In this month’s post we are going to talk about the main currents of the lef­tist move­ment. The sub­ject mat­ter will be the poli­ti­cal pro­po­sal deve­lo­ped from the deca­de of the ‘60 – 70s until nowa­days. We will outli­ne our view on the­se poli­ti­cal trends and offer, more spe­ci­fi­cally, our cri­ti­que of iden­tity poli­tics, of plu­ra­lism and of radi­cal demo­cracy.

Within the lef­tist move­ment, the­re are diver­se stand­points when defi­ning social clas­ses and iden­tif­ying the natu­re of their com­po­si­tion. Nowa­days, howe­ver, the­re are two poli­ti­cal mains­tream that pre­do­mi­na­te amongst such con­cep­tions: wor­ke­rism, which clings to the tra­di­tio­nal form of wor­ker and the new left, which res­ponds to the mul­ti­ple forms of subor­di­na­tion with the con­cepts of iden­tity and plu­ra­lism. Even though both view­points or poli­ti­cal pro­po­sals dif­fer at first glan­ce, they deri­ve from the same defi­ni­tion of the wor­king class. They equa­te the poli­ti­cal sub­jec­ti­vity of the wor­king class with the models of iden­tity, orga­ni­za­tion and mobi­li­sa­tion that recrea­te the tra­di­tio­nal ima­gi­nary of the indus­trial wor­ker. This defi­ni­tion dis­torts the com­plex com­po­si­tion of the wor­king class and offers a limi­ted unders­tan­ding of the eco­nomy. They redu­ce the eco­nomy to quan­ti­ta­ti­ve data and unders­tand it by means of busi­ness analy­ses, rather than pre­sen­ting its social dimen­sion, that is, the natu­re of the bour­geo­is power. Howe­ver, having an eco­no­mis­tic con­cep­tion of the eco­nomy cau­ses detri­men­tal theo­re­ti­cal and poli­ti­cal con­se­quen­ces; among them to igno­re the current cha­rac­te­ris­tics of the proletariat.

As sta­ted abo­ve, we iden­tify two poli­ti­cal currents as being the main amongst tho­se that deal with the issue of the wor­king class. The first one, wor­ke­rism, would aim at defen­ding the poli­ti­cal pro­mi­nen­ce of the stra­ta that have usually been iden­ti­fied as “tra­di­tio­nal wor­king class”. Neverthe­less, the way wor­ke­rists con­duct poli­tics does not dif­fer from that of other left-wing par­ties: they work within the sta­te appa­ra­tus, they under­ta­ke the pro­tec­tion and the defen­se of the tra­di­tio­nal form of wor­ker in the dis­cour­ses and they direct their poli­ti­cal prac­ti­se to the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve mana­ge­ment and to ope­ra­te in the tra­di­tio­nal tra­de unions.

We have named the second poli­ti­cal mains­tream the new left. They defend the exis­ten­ce of various sub­jec­ti­vi­ties, that is, based on the analy­sis of the mul­ti­ple oppres­sions, their poli­ti­cal pro­po­sal aims at inte­gra­ting all tho­se diver­se view­points. In an inter­view by the maga­zi­ne Erria with Jule Goi­koetxea and with Iña­ki Soto, Goi­koetxea (2019:29) sta­tes we will gra­dually unders­tand that all the­se wrongs are struc­tu­red in dif­fe­rent subor­di­na­tion sys­tems. This poli­ti­cal current under­li­nes the diver­sity of social rela­tions and prac­ti­ces, of which the eco­no­mic oppres­sion, the lack of eco­no­mic equa­lity, would only be one part.

