A lot of talk about nothing: “left narratives” or class struggle?

“The left needs a new narrative.” Such is the idea that has gripped the minds of many on the left around the world today, as attempts are made to build alternatives to the dominant, bourgeois parties. What is the substance behind this idea? And can it help take the working class forward in any way? As Yola Kipcak explains in this article, first published in issue 34 of In Defence of Marxism, playing around with words is no substitute for class struggle. Click here to subscribe and get the latest issue of In Defence of Marxism magazine.

The idea that the left needs an improved “narrative” – and the connected notion that we require some sort of “left populism” – has occupied the attention of left-wing parties and organisations throughout Europe and beyond. To cite one example, Jörg Schindler, the general secretary of the Left Party in Germany, has written, “In order for us to be at the forefront of the climate movement – which is where we belong – we need a convincing LEFT narrative.”[1]

Katja Kipping, chairwoman of the same party, explained, “I believe we need a left populism in order to make clear that there are alternatives. And we must strengthen alternative explanation patterns and counter [German chancellor Angela Merkel’s] narrative… with a different narrative.”[2]

Finally, at an event in 2019 in Vienna, organised by “Transform Europe” – a project of the European Left Party comprising the likes of SYRIZA, Die LINKE, Rifondazione Comunista and Bloco de Esquerda – at which the Young Lefts, the Communist Party of Austria, and others were present, the term ‘left narrative’ was used liberally throughout the two-hour discussion. These are just small examples that bear witness to the extent to which these ideas have sunk roots in the left in a variety of countries.

The idea of a “left narrative” has been floating around university circles for a long time now. However, it only really began taking off in popularity with the sudden surge in support for new left parties such as SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos in Spain, which became points of reference for much of the left internationally. Prominent figures in both parties would litter their speeches with references to this concept some years ago. And indeed, the idea has its “theoreticians”, one of the most prominent of which is the Belgian academic, Chantal Mouffe.

Along with her late partner, Ernest Laclau, Mouffe attempted to develop a theory of a narrative-based “left populism”. In the list of acknowledgements to her latest book, For a Left Populism, Mouffe is keen to credit both Íñigo Errejón (Podemos) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) for their contributions, and personal conversations.

What lies behind the “narrative”?

Fundamental to Mouffe’s theory that we need to build a “left populism” based on a “new left narrative”, is the idea that reality is made up of narratives – that is to say, of stories. According to this notion, if politicians manage to cast the experiences of the people in gripping terms – effectively “framing narratives” – this will in turn influence the people’s actions, thus producing reality itself.

Reality then is not made up of an objective, material existence that forms the basis of our ideas. On the contrary, it is our ideas that mould the world. Thus, capitalism is not an economic system out of which arose a working class and a capitalist class, but rather a narrative, a construction. Mouffe calls her theoretical approach “anti-essentialist”. This means that, according to her, there is no objective, real world (what she terms “essence”) corresponding to our concepts. She believes that “society is always divided and discursively constructed through hegemonic practices”, and that it is “never the manifestation of a deeper objectivity”[3].

populism Image In Defence of MarxismAccording to Mouffe’s theory if politicians manage to cast the experiences of the people in gripping terms this will in turn influence the people’s actions, thus producing reality itself / Image: In Defence of Marxism

From this, it flows that there are no real classes in society. The working class is just one of many identities created by narratives, discourses and language: “It is through representation that collective political subjects are created; they do not exist beforehand.”[4]

The goal of a left narrative – of a left populism – is therefore to construe a collective identity by telling people that they have shared interests and that the “elites” are their enemy. It is a “discursive strategy of constructing a political frontier dividing society into two camps and calling for the mobilization of the ‘underdog’ against ‘those in power’.”[5]

In a recently published book, Deeply Red and Radically Colourful – For a New Left Narrative by Julia Fritzsche, we are told that such a narrative, “must first of all connect to the daily experiences of people, ‘pick them up’. It must give the impression that the narrative corresponds to shared experiences. It doesn’t matter if they actually had these experiences.”[6] (Our emphasis)

It is no wonder then, that whenever defenders of left narratives talk about societal changes, of practical action, that class struggles or class action are conspicuously absent. If they do talk about them, it is only as an after-thought, as a more-or-less agreeable additional extra. Instead, they call on us to “articulate”, “talk about”, “depict”, “show”, etc.

