Moral Realism and the Contemporary Left

For tragedy to take place, it must happen, what is going on, within certain limits, where the victim retains it’s dignity. You know, tragic victim. When things get really terrifying, a mode of comedy has to enter, which is not a comedy that you just laugh at, but a horrifying comedy

Slavoj Zizek

It seems like not a day passes when I don’t come across a naive so-called leftist who is drawn to the movement by grandiose notions of goodwill, kindness, egalitarianism, and the abolition of exploitation. While it is true that the founders of the movement did pass quite a few value judgements on the state of affairs, and where they could go, I think it is critical to emphasize that Marx’s description of capital had less to do with passing moral judgements (although he did this frequently, it was not the core of his argument) than it did with highlighting the structural contradictions within capitalism that would have to be resolved in order to make history progress.

Personally, I believe that a strict adherence to moralist philosophy is a dead end for the left. It’s not hard to come across people who conceptualize socialism as a moral position, who state that “it is right for all people to receive housing.” However, there are a few glaring issues with these arguments. For one, they imply a culture which is already beholden in its superstructure to Enlightenment-era Christian morality, about the doctrine of Human Rights. Secondly, concessions to the masses and mass participatory democracy do not address the fact that the vast majority of the population is not well-educated enough on political and economic theory in order to organize a society via mass decision making. Lastly, the rejection of violence as a mean to securing power will inevitably leave any movement stranded within the ideological framework that conceived it.

It’s quite common to see arguments that take the form of “X is a human right, and therefore should be universally available” in vulgar discussion of politics. Although I don’t necessarily disagree with this more egalitarian outcome, I think that framing this need within the necessarily liberal conception of human rights has the potential to water down the argument. Then, why, should we provide housing to all people? To that I would say that the promotion of social harmony is paramount in the maintenance of a functional society. Immaterial arguments to the god-given rights of people can be distorted and twisted to support practically any viewpoint.

Do not the bourgeois assert that the present-day distribution is “fair”? And is it not, in fact, the only “fair” distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones? Have not also the socialist sectarians the most varied notions about “fair” distribution?

Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program

Obsession with fairness and egalitarianism may be useful in envisioning a post-scarcity Utopia, but when formulating actual policy to reach this goal, it is doomed to result in poor and unfounded policy that does more harm than good. One doesn’t have to look far beyond poorly conceived idpol-laden policy proposals by seventeen year olds on Twitter to see how ridiculous chasing such ideals quickly becomes.

On the subject of mass democracy, the failures of left-wing movements to get anywhere electorally should speak for itself. If democracy was our savior, why did Corbyn’s Labour lose in a landslide? There is truth in the fact that the masses are reactionary, and more interested in the status quo rather than some sort of idealistic liberal revolution. The USSR never would have come to fruition through the means provided by the bourgeois provisional state. Perhaps dual power could offer a reasonable way to subvert the power of liberal democracy.

But that still begs the question, is democracy inherently flawed? Or is it only the democracy which exists under liberal capitalism? I would propose the argument that democracy itself is inextricably tied to liberal capitalism. It was the material forces of capital and bourgeois interest that led to the development of democracy itself. At the end of the day, it provides nothing more than legitimacy for the rule of the oppressor. So-called “Democratic Socialism” is an idealist pipe dream that could never be created under the organization related to a communist society.

This may sound like a huge logical jump, but consider that the rise and now decline of democracy has always been related to the tides of power. Democracy is just the right to choose your despot, and more often than not, we choose the wrong one.

When it comes to the topic of violence, it’s critical to remember that the institutions for change created under a political system are necessarily designed in order to replicate and uphold that system. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to bring us to communism, nor will he shift the “Overton Window” towards some sort of direction that will make people happier to cast off their chains. If the ruling class is to submit to our demands, it’s childish to assume that they will do it at the behest of a ballot.

Year Zero

Here marks the beginning of the end. I was never one for sharing my writing online, but god knows how much time I spend typing paragraphs into Discord, so it’s probably about time that I just spray a bit of pseudo-intellectual patina onto my thoughts, and organize them in a way that makes it seem like I have any semblance of credibility. I’m not 100% sure what the posts here will contain, but I can assure you that they will be self-aggrandizing, needlessly verbose, and above all, sophistic.

More seriously, though, I will likely write articles about my political opinions, media and news analysis, music opinions, or just personal reflection. I’m not exactly a master of language and writing, so expect things here to be stream-of-consciousness, largely unedited, full of misused words and glaring spelling mistakes, or just straight up pointless. I’m writing for myself, not you.

If none of this scares you off, then I hope you find some sort of value in scrolling through all of the bullshit above.