Part of the Struggling for Coherence on the US Left series.
If I announced to the socialist Left, in a proud Eureka moment, full of myself, “All the Left needs is coherence!,” something would be terribly missing.
Coherence is a dual concept.
On the one hand, coherence demands greater specificity and clarity. There are many groups on the Left offering ever-greater and ever-more-specific lines of division and delineation, some of greater quality and some of greater confusion. So in this vein, coherence is about improving the quality of the Left’s accuracy and vision. It’s about sifting out what is actually socialism and what is not, in terms of battles between revisionist forms of social democracy versus radical socialism, libertarian Marxism versus Stalinism, effective strategies versus dead ends, etc. This is the more merciless part of the process where compromise is not a value, where struggle is a virtue.
On the other end, coherence requires harmony and unity. It’s not good if we achieve a small perfect nugget of perfect clarity and strategy but the group that has it is only five people, and the left is shattered into fifty groups of various sizes, many of whom are only about fifty people, some maybe a few hundred, and we can’t collaborate on anything. If the Left has the right answers but is still in a million pieces, that Left is still incoherent.
The struggle for Left coherence is therefore always a dual struggle, simultaneously for both quality and unity. These struggles are at odds with each other in an immediate sense. In an ultimate sense they are probably mutually-reinforcing.
I myself have often been very conflicted over what role I should play for example – a person who tells hard truths about the problems with the socialist groups in the USA, or a person who tries to bring people together. The truth I’ve reached is that trying to specialize in either would be dishonest. It’s got to be both. Both are necessary.
What does this mean in practice? It means an ability to both criticize and practice diplomacy. It means an ability to be honest and go to events and be part of a group. It means a willingness to speak truth and risk getting kicked out — but also stay and be a member if they don’t kick you out. It means networking with everybody and connecting everyone, whether you’re part of a group or not. It means acting as a force to build the Party in the historic sense, ie the real mass Party, which will be a new force with its own name beyond what we can predict, not this smattering of groups that exists now, perhaps emerging out of some of them and involving them, perhaps entirely out of blue involving none of them.
Next: DSA things.