Kuri was very good to start the discussion at progressivebloggers.ca (here) on why we members of the hard-left are so invisible and lacking a loud voice in the blogosphere. I’m fed up with that threat since it’s apparent to me that the left cannot agree on the colour of s#!&. However I do still feel that what she spoke about is important and worthy of action on our part.
I won’t post all of the comments on this thread since there’s actually at least three different threads all jammed into one. However I did want to post the thread that I was most involved in.
It all began with this very simple and innocent comment by me on the question posed.
Kuri, I think you’ve got a point there.
There are quite a few Anarco-syndicalists, Marxists, Socialists et cetera kicking around but I think we’re in a bit of a tight spot right now. The problem as I see it is that there are no blog aggrigators (that I’m aware of) like the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy or Progressivebloggers.ca which cater to our views. I mean sure my feed’s carried on both vlwc and PB, but the vast majority of the readers in either place merely want the capitalist system managed differently or feel that if we just elect a more virtuous bunch of people into the halls of the bourgeois state aparatus that all of a sudden we’ll be so much better off.
So without one of these aggrigators, I see us as something of a diaspora without any central hub. I’ve tried figuring out how I can go about hosting something like this on my blog, but alas, no luck yet.
If you want more far-left blogs, I don’t know if you’ve looked, but I’ve got a few really good ones listed on my blogroll on my site.
(P.S. thanks for including me in your list of hard-left individuals along side Eugene – he’s so much more established than I am, I consider that something of an ego boost.)
“I mean sure my feed’s carried on both vlwc and PB, but the vast majority of the readers in either place merely want the capitalist system managed differently or feel that if we just elect a more virtuous bunch of people into the halls of the bourgeois state aparatus that all of a sudden we’ll be so much better off.”
This is why I shy away from calling myself ‘left’. It seems as though left these days is just a softer form of neo-liberalism. It would be nice to see more discussions that challenge pro-growth, neo-colonialsim, etc.
Then about a dozen comments passed and I posted this comment:
Kuri – I want to thank you for starting this discussion as it is desperately needed.
To address a few points:
Firstly: I think we have a big problem with nomenclature here. I don’t have an issue with the left/right nomenclature, however what I was referring to rather was what exactly is meant by “hard left”. What I mean by this is that the NDP seems to have gotten the idea — most likely because they’re often the farthest left voice in mainstream discussions — that somehow they’re “hard left”. With all due respect to the New Democrats (and I know quite a few and I do like them as individuals) the NDP is so far from “hard left” that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to prove that point. They merely want the global capitalist system managed differently — which in Europe would make them, at best, centre-left. Thus, even the NDP’s “socialist caucus” isn’t really “hard left”.
The second problem that I see stems from the first problem discussed above and also points directly to what I see as the only viable solution. The second problem is that we, as true far-lefters, haven’t been able to enter into the discussion in a significant fashion in even the most left-wing of the existing blog aggrigators.
If it weren’t for the NDP’s presence, the Liberals would, like their US Democratic counterparts, think that they’re the voice of the left. And on this front the NDP deserves praise. But the just as Canadian politics benefits from the NDP’s presence as a simple reminder to the other parties of a whole other set of ideas, so too would the NDP benefit from our presence for the exact same reasons – to constantly confront them, like they do to the Liberals, with the reality that they are not the be-all and end-all of the left and that they are, at best, mere left-moderates.
Therefore, the only feasible solution I see is for the development of some kind of blog agrigator like vast left wing conspiracy, but for the “hard left”. I do feel that all of us getting together and adding each other to our respective blogrolls would help, but it wouldn’t create the kind of dynamic discourse necessary nor would it create a central hub which can connect the “hard left” community in the same fashion that the NDP uses to gain some presence for their ideas.
Now, seeing as how I was posting this on a BLOG discussion board where DISCUSSION takes place, I wouldn’t have thought that too many people would be opposed to more efficient platform for discussion amongst the hard-left. I was wrong.
The last thing we need is for us to spend all of our time talking among ourselves–that’s been the problem with the “hard left” all along. Not that we couldn’t have fascinating discussions. But we need to find ways of talking to others–a new set of organizing principles.
