I want to start off by being clear. I love the political Left. In the past couple of years, I really did have conflicted feelings about the Left. This was all as I thought I was moving to the left politically.
It was actually because of this self-doubt that envy of the leftist formed. I told myself that I was moving Left, but it wasn’t exactly that. It was more complicated than that. I wanted to substitute what I thought of as leftist ideas with class representation.
Now it’s a fine line of thinking, but I ran into some pitfalls. For one, this is its own abstraction. The idea of having the ideas of the revolution tied directly to a working class ideology assumes an essential identity.
On the other hand, education, for the most part, has been primarily an alienating institution of propaganda. I won’t name names but I find the more traditionally educated a person is, the farther their ideas are from where we need to go. Overall, it may be more of a correlation than causation. Those who do well in school generally don’t mind submitting to authority as much as those who don’t. The same of course is true, to an even greater extent, with career success under capitalism.
Now we are in a moment we have been in before. The Left is asking who the real radical is: the poor, who is the object of capitalism, or the revolutionary, who is the subject of revolution, but also more likely bourgeois. Now such a debate is even happening for young children as the American Right moves to cancel the free speech of critical race theory.
For the American Right, authority comes from resentment. This is because their ideas are based on hierarchy. They are attempting to shut down critical thinking because it involves questioning authority.
It is hard to draw any conclusions so far, but I think it is clear that the American Left cannot be the enemy of the people. There is an argument made by some sophisticated Marxists that the revolution is always bourgeois because what capitalism throws into chaos is bourgeois society.
That’s likely controversial but I want to explain why it’s right. For the proletariat, society is already what the bourgeois fear it is. The nightmare that the American Right paints is for the ears of the bourgeois. Tucker Carlson’s replacement theory only works if one thinks they are going to be replaced. If one is already denied subjectivity, as the proletariat is, then such propaganda is pointless.
This is why the right, in its storming of the Capitol, can appear to be revolutionary. Their revolution is one with the sole purpose of stopping the dictatorship of the proletariat. They are begging for more of the same kind of authority that got us into this mess: capitalism.
Now the politics in this country are slightly more complex, to be fair. The Republican voter base, while more wealthy than the Democrats, is also less educated and relies on business to survive, sometimes small businesses, which came into conflict with government policy during the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus.
However, we see the moral bankruptcy of this voting base that focuses on money, rather than ideas. So this is why we do have to qualify our claim that class is more important than ideology. Because I am convinced that the poor is so thoroughly misunderstood and unrepresented that hatred of overeducated leftists is a dead end.
Our choice is between two revolutions of the bourgeois. One of the right, which is only focused on money, and has no regard for human beings or the planet, we see the perils. It happened during COVID. The right said that only money matters and health doesn’t and that the order of society that must be overthrown is not the inequality of capitalism, but the concern for health that checked it. I won’t sign up for this revolution.
On the other hand, the bourgeois revolution of the leftist ideology, while limited, is far preferable. Most times these revolutions are based on ideals of equality that fundamentally alter the ways society is classed. If the dictatorship of the proletariat, overcoming the profit model, or seizing the means of production means anything, it means altering this very class hierarchy we are talking about.
This is why the hatred for the Left is misguided. Even if one wants to side with what the workers want rather than what the bourgeois Left does we find that this choice between class and ideology is a false one. For the Right, the only thing that matters is having a superior master class, and all other considerations are off the table. The project of the Left is to mobilize the proletariat.
If the ideas of Marx are bourgeois simply because Marx was bourgeois, then we are operating in bad faith. Marx explicitly advocated for the dictatorship of the proletariat. If any idea has merit, it is this one.
A way to reframe this whole argument which will make it make sense is that the bourgeois revolution of the Left is tailing the working class. Many of those who hate the Left are mad because the Left changes its ideas too often. This happens because the Left is always getting its ideas from the proletariat and interacting directly with the way power is developing.
To close I’ll give one example which bothered me when I hated the Left but now I like. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. We used to make a lot of fun of that book with a line like: “look at this Leftist, she will never understand our struggle, she quit our life and gets a book out of it”. But now I see it a little differently. She is on our side and the issue of over-education actually is under-education.
The issue the bourgeois Left has is not that it has too many ideas, they spent too much time not working, etc. The issue is the opposite. The proletariat have all the best ideas and the issue with the bourgeois is that they are not educated enough on them.
The Left does listen. As long as the Left does believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat then they will continue to tail the right ideas and if the proletariat and the Left can organize together then these right ideas can be implemented. Now people may be thinking: “wait, the proletariat are Left wing.” Yes, in most all ways I was talking about a conflict within tight knit communities, or even within a specific person themselves.
My main point is that the Right doesn’t even have these questions or contradictions. They are by and for the bourgeois. The concept that the Right is saving the proletariat from a Leftist takeover of society where decadent Marxism, feminism and critical race theory replace hard working Americans is a ludicrous argument. Why? Because these Leftist ideas are the ideas of the proletariat and the bourgeois fear them.
The right hides behind having no ideas at all, by having the “free market” or “tradition” keep what is in place. What is in place? The dictatorship of the ruling class.
The Right wants to divide people up. This is why I want to continue to insist on organizing around difference and contradiction rather than intersectionality or commonality. If we can accept each other’s differences, and our own contradictions, we are unstoppable. So yes, there will always be conflicts between what different sections of the political Left wants. That is because the Left is a democracy. The goal of the dictatorship of the proletariat is to make this contradictory and multifarious group of people have control over our means of production, which would include controlling our survival and that of the planet.