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LookLeft Forum: Erik Olin Wright Video March 6, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in Socialism, The Workers' Party.
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The video of this forum and the discussion afterwards is available now at the LookLeft website for your delectation, as pointed out by Daramcq here.

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1. revolutionaryprogramme - March 7, 2013

Looks like my initial response to Erik Olin Wright’s politics were pretty accurate. The working class seizing power and smashing the ruling class and its state is apparently “an illusion” and the best we can hope for is “solving the problems of capitalism” and “striving for equilibrium that is better for workers”.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 7, 2013

Pretty accurate from a purely revolutionary perspective. There are other perspectives of course, which is the point. The Q&A descended into black-vs-white which is not a useful basis for discussion. If people insist on adherence to a particular pre-existing dogma then there is little to be gained in enaging with alternative perspectives and attempting to synthesise political and economic approaches which improve the immediate conditions of workers, alter the balance of class forces, and create desirable achievable and viable outcomes which improve the prospects of sustainability beyond the tipping point of rupture. Fair enough to consider that these questions have already been answered, but clearly the evidence in the real world is that the vast majority of people remain unaware at best and unconvinced at worst of those pre-existing solutions. I don’t believe these questions have been adequately addressed by the Left, and I don’t believe that doctrinal rigidity is a useful basis for progressing the interests of the working class. Ideological anchors yes, ideological compasses yes, but not tablets of stone. Olin-Wright may indeed be wrong on some of his fundamental conclusions, we all might be, but the approach of which he is part does open the political space to find out what is correct or incorrect, what works or doesn’t, what reinforces class struggle and what doesn’t etc. It’s not black-vs-white.

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revolutionaryprogramme - March 7, 2013

I actually thought it was quite amusing to listen to many of these supposed “revolutionaries” being critical of Wright when in fact the concrete programme they present to the working class is much more like what Wright is suggesting than any “rupture” politics they claim to be in favour of. So much of the “black and white” being argued was in fact on the basis of fake lines.

It is of coure true that “doctrinal rigidity” is not useful as a general approach to politics but at the same time there are also lessons of the class struggle that provide for clear distinctions in terms of overall strategy, what you refer to as ideological anchors/compasses.

It seems clear to me that despite the new terms Wright uses the ideological anchors/compasses he uses are just a rehashing of old left-reformist forms that stand in direct contradiction to those of revolutionary politics.

For instance I found Wright’s use of the terms “democracy” and “dictatorship” reminded me very strongly of Lenin’s critiques in the Renegade Kautsky – that Wright was using them, like Kautsky, in a way that was essentially devoid of class content.

I would also argue that a certain “doctrinal rigidity” is required for anyone who sees themselves as an active participant in the class struggle as making decisions on what to do and how to do it will be based on our current programmatic understanding. Which is not to say that this is an argument against being open to refining, developing and changing our programmatic frameworks that provide the basis for our actions in response to experiences and arguments.

The ideological anchors/compasses that Wright is projecting are not just an abstract issue (although Wright may see them as such as he seems very much the academic apparently not actually interested in participation in the class struggle) as they will manifest themselves in the actions of any activist convinced by his arguments. He is a propagandist for the politics of reform AGAINST the politics of revolution and any lessons to be learnt from the details of his analysis need to be understood in that context.

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