ANARCHISM AND LEFTISM:
In the last few days Molly has been quoted on the London (Ontario) Indymedia site because of a post she put up here last June 28th on a ridiculous leftist project to "ban drive-thru restaurants" in London, Ontario. Yes good non-anarchist and non-leftist readers of this blog I shit you not. The righteous "green brigade", supported by the geriatric "commies without the guts to say so" of the Council of Canadians, in that southern Ontario city has the unmitigated arrogance to propose such a thing, and the simple mindlessness to imagine that such a thing is "serious". Molly has a better idea. To reduce carbon emissions ban health food stores that depend upon large transport intensive imports from the transnational corporations behind this scam. Oh horrors say the greenies ! Ban boutique stores that sell products for the "lefty uniform" that are produced by sweatshop labour. Oh horrors once more ! Ban the fashionable "yuppification" that kicks low income people out of cheap housing so the "enlightened" can have their "groovy neighbourhoods" and ban the useless renovations that eat energy and produce carbon so that the greenies can feel oh so superior. Oh, double horror !! Most importantly let's ban folk festivals. None of these schmucks 'walk" to such a thing. If they did, by some miracle, their bean heavy diet would create enough methane as "the caissons go farting along" to more than quadruple their carbon emisions by driving to same. By the way,let's ban beans fror that matter. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Let all vegetarians be subjected to "counselling" ie "political re-education. So on and so forth. Let's ban, ban, ban everything that creates carbon dioxide(and methane) that a certain subculture glories in.
But Molly doesn't intend to ban anything. She is also not under the illusion that any sensible city council would ever entertain such a proposal, and she is further well aware of the arrogant mindset that makes advocates of such an attack on the people that the leftists feel so superior to so blind to their own silliness and how they look to people outside of their charmed circles. I've wasted many an hour of my ill temper berating the so-called "post leftists", "primitivists" and other cultists that exist on the fringe of (especially) the North American anarchist movement for exactly the same thing. But, as I have said before, the "post-leftists" are no such thing. They have retained practically everything that was bad about the left that they feel they have "transcended" and nothing of the good. One of the most idiotic things that they have taken up from leftism is the attitude of a mutual admiration society and its attendant snotty superiority.
This attitude was bad enough in the classical left, but it attained truly malignant growth in the 'New Left', particularly as it spiralled downwards as it degenerated. As I have also said before I have been at this for pretty well 40 years now, and I have seen some remarkable stupidity coming out of "the left" over those years. I have to say, however, that the idea of petitioning a city council to "ban drive-thrus" is at least as arrogant, stupid, futile and ridiculous as the old Weatherman (Maoists at the time) idea of making their "cadre" sleep on the floor because "mattresses are white skin privilege". As the poet says, may we see ourselves as others see us.
The initiators of a project to futilely petition a city council to ban drive-thrus are probably aware of the ridiculous nature of their proposal. They know it won't happen. Back in my baby lefty days we used to call these "non-negotiable demands" ie present something that obviously can't be granted as a propaganda tactic to "radicalize" the wavering followers. Of course the end result was more often to convince the followers of the manipulative nature of their leaders.
International Trotskyism has formalized this tactic as the "Transitional Program" and this is a true monument to human arrogance as the Trots arrogantly proclaim the very deception that they attempt to carry out as part of their propaganda about how good their parties are. Most leftists adopt such attempts at sneakiness at one point or the other, but few have the honesty or intellectual coherence to admit-sometimes even to themselves- that they are doing what good old Leon advocated so many years ago. Mostly they chug on forwards under pure emotion, reinforced by the limited circles they live in.
Even if the leftists who advocate such things could be totally honest with both themselves, their purported audience and the general public (an unlikely thing) there is one thing they will never admit. They know, with perhaps with even more rock hard certainty than Molly does, that the average person will never listen to them. But this realization is a non-starter in their minds because they, also with rock hard certainty, look down their sub-cultural noses as the "great unwashed" of ordinary people. Why bother to try and influence people you have contempt for ? You, after all, have such great and superior "ecological consciousness"(substitute any leftist buzzword followed by "consciousness" here if you like) that you feel you can bypass the normal process of "convincing the inferiors" and go directly to those in positions of power that you, after all, have much more in common with than the proles who go to KFC. No matter that the more powerful members of your class will laugh at you even more than Molly might, while the proles are merely offended at your power grab.
