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Thread: What is the left/right divide?

  1. #1

    Default What is the left/right divide?

    Hello Dissensus,
    This is my first post on here and I haven't really got to grips with this forum yet, but I thought I good way to get a feel for the place would be to ask people what their thoughts were on the political distinction between left and right wing.
    It's something I've thought about a lot. I got an MA in Ideology and Discourse Analysis from Essex uni in 2015 and I am often surprised by the ubiquity with which the distinction is used, despite the fact that people seem to mean totally different thing by using the division all of the time.
    This has led me to think that the distinction is basically unhelpful, divisive and lacking in coherent meaning...
    Depending on who you are it seems to me that the left-right divide could refer to a number of different dichotomies, but the specifics of this distinction are never made explicit by those who use it... even among political theorists, thinkers and philsophers.
    Does it refer to the distinction between Capital vs anti-capital? Neoliberalism vs Keynesian economics? Authority vs the Polis? The oppressor vs the oppressed? Reactionaries vs Social Justice Warriors?
    If we cant agree on what the distinction consists of, is it a helpful distinction to use?

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  3. #2
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    First off, welcome to the forum!

    The left-right divide is always pretty incomprehensible, and especially so in current times, without subdivision into social and economic. I think you could get pretty far in plotting different parties' positions on these two axes, to understand the trends in Europe at least.

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    Increasingly I think its about complexity vs simplicity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon2004 View Post
    I think you could get pretty far in plotting different parties' positions on these two axes, to understand the trends in Europe at least.
    Thanks for the feedback! I not convinced that plotting out these different positions would really teach us much... Increasingly I just find it a waist of time to think in these terms, it feels like we end up splitting a lot of political debates into two wings for the sake of convenience and simplicity despite none of us having a stable understanding of what constitutes thats split. And I think that splitting necersarily ends up dividing whatever we define the 'left and right' to be in whatever context we apply it to.
    I don't see how its helpful any more in political discourse, so perhaps those of us who want to help overcome these distinctions should be more conscious not to use divisive terms like these...

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    complexity vs simplicity.
    Agreed, dichotomy is on the side of simplicity, and the real political context is always on the side of complexity.
    I find it somewhat irritating when I see even political commentators who love to delve into the complexities of things (Zizek, for example) uncritically describing themselves as a 'leftist' despite the fact that this identification both simplifies complex realitites and potentially alienates him and his ideas from those who have a less favorable understanding of 'leftism'.

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    https://www.rs21.org.uk/2017/07/25/c...-on-the-right/ the scariest bit of it imho is this breaking down of traditional left/right (article by etonian tanky obvs)

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    The right wing wear Jack Jones sweaters.

    The left wing like swing dancing.

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    the collective organism can answer this totally objectively and scientifically.