It is in this context that we should consider the comments of an exponent of these ideas from the Austrian Social Democracy, Max Lercher. Lercher argued that the Social Democracy needs a new founding congress as a fresh start for the party, and wrote:

“What do a Czech industrial worker and a Styrian mine worker have in common? Or a Viennese social reformer and a Hungarian radical socialist?… After all, we are all different people and have different viewpoints. And this is a good thing. But in Hainfeld, [the location of the founding of the Austrian Socialist Democratic Workers’ Party in 1888] we managed to agree on some central, common ideas. And a party to assert these ideas was founded.

“The new working class are all those who don’t have fair access to prosperity. This also includes small and medium-sized companies. Here, we can define a new line of conflict.” (Our emphasis).

Let us note here that, firstly, for Lercher, the basis for unity is not shared class interests, but ideas. And secondly, that for him the lines of conflict in society are not objectively given, but can be “defined”, so that suddenly “small and medium-sized” capitalists are also part of the working class!

From a Marxist point of view, a Czech and a Styrian worker actually have a lot in common – both carry out wage labour, are exploited by a capitalist, and are thus objectively part of the working class. However, if you assume that our identities are constructed by gripping, emotional stories, the logical conclusion is that capitalism cannot be overthrown by class struggle against the capitalists, but only by writing new stories.

This story then becomes powerful (‘hegemonic’) in the minds of the people. As Mouffe writes:

“[Every] existing order is therefore susceptible to being challenged by counter-hegemonic practices, practices which attempt to disarticulate it in order to install another form of hegemony.”[7] (Our emphasis)

And Fritzsche concurs:

“Narratives will not be the quickest way out of the hassling present day conditions… A new left narrative will have fissures and holes, but in the long run, it is the only way out of the oppressive present.”[8]

In truth, this means a rejection of revolution, a rejection of a break with the ruling system. Proponents of the left narrative, Lercher, Herr & co., consciously or otherwise, take a decidedly un-Marxist stance. Mouffe is a conscious anti-Marxist. She writes that “the myth of communism… has to be abandoned”, claiming it had already failed in practice because of its supposed class reductionism, i.e. that it reduces all struggles to class struggles, whereas Mouffe and her companions regard the working class as merely one among other movements such as feminism, environmentalism, LGBT activism etc.

She further states: “there will always be antagonisms, struggles and partial opaqueness of the social”. By this, she simply means that inequality, oppression and so on are inevitable, and can never be fully overcome. It is on this pessimistic basis that she proposes her “anti-hegemonic practice”. It is an alternative to communism; although she admits it “would never achieve a fully liberated society and the emancipatory project could not be conceived any longer as the elimination of the state.”[9] In her theoretical appendix, she roundly states that her approach “forecloses the possibility of a society beyond division and power.”[10] In short, behind her complex and radical-sounding language, she rejects revolution, and embraces reformism. The idea of opposing such struggles as those of women and LGBT people to the class struggle is precisely an attempt at a class collaborationist approach. That is, to unite with sections of the capitalist and middle class, to fight for a “fairer” form of capitalism.

Some among the more daring proponents of the idea of a “left narrative” may address capitalism, but the idea of removing it remains the furthest thing from their minds. “Intelligent criticism of capitalism is appropriate, we have to take up this issue”, says Lercher, and in the same interview states his views more precisely: “What we need is a partly state-owned job market which conforms to the market and is non-profitable.”[11]

This confused mixture of capitalism with half-hearted control measures is like trying to turn a tiger into a vegetarian. It is more utopian than any socialist idea of a nationalised, planned economy, controlled by the working class.

