MLK, Democratic Socialism, and Mold

Every January finds the United States celebrating the life and work of one of the most influential and important activists and civil rights campaigners in world history, Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day also brings a less savory American tradition to mind: the twisting of historical figures into a role of support for any and every ideological bent. Everyone from the far right to the far left will use MLK Day to paint King in their own image and more importantly, they will use his legacy to justify and legitimize their stance and work. Many people before me have taken the right wing to task for misappropriating Dr. King’s legacy, but few people outside of right wing think tanks ever do the same for the American Left. And that’s exactly what I’d like to do.

This taking-to-task of the Left for hijacking MLK’s legacy isn’t sectarian in nature – I don’t want to call anyone out for some perceived ideological impurity (I’ve criticized this kind of thing before). I think that it’s important how the Left thinks of itself and I think that it’s even more important how we display ourselves to the people who’d we’d like to organize. Scoring debate points is pointless, but creating a fertile ground for revolution to grow in isn’t – it’s the greatest work we could possibly engage in.

Much has been made of King’s “And maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism” quote and few groups have gotten more mileage out of it than the Democratic Socialists of America. DSA uses that quote on statements (like this one) all of the time, MLK Day or not. So, what’s the big deal about this and why should anyone care?

DSA was founded by Michael Harrington, a famous democratic socialist (read social democrat in the European sense) who wrote the well-known book, The Other America, among many others. Harrington, who DSA reveres greatly and who is included on the above statement, was famously and viciously anti-communist, both foreign and domestic, and occupied a political position that amounted to barely tacit support of the Vietnam War and by extension, the role of American imperialism in shaping the futures of developing countries.

Harrington’s position on communism and the Vietnam War is completely at odds with King’s staunchly anti-Vietnam War and anti-imperialist views. In the famous “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King expresses explicit solidarity with the people of Vietnam against the US-backed South Vietnamese puppet-dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem and the coup-prone government he helped to found. In this speech, King said “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.”’ Around the same time, Harrington declared, “I am anti-communist on principle because I am pro-freedom.” King’s statements in solidarity with the Vietnamese peoples’ struggle express a kind of internationalist anti-imperialism while Harrington’s quote could have easily come from a speech by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

So again, what’s the point of this? On the surface, it could seem like I’m trying to score the kind of petty sectarian points I decried earlier, but that’s not at all what I want to do here. I think that this kind of information is important and highly relevant to the current US Left because we often try to position ourselves to the public with references to famous American figures from the past. We say things like, “Did you know that MLK was a socialist?” to take the scariness out of the word “socialism.” Putting aside the fact that it’s a bit of a stretch to call King a socialist, we don’t need to bring in a beloved historical figure to shine a better light on what we believe. We (hopefully) don’t believe in what we do because some good guy from the past said it was OK. We (hopefully) believe in what we do because it’s right. That’s it. Don’t justify it any further than that. A need for justification is a sign of a weak position. Don’t apologize for anti-capitalism – be proud of it.

In addition to the problematic politics of justification and apologia, the American Left needs to grow up and face the mistakes of the past and move beyond them. Harrington and the Left that he led was anti-communist (a bad and ahistorical position) and backed militarism and imperialism because it furthered their anti-communist orthodoxy. This is a huge problem that even Harrington’s defenders recognize, though they pile praise on top of the criticism so it isn’t very visible. Harrington was just as much of a red-baiter as any conservative think tank was or is and he also famously believed that our only hope was to “save” the liberals by kowtowing to the Democratic Party and corrupt union leaders, a curiously religious viewpoint. Tying Harrington’s politics to those of Dr. King, as the above linked DSA statement explicitly does, doesn’t redeem him or cancel out his mistake.

We don’t need to cast all politically problematic figures into the flames of oblivion, but we do need to face them and honestly assess what they’ve done. If Harrington’s defenders are right and we can learn something from what they see as Harrington’s positive example, then we can also learn from his copious negative examples as well. Michael Harrington was wrong about a lot of things and clinging to his disproven politics does nothing but furthers the original mistakes. And trying to polish those mistakes with Dr. King’s legacy doesn’t do anyone any good.

