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Left Wing Communism: A Personality Disorder?

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Juan Conatz
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Aug 6 2011 17:18
Left Wing Communism: A Personality Disorder?

I think this is super spot on. Just wondered what others thought.

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I would someday like to write a pamphlet called “Left Wing Communism: A Personality Disorder.”

I find some of the intellectual content of the left communist milieu compelling, especially as filtered through some friends of mine, but in my experience of that milieu socially I find it less compelling. An older radical I met once said “all the Situationists I’ve ever known have been morose alcoholics.” That’s a bit unfair but it’s not *just* unfair. The Situationists shouldn’t be reduced to that emotional tenor, and I’m not here trying to reduce anything or anyone in that manner, but still, these emotional and social dynamics are real. That is to say, a lot of left communist ideas are worth taking seriously, but so is the fact that that milieu tends to be socially disfunctional, and the connection between the ideas and disfunctional character of the milieu is worth taking seriously as well.

To put it another way, there’s a left communist structure of feeling that’s problematic. As I wrote here, “Our traditions, organizations, milieus, networks… whatever it is we move and act within, they are as much a structure of feeling as they are a body of ideas. Particularly in terms of the elements that shape our actions.” As I wrote here,

The British marxist Raymond Williams wrote about what he called a “structure of feeling” made through a combination of people’s conscious efforts and unconscious activity. Williams used this concept to analyze common qualities in the everyday experiences of life in specific places and times. A structure of feeling is a set of outlooks, perceptions, and common impulses that people share. Structures of feeling tend to differ across different generations and groups of people. They are intimately bound up with the value system and world-view of a group and are often have as some of their core components imagery, metaphor, style, and narrative.

I think part of the left communist structure of feeling is a readiness to throw in the towel and move along, to retreat to more comfortable ‘critical’ positions, which means in part networks of people that involve primarily talking to people we already agree with in terms we all share rather than having to deal with the difficulties of lacking a common vocabulary and having to try to establish common values with people in order to move them toward our values. The theory provides a justification for that, and encourages the structure of feeling that’s ready to pick up and go. Part of what underlies all of this, though, is that emotional readiness to up and go, to unplug from relationships and from contexts. The relationships that are maintained are in part ones based on or tied to strong ideological agreement as much as or more than other forms of affinity.

Little of this seems conducive to the happiness of the people involved, as they often seem dour and abrasive (”morose alcoholics”) nor does it seem like it helps them accomplish much in the way of the goals they’d like to see. That self-defeating character is part of why I feel comfortable using the term ‘personality disorder’ though I mostly just meant it flippantly.

Inquiry is a collective social process, which requires conversations. In my experience a large part of the left communist set of conversational moves are moves that up the temperature in conversations. Often conversations get heated enough that they start to erode the social/relationship basis for conversation in the first place: they become self-undermining and inquiry seizes up.

Those interpersonal (anti!)social conversational habits are part of maintaining the tenor of the left communist structure of feeling, maintaining the propensity to say “fuck it, I’m out.” Another piece is a sense of futility.

In my experience, people are generally held back by fear or futility or both. I don’t think there’s any real correlation between political ideology and getting over fear and futility, I think it’s something else. I think a lot of left folk are sometimes an organized voice of futility when it comes to certain kinds of projects. To some extent the insurrectionary anarchist milieu is a voice against fear and futility to a limited extent — with their whole “ATTACK!” thing. I think this is a lot less a matter of theory than it is an expression of where they’re at otherwise,it’s a matter of their structure of feeling. To put it another way, I basically agree with Martin Glaberman that “action precedes consciousness”, which means in part that in any given moment the clear conscious ideological aspects and decisions people have made are only part of the total set of things going on in their actions. I think it’s really more like a process of action-then-consciousness-then-action-then-consciousness with tiny changes each time, and I think “consciousness” is at least as
much or more about gut level impulses and vague terms like right and wrong and fairness and justice (terms that are so vague that they’re almost meaningless in terms of their idea content but which still
express people’s deeply held emotional responses to their world).