We can see quite clearly here how the philosophical basis of these ideas leads to the justification that capitalism itself is untouchable. This is why it is so important for Marxists to stand on a firm philosophical basis, uncovering reformist half-heartedness, and counterposing a revolutionary answer.

“To become the state”

The main orientation of the proponents of the so-called “left narrative” is not towards class struggle against capitalism, but towards democratic demands. “We have to dare for more democracy,” writes Lercher in his article, For what do we need Social Democracy today? Then-Austrian Young Socialists chair, Julia Herr, said: “Social Democracy in the 1970s fought to democratise the economic system and to distribute the wealth earned in a fair way. Then we somehow, at some point, just lost confidence.”[12]

The think tank Institut Solidarische Moderne (ISM), closely associated with the German Left Party, explains that social questions “must be posed radically, in a yet-to-be-defined sense, as questions of democracy.” According to ISM ideologist and board member of the Left Party’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Thomas Seibert, the real struggle is for “true” democracy.

mouffe Image CEU FlickrThe main orientation of the proponents of the so-called “left narrative” is not towards class struggle against capitalism, but towards democratic demands / Image: CEU, Flickr

And Mouffe writes: “The problem with modern democratic societies, in our view, was that their constitutive principles of ‘liberty and equality for all’ were not put into practice…The ‘radical and plural democracy’ that we advocated can therefore be conceived as a radicalisation of the existing democratic institutions…”[13]

The perspective presented here is one of… the status quo! The existing superstructure of “democratic” institutions, which have been shown time and again to be rigged in favour of the ruling class, should not be abolished, we are told, but only ‘improved’. Meanwhile, the real cause of such inequality and exploitation – capitalism – isn’t even acknowledged as such.

A crucial dividing line here is our conception of the state and its so-called democratic institutions. For revolutionaries, clarity concerning the nature of the state is vital. It is a life-and-death question for a revolutionary movement. There is a decisive difference between wanting to abolish the state through revolution, and believing the state can be transformed and modelled in the interests of the oppressed. The latter view invariably translates into collaboration with the existing state, and thus with the class interests that it serves.

Let us then compare a Marxist understanding of the state with that of the advocates of “left narratives”. Mouffe and the other “left narrators” understand the state in the following terms:

“[...] a crystallization of the relations of forces and as a terrain of struggle. […] Envisaged as a surface for agonistic interventions, these public spaces can provide the terrain for important democratic advances. This is why a hegemonic strategy should engage with the diverse state apparatuses in order to transform them, so as to make the state a vehicle for the expression of the manifold democratic demands. […] In a certain sense, both the revolutionary type of politics and the hegemonic one can be called ‘radical’ as they imply a form of rupture with the existing hegemonic order. However, this rupture is not of the same nature and it is inappropriate to put them in the same category, labelled ‘extreme left’, as is often the case. Contrary to what is often claimed, the left populist strategy is not an avatar of the ‘extreme left’ but a different way of envisaging the rupture with neoliberalism through the recovery and radicalization of democracy.”[14]

As we can see, Mouffe is very clear in differentiating between a “revolutionary” approach and her own approach, which she calls “hegemonic”. For her, the state is a network of institutions and “functions” that do not correspond to a common interest. There is room therefore for left populism to influence, transform and shift them around.

For Marxists, on the contrary, the state is not a neutral terrain of struggle but an instrument of the ruling class that needs to be smashed and substituted by a workers’ state. Having suppressed the old, capitalist order and cleared the ground for a classless, communist society, this workers’ state will wither away as the classes in society also disappear. This viewpoint is ridiculed as being “too simplistic” by postmodern theoreticians such as Mouffe. But by analysing the historical emergence of the state, and the purpose that states developed to serve, we can say with absolute confidence that this definition grasps the essence of what the state is.

Marx and Engels explained how the state appeared historically with the rise of class society. Class society arose as humanity developed the productive forces necessary to produce more than they needed for immediate survival. For the first time in history a small layer of society did not have to labour in the same manner as before. But production was not advanced enough for all of society to enjoy this privilege. This created the conditions for social classes. There emerged ruling classes that own the means of production, and oppressed classes that are exploited and produce the wealth the ruling class appropriates.

