So the dust has settled with the G20 in Brisvegas but a inkstain in your favourite Murdoch rag and I’m wondering about the smorgasbord of analysis on offer, ranging from a typically anti-Abbott portrait by Ben Eltham to this communist comment from comrade Dave over at The Word from Struggle Street.
There’s plenty more but I am really taken by Ben’s perseverance and some logical inconsistencies Dave offers.
Ben’s problem is he has to write something and he has to write it for his audience. That’s not to say what he’s written is bad, but it smacks of superficiality. Yes our beloved Tone fucked up and reinforced the suspicions of most that he really isn’t up to the job, his subsequent fawning over China’s Xi even too much for the radical right’s motor mouth Alan Jones, but that’s not really the issue. In a sense that’s just the charade of politics and how it is examined. That doesn’t make it less newsworthy but it does continue more or less normal political commentary.
On the other hand, Comrade Dave cuts to the chase. The G20 is about the capitalist order and the lack of anything substantial emerging from it tells us the capitalist system hasn’t found its mojo despite the abundant navel gazing. But I have some problems with the songbook Dave and Dr Tad seem to reference, our so-called alienation from others in the form of capitalism’s exploitative hierarchical social relations. Just to be clear, I think there is something of merit in the argument that identifies the root of capitalism in the way social relations are structured, for instance Naomi Klein makes a similar claim vis-a-vis our disconnect from natural world. For Klein, humanity’s relationship with the planet mirrors the exploitative dominating attitude capitalists seem to express towards the rest of humanity. Klein, in my view, correctly locates the origin of this worldview in the western christian tradition where the Garden of Eden is given to Adam and Eve so they may exploit and prosper. Alternative worldviews such as aboriginal myths around the globe support the idea that the Christian exploitative relationships both to the planet and each other are but one way we can relate to others, or even one express our selves as human beings.
So my problem with any Marxist analysis is this. Basically it seems that a Marxist view remains in the social domain, the Marxist world is the form that emerges from a different set of social interaction compared with say the existing liberal democratic model that is the form of capitalist interactions. However, imagining a anti-capitalist world seems fraught with certain contradictions.
There is firstly the problem of revolution which as Derrida observes, carries within the seed of the next hierarchic order or state. It is tempting to believe a revolution grounded in communist values may negate or avoid the self imposed contradictions of a capitalist system but two recent examples, the USSR and China seem to suggest that the communist order is no more successful over time than its opposite. Again, the more durable example seems to be the older indigenous order with a somewhat submissive relationship with the natural world and decentralised power, reminiscent of a cellular structure as opposed to the west’s obsession with pyramids.
The second problem I have is this notion of so-called anti-politics. I fail to see how the struggles of non mainstream activists operating outside the traditional institutions of state politics is anything but politics in a different place. The old feminist motto, the personal is the political should be sufficient to explain this phenomenon but it seems the Marxist left are somewhat incapable of accepting a widespread social expression of shared values can transcend the limited scope imposed by Marx. Yes our personal relationships ground the social but the world is more than the sum total of our relationships with each other, it is also a product of our relationship to the animal within and without.
How we get there peacefully, en masse and with the planet intact is perhaps the single biggest challenge humanity has ever faced.