Who wants a world without conflict?
The other day I picked up a book at the place where I sometimes work: Global Profit and Global Justice: Using Your Money to Change the World. It's about socially responsible investing and using your consumer power to change the world. It's the kind of thing I run into and hear a lot of among professional progressives. People who want to use the power of the market to achieve social goals; who want to move past the "old style" of politics; who don't see terms like "left" and "right" as all that relevant anymore, but want to look at different dimensions of difference and political self-definition, like open vs. closed, pragmatic vs. ideological, and so on.
I don't mind valorizing openness, while recognizing that closed methods of organization still have their uses; nor do I disparage people trying to use their money as ethically as possible; I recognize that ideology can be blinkered, but also believe there is no politics that is not ideological. Still, I get annoyed by the persistence of the "post-wing" lexicon that emerged with the pro-market "third way" in the 1990s, whose ideological edifice has come crashing down with the financial crisis and looming depression. Defining yourself as post-wing is classic liberalism, and an expression of privilege; it's a rhetorical ploy to hide which side you're on. You can only pretend that fundamental economic conflict over who has the right to the wealth workers create has become irrelevant if you're comfortable and not being grossly exploited. If you work at minimum wage or in a sweatshop or on a plantation, you're not going to think economic power, economic conflict, or exploitation are no longer relevant. The idea that solutions to the plight of such people will come from far-off enlightened consumers and investors using their money to advance social goals determined by them, and not the supposed beneficiaries, is decadent, arrogant, and patronizing. It's just a disguised form of benevolent dictatorship. Real freedom has always been taken, not given, and must be claimed by those who lack it. The tools to claim this freedom remain pretty resilient: consciousness-raising, organization, and resistance.
Social conflict isn't a choice, it's a fact. Even bourgeois papers like the Financial Times don't pretend that conflict over who has the right to the national wage has disappeared. Rather, they talk in stark political terms about who has leverage and structural power. Racism is conflict; heteropatriachy is conflict; colonialism is conflict; and capitalism is conflict. Those who want to "move past" conflict or wish it would stop bothering them are usually the beneficiaries of social conflict, however liberal and tolerant they may feel they are. Now that we are facing a grave economic and political crisis, they don't have much to say about what we should do: such discussions require a discussion of distribution and power. Nor does their fence-sitting do much for people like the Palestinians being slaughtered by Israel in Gaza. These conflicts can't be resolved through collaborative processes and technologies. They can only be resolved through struggles for justice. And that requires those who have privilege to use their privilege to act in solidarity. When my rights are threatened, I don't want post-wing collaborative fence-sitters standing beside me. I want people who know which side they are on.
Edited to add:
To be fair to the book I mentioned, I wasn't really writing about it, since I haven't read it. The cover, particularly the back cover, which claims we are better off trying to shape "the economy" (=capitalism) instead of fighting it, triggered a rant about the dream that we can simply bypass conflict and collaborate or innovate our way to social change. In very limited cases, perhaps so. As I said in my rant, I don't mean to wholly dismiss "collaborative" approaches in the NGO world, which I am a practicioner of. They teach us skills and play a role in how we relate to each other, especially at a local level, but they don't overcome fundamental social conflict. Thinking they do is just a mistake like Fukuyama's idea that history ended in 1989 - the year of the Caracazo in Venezuela and the Tiananmen Square massacre, among other things. Given that history and conflict haven't ended, it still makes sense to ask: which side are you on?