In the past I have been terrible at this and so have a lot of marxists – anarchists have definitely beaten marxists at this – but the fact is, groups of friends are a political unit.
Do not interpret this as an abandonment of formal politics. Personally I wish that is how it could be – you work in an explicitly political organization with other people like professionals, and it doesn’t matter if you despise each other.
Of course there is a chicken-and-egg thing going on here: some groups of friends act as a support-or-detriment to a political group, and sometimes people become friends from being in the same organization.
Here’s the thing: as much as we would prefer this not to be true, people are very influenced by their friends. If we are in a political group, and we recruit one person, the attitude which their friends take on it can matter. It can go a few different ways:
- The newbie’s friends accuses us of being a manipulative cult that swallows all the newbie’s time, and the newbie pulls away from us
- The newbie’s friends talk trash on us, except this time the newbie is so committed to the politics that it becomes a source of tension between them and their friends, not them and us
- The newbie’s friends join, giving them more motivation to stick around
- The newbie’s friends are largely indifferent, don’t approve or disapprove
In my political experiences, pretty much every coalition I’ve worked with has some kind of cluster of friends within it. Just as often, they have been
- Roommates in the same apartment
- Floormates in the same college dorm
- In some cases, even members of the same frat
- In the college environment, members of some other club together
- THE INFLUENCE OF PUNK IN CREATING POLITICIZED FRIEND GROUPS IS TREMENDOUS, and seriously deserves some kind of formal in-depth academic research, hey sociologists did I just give you your next topic? Too bad I’m a purist metalhead, maybe that will change.
The real stickler of an issue is that sometimes the best, most organic, deep-reaching political conversations happen during informal hanging-out. I’m not sure why this happens. Maybe the system of moderating conversation among leftist groups, while well-intentioned, actually stifles organic conversation.
I’m not suggesting anything weird or stupid, like pretending to be friends with people and infiltrating just for the sake of it. I’M ALSO NOT SUGGESTING YOU TRY TO RECRUIT YOUR APOLITICAL FRIENDS, OR START CONVERSATIONS ABOUT POLITICS WITH THEM WHICH I DO WHEN I’M DRUNK. Personally I find a lot of people annoying. I do suggest making fellow leftist friends; it really helps for having a network that keeps you informed of what is going on, and it’s just emotionally nice to have a crew that you always go to events and demonstrations with.
For some people, all it takes is seeing a single flyer for a propaganda meeting to get the ball rolling. For many, ideological transformation is a process involving deep, ongoing personal relationships with radicals.
Besides, it’s not just about political strategy. It’s cool and fun. Every zergling needs a swarm.