The stupidity of the left/right spectrum

I'd appreciate it if people stopped using words like "tilt" or "leaning" when talking about politics.

For one thing, saying this guy's "left-leaning" or that guy's "right-leaning" basically absolves the speaker/writer of having to actually figure out what a person's political convictions are, both in the sense that these kind of constructions are vague and in the sense that they're so mild that even if you get it wrong, all the offended party would have to do is ask for a oratorical nudge until they once again tilt, slightly, in their preferred direction.

But there's a bigger point to be made. To say that somebody "leans" or "tilts" in one political direction basically suggests that, deep down, most people share the same outlook. They are rooted in the same base -- it is just in the ephemeral stuff that they take a stance. This is actually true for the most part. Ron Paul and Barack Obama generally see politics and economics in the same way.

People on the left and the right generally do share the same outlook, which is that the state as it exists today is necessary to one extent or another and that an economy whose underlying mechanism is the accumulation of capital is desirable (or the only thing possible, etc.).

I am sick of the left-right spectrum or even the stupid libertarian cube spectrum. They measure capitalist political notions. There's two ways I can think off of the top of my head that demonstrate the capitalist nature of these spectra or whatever the fuck they're called. First, look at the questions. You're basically given two choices, neither of which comes anywhere near escaping the logic of capitalism. For instance, there's questions about the state's role in the economy. If you say the state should have less of a role, you're assumed to be some kind of fucking raging libertarian misanthropist. If you say it should have more role, I guess you're some kind of "socialist." But there's no choice that reads "Fuck the capitalist state, all power to the soviets!", is there? No there's not. And the unquestioning adherence to today's insane politics shows in every question.

But also look at where they place various historical figures. Marx and Keynes are on the left because they supposedly favor more government intervention. Anyone who's read and understood Marx knows what hogwash that is. But there's nowhere else for this model to put him. It's almost worse with The CUBE or DIAMOND-shaped models. With these, you get some illusion of encompassing of all political outlooks. You can now be a libertarian leftist or an authoritarian leftist.

(If you're an anarchist and you're happy to be on the left, ask yourself what the fuck your economics have to do with Stalin's that you both fall on the left of these models. If you're lucky, the answer is nothing, and you come to realize what bullshit the left-right spectrum is as far as sane, humane people are concerned. On the other hand, most "libertarian socialists" belong right next to Stalin on the economic axis. For example, there's a book out now with the appalling title Revolt! The Next Great Transformation from Kleptocracy Capitalism to Libertarian Socialism through Counter Ideology, Societal Education, & Direct Action. According to a summary of the book, "one strategic proposal" put forth in it "is demanding corporate boards of directors only include community and labor representatives." I'd say "are you fucking kidding me," but I know you don't have to make this shit up. For the libertarian left, "socialism" means a capitalism managed by the workers themselves; for the authoritarian left, or for old line social democrats, it means a capitalism managed by the state. And this isn't just because the political compass and such don't let them fully express their views. I am sure that the leaders of the CNT in the 30s and Stalin both would give the same answer if asked whether they favored the abolition of the law of value.)

In the same vein, I had the opportunity to attend an orientation for new faculty at my place of employment. We're launching some ill-conceived program wherein all freshmen read a pair of popular books. Many of their classes will tie in to this program by having assignments related to the books. It's not a bad idea, but the woman who promotes this program touted some stupid book on the economic crisis as "presenting both sides" of the story.

From that phrase alone -- "both sides of the story" -- I'd be glad to see the program nixed. This is a fucking university, not fucking Hardball with Chris Matthews. There's a fuckton more sides to any issue than two. I'm pretty sure I can name at least three very different Marxist accounts of the crisis, not to mention another half-dozen bourgeois fantasies. (For what it's worth, apparently the "critical" view championed in the book says that the crisis is the result of unregulated capitalism. Regulate capitalism, everything's good again. Never mind that capitalism before the deregulation of the 90s -- or before whatever bogeyman you tout as Ruining The Good Life, be it globalization or neoliberalism -- was the capitalism that gave us the world wars and the cold war with its specter of nuclear extermination and starvation in the third world and the massacre of first world proletarian militants and black slavery, etc., etc.)

Anyway, that's my take on a few things today.