The crisis of the left as a crisis of the imagination

This is excerpted from an article from Jerome Roos.

However, though we find this section appealing, on the whole, this article does not renew profoundly with the left tradition, though it adds the commons as one of the three planks of its renewal. What lacks most however, is any clear indication of the need for post-capitalist practices and strategies that actually constructs the alternatives and makes them system-changing.

The excerpt:

“”For all its tragedies and failures, at least the old left was once driven by hopes and visions of a better future. Today, all such aspirations seem to have been abandoned. As Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi has astutely put it, the future has been cancelled—and the left, unmoored from its post-capitalist imaginary, has been cast hopelessly adrift in the process. In this conjuncture, we may continue to speak of a crisis of capital, but what really confronts us is a crisis of the left.

This crisis is of a dual nature: on the one hand, it is a crisis of collective agency, marked by the left’s utter incapacity to rise to the challenge of our times, or even to capitalize on the brief window of opportunity opened up by the crash of 2008; and on the other it is a related crisis of imagination, marked by the left’s total inability to even conceive of a world beyond capitalism. The two reinforce one another, pulling the opposition down in a vicious cycle of endless defeat.

As a result, today’s disoriented and unimaginative left has largely ceded the ground to the uncontested reign of zombie neoliberalism: an undead system that—impossible to either save or kill, yet desperate to counteract its own decay—feasts ever more parasitically on the collective fruits of our precarious labor, relying increasingly on direct rent extraction and the outright dispossession of humanity’s common wealth to prop up its faltering profit rates. It is a nihilistic order that, incapable of offering a positive image of the future, has resorted to framing its hegemonic discourse entirely in negative terms, with an unfailing mantra repeated religiously by its stubborn acolytes: “there is no alternative.”

This successful suppression of the radical imagination, which has seeped deep into the very fabric of advanced capitalist society and has been internalized fully within the existing body politic, turned out to be the death-knell of all creativity and change among the institutional left. Meanwhile, the fragmentation, atomization and isolation of the traditional working class have thrown up seemingly insurmountable barriers to concerted action and enduring organization on the part of the new social movements, which—in response to the overwhelming odds that are now stacked against them—have largely retreated into a defensive and self-limiting localism.

It is the weakness of our clenched fist and the paucity of our collective imagination, far more than the “natural laws” of their invisible hand, that now makes the end of the world appear more likely than the end of capitalism. And so we are left, on the one hand, with the ossified and bureaucratized remnants of a defunct 20th century socialism, wholly subsumed within the stultifying boredom and counter-revolutionary circuitry of bourgeois parliamentarism; and on the other with a disoriented multitude full of revolutionary passion, yet struggling to channel its intense collective outrage and its immense social creativity into a coherent and transformative political project.

Faced with the overwhelming power of capital and the escalating violence of the state, stuck between the institutional inertia of the old left and the ephemeral spontaneity of the new, the opposition remains impotent and confused. Evidently, it is not the “historical inevitability” of the capitalist law of value, but the left’s own lack of internal coherence and the conspicuous absence of visionary post-capitalist perspectives that keeps it stuck in an endlessly repeating present.

As the future collapses in on itself and the left’s revolutionary aspirations wither on the vine, it is the weakness of our clenched fist and the paucity of our collective imagination, far more than the “natural laws” of their invisible hand, that now makes the end of the world appear more likely than the end of capitalism. It has become painfully clear that, if the left is to truly to chart a way out of capitalist barbarity, it will have to first reinvent itself.”

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