Michael Harrington, the patron saint of democratic socialism, and Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t agree and MLK Day is as good a time as any to point that out. MLK Day is also a good time for the US Left to tackle its mistakes and try to learn something from them. In general, I don’t like writing in analogies, but I currently have a perfect one taken from some hard-earned home improvement advice my landlord didn’t take form me. If you have mold in your walls, you can’t just put a fresh coat of paint on and expect that to fix it. Rather, you have to tear out all the infected material and replace it with something new.

This mold-in-the-wall situation is directly analogous to what we’ve been discussing here. We can’t put a fresh coat of paint on American social democracy (or democratic socialism as they like to call it).We need to dig into our collective past and tear out the old mistakes and replace them with a new political consciousness. We should never forget the old problems and we don’t need to tear down the whole house. But, before we’re all covered in black mold, let’s take care of the problem the right way – without vindictiveness but also without flinching from the necessary either.

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Towards A Gay Communism!!!!!!

gay communismBeware, straight capitalists. Red hordes of well-muscled youths with perfect hair are coming for you, your children, and your means of production. We couldn’t have full communism without it.

Many thanks to the comrades at Socialist Meme Caucus for this.

What Amiri Baraka thought of social democracy and democratic socialism


I wanted to wait a few days before I posted this great Amiri Baraka quote since so many were circulating in the days after his death. This is from a larger interview where Baraka says a lot of other things that the Left needs to hear.

“Lenin said we don’t measure people’s struggle against imperialism by their formal commitment to democracy, but by the effect they have in beating imperialism. If you’re talking about Lenin, don’t talk to me about no left. That’s the problem: You have people who masquerade under some form of social democracy, pretending they’re on the left, but really just dribbling the ball inside regular capitalist America.”

I don’t need to add anything else.

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Insert angry mob with pitchforks here

Where’s the anger? Seriously, where is it? There’s plenty to be angry about and the latest news about the finances of members of congress is just one example. According to a new Center For Responsive Politics report, the majority of members of congress are millionaires. Let’s all now join together and wag our collective fingers while we clutch our collective pearls. Oh, and let’s issue some carefully worded statements and moralizing info graphics.

So, what do we have instead of real revolutionary anger? We have ironic and humorous references to past acts of revolutionary anger, like Jacobin Magazine’s stylish and sarcastic obsession with guillotines. We have petty moralizing about how bad, bad, bad Republicans are. Last but not least, we have the high-handed mocking of conservatives as morons. That’s a pretty poor showing since we have brutal war, shocking economic inequality, austerity programs, racism, sexism, imperialism, and vast environmental destruction to lay at the feet of the Right and capitalism.

Is it possible that what we need are angry mobs outside of the houses of people like Michael Bloomberg? What about the members of congress who are deep in the pockets of the FIRE sector? Why not show them how angry we are? I would argue that what we need is something frightening – a mob of angry proletarians defying the cops to riot in the neighborhoods and gated communities of the rich. It’s all well and good for leftists and liberals to say things like “eat the rich” on Facebook, but it’s another thing entirely to make the rich actually afraid of us. Carefully researched and meticulously written journal articles don’t cause the mighty to tremble or catch the attention of the masses, but riots do.

And why shouldn’t they be afraid of us? If we can burn cop cars after a sports team wins or loses, why can’t we put the torch to the property of some billionaire who got rich riding on the back of the working class? We’ve tried moralizing and sarcasm and they haven’t got us very far. We’ve also tried the “this reform will usher in other, more radical ones” strategy exclusively for decades and that didn’t do so well, either. So, let’s have a few riots, take some bosses hostage, and burn some mansions.

We have to have the analysis and theory as well or all of that revolutionary burning and smashing counts for nothing. While people smash things, the leftist intellectuals can actually prove useful for once and fill the media with polemics in support of the movement. The academic left can use its access to print, internet, and television media outlets to provide the theory and analysis that makes revolutionary actions necessary.

