Thursday, July 16, 2009

A esquerda, a direita e o Estado

The Left, the Pseudoleft, and the State, por Alderson Warm-Fork:

[U]nder normal (i.e. non-revolutionary conditions), people who notice that society is grossly unfair and a lot of people are being made very unhappy, naturally gravitate around the state. They write letters, they present petitions, they announce initiatives. They struggle and then eventually a politician of their camp gets into the position to deliver a rousing speech about how they will mend the world and help all the poor needy X’s, and they feel themselves to have scored a great victory. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the problems never seem to dry up.

Now I’m not saying this is all entirely useless: I’d rather live in a class society that’s been adjusted to make it less obviously nasty, than in one that hasn’t. And it’s also not to suggest that this happens all separately from the ‘real action’, of people really fighting for themselves, solving their own problems, resisting their own oppression. Indeed, precisely what makes things confusing is that there isn’t a clear line between the two, because the pseudoleft is endlessly and insistently chasing after this ‘real left’ to line up beside them (until the end of term).


‘Real leftism’ (which I say tongue-in-cheek) is anti-state (e.g. Marxism). Because of course the state isn’t a great thing: it’s not nice to have people running around who are allowed to hit you but who you’re not allowed to hit back, it’s not nice to have people enforcing laws onto what you and your friends are trying to do privately. It’s certainly not nice being surveilled, bombed, locked up or sent to war.

This is something that ‘the right’ is quite happy to affirm, and a key part of their ideological strength. But the idea that the right-wing supports freedom or choice is rather undermined by the fact that pretty much every single other organ of repression in society gets their enthusiastic support (family authority, religious authority, educational authority, traditional authority, racial hierarchies, sexual discrimination, prejudice against the deviant, etc. etc.)


So the mainstream right, reflecting the mainstream left, is ‘anti-state’ in the sense of wanting the state to calm down, back off, and do as little as possible (but still wanting it to perform it’s core functions, of violently maintaining injustice, as vigorously and efficiently as possible). To their perception, everything is fine (because they don’t see or don’t mind the various dimensions of oppression that permeate class society), and so these ‘lefties’ who are introducing endless new government initiatives are doing so gratuitously.


The marginal right, on the other hand – the ‘far right’ or ‘extreme right’ – goes further: from seeing the state’s measures to counteract oppression as oppressive (in which there’s a grain of truth), they see the very process of counter-acting oppression, in any form, social, cultural, personal, as a threat. And against this they enthusiastically embrace the state. This is quite natural and even, in a way, logical: the state’s raison d’etre is to maintain and defend oppression, and so its natural vocation is to smash any resistance to oppression with massive violence.


We have an oppressive system, and we have an organ of force that functions to maintain it. We have a basic division between those who have twigged that there’s some oppressin’ goin’ on (‘the left’ in the broadest sense), and would like it to stop now, please, and those who don’t mind too much, actually, it makes things more interesting (‘the right’). Now, it would seem intuitively that the former should dislike and distrust the state, and the latter should be quite keen on it.

But no! Instead, there’s a hilarious reversal. Under non-revolutionary conditions (which is the great majority of the time), the great majority of the ‘lefties’ find themselves cosying up to the state, asking it to grant their wishes of freedom and equality, and having to forget or say only quietly that the state is the central organ of class society. And in reaction, the great majority of the ‘rightists’ occupy themselves by clamouring against the state and its octopus-like reach, demanding and defending an ‘individual freedom’ rendered largely meaningless through their support for every other form of hierarchy and control.

Only at the fringes, watching this comic inversion and muttering sullenly about ‘the coming revolution’ or ‘the coming race war’, are there people with the attitudes we predicted: lefties who want to get rid of the state and righties who want it to absorb everything and destroy everything else.

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