior partner of U.S. imperialism) is literally unthinkable to him.

Most Leninists, when you get right down to it, are probably best characterized as "quasi-leftists". They "know all the right words" but tend to be "frozen" in political space-time...the Trotskyists in 1940, the few remaining followers of Stalin in 1953, the Maoists in 1976, etc.

quote:

I would not; if a person supports the liberation of the working classes then there is very little they could say which would convince me that they are in fact right wing.


But that's the whole question, isn't it? Anyone might say (quite sincerely) that they "support the liberation of the working classes"...is that enough?

quote:

Only Stalinists have (in most cases) managed to convince me that they are in fact not leftists.


And there you are! See, even for you it's "not enough" for someone to just claim that they are in favor of "all good things".

Experience and observation have convinced you (correctly or incorrectly) that Stalinists are "fake leftists".

You have set yourself up as an "authority" (wisely or unwisely) on the subject...all that remains is to "name names": "X is a Stalinist right winger and is therefore not a real leftist and therefore should be restricted to Opposing Ideologies!"

You have illustrated my point perfectly; everyone does this, no matter how "tolerant" they claim to be.

quote:

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, class liberation is a far more important issue, and immediately overshadows such matters. Not to mention that a person may attack most acts of imperialism, yet in exceptional circumstances support individual acts of imperialism, for one reason or another. Does that make them an imperialist?


In today's world, the answer to your question is affirmitive...it makes them a supporter of imperialism and not a leftist of any kind.

quote:

If a person supports class liberation, but only for white people or whatever, then in my view they are not leftist, as they are elitists and racists, which are absolutely incompatible (in my view) with leftism.


How dreadfully intolerant of you...and me and pretty much everyone on the board.

But there was a time when many a "good leftist" was openly racist and no one thought anything about it. As a matter of fact, in the U.S., it was those Stalinists who were the first leftists to openly condemn white racism...and proved it by sending the first organizers into the deep South under extremely dangerous conditions.

I agree, racism and anti-semitism are no longer acceptable at all on the left. Sexism and homophobia are in "deep trouble" on the left...there are still some of those folks around but they are well aware that they had better "watch their mouths" very closely indeed.

Godsucking is still acceptable, as the recent poll showed, but it too is "in trouble". The tolerance for superstition is definitely waning...it is (correctly) perceived by growing numbers as a reactionary obstacle to revolutionary resistance and to revolution itself.

The "wheel of history" like the Earth itself "still moves".
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 12, 2004
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