The Left actually want to save capitalism

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Spikymike
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Feb 18 2015 12:21
The Left actually want to save capitalism

Yanis Varoufakis the current Greek SYRIZA government finance minister and former academic Marxist certainly knows his marxism but in a republished article in today's UK Guardian explains that his experience of the trauma of working class defeat under Thatcher has caused him ( and despite some former criticism of Keynesianism) to believe that he and the Left must and can somehow save (European and not just Greek) capitalism from itself, but it would seem still with a dose of neo-Keyenesianism seemingly ignoring the realities of both capitalist economic crisis and the competitive power politics of national states.

Topping that we have another article by George Monbiot in the same Guardian edition ignoring his own advice that ''I should warn you that no one in their right mind would take financial advice from me.'' going on to promote some hopelessly misleading assumptions about commercial banks and debt and recomending solutions to the crisis of capitalism through various daft money reforms.

I'd laugh if it wasn't so painfully tragic!

Mark.
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Feb 18 2015 14:50

Here's a link for the Varoufakis article

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/18/yanis-varoufakis-how-i-became-an-erratic-marxist

His papers for the EU negotiations

http://www.capital.gr/related_files/φάκελος%20διαπραγμάτευσης.doc

S. Artesian
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Feb 18 2015 16:29

I don't think he "knows his marxism."

http://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.com/2015/02/study-guide-for-those-applying-to.html

Spikymike
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Feb 18 2015 17:10

Yes I was I perhaps too generous to Yanis appreciation of Marx - see above link.

The Monbiot article is here if anyone can be bothered:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/17/currency-scheme-1930s-save-greek-economy-eurozone-crisis

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Agent of the In...
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Feb 18 2015 22:46

The left doesn't really know capitalism.

Anyways,
Stupid article headline by BBC News: 'The middle-class voters who can't resist Karl Marx'

jojo
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Feb 19 2015 09:09

Anyone who wants to save capitalism from itself isn't a Marxist. Marxism, that is to say the working class, wants, needs and has to get rid of capitalism and build the new society. If it doesn't we're all toast.

Sharkfinn
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Feb 19 2015 17:06

We are all already toast and been so for quite some time.

In the guardian piece, Varoufakis actually talks about "stabilising" capitalism which doesn't always mean the same as saving it. Progressive misery doesn't mean progressive politics.

The point he is making is that the far-right is actually capitalising on the current (and past) misery, much more than "the left" or any progressive force (including libcoms), he talks about the political implications of that as well.

doug
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Feb 19 2015 17:49
jojo wrote:
Anyone who wants to save capitalism from itself isn't a Marxist.

Exactly what I was thinking watching Paul Mason on Democracy Now just there. From about 19:00 in, he can barely contain his excitement about the number of "Marxist-trained" people in the Syriza government, they're sending Marxist lawyers to the EU, and have "a Marxist criminologist in charge of the police". This is surely a major advance for the class struggle (just forget about the contradiction in that statement, or the last century of experience of "Marxists" running the coercive apparatus of the state).

Incidentally, Plan C (maybe only Manchester?) are calling on people to fund Paul Mason's new film on Greece. I'm sure it'll be interesting but I'm more than a bit skeptical that it'll "go beyond fetishizing the party".

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Khawaga
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Feb 19 2015 18:27

Urgh, do we need yet more Mason shite?

Spikymike
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Feb 19 2015 19:07

Sharkfin,
Yes things do look bleak but do you think SYRIZA and Yanis can actually stabilise capitalism or even just Greek capitalism - seems unlikely - and when they fail, given the illusions they have helped foster where will that lead?

Mark.
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Feb 22 2015 17:50

Wayne Price article on Varoufakis.

http://www.anarkismo.net/article/27919

Quote:
Of course, my comments are only based on this one essay. I do not know what Varoufakis may have written elsewhere, in his books and articles and his blog. But his article is presented as an overview of his political and economic opinions, focusing on his views about Marxism, and I take it as such.

The above is a bit hopeless tbh. If the idea is to write a serious article on Varoufakis's ideas then reading one essay doesn't cut it. He could have read the Global Minotaur, which is quite accessible, or at least had a look at the blog.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 23 2015 12:38

Maybe some might have missed it but i (and ALB independently of one another) had a letter in Weekly Worker just before the Syriza election giving my own "Left Menshevik" line to the prospect of their victory.

http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1041/letters/

And 2 related comments to an Andrew Flood article on Anarkismo here

http://www.anarkismo.net/article/27828

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boozemonarchy
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Feb 23 2015 13:38
sharkfin wrote:
In the guardian piece, Varoufakis actually talks about "stabilising" capitalism which doesn't always mean the same as saving it.