These antagonistic class interests, however, need to be managed. The oppressed must be made to believe that the current order of things is untouchable and any who dare to question it must be punished. At the same time, the oppressors themselves must be prevented from consuming themselves through perpetual war with one another. The state was born precisely for that purpose. Engels explained:

“But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, shall not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, a power, apparently standing above society, has become necessary to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society, but placing itself above it and increasingly alienating itself from it, is the state.”[15]

In the last instance, the state is therefore an oppressive organ consisting of special bodies of armed men (the military and police), prisons, courts and so on, that appears to stand above society but which fundamentally defends the economic system that gave birth to it. With the rise of the bourgeoisie as the dominant class, and capitalism as the dominant mode of production on a world scale, the bourgeoisie also created its own state.

The “liberal democracy” Mouffe defends is the product of revolutions that were carried out in the interest of the bourgeoisie itself. To believe, as she and the other “left narrators” do, that this form of state is the ultimate, best and last institution there will ever be, and that it therefore must not be touched, is to adopt a completely ahistorical view. It also means defending the instrument of the current ruling class: the capitalists.

Of course, the fact that the state is an oppressive instrument of the ruling class is not always clearly visible. Its true character is consciously shrouded by the capitalists. It would be impossible, not to mention inefficient, for the capitalists to rule by force and repression alone. The oppressed are the majority in society. Were the majority of the oppressed to understand this fact, capitalist society would be staring its overthrow in the face.

In normal times, to the extent they can afford to do so, the ruling class tries to keep up a show of fairness, of “equality of opportunity”, etc. The capitalists therefore generally prefer states that have free elections, that guarantee some freedom of the press, several political parties and so on. Such states also allow certain room for manoeuvre. But under no circumstances will the ruling class allow their fundamental role as the owners of the means of production to be challenged. The state is there precisely to uphold this role.

It is no wonder that literally the only right enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is not constantly disregarded and broken, but rather carefully protected with the full force of the law, is Article 17: “everyone has the right to own property” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” In the last instance, this is precisely the purpose of the state, its laws and the whole justice system. This is also why Marxists explain that the bourgeois state must be smashed through revolution. It is fundamentally linked to the bourgeoisie and its rule as a class.

From a Marxist point of view, we recognise democracy as a political regime – a political superstructure, that raises itself upon the capitalist system. Capitalism produces different kinds of regimes: bourgeois-democratic ones as well as dictatorships. However, they are all varieties of capitalist states, connected through a thousand threads to the bourgeoisie. It was for good reason that Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”[16]

Of course, the form of a regime – how the state apparatus concretely manifests itself – certainly shapes the extent of our freedoms and the rights that people have. This is why the struggle for democratic demands such as ‘one head, one vote’ have played such an important role in the history of the revolutionary movement. Marxists consistently advance and support democratic demands, which can mobilise the vast majority of society against the ruling class and forge the unity of the oppressed and the exploited, thus facilitating the best conditions for the development of the class struggle.

And Marxists do not disregard or ignore democratic elections. They can serve as an important indicator of the mood in society, and participation in them can be used as a means in the class struggle. But the core contradictions of capitalism – the exploitation of the working class by the capitalists; the constant crises and wars – continue to exist under every kind of bourgeois regime, however democratic. This is precisely why “liberty and equality for all” cannot be implemented within capitalism.

For revolutionaries, elections and parliamentary representation can be used to present revolutionary political ideas to a mass audience. They can also be used to expose the hypocrisy of the capitalist class and its institutions. For example, should revolutionaries in parliament demand that true equality and social justice be established by expropriating big industry and banks – that is, by challenging the capitalists’ ownership over the means of production – the whole establishment would be used to counter this demand.

