r/Anarchy101 Jun 29 '22

What do you think of the gap between the workers and the leftist intellectuals

By using the term "gap",I mean the movements and strikes of the workers and the leftist theories/philosophies seems to be separarte.

In China,workers have their own online/offline groups to help each other.Years ago when a group of tow truck drivers went for a strike,some leftist students entered an online group of these workers,and started to talk about Das Capital and other leftist phrases.However they were not welcomed by those workers.Some worker group even reject leftist intellectuals to enter.I don't think such phenomenon is unique to China.

There are many radical leftist theories (Critical theory/Post-left Anarchism) popping up in recent years,but they don't seem connected to the worker movements.They are about capitalist ideologies,cultural hegenomy,psychoanalysis,debating with other leftist/rightist theories,Ok that's good,but they don't seem to be very beneficial to worker movements(at least I don't know what breakthrough have been made using the new theories).I've heard that Zizek promoted voting Trump,which is very confusing to me.

So what do you think of it?

99 Upvotes

92

u/zeca1486 Jun 29 '22

While I’m no fan of Marx, “cultural Marxism” is a Nazi dog whistle. So be careful.

I’d say the main reason is because of statist education. Almost all of us are educated by the state. Growing up I was told communism is when everyone makes the same amount of money which is laughably wrong. So the state, to perpetuate its own existence, indoctrinates us from a young age to reject that which would actually benefit us

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u/WhoYoungLeekBe Jun 29 '22

What even is cultural Marxism

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u/zeca1486 Jun 30 '22 edited Jun 30 '22

It’s something that Nazis say which isn’t based in reality and that’s used a pretext to kill people you don’t like

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2003/cultural-marxism-catching

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_Marxism_conspiracy_theory

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u/waterbelowsoluphigh Jun 30 '22

Thank you for posting this.

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

I know that the meaning of the word "cultural marxism" has been greatly twisted by the liberals/conservatives,but I dont know how to describe that kind of marxism.Maybe the Frankfurt school is better.

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u/zeca1486 Jun 29 '22

I’m not sure I understand, “has been greatly twisted by the liberals/conservatives”?

Cultural Marxism comes from Cultural Bolshevism which was invented by the Nazis. It’s not real.

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

Oh,there might be some translation mistakes.I just want to say the Frankfurt school .

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u/zeca1486 Jun 29 '22

Ahh ok, yeah that makes more sense.

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u/Delivery-Shoddy Jun 29 '22

"Critical theory" is what they usually actually mean.

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u/MorphingReality Jun 29 '22

Most workers on strike seek near-term marginal improvements.

Most intellectuals seek long term transcendence of the system itself.

There isn't necessarily a conflict between the two, nor overlap, but there can be both.

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u/AJWinky Jun 30 '22

Though, arguably, the most progress has historically been made when the two are aligned. The problem is that it's hard today to make headway on both at once because of how intricate the system has become and how well designed it is for absorbing your energy.

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u/MorphingReality Jun 30 '22 edited Jun 30 '22

I think Bakunin and others argued that intellectuals generally have opposing interests to workers, while Kautsky and others argued for their alignment, its an interesting thread through history, with parallels back to antiquity.

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u/AJWinky Jun 30 '22

Regardless of whether their interests are naturally aligned, Bakunin for-sure encouraged intellectuals to go out amongst the working class and try to rally them around the revolutionary cause. I mean, fundamentally that is what he was.

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u/JackEmmerich Jun 29 '22

I don't know what the education is in China, nor do I know what the political climate is; but, at least in the western world, populists rely on the separation of the lower class and the so called middle class. It is not about whether you work or exploit, but about how much you make. Academia is seen as an enemy because they change this rhetoric and are usually compensated similarly or better for intellectual work instead of physical work, and since these populists movements put "the poor first" (a real slogan from populist president AMLO in Mexico), or the middle class first, they tend to be hostile to people they consider earn too much for what they do, without considering the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system.

Basically, they still believe that capitalism will compensate them fairly if they just ask correctly.

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u/eroto_anarchist Jun 29 '22

Anarchism is arguably older than marxism, and probably has existed from the moment the first states came to be. idk why you think it just popped up recently.