Does this sound crazy to you? Does this sound like the raving of some marginal nutcase? Well, what sounds more crazy: taking to the streets because the system is rigged against us or playing the same game by the same rules even though we haven’t won anything major in an entire generation? The latter fits nicely with Einstein’s definition of insanity. I don’t pretend to have anything like a answer, but I am willing to take different and more direct steps since what we have been doing isn’t really achieving anything. Have a different idea? Great! Make a solid argument that differs from our old, failed strategy and I and many others will listen closely. Until then, I’ll stock up on torches and pitchforks.

Jesus famously told his followers to take up their crosses and follow him, but I can think of a better implement to carry around. Pick up your guillotines and follow the trail of money.

Kidnap the boss. And burn down the building, too.

A few days ago, workers at a French Goodyear plant took their bosses hostage because they were going to shut the factory down and lay off all the employees. And this isn’t the first time that French workers bypassed useless government labor bureaucracy and kidnapped a boss or two. What’s more, about 50% of French workers approved of actions like this. When you add all the factories that angry and exploited Bangladeshi garment workers have burned down, we have a trend on our hands.

I’ve talked about the importance of revolution for the Left before, but I don’t think most people really understand all of the different things that revolution can mean. I think that when most people hear revolution, they think of guerrilla warfare and civil war. They think of a rebel army that is out-maned and out-gunned by a large state military. But more than anything else, they probably think of mass graves, protracted conflict, and destroyed cities. This is a really limited view of what revolution can be. I’m in complete solidarity with comrades who take up arms to defend themselves and their livelihoods (Nepali Maoists, for example), but that’s not the alpha and omega of revolutionary struggle.

Revolution is about the working class bypassing the bourgeois state that is designed explicitly for repression and taking direct action on the bosses. Striking is a revolutionary act. Protesting police violence is a revolutionary act. And kidnapping a boss and burning down their capital is a fucking revolutionary act. If we can take Frederick Douglass at his word and assume that power won’t concede anything without a demand, we can also assume that power won’t concede anything that’s really important unless they’re afraid of us. Signing a petition is an effort at self-congratulation, but burning down a factory is an effort to remind the bosses where their wealth and power actually originate from.

The American Left is spending a lot of time now debating what we can actually do and that’s an important discussion to have, but there’s a missing element in it. Violence shouldn’t be a taboo subject. It’s been useful to American workers before and it will be again. For example, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t just motivated to sign the New Deal because of peaceful protests and altruism; he was afraid of a Soviet-style revolution in the US. If it took immense worker struggle and street violence to get the New Deal, how can we realistically expect to overthrow capitalism with some Gandhi-esque antics? We aren’t going to shame the bosses into giving over control and we aren’t going to debate, protest, write, or vote them out of power, either.

I’m not going to say that I know something everyone else doesn’t and I’m not going to pretend that I have some kind of special insight (I don’t), but if we really look hard at what’s going on, how can we expect change without some kind of violence? I’m not deluding myself that some kind of rebel army is going to form and have a tank battle on the White House lawn, but that doesn’t preclude violent action of some kind. There is a reason why capitalist governments like the United States fetishize peaceful protest and Gandhi tactics – they rely on what amounts to a giant guilt trip totally lacking in teeth. And don’t try to fool yourself. If we ever did manage to organize a real general strike or something similar, we would have to fight to keep it.

We’ve tried this peaceful protest, use the ballot box idea since the 60s and it hasn’t really got us that much. Is it time to try something different? That seems logical to me. Besides, I like the idea of a group of janitors and maintenance people holding Jamie Dimon hostage while they burn down a few of his banks.

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Hey guys, that’s not socialism

plowI’m guessing that if you have any kind of presence on social media, you’ve seen this over the last few days. The people (leftists and liberals) posting this are trying to tie a government response to dangerous weather with socialism in an attempt to troll red-baiting right wingers. The joke – and yeah, I know it’s a joke – rests on the idea that libertarians and other right wingers say that every function of government is essentially socialism. Yeah…there are some issues with that.

First, let me say that I’m not trolling or calling anyone out. I’m just taking this opportunity to address an issue that is always around, though seldom mentioned.

