Jacobin (III): They are insulting Jacobin …

They are insulting Jacobin so maybe we don’t have to:

It is unclear why Sunkara and Frase didn’t publish their “manifesto on building social democracy” in their own magazine; I suppose the juxtaposition of Toussaint Louverture’s visage with such a conservative political vision would have been too much for even their inflated sense of irony. For my first thought on reading their article was that rarely has the word “manifesto” been deployed for something so uninspired (I would have went with “policy paper”) Ben Campbell  Anarcho-Liberals, Utopian Keynesians, and ActBlue Jacobins,

Ben Campbell’s generally fine dismantling of the pretensions of Jacobin unfortunately goes on to make an argument about the impossibility of reinstituting a welfare state that is perhaps too similar to the conservative argument against government spending; “the debt is too high”.

It is a natural phenomena of this age for there to be a publication whose actual politics are thoroughly Social Democratic but which can make gestures and references to tendencies closer to anti-state communism (Jacobin references “The Black Jacobins” by CLR James, who we might not agree with but would be much likely to consider a “follow traveler”). Thus Jacobin makes pretenses to five different shades of radicalism, none of which it actually shares.

Publications  like Jacobin exist in a world in which getting a tattoo and identifying as an anarchists can be considered equal as “radical gestures”. One might describe the “Jacobin Posture” as weaving a fog of radical references (“Imagined Communities”), darting back and forth and then coming up with thesurprising” punch to the right, having the “courageous” to take the bland reformist road they … well, had been on the start. All that said, now that multiple tendencies which Jacobin makes pretense to sympathy with are gunning at Jacobin, we indeed quite possibly don’t have to.

One useful activity of communists can be to distinguish ourselves from pretend-communists. However, it is at least as crucial for us to describe the integrated whole that all the tendencies of the left form. A thinker can be far further to the left than Jacobin and yet be in the orbit of capital. Especially, any position that considers that it is possible to address the American political class and that group could change its direction has to be basing itself some combination of self-interest and self-deception.

For example, the discussion of Jacobin’s ridiculous program veered into question of whether it is practical to rebuild the “welfare state”. Now, welfare programs are not coming back unless the proletariat pries them out of the bourgeois’ hard, cold nearly dead hands (and in such an  instance, the proletariat would do better finishing the job). But it is a rather murky question whether a welfare state can’t happen because of debt, because corporation “need” so much of that welfare themselves or because neoliberal capitalism simply does not want it (or rather, which huge barrier do you want to call insurmountable). The point is know that they are not bringing back welfare. We better not taking the position of the political by asking “what is possible for them if they really wanted it”. Not that they have a lot of choices but their choices are not our choices, right?

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