“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CHANNEL SURFING THROUGH THE REVOLUTION

Over the last eight years, LI has developed a pretty fierce hatred for the Left. We break out in hives whenever we hear some grave person intone about the Left should do this or the Left should do that. As if the Left were anything but a miserable con game, one hundred fifty years of murder and disaster under its belt, led by young romantic young men who turn into old horrors as soon as they get a chance to mismanage an organization. The convergence of Mao and Milton Friedman in China has been a beautiful symbol of what the “left” is all about. That former Leftists loved the invasion of Iraq is not only not a surprise, but the secret face of the Left all along.

But as the “Left” exploded, I was hoping, romantic to the end, that something would take its place. In 2000, I even stupidly thought that thing would be the anti-corporation movement, which crystallized at the time around Ralph Nader. Nader, of course, had a more than honorable career in the seventies. Unfortunately, the only thing politician-like about Nader is his blind, gargantuan ego. The anti-corporation movement seemed to dissolve when it was needed most – after 9/11 – and now consists of a painfully unfunny clown act that comes out every four years and runs for president.

The run up to the current disaster was predictable since last summer. The “Left” of course saw, heard and said nothing – which is par for the course. We are now entering perhaps the most revolutionary period in my lifetime. It is rather hilarious that the “Left” will hop, skip and jump through this period without even the slightest flicker of recognition. Naturally, however, they will be like white on rice over the next superhero movie. The subtexts of Iron Man2! Does that Batman movie have a subversive countertext underneath its reactionary overtext? I’m just on the edge of my seat...

In the UK, where the “left” became the third way, the destruction of the latest and the greatest scheme to enrich the upper class – our thirty year old system of financial fictions – is probably going to wash away the Labour party. Is this good or bad? After all, the Labour party labored, mostly, to convince people that it was a behemoth Maggie Thatcher with a human face. My theory has long been that the takeover of old blue chip corporations by LBOs was the model for what happened to the “left” parties – they were cheap, they were exhausted, and they were beautifully positioned to fulfill a corporationist agenda by providing faux opposition and real support for the system of massive inequality, the hollowing out of democracy, and the use of pr warmongering as a sort of bread and circuses, that the fat cats love.

The U.S. has no left. Perhaps this will be an advantage. So far, there hasn’t been a peep about the insane policy being announced in headline after headline, as the Fed systematically destroys the ability of the government to help the producers – the bottom 85 percent. But I – romantically – believe that the doggies aren’t going to eat this dogfood much longer. The doggies will bite.

10 comments:

JCD said...

Yea, attempts to plumb the subtexts of Iron Man 2 can get a bit tiresome. But I get even more irate over blanket pronunciations about the need of the stupids to be managed more forcefully. As if there were a great, thin line dividing the enlightened and savvy leftists (who all watch the Daily Show) from the snivelly drooling saps (who watch the O'Reilly show).

I hope the doggies will bite, but I am not sure. My family is mostly in the Red (in the current, American sense of the term), yet they are still quite excited about McC and Palin. Or, if not excited, still going to vote for them nonetheless. Perhaps because the alternative is not an alternative.

roger said...

And perhaps not ... I am pretty unconvinced that Red State america is waiting around for an alternative radically to the left, so that their real interests will finally be expressed, and love at first sight will result.

On the other hand, last week in Mexico, when Lehman started to go, I proclaimed, tediously, that this was the end of McCain. And the Republicans. I'll stick with that. The Republican summer was only made glorious by the amazing amount of easy money they were able to wring out of the credit system. There is no way that we won't have a severe credit contraction now, which is going to cut and cut and cut until November. People do get their cues from what is in the air around them, and for the last couple of months, the newspapers have treated the presidential election in their usual way - ie, as a high school election. Such frivolity implies that the economy and the war are all settled. But this is the big monster turd that, in a moment, knocks over the high school narrative. It was obviously coming. The question, of course, was could it be held back. The collapse of Bushian warmongering against Iran was a sign that the Republican machine knew that they had to keep the high school narrative going as long as possible - no war shortage gas prices to disturb the thick exurban sleep. But when the money markets start keeping retirees from getting their money - the doggies won't like that. They won't look for alternatives - they will bite the people who've been bringing the dog food.

Praxis said...