In terms of people in the grip of fear and futility, I think they’re not going to be talked out of it via ideas alone — some cats just aren’t believers right now in terms of lived outlook/emotional orientation. They believe in future big stuff, and current big stuff far from them, but they’re not willing to plug away and deal with messiness. And the left communist ideology helps craft a story each time along the lines of “I knew it wouldn’t work out…” or “I should have known…”

Other notes:

As I’ve mentioned, I’d eventually like to try to write a sustained and serious piece on the philosophy of language and speech practices in left circles. I’ve talked about this a bit with regard to institutions of schooling and their effects on people: speech practices are real. They shape how people act and feel. They’re not the only shaping force but they’re one piece of the puzzle. This is one of the things I think is useful in Ranciere’s work on education. I think these dynamics are especially powerful, speech is especially powerful, when it’s a matter of stories people tell and stories people imply. Narratives and metaphors have power.

Part of what I like in Badiou’s work is his insistence on “keep going.” For me “keep going” means in part “maintain commitment.”

http://whatinthehell.blogsome.com/2011/08/04/is-left-wing-communism/

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Aug 6 2011 17:36

Yes this is good! haha. For sure different left wing groups create their own speech communities with shared understandings.

However when it signed off with a bit of Badiou, that's when I got a little upset. i get the impression the Badiou-left community get a kick out of knowing more about maths and its relation to politics than you do.....bloody Badiou....

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Aug 8 2011 04:30

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Aug 6 2011 20:23

Eh, the Badiou part is like 2 sentences....

In any case, I'm an unemployed factory/warehouse/construction trades worker and I agree with this article a lot. I see it a lot in the IWW and in wider movements, and most definitely on libcom, particularly in the older threads. I think it's worth bringing up. Some of this applies to the anarchist political organizations, too. Left communists have a certain reputation and I think deservedly so, despite me agreeing with large portions of their vision and criticisms

I think EdmontonWobbly hit the nailon the head in the 'Rejoining the IWW' thread.

Quote:
The business union tendencies need to be taken seriously not as a competing political doctrine that must be fought against by means of over the top polemics. This is why left communists loose- they don't understand that the reversion to bad strategy is often because the good strategy has gaping holes in it. The bad strategy is complete and stable because it is easier.

This critique applies to outside of the IWW as well.

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Aug 6 2011 20:55
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That is to say, a lot of left communist ideas are worth taking seriously, but so is the fact that that milieu tends to be socially disfunctional, and the connection between the ideas and disfunctional character of the milieu is worth taking seriously as well.

Judging ideas by an arbitrary but unspecified group of representatives, check.

Using an arbitrary measure of the valuableness of the group, check.

Misspelled dysfunctional, check (since we're clearly just doing petty dissing).

Well, aside from that stunning start, I wonder what percentage of the today's working class would qualify as "socially disfunctional"? Have you ever thought that being socially dysfunctional, I'll expressing my solidarity with the other video-game-raised suburban products of broken homes out there and that we, we will inherit the earth!

And could you forward me a list of those highly socially competent radical organizations that have black-listed my ass for my failure to wear matching socks and iron my shirts...

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Aug 6 2011 22:36
Hieronymous wrote:
I'm willing to bet whoever wrote it is an alienated graduate student, since I can't imagine anyone name-dropping Badiou outside the pretentious, sheltered halls of the ivory tower. Someone punching a clock to eke out survival usually doesn't have patience for this academic drivel...

Am I correct?

Nope, you're not. The person who wrote this is a solid organizer, and while an academic is far from sheltered in the ivory tower. The person posts on this site might be able to illuminate. Don't think his identity is "secret", but I'll leave it to him to "out" himself as the author.

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Aug 6 2011 22:44
Arbeiten wrote:
Yes this is good! haha. For sure different left wing groups create their own speech communities with shared understandings.

However when it signed off with a bit of Badiou, that's when I got a little upset. i get the impression the Badiou-left community get a kick out of knowing more about maths and its relation to politics than you do.....bloody Badiou....

They don't really know much about maths though do they. Badiou needs to take some first year undergraduate set theory courses.