    ‘The Left’ has at this point become an empty form detached from its content, a ‘floating signifier’ (just as Laclau and Mouffe wanted). There is nothing to stop various people with various intents from employing it every which way, thus fighting over the use or abandonment of the term, per se, is a chump's game. However, the term did once refer to a specific practical content, and it is this content that must be critiqued and resisted, no matter what name it goes under.
    Considered in its determinate historical manifestations (the trade unions, social-democratic and Stalinist parties, Keynesian and welfarist policy advocates, 'rights' and reform movements), the Left is, as the old ultras used to say, ‘the left wing of capital.’ The Left has taken the basic presuppositions of the capitalist mode of production as givens — namely the separation of proletarians from the means of their own reproduction (whether those means are legally owned by a private firm or by the state matters not a whit to the proletarians), the existence of 'the economy' as a sphere separate from life-activity, the separation of the political from the social i.e., state from civil society, public from private, citizen from human, the regulation of access to the social store by the yardstick of labor-time, generalized production for exchange mediated by the abstract universal equivalent money, the sale of labor-power as a commodity.
    The Left (at least in its heyday) set itself up within this state of affairs as a kind of tribunus plebis, promising the workers a ‘fair wage,’ a greater share of the produce of their labor. As the professional representative of one moment of the capital-relation (the commodity labor-power), the Left fought, petitioned, and haggled for labor-power to be sold at a better price, under more favorable conditions, and assumed the role of political patron of the workers-qua-sellers-of-the-commodity-labor-power (and, eventually, as the old labor movement began to reach its historical terminus, it tried to recompose its base out of other 'special interest groups:' women, people of color, etc.). It was as institutional mediator of the poles of the capital-relation that the Left, as a stratum of political specialists, rose to power to varying degrees at various times, therefore this stratum's own vested interest was to facilitate the rapid accumulation of capital, because it is only in periods of booming, profitable accumulation that there is high enough demand for labor-power that Leftist representatives are able to win concessions (i.e. better conditions, higher wages, increased working-class consumption, social welfare) from capitalists. (If the labor-market is slack and there's a huge reserve army, as there is today and will continue to be as ever more living labor is expelled from the production process, then the capitalists don't have to listen to demands from uppity unions and leftists, they can just sack the workers and hire more from the desperate surplus population. This is why you'll find Leftists today demanding the unfeasible and undesirable absurdity of full employment). Thus it is the structural imperative of the Left to stabilize capital accumulation and avert or smooth out its crises (including the 'crises' of proletarian insurrections, which Leftists have 'smoothed out' by any means necessary from recuperation to brutal repression, from the SPD in 1919 to the PCF/CGT in 1968). The means employed in this effort are almost invariably nationally-delimited and statist, even if the Left has generally only been successful in its narrow aims when it can feed vampire-like off the energy of mass social movements: the Left is their graveyard, where proletarian revolt is buried in ballots and contracts.
    What such struggles over the terms of sale internal to the capital-relation have in fact achieved, historically, is to accelerate the real subsumption of labor processes under capital — if the Left succeeds in legally limiting the length of the working day, this blocks the accumulation of absolute surplus value, and forces the capitalist to intensify the labor process and introduce technological and organizational changes to increase productivity, that is, to shift to the accumulation of relative surplus value, that is, real subsumption. Similarly, if the Left succeeds in raising the price of labor-power, this adds to the pressure which the dynamic of accumulation itself exerts on the capitalist to further increase productivity so that labor-power can be expelled from the production process (workers can be sacked), and the price of consumer commodities will fall, and along with it the cost of the reproduction of the labor force.
    Thus if one maintains that capital developing the forces of production, shrinking the amount of direct labor socially necessary for the reproduction of the species, and simultaneously eroding its own foundation is progressive, as we do, at least in a qualified sense (recognizing that this development has occurred only through catastrophe and mass suffering), then the Left has certainly been historically progressive. But, whatever the delusions it sometimes held about itself, the progress it has achieved is the full realization of capitalist modernity — the defeat of the old feudal/aristocratic regimes, the triumph of bourgeois democracy, and the real subsumption of labor under capital, and with it unprecedented material productivity. Its time, however, is over. With all of this long since achieved, and capital now in a permanent crisis of profitability which it attempts to attenuate by (among other things) ruthlessly contracting the social reproduction of the proletarianized class, the Left (in the historical sense elaborated here) really has no purpose except to contain and recuperate proletarian discontent in order to keep its own corpse lurching along with that of capital, as its loyal opposition.
    In such a situation, Karl Marx’s admonition is truer than ever: “Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work,’ [proletarians] ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system!’" Or if you prefer the words of Joseph Déjacque: “should the laborers have the produce of their labor? I do not hesitate to say: No! although I know that a multitude of workers will cry out. Look, proletarians, cry out, shout as much as you like, but then listen to me: No, it is not the product of their labors which the workers are due. It is the satisfaction of their needs, whatever the nature of those needs.”

    http://isr.press/What_Was_the_Left/index.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by vinewalker View Post
    Agreed, dichotomy is on the side of simplicity, and the real political context is always on the side of complexity.
    I find it somewhat irritating when I see even political commentators who love to delve into the complexities of things (Zizek, for example) uncritically describing themselves as a 'leftist' despite the fact that this identification both simplifies complex realitites and potentially alienates him and his ideas from those who have a less favorable understanding of 'leftism'.
    zizek is not an astute political commentator. he's just a wasteman.

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    this is zizek's most profound nugget. great one. have watched it 1000 times.


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    Quote Originally Posted by thirdform View Post
    But, whatever the delusions it sometimes held about itself, the progress it has achieved is the full realization of capitalist modernity — the defeat of the old feudal/aristocratic regimes, the triumph of bourgeois democracy...
    Lol, you can tell whoever wrote this isn't British!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    Lol, you can tell whoever wrote this isn't British!
    https://www.versobooks.com/books/205...-of-capitalism There's a book about just that

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    That said, I don't think it's unique to Britain. I understand Spain (but only Spain, within Europe) has an even more unequal distribution of land ownership than the UK. And obviously a fair number of other countries still have a monarchy.
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    um ok tea so you are directly exploited by a lord when you go to work? noone said monarchy is incompatible with capitalism, really scraping the barel here...
    Last edited by thirdform; 15-03-2019 at 05:02 PM.

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    thought your missus went to oxford and all? why is a worthless drop out like me schooling u on this thread. im done lol.

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