Watch those knuckles with all that mincing wink

Spikymike
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May 2 2018 09:35

It seems that Yanis having long since departed his position in the Greek government is still popular with many in the liberal Left (alongside such as Paul Mason) and recently claimed to be some kind of 'libertarian Marxist' in his preface to a newly re-published edition of the Communist Manifesto. There is a short review of another of his books here:
https://www.anarchistcommunism.org/2017/12/28/adults-in-the-room-my-battle-with-europes-deep-establishment-by-yanis-varoufakis/
and there is some more discussion of the above (with some other useful links) here:
www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/varoufakis-marx

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Flava O Flav
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May 3 2018 12:44
Spikymike wrote:
and recently claimed to be some kind of 'libertarian Marxist'

It was a typo, he missed the Oxford comma there.

Spikymike
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Sep 28 2018 13:56

And on the similar theme of saving capitalism from itself in the context of rising far-right nationalism it seems Paul Mason is pretty straightforward in his defence of the current UK Labour Party's less than radical proposals for employee share ownership as creating a new beneficial partnership between workers and capitalists - a 'progressive reform' that is no threat to capitalism itself (though strangely included in a novaramedia interview titled ''what replaces capitalism'' ??). This at the same time as the much lauded John Lewis (workers) Partnership is losing profit and shedding workers.

Mike Harman
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Sep 28 2018 15:59

Paul Mason has been pretty straightforward, but a lot of other supporters of the plan have not and are describing it as a step towards a democratically managed economy (and etc.)

robbo203
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Oct 6 2018 16:49

Yes I think large swathes of what is called "the Left" do actually have no other ambition than to "save capitalism" albeit in a supposedly worker-friendly format (meaning trying to run the abattoir in the interests of the cattle inside). Even to talk of a stateless non market alternative is routinely dismissed by these people as "utopianism" (when will it ever be "non utopian" to talk about socialism/communism in their view? Apparently never). The Leninists and the various offshoots of Leninism are among the worst offenders in that regard

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2018/article/no-1369-september-2018/socialist-standard-2010s-2010-no-1272-august-2010-16/

We need to understand where these conservatives masquerading as the Left come from. They are no friends of the communist cause but entrenched opponents. Their opposition is all the more insidious for taking the form of wolves decked out in sheep's clothing.

Mike Harman
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Oct 6 2018 19:03
robbo203 wrote:
The Leninists and the various offshoots of Leninism are among the worst offenders in that regard

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2018/article/no-1369-september-2018/socialist-standard-2010s-2010-no-1272-august-2010-16/

We need to understand where these conservatives masquerading as the Left come from.

Leninism is one of the worst offenders but by no means the only one.

A couple of others:

Naomi Klein / George Monbiot left-liberal anti-capitalism: https://libcom.org/blog/klein-vs-klein-09012015

Anarcho/autonomist-social-democrats: https://libcom.org/blog/poverty-luxury-communism-05042018

Have said it a few times before, but electoral abstentionism framed as ignoring something irrelevant as opposed to as an actual critique of the nation state doesn't really help to inoculate people against these kinds of positions.

Another big vector for supporting capitalist factions is campism: http://libcom.org/forums/news/syria-campism-conspiracy-theory-26062018

robbo203 wrote:
They are no friends of the communist cause but entrenched opponents. Their opposition is all the more insidious for taking the form of wolves decked out in sheep's clothing.

I think we need to be careful about this. For any one of these positions, there are at least two ways of falling into it:

1. The tories are bad, the NHS is good, the UK shouldn't go to war - what I'd call a 'default leftism' that is essentially the most left ideological position taken from what the mainstream presents. People absolutely can move from that to communist positions and many of us have done in one way or another as they run into the limitations of mainstream leftism in practice, or get exposed to more radical ideas.

2. Opportunistic positions taken by people who are more or less familiar with radical politics and history. Sometimes this is a reaction to years of defeat, sometimes because their career trajectory depends on it, or preservation of trot or stalinist sects or similar.

There are also people who get into some kind of Leninism early on then break from it (to various extents) and that should be encouraged.

So these aren't fixed or singular groups, but different ideological formations with different interests.

Tom Henry
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Oct 8 2018 02:07

This thread is intriguing, not only for its title but also some of the commentary.

What is the critique of ‘the left’ here (on this site)? Do people think that sections of ‘the left’ have actually dismantling capitalism as their program and goal? How can a statement like “We need to understand where these conservatives masquerading as the Left come from” go unchallenged here? Not challenged rudely, of course, but used to make the (?) libertarian communist case in regard to ‘the left.’

