interview with Jacobin mag editor

interview with Jacobin mag editor (not by me!)

“I think about the October 2nd “One Nation” rally in Washington DC or any anti-war demonstration we have in the city. A young activist is confronted with dozens of different papers, dozens of different messages; all oozing with marginalization and failure… it’s confusing and a waste of resources and a projection of ineptitude and marginalization.”

“I can’t help shake the feeling that SP-USA and Solidarity and FRSO, for example, do pretty much the same thing and shouldn’t be wasting paper or money printing three newspapers….”

“I’m glad the new social movements exist, but they can’t replicate a revolutionary party. So I guess I’m an ‘egg’ man. Whereas, a lot of people in the left argue that by supporting struggles from below we’ll reach a point where a party will emerge naturally from a new political environment, I think it might be necessary to talk seriously about a re-foundation of the left today. There’s no reason why the members of the left broadly subscribing to the same politics shouldn’t be in the same political formation.”

focusing on organization isn’t sectarian

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN

So in parts of the left we use this very spiteful word “sectarian” to mean a few things: a group that spends all its time attacking other groups, a group that is “too pure” to take part in activist movements for being too “reformist” or whatever.

Of course there are other things that may not precisely fit the definition of sectarianism, but are telltale signs.  For example, a person whose first words whenever you see them are always the criticism of another organization or group for political positions, even if that person works in various coalitions or whatever, they’re definitely sectarian.  Someone who spends their entire life on the nuances of leftist trivia is tricky – they might just be an extremely informed activist, or they might be a sectarian, depending on how they talk about or use this trivia, or deal with people.

I’m sure I am sometimes perceived as sectarian for placing so much emphasis on different forms of organization.

Truth is, consensus-based decision-making, plus the obsession with the encampment tactic, made Occupy Wall Street extremely difficult to participate in for most working people with work and family obligations, and other real-life time constraints like wanting to have a life and preferring not to blow it on three-hour meetings that debate how the encampment will deal with its trash.

So organizational style was a direct problem for making a movement accessible to ordinary working people – ironic, given that the entire movement was supposed to be about the 99%.

BUILDING AN ORGANIZATION IS A MOVEMENT UNTO ITSELF

Sometimes people tell me, or sometimes the voices in my head tell me, that I can’t be taken seriously because if your group isn’t currently focused on engaging in living movements about specific political issues and not general ideologies, if it is focused on something electoral or organization, it must be some lame group that isn’t going anywhere and will lose out on the numbers game because of its failure to connect with people.

I’d like to introduce a new view:

Anti-capitalism is, itself, a movement.  Socialism is, itself, a movement.  Anarchism is, itself, a movement.  The struggle to build some kind of large-scale resistance entity is, itself, a movement just as organic, vital, and publicly-attractive as any anti-war march ever was.  Building any of the above movements, whether through building a group, spreading literature promoting the ideas, recruiting members, or raising visibility is itself a worthy pursuit, even if not immediately connected to single-issue leftist politics.

If we were to add up all the members of the existing left organizations, well, this is not what I’m talking about.  The total number of people accrued there would not remotely equal what I mean when I talk about America’s combined socialists and anarchists.  I think Occupy did a fantastic job drawing out a lot of people who passively identify as radical leftist but who, for various reasons, aren’t linked to any group.

Having an organization that unapologetically argues radical views while possessing ongoing national visibility, would not be some subcultural leftist preoccupation.  It would be hugely helpful in giving ideological, numeric, and logistic support to any other protest movement around things like single-payer healthcare, the labor movement, ending the mass-imprisonment of black people, debt forgiveness, whatever organic down-to-earth demand your heart desires.

Typically the argument of the existing Leninist groups is that we have to build movements first and then build a national-scale socialist party out of that, after the movements exist.

I disagree.  I think we could get the turnout for the socialist/far-left party now, and it would, in turn, be of incredible assistance to all single-issue resistance movements.