James Clark

The Left’s “Theoretical” Problem →

20 January, 2022

This was published in 2017, but I feel like it could just as well have been written yesterday:

My contention is that today’s Left doesn’t have an analysis, ideology, or theory deficit.

Rather, it has a skills, ability, and capacity deficit when it comes to the basics of militant membership-based organizing, and building organizations, formations, campaigns and movements that can win social majorities. [...]

What’s sad is that we have recently had plethora of books that speak to this concern and try to correct it. Direct Action by LA Kaufmann; No Shortcuts by Jane Mclevey; This is Uprising by Paul and Mark Engler; Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown; Hegemony How To by Jonathon Smucker; Another Politics by Chris Dixon; and Rules for Revolutionaries by Becky Bond and Zack Exley. There is an article by Kate Aronoff that seeks to contextualize all these different books and account for their strengths and weakness. Book reviews and podcasts about these books have also come here and there. Unfortunately, progressive/leftist presses and everyday debates on the left, do not prioritize this kind of discussion, let alone reading, it seems. I think investing more time in study groups, reading, writing, tweeting, Facebooking and learning about historical organizing methods and approaches, and debating about which ones are best for our present-day political circumstances, is far more productive than engaging in circular debates surrounding identity politics vs class politics, or whether systems of oppression (i.e. colonialism, anti-Blackness, heteropatriarchy) are rooted in the political economy or libidinal economy. These analyses are important for understanding key dynamics on the structural sources of domination, but I do not believe they illuminate a meaningful path to building the power we need to make a beginning at meaningful reforms, let alone total liberation and revolution as defined by abolition, decolonization, socialism, anarchism or communism.

Doing things better requires doing things differently. Building social majority in 2022 is going to require organising structures, technologies and cultures that don’t yet exist.

We need far more people experimenting and sharing lessons about how we organise for social majorities in Australia in 2022.

My one addition to this for the Australian context: we also have an analysis, ideology, and theory deficit. Our whole movement eco-system is under-resourced and in need of revitalisation.


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Hey, I'm James Clark. I’m an organiser, writer and social movement nerd based in Melbourne, Australia. You can read more about me here.