If necessary – as we will show below – they will disregard “democracy” and majorities in parliament, and forget all their past talk about ‘freedom’, in order to save capitalism. Should revolutionaries simply stop there, throwing their hands up and saying, “oh well, there is nothing we can do about it, we just haven’t won the hegemonic battle within the state yet,” they wouldn’t be revolutionaries at all. They would be reformists. But this is exactly what the “left narrators” suggest. By accepting the limit of the economic system (capitalism) and its political superstructure (bourgeois democracy), they cannot go further than this.

Revolutionaries, on the other hand, see the activity of the masses as the key element in surpassing these limits and changing society. Parliaments and elections are but one useful element in strengthening and fostering their activity. Lenin pointed out that “many, if not all, revolutions,” show the great utility of, “a combination of mass action outside a reactionary parliament with an opposition sympathetic to (or, better still, directly supporting) the revolution within it.” At the same time, he explains: “[Action] by the masses, a big strike, for instance, is more important than parliamentary activity at all times, and not only during a revolution or in a revolutionary situation.”[17]

The approach of Marxists to the state can thus be summed up in the following way: it is an oppressive instrument of the ruling class. It must be abolished and replaced by a workers’ state. After a successful socialist revolution, eventually all forms of state will disappear, together with classes. But this doesn’t mean that we deem democratic rights and freedoms here and now to be unnecessary. On the contrary, we fight for these freedoms and utilise them. But at the same time, we do not sow any illusions that democracy can solve the fundamental cause of oppression, poverty and inequality. This can only be done by abolishing capitalism.

The theoreticians of the “left narrative” decidedly reject the Marxist theory of the state and focus their main arguments instead on the question of democracy. According to them: “it is clear that there is no necessary relationship between capitalism and liberal democracy. It is unfortunate that Marxism has contributed to this confusion by presenting liberal democracy as the superstructure of capitalism.”[18]

The “unfortunate confusion” lies, in fact, entirely with these philosophers of language. To them, states are only “discursive” constructs – institutions that can be changed by “new narratives”. The state, they say, is a “terrain of struggle”. And in order to ‘re-articulate’ this presumably neutral, class-independent ‘terrain’, one has to become a part of it. “The objective is not the seizure of state power,” they tell us, “but one of ‘becoming’ [the] state.”[19]

It is once more apparent why this theory is so popular with reformists. Becoming part of the state apparatus – preferably with as little interference from the masses as possible – is the raison d’être of the reformists. In the “terrain of struggle” represented by the state apparatus, the goal becomes one of forming a partnership on equal terms with the capitalists in order to come to an agreement concerning improvements for the voters.

Max Lercher describes this in the following way: “The Social Democracy must show capital its place and tame the markets. […] I have a social welfare state in mind which distributes prosperity in a fair way and leaves some room for manoeuvre.”

But beware! In confrontation with the class enemy (a term they wouldn’t use) it is important “that conflict when it arises does not take the form of an ‘antagonism’ (struggle between enemies),” instead, “the opponent is not considered an enemy to be destroyed but an adversary whose existence is perceived as legitimate.”[20]

This is just “social partnership”, and balancing between class interests, translated into academic language. If it were possible to gain constant reforms and improvements by way of “patient, peaceful work on a new paradigm” (c.f. Fritzsche), the majority of the working class certainly wouldn’t have anything against it.

However, the problem is that capitalism – because of its own contradictions – is repeatedly thrown into crises. Brutal austerity by the “evil” neoliberals doesn’t spring from a sudden urge on their part to inflict human suffering. It is the result of the pressures of the capitalist system, in which an increase of profits (and this is, after all, the sole purpose of capitalists) is only made possible by harsher and more intensified attacks on the working class.

It is not, as Herr puts it, that Social Democracy has suddenly “lost confidence” since the 1970s. Reformism has run into the objective limits of capitalism. Today, there simply is no more room for lasting, meaningful reforms within capitalism.

The responsibility of the leadership

The Greek masses have already lived to see the painful reality of the limits of reformism. In response to the crisis that hit the country particularly hard after 2012, the masses engaged in fierce struggles over many years. First, there were massive sit-ins in public squares. Then the working class threw itself into the struggle and led numerous strikes and general strikes.

