Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Zombies And Sectarians ("The Left Is Dead")

Some Sunday afternoon reading:

"What does it mean to say, as Platypus does, that “the Left is Dead?”

"It represents the desire for a tabula rasa, for a start from scratch. It is the admission that there is no living tradition, no movement. . . in the form of tiny sectarian groups that have either given themselves to dishonestly cheerleading for the Green and Democratic parties or simply have become antiquarian societies reciting old revolutionary pieties with the mechanical enthusiasm of Hare-Krishna monks; While at the same time the “radicals” and “anarchists” that prescribe dropping out of society by building 'alternative communities' 'outside of capitalism' have rationalized their powerlessness into a lifestyle that poses as politics.

"The Left is dead—and whatever undead elements of it continue to stagger among us deserve to be put down before they demoralize and stupefy a new generation. . . To not be willing to recognize that the Left is dead is to have died with it. As researchers, critics, and historians of the dead Left, which we now put to rest with a deep feeling of gratitude, we hope to be ready to educate a future politics of emancipation."

Dunno about all of it, but some intelligent thought and very careful reflection went into it, all the same.

Brought to my attention by Will.


Blogger Stephen said...

"While at the same time the “radicals” and “anarchists” that prescribe dropping out of society by building 'alternative communities' 'outside of capitalism' have rationalized their powerlessness into a lifestyle that poses as politics."

That reminds me of an article I read by George Monbiot the other day.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Oops, the link was cut off. The title is Identity Politics in Climate Change Hell.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

That was an unusually good Monbiot column, and it follows well from the Platypus post.The nuttiness of the "environmental" movement is symptomatic of the pathology Platypus identified and which you cited. I've done a lot of writing and other work on "environmental issues," and the hippie tendency makes me want to spit on my hands, raise the black flag and start slitting throats, let me tell you. The one thing I abide less than a climate change denier is a climate change alarmist.

But Monbiot is wrong, I think, in this:

"The issue is that capitalism involves lending money at interest. . . a perpetual increase in the supply of goods and services will eventually destroy the biosphere."

Well, no. A massive increase in the supply of digital components in systems will not only increase the supply of goods and services (and wealth) but will substantially diminish the far greater "biosphere-destroying" impact of analog components. A massive increase in the productive capacity of photovoltaic cells could similarly increase the supply of goods and services and wealth in an exponentially inverse proportion to reductions in the production and burning of fossil fuels.

Which is to say capitalism can grow without wrecking the biosphere, and capitalist innovation can result in growth that actually diminishes its impact on the biosphere. It just needs a little coaching, scolding and rewards, is what I'm saying. It just means we have to start
deciding more.

Or something.

9:52 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Terry: Thanks for linking to rabble. There i uncovered this gem by one Yves Engler re: Iran and Canada's involvement there:

First he [inadvertently] establishes Iran's revolting human rights record, as follows:

\... "What is the reason for Canada’s provocative military presence near the shores of Iran? To support Sousan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi, who were sentenced to 15 lashes and four months in prison for participating in a May Day celebration in the city of Sanandaj earlier this year? Or Abdullah Khani, who got 91 days in prison and 40 lashes and Seyed Qaleb Hosseini who was sentenced to six months and 50 lashes? Or perhaps the Conservatives have sent Canadian sailors half way around the world to free Mansour Osanloo, a leader of Tehran’s bus workers, who remains in jail after being sentenced to five years in July 2007 for his union activities? Of course, Stephen Harper using military might to support Iranian union rights is absurd."

Then, without a hint of irony, he goes on to say a few paragraphs later:

"Ottawa has worked diligently to discredit Iran’s human rights record.... [as if diligent work was required!]

And then:

"For the past couple of years Canada has sponsored an annual UN resolution condemning Iran’s “ongoing systematic violations of human rights.” Not coincidentally, the federal government funded “arms length” human rights NGO, Rights and Democracy, has also focused considerable energy attacking Iran. They gave their 2007 John Humphrey Freedom Award to Akbar Ganji, a leading Iranian dissident."

Oh the shame, giving a HR award to a leading Iranian dissident.

