Sunday, July 19, 2015

Treating Politics Responsibly: Leo Panitch et. al. Are Piteous Cretins


“Yea, yea; nay, nay! As monosyllabic on the platform as in the press. Flat as a riddle whose answer is known in advance.” - Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

“Many strategic arguments are opening up. Don’t let the comradely debates within the fighting left opposed to the capitulation blind us to the fact that there is a major argument with those who are apologists for it.” - Kevin Ovenden

Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Political Economy at York University and Syriza leadership apologist par excellence, is a cloying, duplicitous, condescending, social democratic petite bourgeois piece of shit, and his students are worse. I do not intend to address Panitch, or his butt-hurt supplicants, in a 'comradely' manner for the simple reason that Leo Panitch and his pathetic troupe of cultists are not my comrades. They are, in other words, not a part of, but rather a hindrance to, 'the left' that I want to be a part of and contribute to.

One week ago I set out to point out merely how the argument that Panitch had made against Richard Seymour, that the deal signed between Tsipras and the Greek creditors was a “victory” that allegedly required “political sophistication” to discern, was convoluted and self-serving. Panitch's arguments have been, as Phil Hearse of Left-Unity wrote, “very one-sided” and contend, ostensibly, “that the agreement was inevitable and those who criticise are just dreamers.” Panitch and his ludicrous apparatchik gaggle have, in effect, become - then and since - the foremost proponents of 'There is No Alternative' (TINA), or rather, now, 'There was No Alternative' (TWNA).

Their real plea, as Bob Lyons writes for Socialist Action, is not to treat 'Syriza,' as such, responsibly, but rather “to treat the Tsipras faction, the political co-thinkers of Panitch and Gindin 'responsibly.'” That is, Panitch's intent is to safeguard his own political legacy, not analyze conditions objectively, his defense and apologia for Tsipras's capitulation is entirely self serving. As Marx wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire, “just as the democrats had, in revolutionary fashion, raged and agitated during the constitutional election contest, so now, when it was requisite to prove the serious nature of that victory arms in hand, did they in constitutional fashion preach order, calme majestueux, lawful action, that is to say, blind subjection to the will of the counterrevolution, which imposed itself as the law.”1

Panitch's argument against Costas Lapavitsas at the Global Center for Advanced Studies' Democracy Rising Conference was that Lapavitsas was right to argue for Grexit and bank nationalization, but that now is not the right time, that following Lapavitsas's strategy would split Syriza. But it is rather Tsipras that has split Syriza! Accepting crushing austerity which has functionally broken Syriza as an authentically left party. As Miguel Figueroa of the Communist Party of Canada put it, “it is not surprising, in a sense, that those who have tied their political reputations – and their no doubt sincere hopes for the future – to the Syriza bandwagon, should now so pathetically twist in the wind attempting to justify (or at least beg forgiveness for) this appalling surrender and defeat, this renunciation of their own 'principles,' this betrayal of the Greek people's class interests and trust.” Kevin Ovenden, writing of Panitch's showing at GCAS's Democracy Rising conference writes that Panitch's arguments were “disingenuous and shabby,” and that, in spite of the charge of academicism having been leveled, the real problem was rather that these arguments were “largely gibberish,” delivered in an abrasive, dismissive, and haughty form. The point though, is that “the waspishness with which he and friends tried to dispatch the left” is all that Panitch or his followers are capable of.

This criticism of the execrable 'great-man,' Panitch, among a growing international chorus, has sent his sad sack lackeys into apoplectic rage, and they immediately set about, like the good little pathetic bureaucrats they are, to shut down, negate, and defame, anyone who disagrees. Panitch's students are, of course, not promoted and publicized based on merit, let alone objective competency, but rather on the basis of supplicancy to Panitch himself, and by their proficiency at precisely what they've been doing all this week: covering up what an illiterate, reactionary, philistine buffoon Panitch is. All they need do is to parrot and apologize for his circuitous and condescending phrasemongering and self-aggrandizement to find their tired and hackneyed bullshit in Jacobin or Studies in Political Economy, and, of course, the Socialist Register. Their rallying cry is, of course, 'not you, not here, not now.' One imagines that the only force that Panitch would deem appropriate with which to move from the war of position to the war of manouver would be a horde of Oshawa auto-workers led by Panitch himself on horseback! Anything short of this is ill-timed, and ought to just keep quiet and, as Sam Ginden – Panitch's 'radical' beard, whose qualifications in this respect are positively geriatric - writes, “buy ourselves some time."