Greek Referendum Demonstration for NO Image Ggia Wikimedia CommonsSYRIZA openly betrayed the results of the July 2015 referendum vote that overwhelmingly rejected the terms imposed by the Troika for a bailout / Image: Ggia, Wikimedia Commons

When all of this failed to yield results (not least because of the obstructive role of the trade union leadership), the Greek masses expressed their anger through the polls by voting for the left party, SYRIZA, standing on an anti-austerity programme.

Within a short period of time, however, SYRIZA’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, subordinated the country to the dictatorship of EU and IMF-imposed austerity. This was an open betrayal of the July 2015 referendum vote that overwhelmingly rejected the terms imposed by the Troika for a bailout, with 61 percent voting ‘No’. This meant the destruction of living standards for the masses. Against the will of the Greek people, capitalism and its faithful representatives in the EU pushed their agenda through.

What do the “left populists” have to say about this defeat?

“The struggle of SYRIZA was lost because only a resistance of significant proportions in the core countries of the Eurozone could have leveraged the ideas of SYRIZA. Only in this way, could they have achieved a breakthrough and transformed the economic and political crisis of Greece into a crisis of the whole EU.”[21]

And: “Unfortunately, SYRIZA has not been able to implement its anti-austerity programme because of the brutal response of the European Union that reacted with a ‘financial coup’ and forced the party to accept the diktats of the Troika.”[22]

The “brutal response” of the EU was not a surprise at all. Yet Tsipras still spent months meeting the pope and important heads of European governments to ‘discursively’ win them to his side. When he failed to ‘convince’ them, he proceeded to capitulate to the Troika, betraying the expectations of the vast majority of the Greek people that were mobilising in support of SYRIZA’s anti-austerity programme. The Greek comrades of the IMT, who were part of SYRIZA’s central committee at that time, wrote the following immediately following the elections:

“No illusions in negotiating with European capital and its institutions! Our opponents are the capitalist interests, local and foreign, that are hiding behind the troika and not their technocrat employees. Our only true ally is the European working class! SYRIZA must call now for a Europe-wide programme of mass action to make Europe a vast ‘Puerta del Sol’! [A reference to the indignados movement that erupted across Spain in 2011-12]”[23]

They suggested a whole number of measures for Greece, such as the cancellation of the state debt and the nationalisation of the banks – measures that struck at the heart of the matter: break with capitalism or submit to the will of the Troika.

The claim that all kinds of “unfortunate” factors are to blame for the defeat of SYRIZA – everything apart from the leadership of the party itself, in fact – is typical of reformism. In critical political situations, the role of leadership is decisive. Leaders have the ear of the masses and the authority to propose and organise the correct next steps. After the defeat of a mass movement, it is of vital importance to study the role of the leadership closely. Did they have the right ideas? Why did they not dare to take the necessary steps? If we ignore these questions, we serve to cover up for bad leaders and disguise the role they played in the defeat. The result is to throw blame on the fighting masses themselves for the defeats.

Fritzsche, for example, has the following to say about the failures not only of the yellow vests movement in France, and the ‘Occupy’ movement, but even of the Arab Spring:

“[They failed] because potentially interested people thought them too academic, or because they thought [their] tents were nice and cute, but that capitalism was somehow better. Because the occupants of the squares gave up in order to get back to their jobs, or because they occupied places where they disturbed no-one. And in the end also, because if they were disruptive, the police and the military nudged them from the squares, beat them and imprisoned them.”[24]

This is pure cynicism. The masses in countries such as Egypt or Tunisia literally risked their lives, overcame sectarian divisions and were willing to give it all to achieve freedom. Let us also note that the yellow vest movement not only achieved its initial goal of defeating Macron’s regressive fuel tax hike, but the workers and youth involved learned more through the movement about the role of the state and bourgeois “democracy” than they could glean from all the books on “left narratives” put together. Friztsche’s line of argument is extremely convenient for politicians who don’t want to confront the capitalists. It is very soothing for those who wish to explain away their own traitorous inaction and hesitation by blaming the ‘lack of hegemony in society.’