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Aug 8 2011 04:31

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Aug 8 2011 04:33

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Aug 7 2011 04:17

But surely times of low class struggle ultra-leftism has to be a personality disorder to give a crude definition of the term. Personality disorders are basically metrics of how hard people find it to integrate into current social relations. The psychiatric definition when used properly is quite tight, but it is often used a a metaphor for political dissidents who have absolutely nothing to do the the diagnosis except in as much as metaphorical associations between them and it make some superficial sense. So people who have fundamental objections (intellectual or material) to the socio-political order of the day are very easily described as having personality disorders. Let's not forget that the various secret polices of the USSR used this as a reason to 'section' dissidents.

I'm not saying that anarchists and left-communists at present are not a bunch of alcoholic wierdos, maybe they are, but if they are, this seems pretty consistent with being good revolutionaries in a period of low class struggle.

Also, Badiou is loads of fun if you don't take him seriously, and since no one round here does, let's just enjoy his inventive formulations and so on.

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Aug 7 2011 05:35

That blogger is a douche who is not worth reading. I know this for a fact, and you can tell him I said so. If he had any friends, they'd all be douches too. Fuck that guy.

That said, do the folk making objections here honestly believe that the left communist milieu is NOT socially disfunctional, that the people who make it up are not often troubled people who are somewhat self-defeating, and that left communist ideas don't often encourage people to give up on difficult, messy projects involving a range of ideological positions and mixed-bag outcomes?If you don't belive that then apparently I mostly know the wrong sort of left communists. (Perhaps this is because I'm too disfunctional and self-defeating too much of the time so that I can't get the tiem of day from the calm, cool, collected left communists who are advancing the revolution and staying relatively sane.)

Also, Badiou likes math and is from France, and his books are too long. 'Nuff said. Real proletarians only like blood and fire and are from the ghetto and don't bother to read anything longer than a comic book.

bastarx
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Aug 7 2011 07:35

So still no actual examples Nate? Just an appeal to vague but supposedly shared prejudices about left communists.

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Aug 7 2011 08:19

I'm not Nate, but I agree with this piece and the examples I would give are:

-ICC and ICP publications, both written in complete insider language as to be almost useless to anyone but the small cluster of people who gravitate to their tendency. Some of their members express themselves wonderfully on here, but they don't seem to be the folks that write much.

-The weirdos who exclaimed we shouldn't be calling for a 'general strike' in Madison, but rather a 'mass strike', or 'unlimited general wildcat strike', as if the main thing we were doing wrong was that we weren't using an even more obscure set of terms that we'd have to explain.

-A number of left communist or left communist leaning folks in the IWW, who choose or seriously consider pulling out because of certain reformist tendencies that would simply take putting forward a positive program instead of engaging in accusatory manifestos or salt the earth scathing criticisms.

-Some of the threads on libcom, particularly some of the older ones, or the ones mostly consisting of people in the left communist milieu seem just bizarre. You guys go at each other in such a bombastic way that is just unmatched by any other tendency. Maybe it's inherited from the Situationists?

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Aug 7 2011 14:05

It's worth remembering that you are talking about people who are 'a bit strange' anyway. People who describe themselves as communists and anarchists in the UK are in a minority of people who identify with theories that are a long way from the mainstream.
Not to say that being sympathetic to these ideas is strange, but people who read all the books and go to meetings and so on are a small minority (a bit like the discussion about the EDL we were having the other day where most of the people on the marches aren't committed to the ideology)

Is it a trait of the left to be socially 'strange' or just a trait of politics geeks? (no offence... grin)

I have always thought that the leftnever got the hang of emotions and the spiritual (for want of a better word) aspect of community leaving it open for exploitation. Marx was of course a 19th century German philosopher and his logic is powerful but he doesn't address the emotional aspects
I think the existentialists touched on this idea of an emotional critique of capitalism, but offered no credible alternative

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Aug 7 2011 13:59

I haven't read this article properly, but on a general note and that's probably true that quite a lot of left communists are socially dysfunctional, but then so are loads of the socialists, anarchists, IWWites, etc. Not to mention right-wing politicos or University Lib Dem types.