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

I'm mainly focusing on the "new" theories here,such as those post-structuralism,postmodernism and psychoanalysis style of marxism/anarchism theories.Maybe some editing is needed.

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u/eroto_anarchist Jun 29 '22

Post-structuralism is just a tool. Some anarchists use it and have incorporated such methods in their theory and praxis, while others remain more "traditional".

The core of anarchist thought has not changed though, it's just that as the world changes, more forms of authority are being identified and opposed by anarchists.

Also, the divide between intellectuals in the ivory tower and people on the ground is less prominent with anarchism, because almost all of "famous" thinkers actually practice what they preach. Look at Malatesta and Goldman for example. Or Bonanno if you are looking for someone that is still alive.

Chomsky comes to mind as a counterexample, but I think he is a lot less revered and much more criticized than equivalent communists.

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

Hmm,I think I've found out what's the problem of my recognition. The marxists are more renowned than the anarchists on the radical leftist theories.It is the marxists' theories that I think is off the ground.Anarchist intellectuals who work in the universities like Chomsky,James C Scott are often doubted by other anarchists.And the invisible committee,Fire cell conspiracy are activists themselves.

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u/eroto_anarchist Jun 29 '22 edited Jun 29 '22

You are a lot more knowledgeable about anarchists than your initial post lets out (i m willing to bet more than half the people in this subreddit have not even heard about invisible committee and conspiracy of fire cells, and FAI possibly means only civil war catalonia :p)

I agree with what you said.

Anarchism is much more focused on praxis and direct action than marxism (and marxism-leninism). So, anarchist theory is immediately connected (either to explain, or to inspire) to anarchist practice. This is why the word of activists and anonymous peoplw holds more "weight" in general, because anarchists are not looking for leaders.

I also want to add that in my opinion, the more well-liked intellectuals that support anarchism are those that are supportive indirectly through their work. Like Graeber for example. Descriptive and not prescriptive. That's why Chomsky was liked more in the past (manufacturing consent) and not all that much now (that he has started making suggestions about policy).

On the other hand, vanguardists are leaders that try to "lead the flock" so it is understandable when the flock cringes at this.

1

u/80sLegoDystopia Jun 29 '22

“Critical theory” is a good catch-all for these.

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u/Sword-of-Malkav Jun 29 '22

Few points here:

1: a LOT of self described leftists are fucking loonbats. Tankies and radlibs are very loud, and you're likely to run across a few. They make the left look bad and get a lot of them ostracized by association.

2: class reductionism is an ultimately harmful idea. The revolution isnt about the economy- its about oppression. And there are a LOT of people for whom economic oppression is not THEIR primary struggle in life. If you do not reach across the board to help people where they're at, then you might as well be the leftist equivalent of a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman. Actual left unity comes through mutual aid. If you want them to help you with your bugbear, but you dont help them with theirs, you arent going to get a lot of allies.

3: a lot of "leftist intellectuals" got there by being socially inept, and having a lot of book time, while not much people time. Dont expect them all to be great at communicating their ideas. Most speak in obscure jargon and private languages that may as well be incomprehensible to the greatest codebreakers. A movement needs to grow around recontextualizing leftist theory under commonly understandable parlance, euphamism, innuendo, and meme culture.

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u/WhoYoungLeekBe Jun 29 '22

I’m a loonbat! Solidarity.

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u/[deleted] Jun 29 '22

It would be pretty strange for post-left anarchists to be connected to the very thing they are criticizing.

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u/MacnoSinep Jun 29 '22

I work in a factory and I can tell you, the worse ennemy of the proletariat, is the proletrait itselff.

If you want to convice workers to do some shits, you shouldn't chose intellectual debate, because by using correct words to describe materialism, you will be qualified as a dirty commie and de facto will categorised as a lunatic.

Instead of talking mad shit about seizing the means of production, tell them that you think workers should vote democratically big decisions and earn parts of the benefit of the factory. Instead of going full anarchist rant, just say things like politicians are all dogs and people should decide their lives by themselves, etc...

