A left without guilt

“  Pity for all  – would be hardness and tyranny toward you, my dear neighbor!”    — Nietzsche

I know it sometimes sounds rhetorically cool and melodramatic to fling wide dispersions of guilt and self-loathing at a coalition meeting, but the actual effect is often to drive away most of the sane, non-masochistic normal people.

Our target audience should always be the people who are not yet politically involved, but who have an organic attraction to our message of class warfare.

The problem is, when you actually get some of those people in a room, and the white dreadlocked activist veteran starts crooning about how bad he feels (by implication, how bad we should feel) over his “privilege” (imagine it in the most annoying voice possible), it often turns off a lot of the yet-politicized people.

Maybe they work for $10/hour or less and don’t feel very privileged.  We’ve lost em.  Maybe they’re paid much better than that, but still take their boss’ orders from 9-to-5 and have a Fight Club sort of resentment about it – we’ve just lost that crowd, too.

Finally, maybe they were just born white or male, or don’t see what’s wrong with buying consumer objects at normal grocery stores, or not being homeless, or living in the first world.  They walk away unlikely to return to a meeting where they will be obligated to perceives themselves as Part Of The Problem.

Look – there is a lot of oppression in the world besides class oppression.  It needs to be addressed.  It is tragic that much of the dialogue attempting to address that oppression openly or subtly blames and guilt-trips a lot of ordinary people who actually have nothing to do with the problem.

We can disagree on the precise structure of oppression and benefit – a huge topic.  I tend to fall into the camp that says it’s the wealthy elite who benefits, not the “counterpart demographic” (white/PoC, gay/straight, male/female, Muslim/Christian, 1st world/3rd world).  For example, the perception is that the super-profits gained by America-based multi-national corporations exploiting children in foreign sweatshops must somehow be trickling down to the US working majority.  I think actually they just keep those super-profits to themselves.

But here’s the key: if you’re going to build a mass movement, one of the tremendous overwhelming Egyptian size that can really make changes, how are you going to motivate more people to get involved?  By scolding them from the start they’re bad people and part of the oppressive structure?  Or by showing them how they are oppressed too, how they could benefit from a great rearrangement of things?

If wealth was redistributed equally in the United States, everyone would have about $170,000 in the bank.  Where does that place you?

Right, that’s what I thought: the bottom.  You have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be angry about.

Leftism also doesn’t require you to be a saint.  It’s as though people think that whether their personalities are kind or unkind, sacrificing or selfish, is the critical question in ripping one system down and building another.  If that was true, I think religion would have solved all the world’s problems by now, maybe Buddhism in the East and Christianity in the West, or whatever.

To even exist, to even live and breathe in the USA, a person must deal with a frustrating amount of bureaucrats and phone trees.  We do this even after we’ve already done our daily slave shift.  We may start out with good intentions, we may try to be nice to that voice on the other end of the phone, but ultimately, our patience wears thin.  We stop being nice.  It’s survival.

“Man’s inhumanity to man” is not the source of the system, it is the result of it.  We live in a cannibalistic system and we’re not personally exempt from it.  We’re all monsters, except I don’t feel guilty about it, I feel energized.  You can let it horrify and paralyze you like Hamlet, or you can embrace our true nature as a source of strength for our movement.  Goodie two-shoes, white-light leftists should look into the crowds in Britain happily chanting Margaret Thatcher’s death.

5 thoughts on “A left without guilt

  1. “The perception is that the super-profits gained by America-based multi-national corporations exploiting children in foreign sweatshops must somehow be trickling down to the US working majority. I think actually they just keep those super-profits to themselves.”

    Not to be too pushy with it, but how do you explain economic disparity between the core economy’s working class and peripheral economy’s working class? Or dismiss Lenin’s (in my view valid) theory of imperialism, labor aristocracy & revolution emerging in the weak links of capitalism? To me, lowering corporate tax rates, destroying regulation and implementing austerity (“trickle down”) does not necessarily end that labor aristocratic phenomenon created through imperialism as far as I can see, though I do ofc acknowledge a slow trend of re-proletarianization (that appears to be largely navigating to create new or defend pre-existing labor aristocratic Social Democracy — not Socialism) and at least a bit more radicalization than usual within core economies.

    • This is a fair thing to bring up. The following is not meant to shoot you down, and I am curious for any further thoughts.

      For one thing, if the productive capacities of the core countries were re-wired away from armaments and toward social needs, the proletariat could enjoy those benefits. Imagine if WW2 had been a giant rush of building necessary things instead of killing people and the destruction of “enemy” industry.

      Which is sort of my main point: I don’t think the core countries would be worse off if they killed their own imperialism and pursued socialism instead What would be lost in super-profits would be corrected (for most people) by the redistribution of domestic wealth.

