The recent debacle of Syriza should come as no surprise. Neither should we cringe at the attempts of the right in Greece to use it for its own odious and morbid purposes. For the left of the politicians and the political parties, they have discredited themselves a long time ago, and if it were not for people’s inability to give up on the alure of idols and saviours, the “left” would have disappeared long time ago.
George Sorel exposed a hundred years ago the bankrupt nature of the parliamentary left (mostly concentrating on what evolved into social democracy), while Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party discredited (or should have) through their actions the revolutionary descendants of Marx; and the Stalinists of Spain finished off (or should have) any delusions on that score. So the history of the left keeps repeating itself in a variety of comical forms which may have been hilarious like the Life of Brian, if their effect was not so pernicious on the fate of the world.
The parliamentary left played a useful role in the advance of capitalism: it integrated politically an increasingly maleable working class to the exigencies of capitalist development while isolating and rendering as “disruptive” and “unrealistic” any militant currents within the it. The end result has been the expansion of the middle class in the Western countries as more and more of the working class was able to particpate in the economic expansion of capitalism. As long as resistance inside the shop floor and outside remained within the bounds of the acceptable what we got was the politics of reformism. The question of reform or revolution becomes a moot point when resistance and contestation is unable to break out (for a variety of reasons) of the acceptable, of the given, and thus a wage contestation becomes, when “won”, a way of advancing the consumtpion needs of a capitalist economy.
Going beyond the bounds of the acceptable means that the experience of resistance and contestation that one shares with others and also the historical experience of resistance that is passed to every current generation from the past (whether through songs, books, personal accounts and stories) contains within it the necessary elements of self reliance that form the basis of collective self-organizing. First and foremost, it means that contesting the social order and those for whom it enables the capacity to expoit the vast majority of the populutions everywhere, whether in the factories, or offices, or universities or farms or the neighboroods, can only be based on ones own action and deliberation. This will be the basis of creating new forms of organizations, arising in the grassroots, organized across communities and frontiers, joining in global networks of resistance: Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, China, Nigeria etc.
Our resistance must be aimed at not just the immediate forms of exploitation, but also at the very meaning of the forms of production and consumption which we find ourselves living in. We need to bring into question and put on the agenda not just issues like self-management, but self-management of what: self-management of the making of cars? development of public transportation? reorganization of the urban-rural landspcape? the global division of “labor”? etc. Our experience today is showing us that all of these issues must be addressed simultaneously in order to mature this experience to the point where there can be a realistic possibility of bringing down the current social order(s). It should be noted that there are many such activities taking place right now, in a very fragmentary way and not necessarily withing an anti-authoritarian framework.
So what I am arguing for, albeit in a rather schematic manner, is that we should press on with our own agenda of resistance and not waste our time on the various “left”attempts of parliamentary reforms.
The recent ascendancy of capitalism, which has been building since the 70s, and which we now are witnessing in its waves of self-destruction, has resulted in a strange nostalgia by many who oppose the current social order but remain within the boundaries of conventional politics for many of the by-gone figures associated with the left (e.g Castro). At the same time many are clinging to the hope of Syriza and Podemos. In the end however, the only hope is our own self-organization. We cannot predict its timeline, but it is the only way.