Not everything a government does – including the functions of a welfare state – is a kind of socialism. Tea partiers and ultra-orthodox libertarians are a small minority within the Right and they are the only ones who call for an end to basic government functions, like snow plowing. The vast and powerful corporate wing of the Democratic Party (which is about 99% of it) is completely fine with some government action for the public good. Capitalism is often just fine with government services which often include generous benefits from advanced welfare states. In fact, even far right (and fascist) governments sometimes supply their citizens with government services. Just look at the ultra-right parties of Northern Europe.

If I was just trying to derail a joke, I would be the king of all dour, boring, trollish leftists, of which there are way to many. But that’s not what I’m trying to do.

Socialism (or more specifically in my case, communism) is about the people controlling the means of production, including capital, resources, infrastructure, and the state and its functions. Socialism is not some kind of “progressive” version of the Nordic Model and it certainly isn’t the simple functions of a state to maintain order. Socialism is anti-capitalism and more than that, it is an ALTERNATIVE to capitalism that completely destroys the vestiges of the neoliberal state.

So, why is this important and how am I not just being a killjoy?

Our sights are so lowered by capitalist hegemony that we can’t even effectively dream of real socialism. We can’t even effectively joke about it. This is because most of the self-proclaimed leftists in the US don’t really know what socialism is anymore. Most leftists on the non-revolutionary left simply equate socialism with some kind of Bernie Sanders-led welfare state akin to Sweden. That’s still capitalism in which the workers are still a version of Gramsci’s subaltern. Social democracy is still capitalism and it fails over time, as the European crisis proves. That’s one of the main take home points, here.

The other take home point is this: this is not a call for factionalism but is rather a call for real, honest, and simple radical education. We don’t need to call our comrades out and we don’t need to start yet another flame war. What we really need is to think long and hard about who we are, who we want to be, and how we get there. The part of the Left that has eschewed revolutionary thought for social democracy doesn’t need to be chastised because ideological chastisement is reactionary and pointless. What the social democratic left needs is to to be engaged by the revolutionary left. We need to talk. We need to organize together. The revolutionary left must not lose its militancy, but we can share it and grow it in others. The revolutionary eye needs to be primarily on the street and among the working class, but we cannot afford to ignore the more right-leaning socialists. The old organizations (from one of which the above image was taken) cannot be reformed, but the people in them can be.

Let’s not argue, let’s not rant, let’s not troll, but let’s not be deluded, either. We need real, honest, and simple radical education. The working class needs it and so does most of the Left. So, let’s act like comrades and talk. Don’t squabble and name call like children. Let’s talk and organize each other and the proletariat, too. After all, it’s better than shit talking on Facebook.

Just as a little post script, there are places where these kinds of interactions can be facilitated, like the Brecht Forum in New York. There might be one in your city too, if you look. And if there isn’t, organize one. Now, let’s think about what we’re doing and talk to each other like grown ups.

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The New Years Resolutions of a Communist

For the most part, I don’t indulge in New Years resolutions. Other than constantly writing “2013″ on stuff at work, the beginning of a new year doesn’t really affect me much. This one is a bit different because it happens to fall right in the middle of a complicated time for me. The whole way I think about the Left, politics, theory, praxis, and my role in each has changed dramatically in the last 6 months or so. I feel like my past role and posture as a leftist were both unproductive and pretty irritating to the people around me. As such, I have a few politically-minded resolutions that might resonate with a few other people, too.

#1 Don’t be an asshole. I need to always remember that everyone isn’t dying to hear what I have to say. My critiques are not always welcome, relevant, or vital to a conversation. Aggressively denouncing someone or something isn’t always a worthwhile task.

#2 Don’t argue and rant. The Left kind of fetishizes ranting a bit and I definitely received plenty of encouragement, but ranting is pointless and annoying. Talking is good. Conversations are good. Rants are what a self-obsessed person does when they crave validation. If I can’t channel a rant into something worth the time like a real conversation or article, then it’s a pointless endeavor.

#3 Don’t troll. The Left also tends to fetishize trolling. We troll the Right. We troll the parts of leftism we don’t like. We troll our comrades because one side’s perspective on what a long dead European communist might or might not have said is different. This kind of trolling creates arguments that create other arguments and so one. This isn’t fun or productive and makes all real people wary of the Left. So, I should stop doing it completely.

