Why I Am No Longer a Leftist

Feb 8th, 2013 by Nicholas Pell in Politics

So I was meant to write a post this morning for Pop The Left, a podcast that I do with a couple guys I know via Internets. Instead, I’m just going to refer my cohorts here and write a bit about what we’ll be talking about tomorrow night.

The subject of the evening will be, among other things, my defection from the left. For what it’s worth, I’ve never considered myself a leftist. Indeed, for those who haven’t been keeping score, my socialist politics largely existed in opposition to the main currents of the left. These currents, be they Trotskyism, Maoism or what have you, are, in my humble estimation, little more than tendrils of the great capitalist machine.

Allow me to draw a quick thumbnail sketch:

  • For the most part, the left (defined as socialist-in-name radical organizations existing largely outside of the political mainstream in the United States) acts as an effective pressure group on the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO. You can see this in the lion’s share of their sloganeering, which is basically a series of appeals to pro-capitalist politicians and scab union leaders to “get tough” or “move to the left.” It’s also evident in the target audience of their publications; Namely, college students, middle-class intellectuals and semi-proletarian professional workers.
  • The Democratic Party, of course, is notorious for being the enabler party of the Republicans. We are all too familiar with the process: The Republicans ask for an arm and a leg, the Democrats cave on nearly everything right away, and claim victory when the Republicans get an arm and three-fourths of a leg. When in power, the Democrats are responsible for some of the worst excesses of state violence, with no shortage of willing pro bono PR agents to alibi them with trifling cultural issues.
  • In this sense, it’s easy to draw a straight line directly from groups like the International Socialist Organization right to the Republican Party. More than just a pressure group, the left acts as the left flank of the Democratic Party, shielding it from criticism and creating illusions in radical workers that bourgeois parties can be pressured or forced to respond to popular outrage.
  • Groups that do not fall into these categories — and I am thinking specifically of the World Socialist Web Site, Lutte Ouvrière, left and council communist currents, the Lambrettists and other assorted flotsam — aren’t serious political organizations. Rather, they are havens for aging egomaniacs, a place for people who have lost in life virtually everywhere else to transform themselves into individuals of great power. Their fantasies of revolution are, to put it bluntly, laughable, even if they’re more “correct” than not.

The good fight, so called, was probably lost during the McCarthy years when the American left was obliterated. The severed link seems to me impossible to repair, especially on the truncated timeline that humanity has left. For how long do you think we’ve got before a third world war or ecological collapse makes human civilization as we know it a thing of the past? We’re living on borrowed time and none of the existing political institutions are up to the tasks before them.

My solution? There isn’t one. Fuck it, get drunk and hold your babies tight. We’re in for a bumpy ride and no amount of middle-class intellectual masturbation is going to stop it.

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