Monday, June 9, 2014

The election results are in, but the politics are in the street

Let us be clear - SYRIZA's victory is important, and we should celebrate it as a success.  And now we should just as soon stop the festivities, and engage in some needed self-criticism.

In Greece, right-wing reactions have been sparked by a betrayal of the promises made to workers by the 'Left' parties in the past.  (In the 70s in Greece, in Germany in 1918, in France, Austria, and Italy during and following the Second World War, etc.)  In a word, it is almost the job of the centre Left to pay lip service to the revolutionary working class, only to back out at the moment its militant resistance is needed, and the rank-and-file workers are - pardon my French - left holding their cocks in their hands.

But we can criticize the left-wing parties for their failure to deliver on their promises until we run out of oxygen.  Trotsky called it 'the crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.'  Perhaps, after over a hundred years of this theory and its empirical demise, the criticism ought to be focused on the very notion of a 'Party' itself.

There is, to be sure,  only the self-management of economic and social life by the producers.  There is only the autonomous mass organization of those workers.  This is the basis of all revolutionary, anti-capitalist action.  All 'parties' represented in the 'assemblies' or the network of 'councils' within it that work against this principle must, by all means, be repressed by the self-organizing mechanisms set in motion by the self-conscious workers, acting consciously to rationalize and integrate economic life in its interests, through cooperation, and the transformation of all sectors and forms of social (re)production to  a factory or 'warehouse' - technical or manual - that sets targets, works with all other branches of industry, and uses its factory of economic planning for technical workers to produce the plans, target economic goals, and range of options and outcomes for a democratic apparatus to evaluate and vote on.  The viability of such a social arrangement has been more than proven to be both possible and necessary in The Content of Socialism, by Cornelius Castoriadis.

The paradox of 'freedom' of action and 'authority' is trenchantly laid out by Engels:  

"... the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority... it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society. If the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other; but they are blind to all facts that make the thing necessary and they passionately fight the world.

Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? ... [The] political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists."

This political orientation is what I affectionately refer to as an 'uncastrated Marxism.'  We may be self-critical, but we do not have to do away with what renders Marxism as a theory and a practice into a radical and subversive political movement that abolishes exploitation once and for all.

We may even question the category of 'class' as a political subject, which would inevitably follow from a rejection of the category of the traditional 'Party.'  Because all classes have historically been represented by a state apparatus that is extra-economic and extra-juridical in its coercive composition, they have all stood in an alienated relation to their own power structure, what enables them to dominate.  This is what differentiates the workers as a subject, and therefore throws the entire notion of their 'class-ness' into question.  As both representers and represented in their economic and social affairs, their composition cannot be enclosed in an exclusive relation to the Other subject or community:  the State, the nation-state, the exploited productive laborers.  It bears an open, inclusive relation to a multiplicity of differences and their spontaneous interplay.  This inclusion is both the basis of its freedom, and the authority that must be exercised to maintain it.  It is a contradiction to assume that 'reactionary' political agendas can be 'included' in this political subject.  Reactionary political agendas conspire to contain and enclose this relation into its former ontological exclusivity.  To exclude such beliefs is equivalent to being inclusive and pluralistic.

Again, as Castoriadis poignantly argues, it is the unleashing of the spontaneous and creative activity of the producers that will set the basis for socialism and its true substance.

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