#4 Don’t live on social media. The Left in the US is in a bad spot right now and that means that there aren’t many real spaces where we can act. As such, we tend to congregate on Facebook and Twitter and then engage in all of the above behaviors. This is pretty dumb and it annoys the shit right out of everyone you know. It does. Ask them. Instead of doing this, I wan to write instead. I want to really explore ideas in a rigorous way and then put them out for people to see. Social media isn’t bad, but there’s more to life, right? I think I should prioritize situations in which I can actually talk to people about things that matter. Arguing on social media never helped or changed anything.

#5 Don’t allow politics to take over my life. This is the most important one. There are other important things in life. My relationship with my partner, my family, and friends should all come first. This doesn’t mean that my politics and general philosophy won’t be a part of that because it does affect my whole outlook, but I don’t want to be that dude at the party who’s talking about Marxist theory or ranting about some article I didn’t like. Ugh, everyone hates those guys. There are great novels to read and movies to see. Parties, museums, parks, blah blah blah.

The US Left is full of people who do these things and act like bitter, myopic, self-obsessed weirdos. I was one of those people for a long time, but I don’t want to be one anymore. Maybe if I stop all that nonsense, I can find a real and practical outlet for my energy. And maybe I can be a better and less annoying partner, friend, etc. After all guys, for all the jokes we make about full communism, shouldn’t not being insufferable to be around be top of the list?

I really want it to be at the top of mine from here on out.


What To Do?

Last week, I wrote an article on the pointless nature of internet political debates and it received ten times more attention than anything else I’ve ever written. I’m guessing this is because I hit on something that a lot of other people have been thinking about. Maybe people on the American left are tired of just clicking “like” and furiously commenting and would rather do something concrete and useful. Aside from irritating some people, the article gained a few “So, what are we actually supposed to do?” responses.

So, what the hell are we actually supposed to do? That’s a really hard question that I don’t think anyone really has the answer to it. The United States is the most neoliberal, capitalist country in the world and the hegemony of the market in the minds of Americans is almost complete. I have no solid idea what anyone is supposed to do about that and even thinking about it fills me with a certain kind of hopeless anxiety. I do know one thing that I am absolutely convinced of, however: what we’ve been doing doesn’t work at all and if we keep doing it, things will just get worse.

This isn’t dressed up language designed for journal publication, this is just regular talk. We’re doing stupid shit and I think it would be a good idea if we did something else instead.

Like what? Well, everyone knows that inequality is growing at ridiculous rates. There are movements against this as there always are and the fast food strikes are a prime example of this. There are poor, exploited workers trying to take control of their work conditions and essentially of their own labor. Why on earth don’t we see anti-capitalist signs held by comrades at every strike? Why aren’t all the socialists and communists and anarchists out there, holding the line in solidarity, and engaging the strikers with our message? The pitiful AFL-CIO is out there, why can’t we be? I know that some leftists have been present, but it hasn’t been a large presence and we all know it.

Socialism is supposed to rest on the idea that the working class is the revolutionary class, but we don’t often go where workers actually are. We’ll hold us a shit load of meetings on college campuses and organize a ton of talks at bookstores, but wouldn’t standing next to an exploited fast food worker on a cold, early morning picket line be a better use of time? College kids and grad students certainly need organized, but if we don’t have the actual working class, what good are we?

When there’s an anti-drone protest, why isn’t the Left there to tell people that imperialism is a function of capitalism and that both constructs need violence to continue? Liberal groups like Code Pink will make all kinds of sensationalistic headlines, but they never connect the important dots between drones, imperialism, and global capitalism. And those are some really fucking important dots, guys. The Left should be there, educating protestors and the media on exactly how and why those dots connect. These anti-drone protests, which happen all the time and all over the country, would look better and do more good with more hard left bodies and voices in the mix.

The Left also needs to kick that self-righteous, peaceful-protest-only, Gandhi shit out of our vocabularies. Both of the above mentioned protests are cop-magnets. We all saw cops beat the shit out of protestors during Occupy Wall Street. If the bosses’ thugs are going to roll in, we should be in the front. Maybe sometimes a brick needs to be thrown and maybe sometimes when cops push, we need to push back. It worked for the old school, IWW, pre-New Deal left and maybe it could be the shot in the arm that this country needs.

