Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rethinking Left and Right

Okay, so it's probably pretty clear that, in terms of political orientation, I'm of the Far Left - at least according to conventional modes of talking about political positions. But somehow, "Far Left" makes me sound like some kind of "extremist". Am I? Is believing in love, justice, peace, democracy, equality, and freedom extreme? Let's consider for a moment those who usually label us in the Far Left as extremists. They're usually people in the media or state apparatuses, whom we know are in bed with each other. Maybe we could even speak in terms of a "state-media complex"... a friend of mine even advocates a renaming of the "nation-state" to a "nation-market-state"... anyway, that's a digression. Back to my earlier point: economic elites are threatened by the Far Left and thus label us "extremist", but let's think about this: The neo-cons are busily killing hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, and the Far Left is calling for an end to the war, and for peace and justice. Isn't there a disconnect here? This scenario clearly shows who the real extremists are! It's the market fundamentalists who are extreme, not those who oppose them in favour of a more humane world. But actually, the main point I wanted to make in this post was to rethink the whole Left-Right spectrum. I'm not so comfortable with the whole "Far Left" label anymore - not just because it lends itself to being labelled "extreme", but also because it conflates me with other tendencies in the Far Left which I despise - those various forms of authoritarian communisms. I'm sick of being strange bedfellows with those motherfuckers. What if we plot political positions along a new spectrum of Democracy-Authoritarianism? What then happens? Well, all of a sudden fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, and the like all get lumped together at one end. That destroys the traditional Left-Right distinction, and places me (and the comrade-dreamers with whom I associate) at the opposite end: that of Democracy. I now refuse the labels communist, anarchist, socialist, and the like... I'm simply a "radical democrat"... ...but even the term "radical" has huge problems! Such a tricky thing is language. Another problem arises as well: My conception of democracy is completely different that which you'll see defined in conventional political science textbooks. When I talk about democracy, I mean REAL democracy: the rule of all by all. Not the bullshit democracy that George Bush talks about - that belongs at the authoritarian end of the spectrum! But anyway, with those issues clarified, if we begin to think of political orientation in terms of Democracy-Authoritarianism, and not Left-Right, then it is in this way that we in the so-called "Far Left" with more libertarian leanings might be able to dissociate ourselves from those who have given us a bad name. Of course, this new spectrum is merely a device, a tool... it is still linear... It's something I will continue to think about through my work.



Marta said...

Do you remember Donnie Darko? At one stage in the movie, someone asks him to position himself on a line with two tips: bad on the one side and good on the other. Or something like that. And he freaks out. And I would have done the same. Now, if I understand your proposal, you advocate the reconsideration of the spectrum ‘left right’ not just criticising its content but involving more criteria, more spectra, more arguments to define your political position. In other words you are not just saying no, I don’t fit there. Or no, this is senseless. You are saying that there is left-right but there is also extreme-moderate and authoritarian-democratic and just-unjust and love-hate and war-peace and…and…and. And I like this! :) This is multiplicity in action! Maybe one line is linear but a bunch of them, intersecting of moving together, can be everything! Great!

J A G U A R I T O (Marco Hewitt) said...

Hey Marta: Yes, you would have sensed my unease at replacing one linear spectrum with another... I am still thinking how to think "rhizomatically" about it, and your little comment just really helped. Thanks! Each new spectrum when added and overlayed on the other disturbs and displaces earlier notions. When we have a multiplicity of these at our command, we can then show that what people believe to be a binary truth or certainty is but a construction. All that is solid melts into air! (thanks Karl).

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