Most politicos are pretty weird. I don't think you can point to any group as being particularly worse than any other

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Aug 7 2011 14:15
Peter wrote:
So still no actual examples Nate? Just an appeal to vague but supposedly shared prejudices about left communists.

Hi Peter, I'm glad to hear that in your experiences the left communist milieu is not socially disfunctional and is made up of relatively stable, happy people who are not self-defeating and they never behave in offputting ways that make it harder for them to spread their ideas. You must know different left communists than I do.

As for prejudices, I like a fair amount of folk I know who are into that stuff and I've learned a lot from that stuff, I wish that these problems didn't occur. I think left communists are often right about a lot of important things. Unfortunately they sometimes behave in a counterproductive way that makes people not want to listen to their often right ideas. That's not because of their politics, its because of their people skills and other behaviors. I realize you've never experienced this because you know different and better left communists than I do. Good on you. The ones you know will clearly triumph eventually, history is on their side.

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Aug 8 2011 04:34

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Aug 7 2011 15:09

-ICC and ICP publications, both written in complete insider language as to be almost useless to anyone but the small cluster of people who gravitate to their tendency. Some of their members express themselves wonderfully on here, but they don't seem to be the folks that write much.

-[i]The weirdos who exclaimed we shouldn't be calling for a 'general strike' in Madison, but rather a 'mass strike', or 'unlimited general wildcat strike', as if the main thing we were doing wrong was that we weren't using an even more obscure set of terms that we'd have to explain.
[/i]
Some questions Juan:

Which ICP are you referring to?

Can you give examples of posts where some members of the ICC/ICP have shown an ability to "express themselves wonderfully" (and perhaps contrast this with examples where they write in incomprehensible internal jargon)?

Who were the "weirdos" in Madison trying to differentiate a 'general strike' from a 'mass strike' or 'unlimited general wildcat strike'? Are you talking about leaflets, papers, verbal interventions? The ICC does make a distinction between the union-called top-down general strike and the mass strike 'from below', although the formulation 'unlimited general wildcat strike' is not one we would generally use.

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Aug 7 2011 15:18

jesus guys, i thought this was supposed to be some light-hearted autocritique....

Quote:
They don't really know much about maths though do they. Badiou needs to take some first year undergraduate set theory courses

In truth 888, I don't know. I always thought the use of maths was a little arbitrary, maybe a rhetorical strategy for added truth points. From my bastardized philistinist reading of Badiou, he could have gotten away with using a distinction between a conditional and unconditional event rather obscure it with references to maths. But there again, I haven't read too much of it and I could be totally wrong...

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Aug 8 2011 04:36

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Aug 7 2011 15:50

Frech philosopher and a Maoist

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Badiou

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Aug 7 2011 16:24
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I feel vindicated because the author is an alienated graduate student. Khawaga, why did you lie for him?

Because I thought he had graduated, hence I said academic. And what's your point anyway? That academics involved in some form of anarchist of left communist activity should only write about what you find interesting and what is "useful" to society (a very neo-liberal take on academia btw). If something is an itch, scratch it. And if you've written something might as well disseminate it as well. And I've met a few folks that eke out a living washing dishes and collecting shopping carts name dropping both Badieu, Ranciere and psychobabbled on and on. Weird form of anti-intellectualism you're betraying there... But sure, the salt of the earth are simple people. They have no interest in high culture, good food and impenetrable philosophy.

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Aug 7 2011 16:42

The original post perhaps got off to a bad start on this particular website in possibly mixing up the phrase 'left wing communism' with the wider range of politics found on this site - I mean Situationist are not left communists and in terms of the problems associated with 'in-house' language this can be found in a whole variety of political groups accross the anarchist and communist milieu.