When den­ying the com­mon root of all forms of oppres­sion, they deny the need for a joint stra­tegy to tac­kle all of them (Wood 2000). That is, if the sco­pe of the influen­ce of the bour­geo­is eco­nomy is limi­ted to wage labour, and if we equa­te class oppres­sion with all the other forms of subor­di­na­tion, we reject the stra­tegy for the cons­truc­tion of the class­less society from the begin­ning. Thus, rather than socia­list uni­ver­sa­lity and the com­prehen­si­ve poli­tics of the fight against class exploi­ta­tion, the poli­ti­cal pro­gram­me of the new left offers dis­con­nec­ted indi­vi­dual strug­gles (Wood 2000). The­re­fo­re, if ins­tead of cha­rac­te­ri­zing the capi­ta­list sys­tem as a spe­ci­fic power struc­tu­re and fun­ctio­ning logic, we cha­rac­te­ri­ze it as a diver­se and inde­fi­ni­te struc­tu­re, we indi­ca­te that all oppres­sions have a dif­fe­rent basis or root, with implies a dif­fe­rent oppres­sed sub­ject, a dif­fe­rent fight stra­tegy, a dif­fe­rent oppres­sor, etc. regar­ding each oppression.

The new left sup­ports diver­sity in a frag­men­tary sen­se-unders­tood as struc­tu­ral inabi­lity for unity‑, what Goi­koetxea (2019:37) des­cri­bes as unity in diver­sity. To unders­tand this, three con­cepts are neces­sary: iden­tity, dif­fe­ren­ce and plu­ra­lity. On the one hand, accor­ding to iden­tity poli­tics, the indi­vi­dual will deve­lop its poli­ti­cal view­point depen­ding on its per­so­nal expe­rien­ces. Rather than lea­ving indi­vi­dua­lis­tic inter­ests asi­de, deba­ting accor­ding to com­pe­lling reasons and res­pon­ding to a his­to­ri­cal and collec­ti­ve inter­est-to fight for tho­se who suf­fer the worst living conditions‑, the poli­ti­cal prac­ti­ce of the indi­vi­dual will res­pond to a per­so­nal and spon­ta­neo­us choi­ce. On the other hand, the issue of plu­ra­lism is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by: the gro­wing frag­men­ta­tion, the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of social rela­tions and of expe­rien­ces, the diver­sity of lifesty­les, the increa­se of per­so­nal iden­ti­ties. Thus, through plu­ra­lism, the new left denies the sys­te­ma­tic unity of capi­ta­lism; accor­ding to Wood (2000), they have denied the social fun­ction of capi­ta­lism and have tur­ned it into a plu­ra­lity without struc­tu­re and frag­men­ted into dif­fe­rent identities.

The poli­ti­cal move­ments that work through iden­tity poli­tics insert their stra­te­gic pro­po­sal within bour­geo­is demo­cracy, and unders­tand demo­cracy itself as the poli­ti­cal orga­ni­sa­tio­nal form that lea­ves the class strug­gle pers­pec­ti­ve asi­de, mea­ning it denies class anta­go­nism as pre­mi­se, and the­re­fo­re analy­ses all the oppres­sions in the same way. The demo­cra­tic pers­pec­ti­ve sug­ges­ted by the new left adhe­res to the bour­geo­is-par­lia­men­tary demo­cracy, sin­ce it wishes to imple­ment a stra­tegy that incor­po­ra­tes social move­ments within the fra­me­work of libe­ral demo­cra­cies. But to defend equa­lity and coexis­ten­ce among all per­so­nal iden­ti­ties through demo­cracy turns impos­si­ble if we analy­se class anta­go­nism. For class cha­rac­ter is not deter­mi­ned by one iden­tity or another, but by the sys­te­ma­tic fun­ction that each one ful­fils. Pla­cing both main clas­ses from the bour­geo­is order at the same level will the­re­fo­re be impos­si­ble, sin­ce they per­form a struc­tu­ral fun­ction that is oppo­si­te and incom­pa­ti­ble from the beginning.