No one in Subversion, for example, would have, when it existed (correct me if I am wrong), ever written or said that ‘the left,’ ‘leftists,’ or their Leninist running mates, were about anything more than cleverly saving capitalism.

‘Despairing’ at the words of Yanis Varoufakis, George Monbiot, or Naomi Klein because they aren’t actually against capitalism despite saying some insightful things is surely amateurishly misrepresenting and patronising those writers as much as revealing a lack of theoretical coherence on the part of the libertarian communists ‘despairing’? ... And be careful not to alienate the Leninists too much, comrade - a slippery slope indeed.

robbo203
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Oct 8 2018 06:35

Hi Tom

Well, my comments on the conservatism of the Left, and my article in the Socialist Standard that I linked to, are actually informed by real life encounters with various shades of Leftist opinion over many years of engaging in debate/discussion with these people. I am utterly convinced that the Leftist paradigm in general is a very formidable impediment to (and a means of diverting attention away from) the furtherance of what we would call libertarian communism (or socialism) - a stateless non-market alternative to capitalism (yes I know there are differences in approach between us in the SPGB and many of you folks here on Libcom although I regard these differences as being of secondary importance in relation to our common goal)

I wouldn't know if you are active participant in various Left wing forums on Facebook and elsewhere but you only have to dip a toe in the water to get a sense of what I am saying. The very notion of a libertarian communist society is routinely and roundly dismissed as "utopian" nonsense by these people and I have even had it memorably said to me that such a thing is completely contrary to "human nature". This by a Leftist!

It is particularly the Leninists or Leninist derivatives who seem to be the most overtly hostile and particularly when you call into question the supposedly "socialist" character of the Bolshevik state capitalist regime. I have had more run-ins with these people than I care to remember (I see you have had your own run-in with one of these characters , S Artesian, who seems to think that the way to win an argument is to colourfully insult and abuse your opponent).

Of course, I appreciate the point that many genuine communists began their political careers, so to speak, as left wingers. My point is simply that to arrive at the kind of outlook they now have has to entail a decisive break with Leftism and its continuing support for what is simply a statist version of capitalism. How we encourage them to make that break is something that ought to be seriously addressed

Tom Henry
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Oct 8 2018 13:02

Hi robbo203,

I was confused by your post because of these two sentences:

“Yes I think large swathes of what is called "the Left" do actually have no other ambition than to "save capitalism" albeit in a supposedly worker-friendly format (meaning trying to run the abattoir in the interests of the cattle inside).”

“We need to understand where these conservatives masquerading as the Left come from.”

I am not sure what you mean by ‘large swathes of the left’, and I am not sure how this fits with the concept of ‘bad’ people masquerading as the ‘Left’ who are, presumably, ‘good’ people? But no matter.

My ‘issue’ ( I say issue, but I mean laugh) with the thread, is that there is no practical or useful definition of ‘the Left’ (remember, as I am sure you know, that the term ‘the Left’ comes from the parliamentary seating arrangement in France’s ancien regime), indeed such a definition is immediately obfuscated in the title of the thread. As if at least fifty years of ‘libertarian communist’ theory has ended up disappearing into the historical ether. And then there is the tediously pompous accommodation with, or obeisance to, the Leninist ‘project’ provided ever-recurrently by the Mike Harman poster.

Mike Harman
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Oct 8 2018 13:31

Ah yes "Leninism is one of the worst offenders but by no means the only one." and "There are also people who get into some kind of Leninism early on then break from it (to various extents) and that should be encouraged." is definitely "tediously pompous accommodation with, or obeisance to, the Leninist ‘project’", well done Tom very good reading comprehension.

This is what subversion has to say:

Subversion wrote:
We believe that all left wing groups, whether Stalinist or Trotskyist (or Maoist or Anarchist or whatever they call themselves) are merely radical capitalist organisations who, if they ever came to power, would erect new state capitalist dictatorships in the name of the very working class they would proceed to crush.

This is not a matter of the subjective intentions of their members, whose sincerity we are not questioning here, but the objective result of their policies.

This is why the Left has not failed. Its aim was never more than to save capitalism by disguising it as something it was not – just as the original form of bourgeois democracy did in an earlier age.

In opposition to the Left there exists a political movement, consisting of both groups and individuals, some of whom might call themselves Communists, while some might call themselves Anarchists (the Marxist-Anarchist split is an outdated historical division that bears no relationship to the real class line, which cuts across it), but who all stand united against the fake radicalism of the Left, and for a genuinely communist alternative.

