Chavez and ‘post-mortem leftism’

March 9, 2013 at 8:21 am (democracy, Latin America, liberation, Marxism, populism, Roger M, socialism, stalinism)

Roger McCarthy writes:

This 2010 piece from M.A. Torres in Platypus Review #25 on Chavez is excellent, and concludes thus:

The question stands: If authentic internationalist Marxism is dead,  from what standpoint does one launch a critique of Chavez and his  followers without joining the Venezuelan opposition nostalgic for  neoliberalism? The only answer is history: The consciousness that the  present has fallen short of what once seemed politically possible, and  that this possibility could once again become available. The knowledge  that there was once such a thing as an international Left that was able  to intervene, transform, and lead social movements around the world in  the direction of the overcoming of capitalism. The awareness that the  mass politicization of the Bolivarian Revolution, which has put the word “socialism” on the lips of hundreds of thousands of working people,  will end up as yet another wasted opportunity if such a Left is not  reconstituted.

Admittedly, this standpoint is not much to start with. It is clearly  not as immediately gratifying as the self-deceiving “optimism” of  supposedly Marxist publications such as the International Socialist Review and the Monthly Review. But the game they are playing is no more than a spectator sport.  Cheering for team Chavez is a way for such post-mortem leftists to hold  on to dear life. It is how they justify their existence and convince  themselves that they are still serving a purpose: The good fight is  still being fought; even if they are helpless, they can be complacent in this helplessness, since they can always look at the next populist  strongman or, even better, wait for the next American invasion of a  Third World country to give them a new lease on life. But if we are to  reconstitute an international revolutionary Left, the first step will be to stop kidding ourselves. People continue to struggle, but the  struggle to overcome capitalism has not really been sustained.  Revolutions with a hope of actually overcoming capitalism around the  world are now a distant memory, at best. The current changes in  Venezuela cannot contribute to any real revolution until a genuine Left  challenges the regime that has instituted them. But such a feat will be  impossible if we do not finally get it into our heads that the  fatalistic slogan, “¡Patria, socialismo o muerte!” means the exact  opposite of the visionary words, “¡Proletarios de todos los países,  uníos!”

‘Post-mortem left’ is an extraordinarily useful term…..


  1. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Title typo? – or is that an intentional neologism?

    And the Left being dead – not ‘resting’ but as Rosa Luxemburg described the SPD an actual stinking corpse is the central theme of the Platypus people:

    the Left suffers, as a result of the accumulated wreckage of intervening defeats and failures, from a very partial and distorted memory of its own history; and that at crucial moments the best work on the Left is its own critique, motivated by the attempt to escape this history and its outcomes. At certain times, the most necessary contribution one can make is to declare that the Left is dead.

    Hence, Platypus makes the proclamation, for our time: “The Left is dead! — Long live the Left!” — We say this so that the future possibility of the Left might live.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Typo, Roger: thanks! Will correct!

    Though, come to thinlk of it, “leftistism” is quite a good neologism…

  3. Claire Boxer said,

    This piece, under the guise of a critique of the Chavez supporting left, spells out the impossibility of socialism. No wonder you like it.

  4. Ross Wolfe said,

    Thanks for reposting this piece. I agree, Marco’s article is the best.

  5. rawlinsview said,

    The left is alive and well and this is its problem. That is, it’s problem is its existence as “the left, ” a disconnected self referential faction in middle class politics comprised almost entirely of consumers of surplus value either redistributed by the state in some form or directly by the bourgeoisie in the form of grants and charity. It is an appendage on the superstructure, dependent on the bourgeoisie and detached from and fearful of the producing classes.
    This “left” decries the ignorance of the toilers and sees as proof of it’s disdainful view the fact that it is ignored by the working class. It fawns over the state, oh, I’m sorry ‘government’ and schemes for better favors “oh I mean ‘programs’ and policy initiatives.’ the primary purpose of which is self perpetuation.
    Meanwhile the working class consigned to sociological irrelevance by doctoral dissertations describing de-industrialization, the effects of the service economy, outsourcing, globalization and worst of all “neo-liberalism”(which now means everything and nothing at all) is larger more active and potentially more powerful than at any prior time in human history.

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