So it’s one thing, when some trolls come onto your webpage or whatever, and they start screaming about how their specific Fourth International is the One, the True, the Only, and start wailing about how all socialist groups are fake socialists and social democrats and take the wrong position on Syria etc.
Typically there’s only so much damage they can do, and then you can ban them with a click of your mouse or two. Easy peasy.
It is, of course, important that you actually do make those few clicks and purge them out. This is because any leftists who want to bring new people on board (which is the whole idea) will have their whole project stymied by the shitstorm caused by the shitheads. New people get confused – is there a grain of truth to their screamed, scathing insults? Do I even want to be in an environment where people are so counterproductive and denunciatory? Should I get out while I can?
Of course the groups which the sectarians attack are typically nowhere near as denunciatory and hostile as the sectarians who are on the offensive, even if they do get critical of each other, as Left groups often do excessively. However, new people can often be so shell-shocked by the negativity (and not just negativity, but futile fratricidal negativity) that they don’t discriminate as to whose fault the bickering is, and prefer to simply remove themselves from the situation.
But what about in-person events and environments where these idiots pull the same shit?
I write this coming out of the 2013 Left Forum, which already did not lend itself very well to discussion from the “audience.” However, this was made all the worse by the fact that, in the few tiny slots when the audience members were permitted to get a word in edgewise, the persistent little sectarians made sure to take the mic and immediately spend it on vigorously denouncing the speakers and, often as not, any socialist group who happened to be prevalent even if not related to the topic of conversation. This often included but was not limited to DSA, the ISO, SPUSA, Solidarity, the Green Party, and Socialist Alternative, all of whom I include on my axis of sanity.
If I was a new leftist, and I witnessed the shrill counterproductive yelps of these Sparts and Spart clones, I would march out in disgust and not come back. Like Ben Campbell of North Star, I’d throw my hands in the air and wash them of all you time-wasting neurotic fucks.
Actually truth is, I’ve been a radical leftist for ten years, and a half-decent organizer for six, and I still don’t really want to go back to the Left Forum, a big reason being these fucking sectarian shitheads.
As usual, there is one solution: revolution.
On the Internet, we can remove the sectarians with the click of a button. In person, it will take some shoving.
Yes, I am serious, we should treat them as almost comparable to the neo-Nazis who sometimes protest our events or pollute our streets. We should get them out of here.
First we have to be clear about something. Is anyone who disagrees with you a sectarian? No. Is anyone who splits their group or asserts their needs to start a new, small group a sectarian? Well, technically maybe, but they’re not the harmful people that I’m talking about. Debate is not what should be stifled, because you can debate in an even tone. It’s true, some criticisms need to be made, and as long as you can objectively balance what is wrong with certain groups or people, with the fact that they are indeed a leftist and contribute somehow, then it’s fair game. Even if you think the division is so fundamental that they belong somewhere else (perhaps Democrats for example), you can explain that to everyone calmly and may indeed make your point better that way. By sectarian I mean the people who come to events for the sole purpose of attacking, discrediting, and yelling at other groups, not every poor bastard tabling outside, and if you go to these events, you will sure know who I am talking about when you see them.
So now that we know who we’re talking about, are they really that bad? Well, think about it. Who does more damage to the Left on a routine basis, denying it recruits and causing it internal trauma and fatigue? The neo-Nazis, who have not yet assembled a commie-smashing army and rarely even do anything, or the sectarians, who poison and demoralize our every single event?
Correct answer: the sectarians.
Sometimes security or the police are around. This may preclude us from getting our British football hooligan club together for physically dragging them out. In such a case, there’s still tons of harassment we can do! We can grab their shitty papers out of their hands and throw them in the trash – they’re already shoving them in our faces, it will be easy enough. We can flip their tables over and watch all their denunciatory pamphlets scatter across the ground like 52-card pickup. If we can’t touch them with our hands, we can at least bring out the water balloons and supersoakers, maybe involve some paint. We can dance around them in circles singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Later, away from the eyes of the authorities, we can beat the shit out of them the way they have historically been known to physically attack us when they could. We can locate and invade their meetings and disrupt them for a change. We can break their willingness, and their organizational ability, to ever show up and scare the public away from our events ever again.
The sectarians are in a constant war with us and have been for a long time. It’s time we fired back, and not with words, which is just playing their game. Time we actually owned the space in our own fucking house and enforced it with our bodies.
Will this process be pretty? No, it will be ugly. It may be just as bad, or worse than, the sectarian harassment in terms of traumatizing new people and scaring them away. But this is a temporary purge against a historic problem. In order to gain a widespread audience, people are going to have to be able to take the Left seriously. That means our meetings can’t be contaminated by haters and wreckers. It has to have a rebirth in fire, and swat away the flies.
Besides, it will be totally fun and you know you want to anyway.
Edit: someone wisely pointed out that, if it’s your private event, maybe you can just get security to escort them out. Less fun but something to consider.