Which is a bit different to what Tom Henry says:

Tom Henry wrote:
No one in Subversion, for example, would have, when it existed (correct me if I am wrong), ever written or said that ‘the left,’ ‘leftists,’ or their Leninist running mates, were about anything more than cleverly saving capitalism.

i.e. Subversion points out that 'left wing groups' operate (objectively) within a framework of managing capitalism, regardless of the good intentions of many of their members.

Tom Henry rather assumes that all 'leftists' are cleverly trying to save capitalism, which rather than a structural critique of left groups and ideas, is rather a machiavellian approach to anyone with 'left wing' politics - this would include people people outside of any organised left organisations too including those just developing their politics.

Tom Henry
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Oct 8 2018 14:29

Oh dear, Mike Harman, you have (intentionally?) misread what I wrote and provided the text that supports what I said about Subversion.

But then you have tried to twist what I am saying into a judgement on those who are attracted to 'the Left' rather than 'the Left' itself. It's poor gamesmanship. And your obeisance to Leninism still stands unchallenged. Speak plainly. You write a lot. It would be interesting if you wrote with more reflexivity.

Mike Harman
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Oct 8 2018 14:37
Tom Henry wrote:
But then you have tried to twist what I am saying into a judgement on those who are attracted to 'the Left' rather than 'the Left' itself
Tom Henry wrote:
"‘the left,’ ‘leftists,’ or their Leninist running mates, were about anything more than cleverly saving capitalism."

Can you define 'leftist' without including 'those who are attracted to the Left'?

robbo203
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Oct 8 2018 16:51

Tom and Mike - well, I speak as I find. There is firstly the Soft Left which one tends to associate with entities like the Labour Party that has absolutely not the slightest interest in moving beyond capitalism at all. Then there is the Hard Left which one tends to associate with Leninist, Trotskyist and other such sects that pretend to pay lip service to the goal of a communist society yet routinely ridicule those who openly advocate such a goal for being "utopian" and do their damnedest to divert attention and activity away from it in pursuit of their own opportunistic antics as a way of recruiting more members. Their opportunism goes hand in hand with their own vanguardist view of "revolution". Why call for a stateless non market alternative to capitalism when you can win votes (and a leg up to political power) by peddling reforms or, more daringly, the "nationalisation of the commanding heights of industry"?

Please understand I am not having a go at individual Leftists but Leftism as a paradigm which we underestimate as an impediment to communism at out peril.. Yes there is a case for saying that Leftists as a target group are probably more amenable than most to genuinely communist ideas. The question is how do we encourage them to make this necessary break with Leftism, reformism and state capitalism in general?

Dannny
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Oct 8 2018 19:54

Tom Henry could you explain your grounds for referring to Mike Harman's "obeisance to the Leninist 'project'"?

Tom Henry
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Oct 8 2018 21:51

Dannny, this site has for many years let leftists and Leninists rule the roost, to the point of excluding those who object to this disposition. Just look back over the longer and more in depth discussions on here.

Mike Harman: yes, you can "define 'leftist' without including 'those who are attracted to the Left.'" This site, for example, is a testament to that simple fact.

The people you seem to not want to offend are leftists, since they may come round to your way of thinking (but what exactly is your way of thinking?). This is a well-worn strategy demonstrating theoretical and practical weakness. The (pro)Bolsheviks (as we have seen on here, and through history) have had no such qualms about offending those they disagree with (eg the anarchists, the ultra-left, etc).

Dannny
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Oct 9 2018 05:55
Tom Henry wrote:
Dannny, this site has for many years let leftists and Leninists rule the roost, to the point of excluding those who object to this disposition. Just look back over the longer and more in depth discussions on here.

I've been coming on here a while and disagree, but in any case thought you were responding to Mike Harman specifically rather than the site as a whole.

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Uncreative
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Oct 9 2018 18:11
Tom Henrys profile wrote:
About me: No longer active on this site from 13th October 2017
Tom Henry wrote:
The people you seem to not want to offend are leftists, since they may come round to your way of thinking (but what exactly is your way of thinking?). This is a well-worn strategy demonstrating theoretical and practical weakness.

I dunno man, im not sure i agree with you. I think perhaps if you threw in more offensive stuff people would be more likely to come round to your way of thinking, maybe? Call people ignorant, cowardly bastards, or scum, or something along those lines.

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R Totale
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Oct 9 2018 18:26
Tom Henry wrote:
The people you seem to not want to offend are leftists, since they may come round to your way of thinking (but what exactly is your way of thinking?). This is a well-worn strategy demonstrating theoretical and practical weakness. The (pro)Bolsheviks (as we have seen on here, and through history) have had no such qualms about offending those they disagree with (eg the anarchists, the ultra-left, etc).

And, um *checks notes* if the Bolsheviks did it, that means it must be good, right? That's the lesson we're meant to take away here?