Revolutionary practice

The concept of a left narrative is a good example of the connection between philosophical ideas and political practice. The seemingly radical “narrative” of the figures discussed here is actually a cover for reformist politics that pose no threat whatsoever to capitalism. As this concept assumes that there is no reality outside of storytelling, the “left narrative” leads to a lot of talking, and nothing else.

The proponents of a new “left narrative” want to “talk about” the problems of the exploited and oppressed, and bring in the votes for reformist parties, but they deliver few concrete suggestions or demands. What few demands they do raise are limited to exclusively democratic questions, or constitute little more than pious hopes for a social welfare state. Such demands are not necessarily wrong in themselves, but they place no emphasis on the necessity of class struggle against the capitalists to achieve them. When these tamely worded demands are then shattered in the face of real opposition by the ruling class – as we saw so clearly with SYRIZA – the responsibility is loaded onto the shoulders of the masses; or else, the ‘hegemony of neoliberalism’ is blamed for the result.

Whether the defenders of the “left narrative” consciously promote the philosophical premises of their theory (as Mouffe does), or whether they unconsciously pick up this concept as useful to justify their own (in)actions, is irrelevant. The task of revolutionaries is to uncover such ideas and the practice that flows from them, and counterpose real solutions to the misery of capitalism. This is the reason why Marxists place so much importance on philosophical questions.

In the last instance, ideas are an expression of the class interests in society and a guide to action. We must ask: do certain ideas help the ruling class, do they throw dust into the eyes of workers and left activists? Or do they help us to change society?

Let us confront reality with our eyes open. Let us fight for a world without exploitation and oppression – for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.


[1] Jörg Schindler, “Warum der Klimawandel ein linkes Thema ist”, Die Linke, July 9, 2019.

[2] Katja Kipping & Bernd Riexinger, “Wir brauchen einen linken Populismus,” interview by Ingo Stützle & Jan Ole Arps, Analyse & Kritik, September 21, 2012.

[3] Chantal Mouffe, For a Left Populism, (London & New York: Verso, 2018), pg 12.

[4] Ibid., pg 35.

[5] Ibid., pg 13. 

[6] Julia Fritzsche, Tiefrot und Radikal Bunt: Für eine neue linke Erzählung, (Hamburg: Edition Nautilus, 2019), pg 20.

[7] Mouffe, For a Left Populism, pg 49.

[8] Fritzsche, Tiefrot und Radikal Bunt, pg 177-8.

[9] Mouffe, For a Left Populism, pg 9.

[10] Ibid., pg 49.

[11] Max Lercher, “Wir müssen ein System zerschlagen,” interview by Florian Gasser, Zeit, October 10, 2019.

[12] Julia Herr & Josef Cap, “Julia Herr und Josef Cap über die Defizite der Sozialdemokratie,” interview by Rosemarie Schwaiger, Profil, September 25, 2019.

[13] Mouffe, For a Left Populism, pg 27.

[14] Ibid., pg 30-1.

[15] Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, (London: Wellred Books, 2020).

[16] Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” in The Classics of Marxism: Volume One, (London: Wellred Books, 2013), pg 5.

[17] Vladimir Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism: an Infantile Disorder” in The Classics of Marxism: Volume Two, (London: Wellred Books, 2015).

[18] Mouffe, For a Left Populism, pg 31.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., pg 51.

[21] Thomas Seibert, “Erste Notizen zum Plan A einer neuen Linken (nicht nur) in Deutschland,” Marxistische Linke, December 8, 2015.

[22] Mouffe, For a Left Populism, pg 17.

[23] Communist Tendency of Syriza, “The ruling class is terrified of ‘the virus’ of SYRIZA - Time to move forward!,” In Defence of Marxism, February 9, 2015.

[24] Fritzsche, Tiefrot und Radikal Bunt, pg 25.