One of the largest growing pains I see for new leftists is this idea of the underlining reason why our modern political system is broken. Most started as regular liberals or as Berniecrats but have grown to demand more about the system needs to be changed, but they still hold on to one fundamental liberal assumption. They might even call themselves a socialist or an anarchist but they still hold onto the liberal idea that the problem with the system is that the bad people have corrupted the system.
That the problem with our current political situation is that the wrong person got elected and that the solution to this problem is to elect a less wrong person to fix it in some way. This ties into what I wrote about in, ‘Electoralism: What is it good for? by Sophia‘ about harm reduction. But to expand on that idea, harm reduction also still demonstrates the liberal notion of individuals playing a larger role in politics than systems.
Now knowing that you are doing this and identifying that is not as easy as you would assume. Most probably don’t even realize they still have this underlining liberal bias in there thinking. Mostly because it’s very common in liberal politics and liberal politics is all that most people are familiar with. But I also think to some degree that mode of thinking is far simpler and convenient than thinking in terms of systems.
Now, I want to also make this clear that systems thinking is not just a Marxist thing to do but is also present in anarchist thinking. The difference is only in what system, the economic, or hierarchical systems of modern politics.
“It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. ” ― Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851)
“… here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.” ― Marx, Preface to First German Edition of Capital (1867)
Both of these quotes demonstrate that the issues leftist have with liberal capitalism is the system of liberal capitalism, not the politicians that govern over it. However, if you look at many modern leftists they talk a lot about how ‘the bad people’ are the problem, even though they are aginst the liberal capitalist system. I think that this incomplete perception of leftist has to deal with the commodification of leftist movements.
I am not going to go into it all right here, but more or less, the left has become ever more commodified by capitalist interests. This has to do with both the growth of neoliberal capitalism in the form of what Zizek calls liberal communism. So, in the modern leftist movement, people get hung up over debates on individual politicians’ moral perception and not on building up a leftist movement.
The reason that this assumption is harmful to the left is that it distracts leftists from trying to build up a local movement to deal with the issues that real people are facing. Modern liberal elections only serve the interests of those who made them, the wealthy and powerful. The policy that either serves them financially or benefits them with propaganda will be passed. And that propaganda is based on popularity and they are the ones that shape and mold the ‘popular will’ into what servies them. So, at the end of the day, progressive ‘gains’ are always unstable and can, and will be recorded when it becomes convenient for them to do so.Like (2)