      While it is absolutely true that the core takes raw materials and other resources from from the periphery, I think the most heinous thing that the core does to the periphery is systematically blocking its industrialization and development. Frequently the object of war is precisely the destruction of competing industry: that’s why the Axis wasn’t just occupied, they were carpet-bombed. That’s like the state enterprises of the USSR being rendered “redundant” by the world market during the 90s (all discussion of our respective views of the USSR aside; the point is liquidation). If the periphery was merely allowed to use its own resources to build itself, or if it received some *actual* targeted assistance toward self-centered increases of the infrastructural/technological level, that would in itself be revolutionary.
      This also speaks to why international tensions are increasing…as BRIC comes online, NATO has to regain its global market share. China is America’s Frankenstein monster, created for short-term profits but ultimately self-undermining.

      And then yeah, there’s the issue of, the aristocracy of labor only would apply to a very small section of American workers IMO, plus I suspect the historical periods during which it actually applies are rather limited to periods like the 1950s-1970s, possibly the 90s but maybe not even.

      Like I said, I’m open to your take.

      • Thanks for the friendly and open discussion on this — something always much needed among the left.

        As far as I’m concerned the productive capacities of what was left of the core after WW2 (USA) was suddenly wired to both produce immense armaments to combat the Soviet Union as well as completely rebuild necessary things throughout Europe and draw every part the globe not influenced by socialism into the system of the new hegemon. It also required the bribing of the majority segments of the working classes of the core economies through the new super-profit of reconstruction, rearmament and arms race, (including and focusing on the majority white working class in USA and the working class in embittered and devastated Axis states who had a history of communist agitation), along with huge anti-communist espionage campaigns (think Gladio and recruiting the Nazi Abwehr to head up the new West German intelligence agencies). This was the period of Social Security, Medicare, peace-time New Deal advances, the Marshall Plan, the Wirtschaftswunder, the birth of modern European Social Democracy and the European Economic Project etc.

        My own personal view is that these “bribed” majorities (which also typically comprises the demographic that most frequently spouts racist, pro-imperialist rhetoric in these countries) would most definitely stand to lose from stopping imperialism and pursuing a truly global socialism. As far as redistribution-ism, think about it: $170,000 for each ~American~. How much goes to the rest of the world that the USA and Europe has pillaged? Is it about the redistribution of wealth alone or control over the means and fruits of production as well? Can the white working class (or remaining petit-bourgeois of all stripes) in the USA or Europe ever “afford” to have, say, 2 houses, or a few cars, or be able to take a few days off a year to just shop, or go eat some bourgie craft foods in the arts district, or own a small business (the middle class dream) under such a system (if this sort of property isn’t eliminated altogether)? Not to say this isn’t wrong, but this is the aspiration and actually making globally equal, ecologically sound socialism work with these aspirations (which are not solely the product of false consiousness imo) would be quite difficult if not impossible afaik.

        And you’re right, it is terrible about the destruction of competing industry, and I am a supporter of USSR and of China for independent development because of this revolutionary nature, as you describe. Just look at the average American worker’s reaction to China! That’s not merely a function of “false consciousness” in my mind, although I’ve also experienced that in tandem as well — but I really do not see the rise of the Chinese market and nation as being in the American worker’s interest under capitalism, nor do I see them seeing socialism as a solution in the interest of the majority until we’ve seen significantly more proletarianization of the vast majority of Americans.

  2. Not to say that there aren’t oppressed segments of the American working class, especially within communities of color (and even some white communities), but whether or not they are radicalized or radicalized towards socialism remains a big question.

    The situation of the poor in Europe and the USA is dire, but not nearly as dire as it is globally — this is just something that came to mind that I’m spouting off here and not really defending completely or even feeling strongly about. I think what it’s coming down to is that I am just wary of leftist movements in the core as they can so easily be swayed towards or find it difficult to escape the language of Helping American Workers or Saving Social Democracy or Defending This Program, which I see as something socialists in the core must paradoxically both take part in but also be wary of as something that disarms or disengages the core working class once they’ve won or re-won those gains, or even when they lose and/or fail to be incorporated into a larger movement, which is incredibly difficult on the post-modern landscape.

    • There’s no edit afaik so I’m going to keep spamming your board — apologies.

      “And then yeah, there’s the issue of, the aristocracy of labor only would apply to a very small section of American workers IMO, plus I suspect the historical periods during which it actually applies are rather limited to periods like the 1950s-1970s, possibly the 90s but maybe not even.”

      America today is 63% “”””non-hispanic”””” white — the majority of which is quite affluent by global standards — with Asians and other small groupings of minorities also now able to break into a more open capitalist and petit-bourgeois stratum from 70 years ago. I’d say that the high-water period of labor aristocracy was just that = 1950-2001, and that we’re seeing major draw-down and re-proletarianization since the collapse of the Soviet Union and beginning of new capitalist imbalance and the decline of Keynesianism and Neoliberalism starting in the late 90s but hitting in full force in 2008 continuing to today.

      This means that the labor aristocratic phenomenon cannot and will not last forever (hence the typical Maoist Third Worldist refrain about the Amerikkkan citizen forever being against the global proletariat also not being true) but that it will take time and careful maneuvering by core economy socialists to win through against the very real threat of a panicking capitalist class and diminished petit-bourgeoisie and declining Nation potentially turning to Fascism as in Greece.

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