[Marxism] The criticism of religion [was: RE: Vnzla:reasonstobe optimistic]

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sun Aug 26 09:02:44 MDT 2007

Alan Bradley writes: "So, the US Left shouldn't have bothered? Would the
world have been a better place if they hadn't? Or were they *completely and
utterly* ineffectual? Did they do nothing that justified their existence? 

"You would be making a pretty hardline argument if you answered 'yes' to any
of those questions."

My basic point was that the balance sheet on the U.S. Left over the past
half century is not a positive one. This is a different thing than saying
social struggles made no gains, but also a different thing from the kinds of
absurdities Alan tries to put in my mouth by way of rhetorical questions. 

The post-WWII period saw the elimination of direct colonialism as a major
feature of the system on a world scale; momentous, world-historic triumphant
struggles and revolutions in China, Vietnam and Cuba; the smashing of Jim
Crow and its South African copy, Apartheid; and countless other progressive
developments, including a radicalization on a world scale that challenged
bourgeois ideological hegemony in a completely unprecedented way and whose
effects are even being felt to this day. There were also many setbacks and
defeats, there is no question about that. 

But in terms of building a Left movement/pole/party/organization or
alliance, what do we have to show for the many tens or even hundreds of
thousands of people who became active, conscious anticapitalists or
socialists in the United States throughout this period? Obviously the state
of the class movement (the lack of it) would have meant a cohered left pole
probably would have remained a minority, and a small one. Yet the lack of
any significant opportunity for working people to hear a reasonable and
coherent explanation of their OWN interests certainly did not help a class
for itself movement to re-emerge. When working people draw near to the left,
what they experience is a thicket of groups that can scarcely be told apart;
rivalry and sectarianism; disorganization and a complete lack of coherence
even on as basic a level as agreeing on a date on which to protest the war.

If you say what exists today is the best or the most that could have been
expected under the circumstances, or even a reasonably acceptable result,
even if it could have been improved around the margins, then I believe what
this means is that there is no hope of a real socialist movement worthy of
the name emerging in the United States, none whatsoever, at least not under
anything like the range of political and economic circumstances that have
existed in this country over the past several decades, which presumably
determined this basic outcome, however much its specific forms may have been

I believe, BTW, that is an entirely reasonable position, although I do not
agree with it, at least not in this extreme form. But we should ALSO
recognize that this is the position of the overwhelming majority of
socialists in the United States IN FACT, ON THE GROUND, even if most of
these comrades have not tried to systematically think it through and
formulate it in precise terms.

I believe, however, that in addition to objective factors (the lack of a
class for itself movement; the corrupting influence of class, white, male
and imperialist privilege; and so on) subjective factors contributed to the
impasse that the U.S. Left finds itself in. And to be more specific,
vanguardist sectarianism and volunteerism which thoroughly permeates ALL the
currents descended from the Third International, and which in the specific
American case is intimately interrelated and intertwined with unexamined and
unchallenged class, nativist, white, imperialist and male privilege, which
are given free rein by the verticalism of most socialist organizations and
also find expression in opportunist (reformist) positions.

I believe it is necessary to do an evaluation --a harsh, even bitterly
critical evaluation-- of the left in the United States and its repeatedly
manifest unwillingness and/or inability to mount any serious challenge to
the ruling class on any point or issue or even render effective aid to
social and protest movements, organized groups, sectors, circles and
individuals who are doing so. 

To give just one tiny example. There was just a post on the list kvetching
that all the left wing blogs are pimping for the Democrats. Like duh....

Despite all the anarchoid bullshit about user generated content to the
contrary, these blogs, like much/most everything else contributed to the
internet, is being done by people who are being PAID to do it. 

We have, on this list and in a handful of other forums, analysts, writers
and thinkers that make the likes of Wonkette, Kos, Arianna and all the rest
of them seem like not particularly clever middle-school students. 

Take just one example -- Stan Goff. I do not believe there is a better
military analyst --of any class allegiance or political persuasion-- writing
in the United States today, and that's even without taking into account his
contributions on a host of other topics. Last I head Stan was making a
living doing gardening and construction-type work which pays around
$10/hour. The left hasn't seen its way clear to creating
structures/institutions that would make it possible for us to compete for
Stan's labor power, so he can blog and write full time for us. And then we
complain that the blogosphere is dominated by pro-Democratic Party

Like, duh...

But what we need to get at is the necessary critical individual (in terms of
persons and groups) and collective (in terms of groups and the left as a
whole) evaluation and balance sheet that has led to our practically ceding
the blogosphere --and just about every other arena of cultural, ideological
and political significance-- to liberals in the pay of the ruling class.


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