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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, May 26, 2017

What Does "Left" Mean Today? Is the Right-Left Spectrum Notion Anymore than a Fraud Nowadays?

Who said professors don't have  a sense of humor? Two professors wrote an article as a spoof on the pretentiousness and earnest absurdity of the rather new and novel field of Gender Studies. Their article, The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,”  claimed to prove that the penis, the male reproductive organ, was the cause, not only of pregnancy, but of, among other things, climate change. Anyhow, soon after publication in the journal Cogent Social Sciences, they revealed their real names and that the article was a hoax. I personally think that they should have waited a while longer before revealing the reality in order to see how many fish --or dupes-- they could catch who might take the article seriously and quote from it in all seriousness with admiration for and in agreement with its novel thesis. Here is a quote from the original hoax essay:
 "Nowhere are the consequences of hypermasculine machismo braggadocio isomorphic identification with the conceptual penis more problematic than concerning the issue of climate change,”
Be that as it may, the online magazine for academics, Inside Higher Ed [Ed = education] ran an article describing the hoax and quoting from it liberally while discussing several related issues. This article in turn drew a good number of comments. One line of discussion was how the toilers in the field of Gender Studies, although identifying themselves as Left, neglected the traditional concerns of the Left:
Don't you all miss the days when the "academic left" was preoccupied with issues such as social formations and the class structure of contemporary capitalism, the relationship between the dominant economic order and the state, the analysis of ideological hegemony, the application of Marxist theory to contemporary social conflict, the anarchist critique of Marxian strategies for social change, labor history . . .  
This raises the question of just what meaning the label or term Left has today. Especially since its concerns have changed so much and some charge that it is too often preoccupied with what the critics call "Identity Politics." Some used a phrase of the poet William Blake who lived in the late 18th century when the factory, the steam-powered mill was just making its appearance. Blake hated early industrialization which he characterized with the phrase: dark, satanic mills. Here is my contribution to the discussion between the two broken lines:
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It really is hard to know nowadays just what "Left" is and how it may be different from "Right." Furthermore, the gender studies and queer theorists seem to have no time to study the Dark, Satanic Mills that actually exist today in the inevitably progressive 21st century. How about the building sites in Qatar for the 2022 world soccer championhip as today's counterpart --or worse-- to Blake's dark, satanic mills? So are the gender and queer theorists really Left, in the traditional (patriarchal?) sense of the term, as they neglect the oppressed proletarians of Qatar? Indeed, an earnest lady of the philosophical persuasion prestidigitating in the gender studies field informed us a few years ago that Hamas and Hizbullah were parts of the "Global Left". Yet precisely Hamas was at the time (and probably still is) a recipient of $$ billions from Qatar. Now Qatar, besides overworking --sometimes to death-- the toiling gastarbeiter from Nepal and India, etc, enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, at least for its own citizens which the laborers are not. 
Although Lenin defined imperialism as not only the highest stage of capitalism but as any very large concentration of capital --a definition that surely fits Qatar & some of its neighbors on the Persian Gulf-- our philosophical theorist of what is Left today failed to see the contradiction in her own labeling of Hamas as Left. Since it is an Islamist organization funded in large part by Qatar, an imperialist state by Lenin's definition anyway, Hamas would seem to be an imperialist cats paw.
On the other hand, the old style Marxist-Leninists too might quite possibly have failed to apply Lenin's definition of imperialism consistently and might also have been reluctant to define Qatar as imperialist. And I certainly reject Marx and Lenin's notion of historical inevitability. Which leaves us with prejudice, preference, and selectivity marching forward hand in hand with new-fangled theories.
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Here is a comment that partly expresses some of my thinking about the meaning and purpose of today's "Left":
. . .  the American "Left's" preoccupation with identity politics has been a major distraction from the economic and critical methodologies noted above by Goodsensecynic [= another commenter-Eliyahu]. Maybe we're talking "post-Marxism" but, if we are in that period, then Capital can continue to have its way with most workers and citizens, no matter what their race, color, creed, or gender. The "hoax" article is, of course, about gender.
Capital has always offered "bread and circuses" to the masses (although not always the bread); chariot races have been replaced by NASCAR.
The implications of all this are obvious in the current state of academia . . .          [Frank Tomasulo]

In my view, circuses today are more the demonstrations of the Occupy Movement than of NASCAR.
The Left in the 21st century -- is it any more than pane et circenses, the Roman practice of giving the plebeians Bread and Circuses? Does the left-right notion do any more than confuse and mislead the public and the student of politics in our first fifth of the 21st century?
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--More on Qatar as well as on how certain capitalist institutions finance "leftist" organizations, especially if they are anti-Israel/anti-Jewish [here]
--Qatar's beneficiary, the Hamas Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip [here]
-- The Qatar paradox, anti-American & pro-American at the same time [here]
-- How Qatar's royal broadcasting enterprise, Al-Jazeera, broadcasts anti-Israel "leftists" [here]

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