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Short comments on left unity, working class unity, and substitutionism. An edited, expanded version of an old reflective piece posted elsewhere.
At first glace, the rallying cry of left unity – without the recognition of who is the revolutionary subject – seems to be a good slogan. It offers a way to inflate numbers, to increase our numbers as revolutionaries. It asserts that leftists, whatever that may mean to whoever you ask, must unite to defeat capitalism. This belief fundamentally believes that there are not enough people to overthrow capitalism due to the fractured Left of today. Often I hear the proponents of this view claim that ‘we stand together or die alone.’ This perspective is divorced from class politics. It is the perspective that descends from ideological technocracy, of the avant-garde that leads the blind working class.
The vision that a conspiracy of leftists, regardless of their political self-identity, should band together and form an inclusive, neo-Blanquist organization can only be a reflection of the development of the people involved. This subsititutionist delusion has nothing to do with Marxism or Anarchism, and certainly not the cause of working class self-emancipation. Just as Marx said over a hundred and fifty years ago, “When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle-cry: the emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself.” Just as then, our rallying cry must be the same. Our rallying cry is the cry of working class unity in its self-emancipation.
Self-emancipation, not emancipation by an outside force or even a small faction from inside the working class. Perhaps a band of ragtag leftists, the ideological inversion of some Red Dawn scenario, will firstly overthrow capitalism, instituting a dictatorship of (over?) the proletariat, and with this the working class will feel the compulsion to form workers’ councils. Such faith is absurd. A coup d’état that will deal the coup de grâce to the capitalist machine is a fantasy, a myth. The working class need not rely on myth. The revolutionary movement is a real movement, one that is self-emancipatory from class, repression, heroes and new rulers, leftist or otherwise.