This morning’s New Left Project Twitter Feed brought Simon Hardy’s recent manifesto for a New Left to my attention: http://t.co/1WRQkKgo. Though it is already quite succinct, I think the piece lends itself to further synopsis:
Capitalist Realism is challenged by the Global Occupy movement though not yet well enough. Theory needs to be made practical on a global stage through an even more effective organisational strategy than currently exists. Trade unions no longer represent the strong arm of such an organisational strategy since they no longer hold the masses in their grasp. Parliamentary politics is also no longer the avenue to channel radical energy through because the days of the Labour Party’s ideological allignment with the Left are no more. The piece closes with a call to a New Left, currently in formation, to develop a theory and practice of anti-capitalism to match the challenges of the time, lest Slavoj Zizek’s wager that the end of the world is more easily conceivable than the end of capitalism become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is all good chest thumping stuff and not without its practical and analytical appeal. Nevertheless, the doubts which have presumably dogged every left-leaning book worm with a taste for the surreal, particularly in the post Life of Brian era, cannot fail to have experienced, quickly issue forth. What will this new collective revolutionary subject be? How will we know when it has been formed and the new world has been created? Who will not be allowed to take part? What should be done about the baddies? What achievements should be sought by the goodies? Who is going to lead the way? Where are we going? How should we start? When is the next meeting to decide all of these things? Who will chair that? When will the minutes be distributed? Can’t we have the next meeting over Skype? Etc.
Simon Hardy thankfully does have an answer to all of this cheek muffled tongue wagging, as evidenced in the excerpt below. The problem with his response, or at least my problem with it, is that it is over-coloured by the sort of cliched hail to spontaneity which really does nobody any good:
It would be nice if we had time to sit and contemplate all these issues in their full consideration before we took steps down this road. But, with the movements as they are developing, in the situation we are in, we will have to build this ‘on the move’. It will require a mutual spirit of co-operation, unity and above all, a new spirit of tolerance and respect for one another.
Building things “‘on the move'” and in “a new spirit of tolerance and respect for one another”, to me at least, sounds too much like a recipe for nonsense. The revolutionary machine cannot be fueled on the hot air of hope and and the energy of enthusiasm alone. Perhaps what the New Left needs to demand is precisely what Hardy proposes it leaves behind, namely, “the time to sit and contemplate all these issues in their full consideration”. It will need more than that, of course, but I think it will need at least that.
There will presumably (hopefully) come a time when the fires stop burning and the revolutionary bands stop playing. Then, the post-revolutionary subject will have to act with(in) the new time and space it has created. There is nothing remotely utopian in the proposal that individual and collective contemplation be suspended in the meantime, or even at all.