Brendan Bruce, in a timely intervention, interrogates Panitch's deployment of the 'balance of forces' argument and finds it to be something like a product of the death drive and a compulsion to repeat, writing that “this seemly innocuous little phrase is not just a rhetorical flourish, but it is a symptom of a larger underlying pathology of the Left.” That is, Panitch and his “trolling acolytes” rehearse the 'balance of forces' argument as “support for the same forms, methods, and institutions that failed the working classes since the 1970s.” Bruce argues that what Panitch misses is that “struggle or revolutionary practices effects and alters the ‘objective conditions,” or, in other words, that Panitch has a static and linear conception of 'revolutionary' politics in which multifarious and 'untimely' forms of struggle, which ought to be pursued for precisely the reason that they violate and alter the very terrain of struggle itself, are ignored and derided. I contend that it is simpler than this, however. The way Panitch deploys the balance of forces argument, time and time again, is to shield lines and strategies that he himself has his fingers in from serious analysis, and to shit on and diminish those he doesn't. It is, in other words, a reactionary cudgel with no basis in objective analysis but rather simply the obscure whim of Panitch himself. In this respect, among others, Panitch and his cronies are fundamentally incapable of self-criticism. Sure, you will hear him say, perhaps, something like 'we on the Left haven't done enough. . .' but he, inevitably and invariably, deploys it in such a manner as to radiate outwards, exculpating himself, as though the world simply hadn't moved fast enough in placing king Panitch at the head of a sufficient fighting force. It is unambiguously the royal 'we' in all its patronizing mystifcatory labour-aristocratic glory.

Doug Henwood, himself an irrelevant piece of shit (best known for yelling that Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal and whinging that environmentalists are 'catastrophists'), and another of Panitch's lackeys, has made the technical feasibility of Grexit his own personal hobbyhorse. His evidence that this was not possible is merely that Yanis Varoufakis had offhandedly likened the process to that conducted in Iraq. Forget that Varoufakis, in the same interview, had said that this wasn't pursued not because of technical feasibility but rather because the leadership of Syriza were 'committed Europeanists,' or that Varoufakis is a policy wonk of debatable Marxist credentials, or that, of course, Greece is not Iraq, it is more interesting that this has been nonetheless virulently seized upon by Panitch, Henwood, and the like as a post-hoc justification for their apologias for the leadership of Syriza. Anyone who disagrees with these stalwart 'Marxists,' must therefore be some kind of chest-thumping ultra.

As Sam Kriss writes, “among a few of Syriza’s defenders, there’s a complaint that left-wing critics seem to want Greece to fling itself into uncertainty for the sake of a few old Marxist orthodoxies. From our armchairs in the insulated north, we leftier-than-thou dilettantes demand that an entire country ruin itself, just so that we can get the vicarious thrill of resistance. But the ruin is already here. We’re living in it. The deal that Greece has agreed to will enforce mandatory privatisations, automatic spending cuts, and a mechanism to ensure that all these measures are locked outside the realm of politics. The anti-austerity party has delivered the forces of austerity a far more total victory than the old ND-Pasok coalition ever could – they, at least, had to deal with a strong domestic opposition."

As Kevin Ovenden writes, “they had better get used to the fact that we won't sit like Gradgrind's pupils in Hard Times if we are treated with disdain.” Or, as I told one of Panitch's most loyal troglodytes who was more interested in talking shit in the shadows - so as to ameliorate Panitch's uselessness being hauled out into the international daylight - than he was in real analysis, 'go fuck yourself.'

I suggest, in solidarity with the Greek people, that somebody key Panitch's BMW the fuck up.

1 Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

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