In the con­text of that poli­ti­cal pro­gram­me, we can dis­tin­guish two types of lines of action. The first one, the one that is con­duc­ted outsi­de the ins­ti­tu­tions (even if only for­mally), would be the prac­ti­ce carried out by the social move­ments in the streets, the neigh­bourhoods, the schools, the fac­to­ries or other areas. In this case, they sug­gest demands orien­ted towards obtai­ning for­mal equa­lity (that dif­fe­rent sub­jec­ti­vi­ties may have the same living con­di­tions, but kee­ping the current struc­tu­re) and carry out com­mu­ni­ca­tion and prac­ti­cal pro­po­sals to socia­li­se them-see­mingly radi­cal, acti­vist and based on mul­ti­tu­di­nous mobi­li­sa­tions-. Yet, all the­se actions do not corres­pond to a real strug­gle, but rather seek for the ins­ti­tu­tions to meet the­se demands and are in char­ge of gene­ra­ting a pro­gres­si­ve left-lea­ning opi­nion to gua­ran­tee it.

All tho­se social move­ments show the need for poli­ti­cal par­ties that will give an ins­ti­tu­tio­nal res­pon­se to their demands. On the other hand, for tho­se ins­ti­tu­tio­nal par­ties that pro­fit from the initia­ti­ve of the popu­lar move­ments, the­se beco­me an impor­tant asset in order to gain more votes. The­re­fo­re, they obtain grea­ter social sup­port for their poli­ti­cal agen­da, capi­ta­li­sing that social bac­king in the elections.

As men­tio­ned befo­re, the­se poli­ti­cal mains­tream exclu­de a basic pre­mi­se: that capi­ta­lism lies in the exploi­ta­tion of the wor­king class. Thus, they igno­re that the bour­geo­is power defi­nes and deter­mi­nes the enti­rety of our lives mercilessly.

We, on the con­trary, under­li­ne that, sin­ce the wor­king class is the exploi­ted class, the real bene­fit for it, or its real libe­ra­tion, will only come with the end of such exploi­ta­tion. That being said, it is our obli­ga­tion to address this his­to­ri­cal duty: to make a poli­ti­cal pro­gram­me in line with the class axis a reality through the poli­ti­cal inde­pen­den­ce of the proletariat.

To this effect, we must know and analy­se the new expres­sions of the wor­king class first. We can­not equa­te the cha­rac­te­ri­sa­tion of the current pro­le­ta­riat with the one half a cen­tury ago (for ins­tan­ce, the era of the pre­do­mi­nan­ce of the labour aris­to­cracy); for in the­se times of chan­ge in eco­no­mic and social con­di­tions, the com­po­si­tion, the cha­rac­te­ris­tics and the views on life of the wor­king class chan­ge too.

Neverthe­less, we must analy­se the pro­le­ta­riat with a cri­ti­cal eye. Us com­mu­nists can­not turn a blind eye on reality nor advo­ca­te novelty and spon­ta­neo­us forms. To give an exam­ple and in rela­tion to our habi­tual occu­pa­tion, we must spe­cify how the wor­king woman under­goes gen­der oppres­sion; defi­ne the ori­gin and the spe­ci­fic role of the con­cre­te pro­blems she suf­fers at work, con­cer­ning hou­sehold cho­res, the con­di­tions when beco­ming a parent, etc. within the eco­no­mic structure.

So which will be the direc­tion and the natu­re of the strug­gle? We ought to focus on the inter­ests of the pro­le­ta­riat, as we must res­pond to all the spe­ci­fic pro­blems it endu­res. This will be achie­ved through the socia­list stra­tegy, that is, through the stra­tegy of the wor­king class to take the power.
We must fight for every­body to have the same living con­di­tions, so that we trans­form the capa­ci­ties today con­tro­lled by the bour­geo­is power into a uni­ver­sal capa­city tomo­rrow.
Sako­nean. (2019). Erria, 14- 37.
Wood, E. M. (2000). Demo­cra­cia con­tra capi­ta­lis­mo. Méxi­co: Siglo veintiuno. 

Jato­rria /​Ori­gen

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