Victory in Stagnation?

Bergfeld, Mark; Fischer, Leandros
Date Written:  2017-10-14
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21556

An analysis of the direction of the German left party, Die Linke, in the wake of the 2017 national elections.



Lots of ink has been spilled in an attempt to resolve this apparent contradict and formulate an alternative, left-wing populism that can counter the far right’s popularity among workers and the unemployed, with Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders often cited as role models. Inspired by theorists like Chantal Mouffe, some have proposed creating a “people of the left” — a radical democratic alliance that unites society’s downtrodden across national lines.

The is certainly something an anticapitalist left can and should identify with to a certain extent. However, this often-vague discourse of creating an understanding between different “milieus” — the “workers,” “the intelligentsia,” the “refugees” — tends to view these subjectivities as separate, autonomous categories. Moreover, the idea of allying with “green-alternative” and “social-democratic milieus,” as suggested by Riexinger in his response to Lafontaine, can easily be co-opted in the direction of forging a SPD-Green-Linke government project in 2021. We should not dismiss this possibility, as the SPD will likely start hitting left-sounding notes in order win back lost voters.

In fact, one of the great weaknesses within Die Linke — and the contemporary left in general — is the implicit ideology of a division of labor between different political sectors, pioneered, even if inadvertently, by Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, and granted extra legitimacy by Antonio Negri’s theory of the “multitude.”

Thus, the parliamentary party is responsible for conducting day-to-day affairs, whereas the workers’ movement and the various social movements remain autonomous and leave their representation up to the party, which in turn does not interfere with their day-to-day functions in order to avoid appearing “paternalistic.” In this (very schematic) illustration of such thinking, the workers’ movement appears as just one of many political subjects, and often as the most “old-fashioned” or irrelevant one, an impression guided by a flawed diagnosis about the total transformation of the working class in “post-Fordism” and an overdetermining belief in power of “affects” in practical politics.

Subject Headings

Insert T_CxShareButtonsHorizontal.html here