Monday, September 30, 2013

Deconstruction of the Left: Post-Left Anarchism and Post-Post-Left Anarchism

Deconstruction is a technique developed by Jacque Derrida in which someone investigates a literary work or an idea to take it apart, find its contradictions, challenge the universally accepted meaning of things, and finding new meaning within it. To put it simply, it deconstructs preconceived notions and meanings to find new meanings and show how no meaning is fundamentally the right one.

Post-left anarchism is a form of anarchist thought that critiques or "moves beyond" the left. Specifically, it holds critiques of organization, ideology, moralism, work, and revolution, as leftists see it. They instead advocate self-theory, moral nihilism, affinity groups, and immediatism.

Fundamentally, whether intentional or not, and I'm hedging my bets on not for reasons that should become obvious later, post-left anarchism is a deconstruction of leftism. They take apart the leftist theory of revolution, find the contradiction between the liberatory rhetoric of it and putting the revolution in the future rather than now when we need it, and challenging how revolutionary it is. They take apart leftist organization, find the contradiction of freedom and equality of leftist goals and the reality of unequal and unfree goals, and challenging the necessity of organization. They take apart ideology, find the contradiction between the freedom it espouses and how it constrains by forcing people to accept it and act under it, and challenges the need for overarching metatheories rather than individual theories. They take apart moralism, find the contradiction between the leftist goals of freedom and individualism and how morality, especially enforced or universal morality, causes people and attitudes to conform. They take apart work, find a contradiction between the freedom espoused by the left and the confinement and entrapment of work, and challenge how necessary it is to society.

All of these critiques are useful and true. Indeed, deconstruction is a powerful tool for analysis. However, post-left anarchism tends to use esoteric meanings for what they critique. For example, no leftist would define leftism as more than the goals of freedom and equality. Under that definition, despite the post-leftists moving beyond leftism and leaving it, they are leftists. In that sense, they are post-leftist leftists. However, such a critique misses the broader issue: They deconstruct the left, but don't go far enough. If you'll notice, with every example of their deconstruction of the left, I mentioned them taking it apart, finding contradictions, and challenging universally accepted meanings. It is at this point that their deconstruction ends, leaving out arguably the most important part: Finding new meaning within it. Oh, they propose their own type of group, their own theory of revolution, and their own theory on morality, but, fundamentally, those are just the rejection of leftist organization, revolution, and morality, not new meaning found within, or even outside of, those three. Their deconstruction of the left is incomplete. This contradiction, between the deconstruction and lack thereof, is where the esoteric definitions come from. They aren't defining organization by its reductionism, professionalism, substitutionism, and ideology for shits and giggles. They are doing so because that's what they see it as. This stems from, and arguably causes, them not finishing their deconstruction.

But how does one finish the deconstruction they started? We cannot exactly pick up where they left off, after all we aren't them. Rather, we must, in an ultimate meta-act, deconstruct them, thus allowing us to move beyond them, without leaving them. In that way, we become post-post-leftists. You see, their rejection of the left is inconsistent with them having goals that define leftism, stemming from a critique of more marginal aspects of leftism, thus they aren't moving out of the left. Rather, and this is the important part which they missed, they are arguably moving before the left. Anarchism isn't exactly a new ideology. It didn't spring into being when William Godwin or Josiah Warren or Pierre-Joseph Proudhon put it down on paper. Indeed, the anti-authoritarian spirit that defines anarchism has existed in all times and every revolution. This ground level anarchism far proceeds any form of leftism. Indeed, it could be said that leftism grew out of the anti-authoritarian radicalism of the French Revolution, thus making leftism the product of anarchism. In that sense, pre-left would be more accurate. In addition, while that contradiction exists, they do show an accurate understanding of certain strands of leftism, possibly even every strand of leftism but them, but does that mean that's what leftism is? In a way, yes, but, in many ways, not so much, so, in a way, partial-leftist is more accurate.

So they are post-left leftists, pre-leftists, and partial-leftists, while we are all that and post-post-leftists? Well, no. We are all of those, but none of those. Being post-left means having moved outside the left, so they aren't leftists. It's a new theory and mostly based on writers who came about after leftism, so pre-leftist is inaccurate. They may accept part of orthodox leftism, but that makes them no more partially a leftist than accepting anti-statism makes me partially a Tea Partier, so partial-leftist is inaccurate as well. Finally, post-post-leftism doesn't move beyond post-leftism entirely and still is within it, though within the left as well, forming a contradiction, so it isn't very "post" of post-leftism.

But how can we be all those but none of them? Because fuck you, that's why. More seriously, it's because we acknowledge our self-contradictions and don't fight them. All theories and ideologies are self-contradictory. By accepting the self-contradiction, we aren't contradicting ourselves, thus making us more consistent than others. (This contradicts the accepted self-contradiction creating an endless loop of consistency and contradiction.) We are ideologues against ideology, fighting it with our own ideology. We are organized against organizations, content within our organization of ourself, and only ourself. We fight and we wait. The revolution began yesterday and will begin when enough people join us. We are leftists outside the left who reside within the heart of leftism. We are post, post-post, pre, partial, anti, pro, wrong, revolutionary, reformist, and true leftists. We are all these and none of these.

Because fuck you.

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