On another thread I mentioned the NPI. That promised something new, but was derailed after Layton won the leadership. (He actually attended our swan-song meeting–told us that his screensaver consists of the word “dialectics.” Yeah, I know.)
The NDP is travelling the left side of the corporate highway, when what we need is to blaze a trail through unknown territory. But I’m not sure the party is susceptible to left ginger-groups. That “socialist caucus,” by the way, is “hard left” in the most odious of senses–machine Trots, for the most part, with old language, old ideas, bankrupt organizing principles, authoritarian sensibilities….
We need alternatives. Radical alternatives. And that means redefining politics–what they are and how we do ’em.
So with this pair of exchanges, the discussion was shifted a fair bit. So the discussion continued:
Of course, we need to discuss things because as Paul rightly points out, the formal ‘hard left’ is perfectly happy to keep colonizing the rest of the world.
Discussion might provide concrete ideas (i.e. strategies, experiments that have worked in other cities).
I am particularly interested in child/elder care sharing strategies that might have worked elsewhere if anyone knows anything about this…
The problem with being pargmatic is that people will always tell you that your ideas are otherwise. You need to discuss and develop a vision and then start LIVING IT until people can’t deny it as a valid alternative.
I would have to disagree with Dr. Dawg.
Anybody who’s read Gramsci knows that one of his central concepts is the concept of the hegemony of capitalism. Closely related to this concept is the idea that since capitalism is stable (for now) and has won against socialism (again for now), a ‘war of manoeuver’ (his terms, not mine) is not possible. The best the ‘hard left’ can hope for is to engage in a semi-organized and coherent ‘war of position’ which is requires both discussion with outsiders AND precisely what we’re doing now.
In short the ‘war of position’ which we need requires that we do have a platform to come together and discuss matters otherwise, as this thread demonstrates, we won’t even be able to agree on the colour of shit. (pardon my vulgarity).
Now, Dr. Dawg, I don’t see why you’re opposed to this as I see no reason why this platform or “hub” as I’ve been calling it can’t also be used to reach out to a larger audience and address other groups and concerns. In fact I would argue that my proposal would do precisely this.
The only reason the NDP has gotten it into their heads that somehow they’re the be-all and end-all of the left is that we haven’t organized within our own group and in relation to other groups in order to make our presence known. My proposal would address this point which, coincidentally is another aspect of waging a Gramscian “war of position” – namely, it’s the idea that your mere presence is a force to be reconed with.
I have a wordpress.com blog, but if anybody is willing to host a wordpress.org blog, I can point them to a program which will enable a feed aggrigator to be imbeded into the blog akin to what vast left wing conspiracy has.
Then, much to my surprise, I get slapped with the idea that I’m trying to enforce a Stalinist or Leninist “platform”.
Paul: hegemony, as you know, is something that has to be constantly won. Our “war of position” needs, first of all, a position to go to war for.
My difficulty with the notion of “platform” is that it is just a synonym for “program.” Haven’t we learned this damn lesson? Let’s think outside that pernicious box. A bunch of us coming up with a program means we’ll eventually need a small army of NKVD types to force it down the throats of the masses. I’ve seen that dismal movie before. I’m not remotely interested in developing a program. I want to facilitate the people in developing their own alternative arrangements. I don’t know how to do it. We should discuss that. But democracy at the base, workplace democracy and local control are key elements.
I’m sorry if my tone offends. But I despise and reject the Leninist vanguard model of doing politics. I’ve sat through too many meetings of earnest hard leftists arguing their arcane theology while Aboriginals are driven outside the city limits to die, while we are at war in Afghanistan, while the notion of hierarchy still infects almost every aspect of our culture, while racism and sexism imbue even our language. I’m sick of obligatory references to Lenin, or, for that matter, Gramsci–no offence.
The only politics worth doing are politics in which the people are central, having discovered that they have a stake in politics. It’s all very well that a few of us discuss ideas, and tactics, and strategy, but it simply has to be in that wider context, where the people really do decide for themselves, come up with their own ideas that we might not even have thought of, follow a vision that we are only a small part of..