There are less dramatic ways that the Left can actually do mass work. Every community has community meetings that cover local issues. The Left should be there asking the right questions and making the right comments. There’s a meeting on the shortfalls of local government services and infrastructure? Well, leftists should be there talking about how the public good shouldn’t be commodified and how the community can and should take control of its own resources. The working class will never develop a socialist consciousness if we don’t talk to them. And to do that, we need to go to where they are and help. Local chapters of socialist groups should volunteer at community gardens and similar community spaces and make their involvement specifically linked to socialism. Every rally, protest, march, gathering, meeting, and outreach is an opportunity for the left to do real and helpful mass work. Shit, go out, clean up the block, and wear socialist swag while you do it. That’s a better use of time than arguing about bullshit on the internet.

One of the most important things that the US left can do, before doing any of these other things, is to stop being elitist assholes. You’re a professor/grad student/think tank thinker/writer/whatever, are you? No one gives a shit. No one. At the protest/meeting/rally/whatever, you are a warm, figuratively red body doing a job and as such, no one wants a lecture on Marxism or arcane history, so keep it to yourself. Spouting off like that (and I have seen it sooooo many times) alienates people and makes you look like a soft-handed, pretentious member of the out-of-touch bourgeoisie. In other words, you’ll be irrelevant and annoying. Don’t condescend, either. People will know what you are and if they have a question, they will ask. Your knowledge is a potential good and important resource and when people ask for it, give it out freely and honestly. Otherwise, shut up.

These are hardly new ideas, I know, but I honestly don’t know of a large left organization that’s actually doing these things on a regular or semi-regular basis. And goddamn it, I want to do something. Going to some panel talk at an anarchist bookstore is all fine and good, but it’s nothing but preaching to the choir. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t actual work and we all need to admit that. There’s also nothing wrong with leftist academics, either. Socialist professors taught me some really valuable things that I am very happy to know, but we all need to admit that grad seminars and Capitol Volume 1 reading groups aren’t doing the job.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know any answers, but I’ll also be the first to say that I’m honestly afraid of what’s going on now and our pathetic excuse for a left makes it even worse. Einstein, a socialist, once said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. That is exactly what we’re doing and it’s fucking insane. If you’re going to call yourself a leftist, then be one. If you’re just going to endlessly prattle on about theory at meetings and argue on Twitter, call yourself something else. Signing a petition online is pointless and won’t change anything, no matter what the MoveOn info graphic says. Come on, guys. We’re not stupid people and we care. So, let’s do something about it.

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Shot By Both Sides

I’ll let this great song by the under appreciated Magazine be my commentary on the horrendous House budget deal that everyone is patting themselves on the back about. After all, what do those little prols need with a pension?

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Fear And Loathing On The Internet Left

Let me begin this by saying that, like a lot of American leftists, I spend way too much time on social media. I have some friends that are fairly popular leftist writers and a few that are well known academics/intellectuals. On a fairly regular basis, they will post an article or thought and then an absolute shit storm of sectarian arguing, pedantic posturing, and personal attacks will begin. I’m sure that, if you happen to be one of the (un) lucky few who happens to read this, this situation will be familiar to you.

These arguments, which stretch on into absurd lengths, tend to be framed into some warped version of Gramsci’s war of position: the Left hashes out its strategy and theory so it can then deploy for the war of maneuver (you know, actually doing something). What actually seems to be happening is a sort of revolutionary cosplay in which Marxist grad students hold forth with so many 1s and 0s as if they were Trotsky directing the movements of the Red Army.

So, why do American leftists spend so much time fighting on Facebook and Twitter? Just think of the Russell Brand revolution uproar. Brand is a British comedian who was speaking to a British interviewer for a British audience on British television. American leftists spent an unbelievable amount of time arguing whether he was right or wrong or a sexist or a media hero or whatever. While what happens in the UK does impact us and Brand is certainly a media figure here as well, we could have perhaps used that time to…I dunno…organize and educate poor people. Instead, both shitty and great articles were published and then the digital partisans wheeled their artillery into place for a protracted, pointless battle.