Still the quoted extract does make some valid points. The problems associated with the internal dynamics of pro-revolutionary minoritiy groups (particularly in times of low collective class struggle as RedEd suggests) and the effect of that on those outside those groups deserve more self-critical attention than they generally get. The effort of maintaining genuine pro-revolutionary ideas over long periods, especially in the same continuous organisations, does tend to take it's toll on the emotional make up of the people involved, often leading to their organisations taking refuge in dogma and repetition of the supposed eternal lessons of yesterdays struggles whilst remaining blind to new realities. This often also leads to an element of paranoia, where deviations are seen everywhere as a threat to the stabillity that the organisation provides in our unstable world. This is certainly something that I have taken up in the past on other threads when questioning the approach of organisations like the ICC and the SPGB that I have some experience of. ( As an aside, the opposite of this is the effort by some anarchist groups in particular who in their attempt to be 'in touch' and 'involved' with the everyday struggles of our class abandon communist criticism and more often than not simply burn out their members.)

Unlike other critics of these organisations and some others of a similar type I don't take the view that this necessarily fixes members of those organisations or even (though less likely) the organisations themselves, on some eternal downward path, since it is precisely upturns in the class struggle, especially when experienced 'close to home' that can create an atmosphere of both theoretical and emotional reawakening.

Still my understanding of the past of revolutionary minority politics and more recent experience suggests to me that the pro-revolutionary movement can and does only grow through vigorous discussion and debate leading to the inevitable splits, dissolution and reformation of groups and tendencies - a mostly positive process. The search for the holly grail of 'therevoluionary party' or any other single revolutionary organisation whether anarchist or marxist is a pointless exercise and often harmful in the process. It is perhaps websites like libcom and possibly other forums for discussion and co-operation that can enable this to occurr with the least damage to both people and process?

This is not to deny the need for working class unity and solidarity in struggle which necessarily implies the need for the organised co-ordination, and in marxist terms, centralisation of struggle, if capitalism is to be defeated. But any 'revolutionary party' of the future can surely only ever be made up of the actual collection of minorities who are practically in the advance guard of struggle rather than any one pre-existing organisation. They too will hopefully seek to co-ordinate their work but in an expanding situation new groups and new tendencies will inevitably be created all the time until capitalism is finally overthrown.

I seem to have wandered a bit off subject here, though the points seem connected in my mind at least.

I am certainly willing to accept that I suffer from at least two personality disorders only one of which is specific to my adherance to pro-revolutionary politics.

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Aug 7 2011 17:07
Spikymike wrote:
I am certainly willing to accept that I suffer from at least two personality disorders only one of which is specific to my adherance to pro-revolutionary politics.

But which is the evil one?

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Aug 7 2011 17:42

I know this thread is not just about them but implying the Situationists were a bunch of alcoholics and dysfunctional people seems just a silly way of dismissing their ideas. I know someone who has met members of the SI to research their book and they were apparently really interesting people and a lot of fun. Also, just from reading around you can find out that T. J. Clark is apparently a really friendly and charismatic teacher. Vaneigem was also a big fan with his high school students and his latter work is all about the necessity of avoiding the kind of moroseness that ultimately contributed to the SI breaking up. If the article is this latter kind of auto-critique then that is fine but if it is trying to dismiss the SI because of hagiographical representations of Debord as the typical tragic artists in books then its just silly.

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Aug 7 2011 19:22
Nate wrote:
If you don't belive that then apparently I mostly know the wrong sort of left communists. (Perhaps this is because I'm too disfunctional and self-defeating too much of the time so that I can't get the tiem of day from the calm, cool, collected left communists who are advancing the revolution and staying relatively sane.)

Nate, I would doubt that you know many left communists at all if by that you mean members, and supporters of left communist organisations. There aren't many in the US. I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were more left communists in Ankara than there are members of the ICC and ICT in the US. There certainly aren't enough to start constructing sociological theories around.

Juan Conatz wrote:
-ICC and ICP publications, both written in complete insider language as to be almost useless to anyone but the small cluster of people who gravitate to their tendency. Some of their members express themselves wonderfully on here, but they don't seem to be the folks that write much.

At there worst this is certainly true. I don't know about the ICP press, but the ICC's has certainly improved. That doesn't mean that there aren't times that it goes straight back in the same direction. I would imagine that a lot of people who say that haven't bother reading it, due to how bad they remember it being, for a long time.

