Left Unity: A Discussion

‘Brian: We mustn’t fight each other. Surely, we should be united against the common enemy?

Mass of fighting lefties: The Judean Peaple’s Front!!!???

Brian: No, No. The Romans!

Mass of now peaceful lefties: Ohhh, yeah.’

-Monty Python’s Life of Brian


The subject of left unity was discussed at our last meeting, and as you might expect there was a great deal of skepticism expressed by those present. Since the split in the First International in the late 19th century Anarchists and Marxists have rarely seen eye-to-eye. To that extent nothing in this article is particularly new. It is interesting that while most of those that chose to comment are not paid-up members of any political grouping, let alone a party, that the concerns they express about working with Marxist groups could have come from George Orwell himself. This can either be viewed as evidence of our intellectual laziness or that the criticisms are cliche for one obvious reason, that they are true! I will leave it up to you to decide.

This article is a collection of opinions expressed by four individuals who attended that meeting. I have used fake (but humorous) names for the contributors just in case any far-right trolls come trundling by, and feel the need to track us down and harass us. I would encourage anyone interested in the subject of left unity to comment underneath.

Lobo: ‘Where to begin with the concept of Left Unity? Besides the historical precedent of the crushing of the Makhnovist movement in the Ukraine by the Red Army, or the tragic betrayal of the Spanish Revolution by the Commintern, there has been little evidence recently that the Marxist-Leninist parties (in the case of Ireland: the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party) have anything but contempt for Anarchists and Libertarian-Communist ideas. This is not particularly surprising to me. I was a member of the Socialist Party for several years in my late teens and early 20s, and remember well the derision expressed behind closed doors for Anarchists. We were dubbed ‘juvenile leftists’, ‘liberals’ and ‘a danger to the revolution’. The attitude of these cultists, because that’s truly what Marxist-Leninist groups are, has not changed one iota since the early 20th century. This is not to absolve Anarchists now or in the past of blame for the lack of Left Unity. I know plenty of hipster Anarchists that would rather read Bakunin and listen to Frank Zappa records from the safety of their cushy flats paid for by their parents than involve themselves in the class struggle. It’s dreadfully easy to be ironic in this day and age…Of course as we speak Anarchists and Marxist-Leninists cooperate in broad coalitions: whether it be for repeal of the 8th Amendment or campaigns for council housing. And should there ever be a threat from the Fascist far-right we would, of course, band together for protection, but this hardly equals Left Unity. In practice it’s more of an insurance policy against Fascist violence. I think fundamentally that Marxism-Leninism will inevitably lead to authoritarianism, as Bakunin first stated in 1870s: ‘“Either one destroys the State or one must accept the vilest and most fearful lie of our century: the red bureaucracy.” I think the evidence of multiple failed Stalinist states, from East Germany to North Korea, during the 20th century proves that point amply. Therefore, as Anarchists we should not seek anything but cordiality with Marxists, for fear of history repeating itself.’

Green Lantern: ‘Left Unity seems to be possible to a certain extent and under certain circumstances. History has proven that political parties and groups that lay on the left side of the political spectrum came very close to each other in several occasions mainly to fight for social rights or against a common enemy (i.e. fascism). However, when the prominent question was the seizure of power, the split was inevitable. Anarchists have to oppose any type of power/government, so they easily become an easy target to blame from leftists in such situations. So, what can we as Anarchists expect from any type of Left Unity? Well, nothing special in the long run, but let’s keep our eyes open for any positive actions that might assist us towards our goal for more democracy, freedom and end of hierarchy.’

Darkseid: ‘In general, although Left Unity’s presence becomes more and more dynamic, info necessary, due to social and political turbulences, which tend to destabilise and divide the people, it is my contention that it still lacks coordination and influential initiatives. Although their voices have begun to echo louder and a shift has been observed in people’s mindsets regarding left Unity’s ideas and principles, it is devoid of any substantial organisation and unity, which, in the long run, results in it being considered a form of minority. Its historically biased history, together with its suffocating internal conflicts, already predisposes a difficult path ahead; however, their members appear quite reluctant and hesitant to take substantially drastic actions, almost to the point of apathy. Which is disappointing, due to the fact that the pressing matters it addresses, such as environmental issues, anti-capitalist agenda, LGBT, gender equality, should have thrusted it to one of the “hottest” talk in town.’

Superman: ‘To me it is amazing to hear Anarchists complain about working with other left wing groups. The more histrionic seem to think that to work with other leftists will automatically lead to the a repeat of {famous historical event where we were stabbed in the back}. This seems unlikely, as…How to put this gently? It’s not the 1930s anymore! There are barely any Communists and Anarchists left for one thing…I mean we’re not like the immortals from Highlander, but if things keep going the way they’re going ‘there will only be one!’ In other words we can’t be so picky as to who are bedfellows in the class struggle are. Secondly, if we really are worried about Marxist-Leninist parties and their penchant for seizing power, well let’s not work with them, but you can’t label all left wing parties and groups Marxist-Leninist, because that’s lazy and sectarian thinking of the worst sort. There are great activists in even the most bureaucratic and toxic parties. We should be trying to talk to as many like minded people as we can, not demonise half the left because the leadership of some socialist groups are shit. There is a happy medium between blissful irrelevance and Kronstadt, it’s called using your commonsense to figure out objectively who you should ally with, and who you shouldn’t. To me that is left unity. And it’s also the only way our ideas will get off WordPress and into the real world.’


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