Yeah, so why do we do this? Well, I know why I do it (though I’m trying to stop).

I came from a very poor working class family, unlike most of the active Left in America, which tends to draw from fairly upper middle class ranks. I was attracted to the Left because I felt exploited and angry, not because an academic theory entranced me. I had a brief dalliance with professional academia after getting my undergraduate degree, but I quickly found myself back doing blue collar work. As an American working class leftist, I’m in a somewhat odd position. The upper echelons of the Left are run by people with considerably more cultural (and real) capital than me: middle and upper middle class professionals and academics. As such, the actually proletarian Left doesn’t get much say.

I don’t have the time or resources to do the type of academic-style writing that is so popular with the leftist press and I certainly don’t have the time or resources to be in the leadership of a left organization. Both of those pursuits require a job that gives you a flexible schedule, ample time off, and a salary that allows for free labor. None of these are characteristics of blue collar work or workers. I can’t fly to a conference and I don’t have 40 hours to research a paper nor do I have the connections to get it published (hence this fabulous blog).

So, what do I do? How do I let out the anger, despair, and analysis that constantly pops up every day? I rant about it on Twitter. I fight in Facebook comments. I rage and type and annoy every one of my followers and friends who aren’t self-proclaimed leftists. And I probably annoy most of the leftists, too.

There’s a powerful feeling of alienation that comes with being in a movement that talks about “working people,” but is made up of the very bourgeois. Actually active working class leftists tend to have a more “let’s actually do some shit rather than blather on” kind of mentality and that will quickly get you labeled as an “ultra-leftist” and banished from the staid Ivory Tower of academic Marxism. Criticize not the upper class social democracy, thou prol, for thou possesseth not the political science education to speak from on high.

It’s a real struggle to keep a lid on the outrage I feel sometimes. I was active in a large leftist organization for years, but these same academic/professional cliques monopolized the dialogue and centered it on the same upper class, academia-centered path. Oh, but they had reasons and justifications, of course. You see, the organization grows more productively when it organizes on the campuses of private universities rather than in poor neighborhoods. I tried to write, but the same members of the bourgeoisie held the keys to another locked door. You can’t be so angry. You can’t always take “ultra-left” positions. Wait. Be patient. Allow reform to work.

Do what you’re told to do by those higher up the food chain than you are and don’t complain about it.

This kind of situation turns into rage pretty quickly. That rage turns into a deep-seated hate and that will quickly make you very unhappy and bitter. That kind of venom will find a way to spew itself out and social media is right there. On your phone. In your pocket. And you think – this time. This time those fucking assholes will listen to me. But they won’t. They didn’t before and sounding like a jerk won’t help.

So, now I try to avoid social media-based political discussion, but I’m not entirely free of it. I try to find organizations that actually do mass work, but that’s hard, too. But that feeling of alienation is still there. So is the anger.

The anger is still there because there is no revolutionary left for me to join. Not a real one. I can share Bernie Sanders-generated info graphics on Facebook and pay dues to some glorified social democracy group, but that’s it. Doesn’t that make you want to rant?

Why do the bourgeois leftists spend so much time arguing online? I don’t know, but I would imagine it isn’t an entirely dissimilar situation to mine. They might not feel the rage, but they are probably at least subconsciously aware of the fact that there isn’t a functional Left in America. If there isn’t a party office to work with and if there aren’t any mass protest movements going on, the internet is all there is. And working class people are so hard to talk to, right? Better stay on campus and study for your dissertation. While you’re knee deep in research, you can fire off a few tweets. You can also churn out a few articles that will get published because your bourgie academic friends know people.

Do I sound bitter? Fuckin’ a right, I’m bitter. Am I jealous of the lofty heights achieved by those in possession of a PhD fellowship? No. I’d rather lift heavy things for a living than prostrate myself before a committee out of touch old academics and pray for tenure.

One thing I’m not going to do anymore is allow this rage and bitterness to pour out on social media. I’m not going to sit at a darkened desk and type polemic after polemic that no one will read. I’ll write whatever the fuck I want. After all, I don’t need to bow and scrape for a spot on the neoliberal tenure track.


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