Elitism kills both the dream and people themselves. Programs are constructed by elitists, and, if they’re lucky, people or their “representatives” get to vote on them.
As for the NDP, it has some potential–we NPI types came very close to winning once, and with the current position of the NDP in the polls, maybe it’s time for NPI2. As for Gramsci–well, that’s another thread.
So I try to clairfy matters and bring it back to my original simple proposal of a blog aggrigator for us to all participate in alongside our existing participation in current blog aggrigators. I wrote:
I don’t know where you get the impression that I’m not just as upset as you are about the very things you mention when you wrote:
“I’ve sat through too many meetings of earnest hard leftists arguing their arcane theology while Aboriginals are driven outside the city limits to die, while we are at war in Afghanistan, while the notion of hierarchy still infects almost every aspect of our culture, while racism and sexism imbue even our language.”
I also don’t know where you get the impression that I’m somehow an elitist or that my seeking a platform of our own to engage in discussions like these is motivated by elitism or some desire to impose a “program” on other bloggers.
Franky, I don’t know why you’re fighting with me here. I’m not saying that we all have to read Gramsci or Marx and accept a certain view of either. I’m not advocating anything of the sort and I don’t have the slightest idea where you got the impression that my goal in this whole matter was merely to obtain a platform over which I can beat people over the head with Gramsci all the while the least among us become worse and worse off.
This “hub” that I’ve proposed seems to me to be exactly in line with what you argued for when you wrote:
“The only politics worth doing are politics in which the people are central, having discovered that they have a stake in politics.”
I’m not interested – even if it were possible – to force people to be either political or to be left-wing. I’m interested in creating a whole other range of dialogue which is currently lacking a platform.
Even if you felt that it’s better to engage other non-left-wing bloggers one-on-one without some sort of a platform, I still wouldn’t see why you’re fighting me here. It’s not like I’m asking us to all up and move to a distant, far off country and re-establish the USSR. I’m just trying to figure out if anybody wants to organize a place to post all of our feeds together to maybe foster some good discussion amongst ourselves and to give curious individuals an opportunity to learn more about the far left if they’re so interested.
Why is this so anathama to what you want to do?
I think a hub is a good idea. I know that aggregates outside of PBs exist that are more left at least from a social perspective than PBs as a whole (e.g. Blogging Change). But, I definitely feel some sort of ‘hub’ would be good for people who believe that economic change is required and who see change stemming from socialist, marxist, ecofeminist ideas.
Also, I am trying to decide for MYSELF.
Why is this so anathema to what you want to do?
I’m not fighting with you. I’m trying to unpack a concept. I obviously have no objection to a bunch of us talking. I worry, though, if the outcome of that conversation is a platform.
This has been the model in the past century or so. We all get together, develop a program, and then try to sell it to the people. Instead, what I want is to facilitate the people in arriving–not at a platform–but at social change.
I am proposing a centrifugal, rather than centripetal, solidarity. Rather than decide what’s in or what’s out, and, more importantly, who’s in and who’s out, I want a more vertiginous concept–everyone’s in, so let’s find out and develop this “in.”
I’m not accusing you of elitism. I’m attacking the concept of a program, which is imbued with elitism. It’s a hard concept to give up. I’ve wrestled with this thing for years. But we have to start thinking differently.
I guess everyone forgot about lil ole me. I’m viewed by many to be very ‘far left’…. and I agree with my good friend Debra Scott and Red Jenny, both of whom are my favourites… and not to forget Idealistic Pragmatist, who is sometimes a bit of a conundrum, but i consider her a ‘leftie’…..
and also don’t forget another friend of mine, Sketchy Thoughts, who is definitely way left of centre. So there are quite a few of us!
btw, if/when you decide on a ‘hub’, please include me, ok? just be sure to let me know, preferably on my site or via email, as i don’t always check here…. thanks!
We’re talking about the exact same thing.
