Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Have You Ever Been Red-Baited From the Left?

You could have anticipated that other shoe to drop, but I didn't. An anarchist perceives in my recent post a sure sign of their sworn enemies, the communists. Let me ask at this point, doesn't this kind of thing make you all nostalgic for those old time fist fights over Proudhon and the the Grundrisse? Which anarchists and which communists I don't care about at all, not anymore than I care about cutthroat competition in men's cupstacking. And as attractive as your rococo arguments and accusations might be to you, sir, they don't go with my decor. So here is a quickly cobbled together, general answer.

Going against the leftist instinct of more than a half century, today I am surprised to find that I don’t really feel much like defending the communists of the United States. Not except to defend them against the likes of the House Unamerican Activities Committee and various Republican front groups. That it takes about as much courage to slam communists in the United States as it would to slam Louis Farrakhan in a meeting of the Friends of Meier Kahane doesn't mean that they are above criticism.

No, I am not going to answer for their follies and mistakes, nor for their way too late eye opening to the crimes of Stalin. On the one hand, I’m not answerable for them. For another thing, they are notable for producing little of use. And that little cost the left a lot more than they gave. Every one knows the best leftist folk songs were the product of Wobblies.

What they could produce were countless factions both through splits and expulsions of people who differed on slight points of orthodoxy. Few of the myriad of communist groups have ever held back from the most vicious attacks on each other, sometimes resulting in bloodshed. Change a few words and names, you’d think they were Baptists. A rule of thumb, any political party that has produced more splinters than office holders defines “politically failed”.

I don’t respect many of the leaders of the Communist Party in the United States. Not much. A lot of them were more interested in guarding their tiny little patch of turf than in producing anything of material benefit for working class people or the destitute. Their favorite weapon, doctrinal purity, wasn’t good for much else. While that isn’t peculiar to the CP, they were supposed to be better than that. Some of them bought into the idea that making the poverty of the poor more grinding through inaction would more rapidly bring about the glorious revolution. And for that they can go to to hell*.

But I will give them the fact that for a good part of the early decades of the twentieth century they were active in efforts against racism and racist violence in the United States while others dithered. They were also early, if shamefully inconsistent, opponents of European fascism. They were active in a number of worthwhile activities. No honest person would deny them that. Would they deny that many other leftists and even their most hated enemies, liberals, deserve some credit for the same?

Communists' largely unjust persecution over the decades makes them somewhat sympathetic. And let’s be honest, they had a certain romantic cachet. But they also provided the political right with a rather willing straw man, one with a lead pipe in it that was used to bludgeon the entire left. While they idiotically argued, fought, split, fought with those who hadn’t already been thrown out, again fragmented, and spat venom between each of the contending groups averaging eleven members each, they weakened the left They provided the right with a specter to frighten the general population about foreign subversion and to so gain power.

I have known former Communists who freed themselves of the fixations of doctrine. They were good people. I’ve never known a former fascist and have only heard a handful who seemed to be decent. The former communists only had to dump the dogma and the cult while working to promote their original ideals. In order to become decent, fascists, klansmen and even the odd Nazi have to entirely change their personalities, their beliefs, their hearts, and their friends. Sometimes tattoos have to be removed too.

The massive and interesting writings of former Communists constitute an encyclopedia of eloquent regrets and reasonable defenses. I refer you to them, excluding the writings of such former Communists as who found their next career opportunity by becoming fascists. The number of those alone raise doubts about their originating organizations. I will not give fascists a reference anymore than I’m going to waste another second considering their rights.

I also fully believe that, to this day, there are current members of the CP and contending parties who are sincere and good, just not very practical.

So. What about Stalinists?

Oh, for crying out loud. Where? You got a Stalinist who’s picking on you I’ll make him put his head against the building till recess is over. That goes for Trots too.

* Just yesterday I had a self-proclaimed anarchist make a similar argument to me. Anarchists who feel that way can go to hell too.

I’ll make him put his head against the building till recess is over.

those people should get over it. you are right we shouldn't waste time on their fucking stupid ideas.
I hope you don't mind me wasting time on this, though, anonymous.

Sometimes I just want to say, can't we leave ANYTHING in the past? Not all of the ideas but the quasi-religious insistence on swallowing an entire program.

I've pointed out here a number of times that we aren't going to get more than a small part of what we want, certainly not unless it is by increments, yet these all or nothing folks act like a spoiled brat turning blue in a futile attempt to have it all now, right now, everything!

Anyone who insists on that should be considered too immature to take seriously.
If we invade Iran, the Neocons will have essentially "gotten everything".

And up to this point, they've gotten quite a lot already.

The rich have gotten a whole lot too.

But decent, fairminded people have to be satisfied with
just getting a "small part of what we want".

Well, OK.

I didn't say that decent, fair minded people have to be satisfied with just getting "a small part of what we want". What I said was that was what we weren't going to get more than that unless it was by increments. What I hope to achieve by increments is a lot farther left than what much of the impatient left has stated as its goal.

Since we aren't even getting the increments of progress with the present strategies and actions I'd say those increments are a lot more attractive than the backwards motion pattern we are stuck in.

The left has got to shed those ideas that have proven ineffective and unrealistic. If you read through the archives of this blog you will see that it is my bedrock position that the actual lives of people and the well being of the biosphere are non-negotiable. Not with the corporate state, not with conservatives, not even with anarchists, Trots, greens, the CP or any other group.

I don't give a damn for any of their ideas if it means that people can't live a decent life until some glorious and entirely speculative future. The actual lives of actual people, those who are alive now, are so important that any improvement that can be pulled out of the hands of the oligarches is worth getting and it is worth coming up with really effective plans to get it, as many plans, as many revisions of those plans as it takes to do it. No orthodoxy, religious, economic or political has proven sufficient as an entire program within itself. We have got to face the fact that those who are bound to any one of these is likely to be a stumbling bloc. We can't afford people that unrealistic, they should be allowed to fend for themselves.
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