There are many ways in which we the Left choose to be irrelevant. I will list them in my standard dramatic form, but one of them is so important that it needs addressed up front at length.
We choose fragmentation.
We choose to lie to ourselves. We choose to say that the current form of the socialist Left, a fragmentation into competing tendencies, which in only a split-second encounter proves our unseriousness to laypeople, is inevitable. We choose to believe this ridiculous thing we tell ourselves, that this circus is just the way it is and cannot be changed.
No. Fragmentation is not unchangeable. It is not inevitable. It is a choice, a choice that we reaffirm and reaffirm. It is a choice we reinforce by our behaviors. I am sure everyone is familiar with all the filthy ways we paint different groups in the most damaging terms, not only in our writing but worst of all in our unchecked one-on-one conversations, so we need not list them.
We choose to prioritize the growth of our own recruitment-competitive, hyper-specific party-line groupling over answering America’s hunger pangs for a nationally-visible mass socialist party. That’s right: we choose to view our particular interpretation of socialism winning the argument within socialism, as more important than the health of the socialist movement as a whole.
And we choose to have delusions of grandeur that our specific perspective is so important to the health of the socialist movement, that our quest to out-compete the other tendencies, while shrugging at the burning need to consolidate the millions of newly-radicalizing Americans, is justified. The ends justify the means – but perhaps our ends are not justified.
We choose to fight for scraps while Rome burns.
And for that, for telling ourselves and others that we have “advanced consciousness” and obsessing over questions of socialist history and organization, but being so organizationally egotistical that we do not even think to take this most basic leap of looking at what is nationally possible, what is nationally necessary, and locating the practical steps to be taken toward it – for this we are the worst sort of frauds. Next time we look at our reflections, we should listen for the mirror’s screaming.
Of course when we choose fragmentation, we do not choose it simply by our behaviors. We choose it by what we fail to do. We fail to remember that we are on the same side. We fail to even really care about anything beyond building our own tendency. We fail to even try to approach the problem — if fragmentation exists, what can we do? We don’t even want to know, because we truly don’t want to know. Because we want the fragmentation to continue. We fail to want the fragmentation to end. Or we make gestures, fleeting one-time things, and we do not persist in them. We do not see the problem as a mountain to climb, a goal we work toward step by step. We don’t want to end the fragmentation in any serious way at all. The futility in the air is as sickening and thick as when a strike fails because people won’t work across racial lines. Except that this is our strike, we are the ones who are disunified instead of the ones chastising toward unity, and we are the ones failing.
We choose not to bring a more basic socialism to the everyday people of our lives.
We choose to ignore the fact that people are brought to a way of thinking by human relationships, not by having the best, most specific argument. We pretend that anyone but the most left-brained maniacs forms a relationship – political let alone human – by spending hours torturously hammering out the specifics of a debate or party line.
We choose to give the middle finger to the working class by holding events during weekday daytimes when people who work nine-to-five cannot attend.
We choose to give the working class another middle finger by using consensus decision-making systems, attempting to respect all individuals, but ending up disrespecting most individuals by wasting their time, and guaranteeing that the meetings will be totally repellent to anyone who works full-time or has kids.
We choose to read more political literature instead of developing real-world skill sets that would actually help the logistics of an organization. We sing praises of the philosophy of praxis, but we choose to be childishly impractical in our personal choices, having organizational ramifications.
We choose to attend protests without thinking about what our purpose there might be. We choose not to assess whether that purpose was fulfilled.
We choose to tolerate our protest leaders picking meaningless protest routes in places where the general public will not even see us, defeating one of a protest’s main goals of reaching people. We also choose to allow our leaders and protest organizers to throw together uninspiring zombie slogs (currently referred to as “marches” but with no actual marching that I can see). We may not know how to shift the way these protests work – but then again, we choose not to think about it, choose not to put time, effort, or resources to that area of work.
We choose to fill our day’s attention with so many endless specifics, so many stances that no one walking down the sidewalk would care about, so many debates and issues and news articles, that we neglect our basic duty to ourselves to pursue a realistic career, and end up so poor we can’t even pay dues, when often nothing about our background or status should have determined that. Inverting most workers’ misguided guilt about their economic status, we dishonestly blame the system for our own idiocy. For thus slandering the difficulties of people who truly have no opportunities, we should be ashamed.
We choose sensuality and hedonism in an age of universal hardship, and act surprised when our attempts at personal utopia come crashing down.
We care too much about our “normal lives.” We allow the entanglements of mainstream culture, false meaningless “relevance,” and traditional relationships to hold us back from our full single-minded revolutionary passion, our greatest happiness. We fail to embrace that this is the age of revolutionary discipline.
We choose not to remember, we choose to forget, we choose not to plan ahead, we choose not to follow through on the plans we make. We pretend that we can master the world without first mastering our inner lives. We choose to be thoughtless; we choose to be another powerless particle blown around in the wind; we choose not to exercise our infinity-seeking, freely-willing souls; we choose to not even truly occur as anything besides a reactive biological automaton; we choose not to choose; we choose not to be. We choose to postpone the tough questions for our deathbeds, and then nothing matters, we die, and it’s final.