I don’t know how my proposal ever could even result in us actually concluding this debate and coming up with, as you have suggested might be the case, a “program”. This debate will never be fully settled. It isn’t intended to be fully settled. That’s the point. The point is merely in having a site where the people who are on the fringes or are farther left than the existing aggrigators like Progressivebloggers.ca or vlwc or Blogging Dippers etc. could have another place to post their feed.
But, importantly, it would be a place of our own.
That’s the be all and end all of my point. I frankly don’t care about whether it’s centrifugal or centripital (although to be honest, those terms are ambiguous and I didn’t fully understand what you meant by them). I was just proposing something relatively simple.
If we can’t even agree on this, I’ll probably just set up a feedbucket account and just give a bunch of people the password because I see absolutely zero harm that can come of this.
I think Polly Jones said it best when she wrote “Also, I am trying to decide for MYSELF.”
Then there’s a lot of discussion about the merits of action as the mainstay of the left (which I agree with). And the thread betweeen me and Dr. Dawg continues:
But, importantly, it would be a place of our own.
Paul, I’ll have one more go at this, and then send a note to Peter McKay as verbena suggests and just retire from the thread.
I’m talking paradigm here, not trying to pick a fight. But I’m finding it hard to locate the vocabulary for what I’m trying to say. I worry about “places of our own.” In the past, we have seen what comes of what seems a very innocent exercise of like-minded individuals coming together to discuss changing the world. Two things happen: either that group is never heard from again, except in the form of manifestos, odd leadership challenges (Marcel Hatch comes to mind), etc., or it attracts enough members to go into pre-party formation, and then becomes a full-fledged really effective party like Rising Up Angry or Red Morning or whatever.
It’s the instinct, Paul: the bolshevik instinct to remove oneself from the arena and chart a course. As I said, I have no difficulty with discussion among like-minded people, but why not have it right here?
I see way too much of an emphasis here on theory, philosophy and personality.
To me the best leftists are the ones who while recognizing these things do not see them as end of and to themselves.
To me the best leftists are the ones up off their ass trying to make a difference.
Thank you Annamarie for bringing that to the table.
This will be my last comment on this thread.
Dr. Dawg: “It’s the instinct, Paul: the bolshevik instinct to remove oneself from the arena and chart a course.” I don’t know where you could have gotten this from me, but it couldn’t be more erroneous. The LAST thing I want to do is remove myself or anybody else from debate. I don’t even know how what I said can even be misconstrued as supporting this, but the point is moot nontheless becuase it completely misses what I’m talking about.
I mean for crying out loud people it was a simple, stupid idea for a feed aggrigator so it’s easier to keep posted on what fellow “hard-lefties” are writing. That’s it! Not a Stalinist platform. Not removing ourselves from other feed aggrigators. Not developing a vanguard party. And most certainly not removing ourselves from broader debate!
My god, what the right says about us is true: we really can’t agree on the colour of shit.
Debra Scott & Annamarie Deneen – I have all the respect in the world for what you two do on your respective sites and I agree fully with the importance of getting up and acting. That said, if ONLY acting sufficed, then why blog at all? Under that paradigm, blogging just wastes time which could be spent away from the computer fighting capitalism and authoritarianism. Clearly I feel that a balance is needed between discussion and action and my proposal was just intended to take this fact into consideration and to help each other to open our eyes to current events and/or ideas that others might not have noticed or considered so that we can get together and take action (for instance: I didn’t know about the 9 year old boy you wrote about).
Clearly, I’m in the minority on this front so I will continue to seek some sort of a master-feed list solution on my own.
Thus, the purpose of this post is not to re-hash the convoluted nature of this thread here on my blog (in fact, PLEASE DON’T re-hash the convoluted nature of this thread here on my blog)
The purpose of this post is a call to like-minded comrades to brainstorm ideas on how to best organize a blog aggrigator like vast left wing conspiracy, just so we can keep posted on what we’re all saying. I know that there’s a website called feedblendr which will put a whole bunch of feeds together and you can load them into a feed which WordPress users can put on their sidebar (and I presume other blogging platforms can do the same) but I don’t know if anybody else has a better idea for a way to communicate better amongst the hard-left community.