Sure, the left has failed calamitously; has been failing calamitously for decades. But it's the failure you hate, right? ("one hundred fifty years of murder and disaster"? Is that all?) A massive structural transformation of capitalism, articulated and justified through the old, comically inappropriate neoliberal language, because no credible alternative vision has hit even the outskirts of the mainstream... the biggest nationalisation in US history (right?) must surely change the political and intellectual space. Rage at the virtual non-existence of developed alternatives behind and through which we can mobilise. But seeing the collapse of present capitalism, and the emergence of some new form of rapacious oligarchic theft... this is not the time to over-generalise in our condemnation of prior dissent's co-option or inadequacy. IMO.

Praxis said...

Great to have you back, of course...

owen hatherley said...

I wonder if you might be referring mainly to these sort of people?
I passionately believe that the way we're going to reform the welfare state will achieve traditional, left-wing goals, socialist goals even, as well as social-democratic goals, and the last 15 years or so of The Left as Thatcherism with a semi-human face...?

Because otherwise this is a stick-banding too far for me, part of an increasingly bizarre misapprehension that The Left is reducible to bloggers writing about Batman films or unemployed bankers. The Left is also not just the history of apologias for mass murder from Mao to shock & awe, it's also trade unionism, grassroots socialism, and all manner of non-intellectual everyday politics, to which we owe the right to strike, the existence (perilous, I know) of welfare benefits and (over here, if not over there) of socialised healthcare, and generally everything that makes life bearable - which weren't granted by capital out of philanthropy, but out of constant pressure from what is usually (if not very usefully) called The Left.

owen hatherley said...

(whoops, stick-bending I meant...stick-banding sounds interesting though)

roger said...

Owen and Praxis, of course you all are right. I was exaggerating about the past. The Left has not been a complete shambles - in fact, in the past, it was a vital force, countervailing the inevitable power grabs of the plutocracy, making life a more just proposition for the majority, advocating for peace and civil rights, etc.

It is a shambles now. I'm interested that neither of you address what is not an exaggeration in my little shrieking post - the comparison of the Labour Party to a company that is aquired through a "leveraged buyout", which means that the buyer's purchase of the company depends on borrowing from the company, usually by issuing bonds, so that the purchase can be effected. "Efficiency" is thus guaranteed - a once profitable company, burdened by the debts generated by its very purpose, must now shed jobs, divisions, etc., in order to make a profit for its shareholders. It is a very evil way of squeezing a company and its shareholders. I feel like the model works, in many ways, to explain the third way that overtook the major socialist parties - Labour, the PS under Jospin in France, the SPD under Schroeder all became vectors for "reform" in the 90s and 00s, which meant, essentially, that the plutocracy captured the opposition. Labour is an especially interesting case, since, unlike the other parties, which at least retained the traditional tie to civil liberties and peace, Labour became even more insistent on war and squeezing civil liberties than any Tory party since 1900. Blair made Churchill seem like a wild eyed radical. This was the most thorough takeover of a traditionally leftist party. The analogy to debt comes in here: Labour's militants, in order to ensure the success of the party, shed principle after principle, and took on the burden of representing the pro-war, anti-civil rights side so thoroughly that, in fact, Britain represents the paradox of having absolutely no representative party for the majority anti-war opinion in the nation. This is consistent with the fact that the nation is headed by an unelected figure. It is a breakdown of every dimension of democracy, n'est-ce pas?

While things aren't quite that bad in the States, it is generally true, throughout the anglosphere, that as the period of the "Great Moderation" unwinds, who is protesting about the last, orgasmic theft we can see reported every day in the papers? It does boggle my mind. A Jaures, a Kautsky, or even an Aneurin Bevan , would have poured out streams of invective about this racket - but all I see in the Guardian are reassuring articles from New Labour drones.

roger said...

oops, - "debts generated by its very purpose" should be debts generated by its very purchase.

owen hatherley said...

OK, OK. I'm obviously completely with you on the leveraged buyouts of Social Democratic parties. Certainly few things are more morally and politically repugnant than the British Labour Party. There's a none-too-subtle but seemingly effective game at work here, though, whereby they constantly appeal to labour history at the same time that all its gains are dismantled, as in the Purnell interview I linked to. Cf also the Guardian's current grotesque series of pieces by Blairite apparatchiks where they pledge their fealty to Attlee, Bevan, Castle etc, while actively destroying everything they built up. A large proportion of the 'Left' establishment really do believe this bullshit (very well anatomised at the Tomb), but the party's former base quite obviously do not. The worry is that nothing, nothing, seems to be emerging to replace it, bar a couple of people at the margins. It's a horrible situation.

Praxis said...

Ah, that's better. Buyout: yes. And: what Owen said.