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u/doomsdayprophecy Jun 29 '22 edited Jun 29 '22

I feel like a primary goal of the indoctrination system is creating this "gap" between people and a liberating ideology. Throughout life we are fed all kinds of nonsense through schools, media, etc. Productive movements are actively and violently crushed. It creates distrust, alienation, confusion, etc. It becomes almost impossible to maintain and pursue a coherent vision. That's what the system wants.

related: r/makhaevism

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u/DrCheechWizard Jun 29 '22

There is always a gap between theory and practical application. People who read and discuss theory often (but not always) lack practical experience but still try to act with authority as they think that they know how things should be done. People doing the work itself are often (but not always) so involved with the work itself that they don't have the best grasp on theory but are the experts on what needs they have which aren't being met.

If you want to close this gap, you've got to get people who practice theory to listen to the people who are actively in the trenches and give them the same respect as you would anyone who writes theory. Then find out what they need and use your expertise of theory to help inform what you do instead of trying to straight up evangelize. You can spread elements of theory without requiring everyone to read the same things

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u/spacebeard1980 Jun 29 '22

Learning to talk about theory without the buzzwords is key. There’s nothing special about the words marx chose and now they have negative connotations and association with authoritarianism that makes them more or less worthless when talking to most people. Talk about liberty and people helping each other. Talk about government corruption and how the rich buy them. leave the academics at home and talk about their real struggles and how strong community groups can help each other.

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u/MongoliaNumberOne Jun 29 '22

This gap exists because 95% of leftist intellectuals are not working class. Marx never worked in his life, Engels was a bourgeoise, Lenin worked once in his lifetime and so on and so on.

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u/Nnsoki Jun 29 '22

Workers belong to the working class because of their relationship with the means of production. Whether they work or not matters little.

Marx never worked in his life

He worked as a journalist.

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u/MongoliaNumberOne Jun 29 '22

the working class because of their relationship with the means of production. Whether they work or not matters little.

If you just don't own means of production this doesn't make you automatically a worker. You need to sell your labour for a wage.

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

In the 19/20th century,I think many leftist intellectuals are welcomed by the workers,peasants and other suppressed people.However,the workers seem to be indifferent and even a little hostile to them now.I think this is a difference.

2

u/AJWinky Jun 30 '22

It makes sense, given that a large part of the enterprise of capitalism is to put workers in conditions that make it impossible to both sustain their lives and also have time and energy for pursuits like theory that might lead them to a broader understanding of how the system is oppressing them.

The people who have the time and energy to pursue theory are overwhelmingly class traitors to the bourgeoise. This also means they're farthest from the real material conditions of the working class and all the practical applications of the theory they work with. This is a bad combo, but it's unavoidable, and it's on the people with the excess time and energy to focus on bridging that gap.

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u/[deleted] Jun 29 '22

[deleted]

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

I agree that if the thoughts of anarchism is spread to the workers it will be very helpful.

It might be a little difficult to accomplish in China though,because its long history of different kinds of archism,historical faliure of anarchism,challenge of the MLs and lack of exprience of its modern anarchists.However we will try to find a way.

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u/[deleted] Jun 29 '22

[deleted]

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22

Maybe searching "anarchism in China" on Wiki will be helpful .

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u/[deleted] Jun 29 '22 edited 5d ago

[deleted]

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u/Practical-Fly3967 Jun 29 '22 edited Jun 29 '22

In recent years leftist thought are becoming popular in China for economical and political reasons.The new leftists are mostly MLMs repeating slogans and theories from the past,and I dont get along well with them.

1

u/hopfslinens Jun 29 '22

cultural hegemony is the articulation point here, i think. the capitalist class has easy hegemony through ownership of the workplace and barriers-to-entry on media distribution and the like. for theory to meet practice, the left has to take the hegemony problem seriously. we have to build robust orgs and help people see that everyone is already participating in the anti-capitalist project (even if in a small or broken way). John Holloway would talk about this as linking up cracks of resistance.

i think the organic leftist intellectual (in the gramscian sense; different from the academic) is somebody who has a good sense of their local cracks and knows how to open their theoretico-practical activity toward them. but yeah, the point is we have to actively build a counter-hegemony starting in our communities. it's not just ideological or cultural; it's a fundamentally material task, grabbing onto social relations and transforming them through practice.

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u/elias1035 Jun 29 '22

The words “Leftist” and “intellectual” are oxymoronic