Combat alienation with alienated forms?
As a supporter of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative I often speak about unifying the left and “pluralism”, but often it feels as if we are going through the motions, spouting ‘progressive’ (as in more progressive than the groups we have been previously involved in) rhetoric. Have our practices really changed? Have we actually challenged ourselves to develop our ideas beyond those we have inherited from the traditional British left?
The book Beyond the Fragments: The Making of Socialism and Feminism has recently been republished and it discusses a lot of the issues left groups that are facing today, evident by the isolation and lack of numbers in left groups. Depressingly thirty years on the experience that they share of being within the left are all too familiar.
The term “Beyond the Fragments” refers to blurring the lines between distinct activist struggles, that struggle is linked. Politics is more than labour struggles and government, struggles are interlinked due to the personal circumstances of the individuals involved within. All aspects of our lives are affected by participating in a capitalist society including our social relations which shape the oppression of various groups. We must realise that by replicating capitalist institutions we will maintain oppression and exploitation, whether it be sexism, racism or any other discriminatory practice.
We need to rethink our methods of organising to develop a way where all individuals are able to take control collectively, this can be done by sharing and building up skills, and making sure there are equally shared responsibilities. This provides the basis for a long lasting relationship within the group as it no longer relies on one person and means that tasks take less time and allow groups to be involved in more than one area. “To desire a different life is already that life in the making.”
The issue of sustainability is important, one that I believe is best fostered through methods of organising which lack leadership structures as it no longer relies on just one person. Lynne Segal talks about the numerous problems they experienced in setting up a women’s centre in Islington – she herself points to having been unable to set down roots within the community as a major reason why the project itself failed. While she has renounced the use of more horizontal forms of organising, I believe that if we learn from mistakes of the past we can move forward. Obviously we can’t be idealistic about this, it will encounter difficulties, but we need to try to maintain as engaging as environment as possible which lacks top down decision making.
Feminism has a central role to play because it has highlighted the concept of “the personal as political” due to the de-politicisation of the role of women. This exposes the failings of various groups include a wider social theory within their actions. Look at various left wing groups and individuals responses to the Tottenham riots in 2011, they decried the materialism of the riots refusing to accept the possibility that this was an struggle that had yet to articulate itself. This is entirely due to the failure to accept that struggle can exist outside of organised labour and that needs are more than just the essentials of living. To simplify their actions to looting, and that all they need is to read a bit of Marx, suggests an equally poor understanding of actual material existence under capitalism as David Cameron. To say that there was no politics in their actions is to ignore the politics of everyday life.
Women have been the leaders in many struggles against government privatisation of commons e.g. land or water, in various countries throughout the world and women have always naturally developed their own currents within labour struggle unifying social reproduction and labour disputes. To maintain some form of lasting struggle various struggles must be linked, which occurs naturally, as people live multifaceted lives where they experience various threads of exploitation. Demands and issues should be allowed to grow and be discussed in relation to one another, to give a continuous basis.
We must remember that our aim is to have a utopia. While the results of exploitation cause much human suffering, we want a future where our improved social relations allow us to be happier, freer and more secure. The benefit of a unified pluralistic left is so practices and thought can be challenged, that we can be more critical of ourselves. Although the process has begun, we need to get challenge ourselves further.
“We want everything!” any less is not good enough.