Friday, 8 January 2010

Debating the Crisis

When it comes to the theory side of the far left's theory/practice dialectic, our collective efforts have been less than stellar. Partly this is because of how organised Marxist politics is constructed in this country, split as it is between small groups that compete primarily with each other for influence, paper sales and recruits.

Particular analyses and positions are as much a defining feature of a group as a guide to action. This means, speaking in terms of the development of Marxian theory, the far left punches below its weight. Exchanges between different members of different groups have a tendency to devolve into point scoring. Considerations of being seen to be right predominates over the search for the truth. For instance, when was the last time you saw a theoretical piece in
Socialist Review, International Socialism or Socialism Today say something positive about the arguments and analyses deployed by other groups. This privatisation of theory feeds an 'ourselves, alone' attitude and has, on occasion, led to the unacknowledged "adoption" of opponents' arguments (which rarely gets picked up on - only inveterate sectarians like your humble scribbler reads the output of several left groups).

This is all a round about way of prefacing my endorsement of a recent article published by a factional opponent of the
Socialist Party. I sometimes give my former comrades in the Weekly Worker a bit of stick, but this week's edition of the paper is excellent. Mike Macnair's piece, World Politics, Long Waves and the Decline of Capitalism is especially good. He simultaneously reviews and critiques contributions to the understanding of the present crisis (including Stoke labour movement legend and friend of the blog, Boffy), the decline of the USA as world hegemon, the part played by unproductive labour in contemporary economies and the possible fate capitalism is hurtling us toward. But it is a contribution to a debate about crisis and not a strategic document, such as the CWI's recent prognosis for global capital.

Well worth a look if you're trying to negotiate your way through a complex set of issues.


AJ said...

Great article by Macnair I think.

He correctly steers clear of the downfall of capitalism theory but equally refuses to ignore the scale of this crisis and takes the Long wavists to task, who base their whole political and economic ideas around a theory that can't possibly be proven, they are the economic equivalent of fortune tellers.

Phil said...

In all I think it demonstrates why it is a mistake to arrogantly dismiss the output of opponents, especially if they're smaller and are otherwise given to ultra-leftism. They are still applying the Marxist method to make sense of complicated phenomena and, like anyone else who knows their stuff, are able to generate useful insights and analyses. Membership of a particular party and/or a leading body of it is no guarantee their output is any good.