This is what is known as "positive feedback". Leftists, ensconced in their tiny friendship groups, attempt to order about other people who they have contempt for. Ordinary people see such actions as reinforcing their (often correct) view of the "left". They resist. They respond with further contempt for the lefties. The lefties respond with further illusions of superiority and further attempts to coerce the ordinary person. The circle builds on itself. Very occasionally a nasty person such as Molly attempts to break the cycle. It is pretty well impossible to convince ordinary people to "make the first move" because the "left" will continue on with its authoritarian ways. What is possible is to reform the left so that it ceases its evil ways, inherited from its evil ancestors.
There is no reason other than arrogance that the left could not adopt a populist "to the people" attitude. Yes, it would not be as "flashy" as putting forward attacks on ordinary people while talking to(and through) your buddies on a city council. The "buddies", by the way, if they were foolish enough to initially support such a thing, would rapidly disavow it when they approached power. There are unlimited possibilities to advance "carbon reduction" by working slowly and patiently with ordinary people. No doubt such actions lack "pizazzz", and no doubt they involve working with people that you have contempt for. They might even involve abandoning your precious "identity" as a "superior" greenie, dressing like ordinary people dress, eating what they eat, listening to the music they listen to. Shudder, shudder, shudder.
The whole idea of "banning drive-thrus' is, of course, simply bizarre, and it is a tribute to the worst in leftism, and its self-destructive "loyalty" to even the most off-the-wall proposals, that the whole thing isn't simply laughed at as the insanity it is. But "leftism" means more than simple foolishness. Let's try and put Molly's relation to "the left" in a wider perspective than just dealing with "kooky greenies".
Regular readers of this blog may end up rather confused as to how I see "the left". The "anarcho-nuts" are able to slot me into the unfashionable and "boring" (to their need for stimulation-may I call it "self-stimulation") category of a "classical leftist". The ordinary reader, naive to the ins and outs of left wing politics-including those leftists who deny the label- would assume something similar because of the constant reiteration of traditional left wing themes on this blog. This whole impression is reinforced by the efforts of both left wing and right wing ideologues to try and pretend that there are only two ways of viewing the world. Anything that disagrees with any of the conglomeration of accepted opinions that each side holds to be true is automatically evidence that the dissident is part of "the enemy". In the case of the left this way of thinking has almost paleolithic antecedents. The intolerance of leftists towards any of their number who don't hold to the fashion of the moment reaches all the way back to Stalinism and the sobriquet of "objectively counter-revolutionary".
To say the least this sort of mindset is very conducive to building a cult, but it is counterproductive to the idea of building a movement. Here is where Molly has to put her relation to "the left" in a plain fashion. To misquote Ghandi , I think that leftism would be a very good idea. The "left" should be the repository of all that is good and democratic and liberatory in human culture. In some cases, particularly where an anarchist left has been powerful, this has been more or less true. In other cases, and I think our present situation in Canada is typical of western countries, the balance is equivocal. In other cases such as the USA "the left" is generally against equality, against democracy (as fools who want to connive a ban on drive-thrus by political manipulation are) and against liberty. Is there anything left besides the fashion that would describe such a subculture as valuable ? Do I dare to remind the reader that classical fascism originated as a "left-wing" movement, or would that merely provoke more screams from the historically illiterate ?
The "left" has always had a dual character. On the one hand it has been a vehicle to increase the values of equality, democracy and liberty that the American left (and those who imitate them) are so against today. It has been a movement of the lower classes to increase their power and influence in society and to better their condition. On the other hand "the left" has always been a vehicle whereby other classes, managers, either present or would-be, have struggled for power using the lower classes as pawns. This sort of power struggle was always obvious in the case of the communist parties-and with less bloodlust and more civilization the social democratic parties. In recent years even the pretense of "representing" the interests of the lower classes has, to a large extent, been dropped. In important left wing movements, such as the NDP or the Greens, the activities of the parties could be described as "the social workers in committee", to echo a leftism phrase from when leftism meant something. In the never-never world of leftist "activism" outside of the major paths to paying careers "the self-appointed superior in committee" would be more descriptive.
It's sad. It's really and truly sad. In the tradition of George Orwell I can best define myself as "a leftist who is disgusted by the left". The "left" should mean more than lying about a campaign ,which is-mercifully-hopeless, to restrict the life options of people who are of a lower class than the campaigners. What is different from Orwell's time and today is that the "managers" who were only in power in one country in the 1930s have pretty well completed their conquest of the world today. The absurdities that Orwell observed amongst the commies of his day have become pretty well universal amongst bothy the rulers and their presumed opposition. The silly things that sometimes come up from this swamp- like banning drive-thrus- are merely the froth of a much more serious day to day class rule that even corrupts its opposition.