Thanks for pointing me to the rabble site terry. It's a treasure trove of non-sequiturs

10:23 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yeah, I think I largely agree with you with respect to your comments on capitalism. It certainly isn't a perfect system, but then again neither is any other, and further to that I don't see capitalism going away anytime soon, so we might as well try to make the best of it. The increase in virtual goods and services can certainly only be a good thing in contrast to physical goods and the corresponding inevitable wasteful use of resources.

As to your initial comments and the connection to the Monbiot article, I know where you're coming from. I just get tired that in this day and age we can still find the prevalence of ideology (left or right, it doesn't matter) over reason and common sense.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I should also add that this is coming from someone (me) who has had an intellectual interest in anarchism for several years. Great in theory, but not gonna happen in my lifetime.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...


Aye viz capitalism, in favour as Marx was, but capitalism disciplined by the "coaching, scolding and rewards" I referred to allows a range of possibilities from left-liberal light interventionism to democratic socialism.

Aye viz anarchism as well. Some of the smarter thinkers of the past couple centuries have been "anarchists" of sorts, viz Bakunin and Proudhon et al.

And Vildechaye: You must have a stronger constitution than me. It is "a treasure trove of non-sequiturs" indeed, but that is the kindest description that it's possible to give that crowd.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt Langmann said...

I shan't argue over the impact of human carbon emissions but question whether we can do anything to rectify it.
Consider that a barrel of oil creates as much horsepower as a person's labour over 10 years. $150 a barrel sounds cheap in this context, doesn't it? Cheaper than I'll work for.
For too long we've been spoiled by cheap oil, ergo the abundant number of SUVs in the west.
Now we're complaining, but it's still cheap by any standard.
Brazil got it right a generation ago when the socialist government embarked on a program of creating a biofuel industry to wean themselves off oil dependency. Sugar cane is plentiful there and is perfect for the flex fuel cars (mostly 900 cc Fiats, VWs and the like -- anyone with a gasoline 2 litre car is considered a profligate consumer) and while gasoline was about $1.60 litre there when it was about $1 here, biofuel was about $1.20.
I wouldn't want to drive there; it's a madhouse, but the air's pretty good and it made sense as public policy.
Compare that to Venezuela, where Looney Tunes Chavez subsidizes gas (a nickel a litre or whatever) and all manner of steel garbage that still moves is on the streets (probably using leaded gas, too). The air in Caracas is an unbreathable haze (worse than LA or Mexico City), and the traffic and crime and poverty and everything else is no better than Brazil.
You can choose what you like, but I'll take Brazil's choice any day. Pretty progressive by SA standards.
In that vein, our illustrious leader Gordon Campbell may have got one thing right with his much-vaunted "hydrogen highway" because the only emissions from hydrogen vehicles are water. Like Brazil, we have to invest in alternatives...
And that may likely include nuclear power. My sister-in-law in England is very proud of her work in promoting and selling wind generators on the continent, but she freely admits that this source will never replace our need for electrical power. She says only nuclear power will be able to supply society's needs while reducing our carbon output.
Like they say, compost happens.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

"For too long we've been spoiled by cheap oil, ergo the abundant number of SUVs in the west."


"Now we're complaining, but it's still cheap by any standard."

No, not by just any standard. Cheap by an SUV driver's standard, maybe, but not by the standard of the billions of people in the world who have become dependent on food that requires heavy inputs of fossil fuels (harvest, shipping, etc.)

12:04 AM  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Back to the subject - for me this keen is terribly sad.

Something must come up to replace the zombies, even for the sake in keeping a kind of a balance. Nothing on the horizon, though,

8:57 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

To "replace the zombies," aye.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Kurt Langmann said...

Even at $15 a year per man hour oil is cheaper than a Chinese slave. That's why the price won't go down in the long run. Oil is a bargain.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

The left is dead for now. But it's been dead before. A good example would be the whole of 19th century Britain. The cycle will continue; to believe you've defeated us once and for all is incredibly ignorant. Ideas of this kind don't die. I just hope that when we next get the chance, we don't fuck it up.

4:59 AM  

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