Thursday, August 28, 2008

Confessions of a post-Cold War communist

by Joel Wendland

[Spoiler alert: this post is sharp and may be viewed as somewhat unkind.]

I have followed Joe Sims' recent theoretical forays into some of "Marxism's" worst and best moments with interest, some laughter, some chagrin, and some perplexity [see here, here, here, and here]. Things that make you go, "who the heck came up with that one." While I do not agree 100% with him, I appreciate and applaud his efforts to elevate and broaden our thinking. I do have to say, however, that I do not view any of his statements as too controversial or outrageous.

Specifically, concepts like "dictatorship of the proletariat," "socialism in one country," "art as a weapon," single-party states, vanguard party, and the naming of ideas and political movements after men have all seemed outrageous and more or less irrelevant to me – indeed a little anti-communist. For crying out loud, who would spread this silly nonsense as serious communist ideas unless they wanted the rest of the world to view us as out of date, ridiculous, and obsessed with ideas only about 12 people are trying to prove as correct based on their religious reading of something Karl Marx or V.I. Lenin once said.

Both Marx and Lenin would laugh at and mock, as we know, this type of fundamentalism-exchanged-for-political-analysis.

I have followed some of the discussion that Joe's comments have aroused. Most of it has seemed rather defensive and angry and lodged in the past instead of being thoughtful and innovative, which I always viewed as a hallmark of the men and women who have built and changed and developed the ideas of the communist movements.

I have to profess that I am happy that I am a post-Cold War communist. I missed the little Lenin readers, the ABC's of whatever, inculcations in the mistaken and irresponsible claims about vanguardism, religious references to famous Marxists as evidence of righteousness and correctness, and indoctrinations in stalinism (one-model socialism, single-partyism, ends justifies means, USSR above all, kill anyone who is wrong), frankly.

I managed to avoid dogmatic recitations about democratic centralism, professed out of one side of the mouth while those who profess it to be a foundational principle support and work with factionalists who launch Web sites and publications designed specifically to attack the Communist Party, who are quoted by the right-wing media, and are privately proud of it every step of the way.

I mostly missed being trained in or associated with a style of meaningless attack politics done behind the scenes, behind the back, behind secret names, through secret networks, and without any link to real working-class people or movements that have and will create meaningful change.

I am also glad I missed the conspiratorial style of political action based in ill-advised and silly ideas about a revolutionary core of really radical revolutionaries who hold secret meetings and who really know what's going on, etc....really.

I prefer, and I think some of this I learned from Joe S., being a part of a communist movement that is embedded in the realities of my life, my neighbors' lives, and in the lives of real working people. I prefer a communist movement that stands openly with working people for change that is real, and not the fantasies of middle-class professionals and business owners who seem to have a hitch in the hum-drum of their day to day, or who once read about change in a book.

I prefer a communist movement that doesn't make a habit of attacking other working-class people, activists, and leaders over the minutiae of what the "real revolutionaries" consider true "revolutionary marxism." Ultra leftism makes little sense to me. Going on in the imaginary world about the left being a vanguard or needing to be one makes little sense. Maybe only in any meaningful way to the same chosen 12, one has to guess.

Personally – and feel free to chew on this to your heart's content, cuz I am sure it will end up in someone's e-mail – I prefer the slogan "ordinary people can do extraordinary things" to the non(anti)-communist and rather silly "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a slogan.

I apologize for being a bit sharp. But I think it is time to move on. It is time to change this thing we call our movement and be real. If you prefer to wear a clown mask and bring your extremist, confused politics to the table pretending that it means anything to any real body, please reconsider. This is too serious and means too much to real people to mess with phony, divisive politics of the past.