[Marxism] Define the "Left"?
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 2 10:18:28 MST 2004
Badili Jones wrote:
What are your various working definitions of the Left? It seems that
most people define the Left as the existent sectarian organizations? Is
the Left exclusively Marxist? Is it ideological, etc? This is
problematic in some ways because it it means constituting a force that
can articulate a popular will it would seem that the Left would have to
be more deeply connected to the social movements, especial within the
communities of color and the working class. I believe that we need to
soberly analyze the class, and national composition of the left and
define the tasks for building up the left accordingly.
We are in a period of transition. The left that came into existence
after the Russian Revolution reached an impasse in the 1970s.
Methodologies based on a schematic understanding of that revolution
could always be relied on to achieve a critical mass. A newspaper, a
couple of hundred to a couple of thousand cadre, a presence in the mass
movement might convince the participants that they were operating on the
"legacy of 1917" or some such nonsense. However, with the collapse of
the USSR and the failure of groups to the left of the Communist Parties
to succeed even on their own terms, there has been a search for an
alternative model for the left. Max Elbaum has tried to explain why this
approach failed in the Maoist milieu while I have written numerous
articles on why it failed for Trotskyism.
I would strongly suggest that the Green Party is the most important
initiative right now for redefining the left. This is not to say that
the Green Party is a finished product. There are obvious unresolved
tensions that are expressed in the differences between Ted Glick and
Radical movements cannot succeed unless they flow from the culture and
language of the native ground. Sectarians failed to understand that the
hammer and sickle were uniquely Russian expressions. If the left is to
grow in the USA, it will have to learn to relate to the experience of
ordinary people and their concerns. This is something that the CP of the
Popular Front era can teach us. No matter the mistakes made in
supporting FDR or adapting to national chauvinism during WWII, it was
highly successful in reaching the masses and being seen as a legitimate
force for social and political change. By contrast, the Militant was
running articles during that same period urging its readers to "Vote
Trotskyist". Whatever the failures of the FSLN and the FMLN, they too
learned to develop a movement that was uniquely Nicaraguan and Salvadoran.
I myself have not read Marta Harnecker's article but much of what she
seems to be saying was also expressed in Roger Burbach's very fine "Fire
in the Americas", a book that tried to apply the lessons of the
Nicaraguan revolution to the USA. I might scan in a few pages this
evening for comparison's sake.
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