Currently there is a quite a lot of reflection along the left about how we are going to recompose as a political force. The idea that this is necessary is widely shared, since it’s absolutely absurdly obvious that despite a massive hiccup in capitalism – potentially a relatively long term stagnation – the left has turned this into almost nothing approaching success. This goes strongly against a popular dogma that a heightening of economic contradictions would provide us the objective conditions for stronger political awareness, and thereby lubricate our ability to organise. Many in 2008 were crying out that neo-liberalism was dead, and yet neo-liberalism has merely marched forward with new vitality.
This theory that we would make progress when presented with contradictions in the current socio-economic system has not panned out. However, the useful outcome of our failure is that the left has been forced into a bit of soul searching. The quality of theoretical reflections on the left does seem to be increasing. Lately, we’ve seen more on our current historical condition on the question of progressive change. While we could have hardly hoped for more than theoretical regurgitations during much of the 80s, 90s and 2000s we’ve finally started to see a bit of a renaissance in progressive theory.
Any attempt to change the socio-political climate of our current society will require a mass movement, and that means lots of people. Consequently it’s not unusual that the question of left-unity should come up. After all, progressives and the left are not only currently a tiny group, but one which is also highly divided. If we need numbers, perhaps we would be better off leveraging the numbers we already have.
But is this a good strategy? Some claim that the other sections of the left are both insufficiently large and excessively wrong to be worth having any attempt at unity with. Instead we should be trying to grow the participation of the broader public in an organisation.
There is some sense in this opinion as the left itself has no shortage of internal insanity, general navel gazing etc. Focusing on not-already-on-the-left people has other advantages as well. Not-already-on-the-left people are more likely to be representative of what other not-already-on-the-left people are likely to find convincing. Being able to convince an Anarchist, or Trot of something tells you vanishingly little about what might be convincing to the general public.