Juan Conatz wrote:
-The weirdos who exclaimed we shouldn't be calling for a 'general strike' in Madison, but rather a 'mass strike', or 'unlimited general wildcat strike', as if the main thing we were doing wrong was that we weren't using an even more obscure set of terms that we'd have to explain.

The thing about the mass strike is important. When you were calling for a general strike in Madison, you were barking up completely the wrong tree. I suspect, though I am not sure, mainly for the reason that it was never going to happen, and you just ended up like those English Trotskyist group who used to chant "TUC get off your knees, organise a general strike" at every opportunity.

If this is the case what you probably ended up doing was diverting people into passing motions in their union branches, which diverts people from taking the necessary action to build solidarity.

If a general strike was really on the cards, and not just in leftist fantasy land, the situation is different. During the TEKEL struggle we issued a leaflet titled 'General Strike or Mass Strike', and it didn't work. Basically the response we got was "General strike-that sounds pretty good". Later though, after two general strikes, many people made the point of coming up to us and saying that they understood what we were talking about.

This obviously shows that we failed to communicate what we wanted to say. Perhaps it also shows what people were ready to understand at that moment. Either way, it doesn't mean that the general idea was wrong, nor in the long run that we failed to communicate that idea to at least some of the most militant workers.

people phrase things badly sometimes. It happens.

Devrim

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Aug 8 2011 14:16

I stand corrected. This thread has convinced me I was diametrically wrong on all counts. I will work on rewriting the post to show this. In the meantime please re-read my blog post with the word "not" in front of all claims in it. Thank you comrades. Then again maybe Devrim's right and all I've met are pseudo- left communists.

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Aug 8 2011 04:35

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Aug 7 2011 22:35
Steven. wrote:
I haven't read this article properly, but on a general note and that's probably true that quite a lot of left communists are socially dysfunctional, but then so are loads of the socialists, anarchists, IWWites, etc. Not to mention right-wing politicos or University Lib Dem types.

Most politicos are pretty weird. I don't think you can point to any group as being particularly worse than any other

You must be joking. The ICC are a right bunch of loons, though to be fair the few CWO members I've met have seemed sane, though more Leninist.

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Aug 8 2011 00:09
Nate wrote:
I stand corrected. This thread has convinced me I was diametrically wrong on all counts. I will work on rewriting the post to show this. In the meantime please re-read my blog post with the word "not" in front of all claims in it. Thank you comrades. Then again maybe Devrim's right and all I've met are pseudo- left communists.

Well played Nate, you made a virtually unfalsifiable claim that you knew would piss people off and then when they react angrily that provides you the with the evidence that you were too lazy to provide yourself.

Anyone else think that Nate's screed reads like a lot of racist discourse? Just replace "left communists" with "blacks" or "Jews" and see if it reminds you of the sort of crap you see in the tabloid press most days.

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Aug 8 2011 00:38
Juan Conatz wrote:
I think this is super spot on. Just wondered what others thought.
Quote:
I would someday like to write a pamphlet called “Left Wing Communism: A Personality Disorder.”

I find some of the intellectual content of the left communist milieu compelling, especially as filtered through some friends of mine, but in my experience of that milieu socially I find it less compelling. An older radical I met once said “all the Situationists I’ve ever known have been morose alcoholics.” That’s a bit unfair but it’s not *just* unfair. The Situationists shouldn’t be reduced to that emotional tenor, and I’m not here trying to reduce anything or anyone in that manner, but still, these emotional and social dynamics are real. That is to say, a lot of left communist ideas are worth taking seriously, but so is the fact that that milieu tends to be socially disfunctional, and the connection between the ideas and disfunctional character of the milieu is worth taking seriously as well.

Tangentially I think society is the 'personality disorder'. Persona is an abstract, like identity it is the reification of ethos to any particular ideal. But the essay is interesting, yet steeped in the rational objectification of otherwise ephemeral existential desires.

