re <enough of Goff> and <left infantilism>

stolz stolz at
Thu Jul 24 21:16:16 MDT 2003

I can only lurk on this list because of the lack of time and English
but would like to say a few words on these two threads that caught my
attention as related.  Also thanks for all responses to my question about
the "New Left" and offers to share your experiences, I will certainly have
some questions for when I am finished reading several books on this subject.

But let me explain why I feel that there is some thread connecting these rwo
threads.  I ask myself a question: why I nevere heard something like the
slogan: "Turn your bayonetts against your own government (American, British,
French, Italian, some may even suggest - Russian (re Chechnya)"?  I guess
that would be qualified as "left-infantile disorder".  Mistakingly so, I
think.  A political line like this might be stupid, but it has nothing to do
with what Lenin meant by this phrase.  If only because there is very little
in common between the context of Lenin's politics and our political
situation.  When Lenin talked about left infantilism he consciously moved to
the right, because he thought that the frontal revolutionary attack in the
West had failed for a time being and Western communists should adjust their
tactics for a period of legal, electorial, trade-union and intra-party (SD)
struggles.  He addressed this ideas to real mass organizations who were
capable of putting out hundreds of thousands of people on the street and had
corresponding infrastructure.  This situation does not resemble even remotely
the one in the West today.  Yet the talk about "left-infantilism" has become
almost ritual there.  Even in Russia it's still possible to talk about "left
infantilism", even if with tongue-in-cheek, because here a party  with the
word "communist" in its name can still get 40% of the popular vote.

I have a feeling (please correct me if I am wrong)that in the West this
phrase is often used "rhetorically" and even with the intent to defend one's
accomodation to the public opinion, which seem to be also overwhelmingly the
opinion of the working classes of the imperialist countries.  I recall the
universal outrage at the words of that NYC fireman's words: "How could it
happen HERE?!"  By "universal" I mean in Russia, including and especially in
left circles. Here was a "working man" thoroughly and happily imperialist.
And then we observed the reaction of many respectable US and Western
communists that was clearly motivated by the fear to face the complicity of
their "working people" in the crimes of their own imperialists. Like
the "working people" in uniforms now in Iraq and tomorow may be in Iran,
North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and the day after tomorrow--why not?--Russia...
And here lies the ambiguity, perhaps, the tragedy of US, and broader, Western
communists (I refer here to the post by a Canadian comrade).  On the one
hand,  Western radical milieu understandably forms the point of attraction
and influence for the non-Western left.  It is culturally and, relatively,
even materially rich.  Some of the imperial splendor inevitably leave an
attractive patina even on its leftiest fringes. But it is true that there can
be no comparison between the intellectual strength and simply the number of
talanted, educated, and sophisticated Marxists in the US and the scarcity of
all of the above in Russia. Yet all this sophistication and (relative)
richness and strength seem to be ironically divorced from any support, no,
even a hint of some future support from any politically meaningful sections
of their nations. To talk about "left infantilism" makes sense only if there
is some practical alternative, like the one Lenin believd existed in the West
back then.  But where is the alternative today?  For Sergeant Goff the
alternative to "turning the bayonettes" is not some sort of socialist
politics within the realm of bourgeois legality, because there are no mass
organizations, no workers'"battalions" behind him.  His choices are different
and less exciting. He can create a website which explains to the US soldiers
that they are perpetrating international crimes similar to those of Nazi
soldiers and that the root of the problem is not the US government but their
own racism and great-American chauvinism.  That is to say, Sergeant Goff can
become an antiimperialist critique of his own nation, including his own
working class.  He can become good liberal in the mold of Hobson and
Chomsky.  Instead, it seems that he has opted to remain good American, trying
to "bring home" "our boys".  Now this is the real problem, not "left
infantilism", which is a phony one. The tragedy of American communists, i.e.,
the communists of THE imperialist country is that they have to confront that
very class on whose behalf they, as Marxists, speak. Not many, even of the
best, are capable of facing such a terrible prospect.  This is why,
incidentally, I think the responses of US left to 9/11 were so Seargent Goff
like.  Facing millions NYC firemen saying: How could it happen HERE?, many of
our American comrades began  talking about the "working people" and
even "trade-union members" killed in the WTC.  As if the terrorist act was
performed by some "left infantilists" rather than Arab nationalists fighting
US imperialism.  But this imperialism, which have already committed some of
the greatest genocides in human history and is preparing new ones (who can
doubt that?) would have been impossible without the "working people" willing
to carry out its crimes.  That is the tragic situation of those several
hundred people in US who rightly call themselves communists!

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