Don Franks’ critique of Mana’s anti-poverty campaign touched on the contradiction between what seasoned activists in Mana know and what they put forward in practice. Don noted, “But MANA’s veteran activists understand the basic nature of capitalism. Why do they wilfully misrepresent it?”
This is at the very heart of far-left involvement in Mana/Internet Mana. Sections of the far left continually make out that radical-reformist politics are better than revolutionary politics most of the time in practice. So when are revolutionary politics to be argued and fought for, and put before workers? Apparently, not today. Maybe tomorrow? But then tomorrow becomes today, and so, once again, the time is not right for advancing revolutionary politics.
This self-limiting stance taken by the left groups involved in Mana/Internet Mana – although at least ISO is engaged in some reconsidering and useful open debate – means, in effect, that the time is never right for advancing revolutionary politics.
Instead the far left groups, despite the subjective intentions of their more radical members, play the role of gate-keeper, helping inhibit the field of political discussion. The way forward is not through discussion and action around the expropriation of the capitalist class, but around what tax rates should be and how state capitalist enterprise is supposedly better than a mixed private-state ownership model.
The radicals become part of the policing of the consensus whose importance has been noted by Chomsky: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. . .”
Yet revolutionary politics are essential for working towards a revolutionary situation and the overthrow of capitalism.
So the “let’s just all get in behind” stance of groups like Socialist Aotearoa and Fightback preclude revolutionary Marxist politics ever being put forward. Instead this layer of the far left become foot soldiers for other politics – reformist and populist politics. People are then recruited to these groups on this basis, so the rot becomes the dominant politics.
The fact that this approach killed promising organisations like the Socialist Action League and Workers Communist League, and eventually the CPNZ/SW too, simply doesn’t register with the advocates of this approach today. It’s Year Zero, every day is Groundhog Day.
We clearly need a new left, one which is based on an independent political project rather than being a subordinate part of the project of reformists, populists, radical liberals, single-issue campaigners and so on. A new left that is also committed to learning the lessons of the past, breaking with the dominant left politics of the past and charting some new territory.
In the absence of any serious motion in the working class such a project is highly limited. But a loose regroupment of people committed to revolutionary and independent working class politics would, at least, be a small step forward.
The discussions around Not Voting in 2014 tend to indicate that there is a small layer of anti-capitalists who are able to conceptualise something more than what exists politically at present. Being able to conceptualise something beyond tinkering with the system is, at least, the first step.
What are anti-capitalist politics?