To put it another way, there’s a left communist structure of feeling that’s problematic. As I wrote here, “Our traditions, organizations, milieus, networks… whatever it is we move and act within, they are as much a structure of feeling as they are a body of ideas. Particularly in terms of the elements that shape our actions.” As I wrote here,

The British marxist Raymond Williams wrote about what he called a “structure of feeling” made through a combination of people’s conscious efforts and unconscious activity. Williams used this concept to analyze common qualities in the everyday experiences of life in specific places and times. A structure of feeling is a set of outlooks, perceptions, and common impulses that people share. Structures of feeling tend to differ across different generations and groups of people. They are intimately bound up with the value system and world-view of a group and are often have as some of their core components imagery, metaphor, style, and narrative.

I think part of the left communist structure of feeling is a readiness to throw in the towel and move along, to retreat to more comfortable ‘critical’ positions, which means in part networks of people that involve primarily talking to people we already agree with in terms we all share rather than having to deal with the difficulties of lacking a common vocabulary and having to try to establish common values with people in order to move them toward our values. The theory provides a justification for that, and encourages the structure of feeling that’s ready to pick up and go. Part of what underlies all of this, though, is that emotional readiness to up and go, to unplug from relationships and from contexts. The relationships that are maintained are in part ones based on or tied to strong ideological agreement as much as or more than other forms of affinity.

Little of this seems conducive to the happiness of the people involved, as they often seem dour and abrasive (”morose alcoholics”) nor does it seem like it helps them accomplish much in the way of the goals they’d like to see. That self-defeating character is part of why I feel comfortable using the term ‘personality disorder’ though I mostly just meant it flippantly.

Inquiry is a collective social process, which requires conversations. In my experience a large part of the left communist set of conversational moves are moves that up the temperature in conversations. Often conversations get heated enough that they start to erode the social/relationship basis for conversation in the first place: they become self-undermining and inquiry seizes up.

Those interpersonal (anti!)social conversational habits are part of maintaining the tenor of the left communist structure of feeling, maintaining the propensity to say “fuck it, I’m out.” Another piece is a sense of futility.

In my experience, people are generally held back by fear or futility or both. I don’t think there’s any real correlation between political ideology and getting over fear and futility, I think it’s something else. I think a lot of left folk are sometimes an organized voice of futility when it comes to certain kinds of projects. To some extent the insurrectionary anarchist milieu is a voice against fear and futility to a limited extent — with their whole “ATTACK!” thing. I think this is a lot less a matter of theory than it is an expression of where they’re at otherwise,it’s a matter of their structure of feeling. To put it another way, I basically agree with Martin Glaberman that “action precedes consciousness”, which means in part that in any given moment the clear conscious ideological aspects and decisions people have made are only part of the total set of things going on in their actions. I think it’s really more like a process of action-then-consciousness-then-action-then-consciousness with tiny changes each time, and I think “consciousness” is at least as
much or more about gut level impulses and vague terms like right and wrong and fairness and justice (terms that are so vague that they’re almost meaningless in terms of their idea content but which still
express people’s deeply held emotional responses to their world).

In terms of people in the grip of fear and futility, I think they’re not going to be talked out of it via ideas alone — some cats just aren’t believers right now in terms of lived outlook/emotional orientation. They believe in future big stuff, and current big stuff far from them, but they’re not willing to plug away and deal with messiness. And the left communist ideology helps craft a story each time along the lines of “I knew it wouldn’t work out…” or “I should have known…”

Other notes:

As I’ve mentioned, I’d eventually like to try to write a sustained and serious piece on the philosophy of language and speech practices in left circles. I’ve talked about this a bit with regard to institutions of schooling and their effects on people: speech practices are real. They shape how people act and feel. They’re not the only shaping force but they’re one piece of the puzzle. This is one of the things I think is useful in Ranciere’s work on education. I think these dynamics are especially powerful, speech is especially powerful, when it’s a matter of stories people tell and stories people imply. Narratives and metaphors have power.

Part of what I like in Badiou’s work is his insistence on “keep going.” For me “keep going” means in part “maintain commitment.”

http://whatinthehell.blogsome.com/2011/08/04/is-left-wing-communism/