The working class doesn’t care about me. That’s okay because maybe I don’t care about it either. But none of this matters because we are stuck together (or maybe that means it matters all the more). All pieces are key to the sum of the being.
The class struggle is an aggregated conglomerate of the conflicts of many individual social particles (people). Often the people in the working class are colliding with each other more than with the ruling class (Brownian motion). This is part of the process. Through these collisions learning occurs over time, structure is found, and energies are redirected. Eventually we end up aligning and pointing the right way, together, against the enemy.
Tolerate an astrological aside for a moment: Saturn is the planet of gravity. Gravity can mean several things – it can mean hierarchical influence of one over others, of the planet’s invisible magnetic force arranging smaller particles around it into a ring. Gravity can also mean severity or necessity. Saturn is the planet of all things necessary, of the hardship of necessity, scarcity, and mutual incompatibility that compels us to choose one thing over another. It also suggests the possibility that perhaps we must not simply choose all things that are necessary over those that seem not to be, but that all things are necessary.
How is that relevant? It’s easy to think that you will have the biggest impact in the world by building up your personal profile, by becoming a “big” person, who is known, a star to whom all the other particles are connected, disregarding their connections to each other.
Perhaps the biggest way to have an impact is actually to be an equal. Perhaps it’s not to be the planet in the center of the ring, but a particle in the ring itself. Maybe the ring is a circular, mutually-reinforcing resonance of equals, all with their exact specific necessary place in the color wheel. The ring is a defensive structure, drawing a line of what minimum we will tolerate, each of us guarding each other’s backs, facing out against a hostile world. This is appropriate, because throughout history Saturn alignments have coincided both with historical events of authoritarian repression, and also moments of the repressed and underclasses finding the resolve to form a resistance, typically embattled and on the defensive as opposed to victorious.
The ring is imperfect, especially at this stage. It is crooked, misshapen, bending, flexing, finding itself. In fact the ring will always contain tensions – the circular shape of its resonance is held in place by repulsions as well as attractions.
Opposing Sides of the Ring?
The Left includes a wide array of personalities, many seemingly conflicting – and indeed conflicting in reality. All of them are necessary. You may be on opposite ends of the circle, and the tension may be real, but it is still a ring, and still connected by a solidarity, fraught with tensions though it may be.
Let’s take the tension between socialism and black nationalism, for example. I think both socialists and black nationalists are necessary. While I personally lean toward seeing seizing the means of production as the solution to black liberation and many other things, both are still necessary nonetheless.
You may critique black nationalism. You may say it’s too narrow, misses the point sometimes. But the hardliners of the black nationalist movement act as a pole of attraction for some of the more rightfully bitter and disaffected black people, who might be so sick of racism that they don’t even really feel like working with white people. But they, in turn, act as a pole of attraction and activating force for more moderate black people, who may have a black power orientation while also seeing themselves as participants in the class struggle. The black nationalists play a role of activating a community, and while collaboration with its hardline core may at times be impossible (or may at times be possible), the broader periphery around it is a population that is more relevant to other mass movements and class struggles.
The above example might not be perfect but you can extend it out to other things. I enjoy having people both to the left of me and the right of me. Ultralefts may often seem irrelevant or obscure but their critiques keep Leninists thinking and keep them sharp. Leninists in turn criticize and test the Social Democrats, who are more relevant and popular at this time, activating larger layers of people, but also need to be challenged not to hollow themselves out into too much moderation. The Social Democrats then influence and interact with garden-variety progressives. The USA’s millions of progressives may not be radicals yet, but they act as a huge persuasive force interacting with the USA’s moderates, disseminating ideas and information which radicals might be too few in number to effectively convey, or too puritanical to stomach the conversation. The moderates, a seemingly useless and neutral population, can then act as a check upon the conservatives, able to speak to conservatives in common language that progressives often don’t have. Leftists may also underestimate the influence of moderate conservatives in acting as a pressure against the far right – the conflict between them is a real thing. And the chain pulls the other way too – conservatives test us and check us, compelling us to submit our radical proposals to realism and be prepared for counter-arguments, at each stage along the spectrum.
We all form a great chain of being, each precise frequency in the spectrum necessary for communicating with its neighbor down the line. Wherever we are on the chain, our challenge is to pull it left, while not losing touch with those to our right. Sometimes we may end up oscillating between several roles at once, like an electron alternating between two different locations during its atomic orbit (or literally occupying both locations at once, according to some theories?). I often find myself flipping between the roles of far leftist and broad leftist, between socialist unitarian and critic of sect bureaucracy.
A more relevant example to my own life is the tension between brocialists and feminists, or the tension between social progressivism and political incorrectness. By “brocialist” I mean something a little more complex and nuanced than “leftist who doesn’t care about women’s issues,” who do exist (and who can be flipped through communication), but that does not seem to be the sole target to whom the term is applied. Instead I refer to leftists who are irritated with the left’s atmosphere of moralism, call-out culture, humorlessness, and the sensation of walking on eggshells because you never know when you’ll make a mistake, say the wrong thing, and moralists will jump on your back and shout about how you’re a horrible person. Indeed this phenomenon is not remotely limited to men (ladybros => ladybrocialists).
On opposite sides of the ring you have two counterposed populations. You have feminists who have been so harassed or abused by men that they really don’t want to deal with them at all. Speaking from my experience in West Philly, they literally form lesbian collectives, at the extreme end of the spectrum. At least in my town they do not hesitate to convey to you that men are unwelcome if that is how they feel. More common is the type of hostile conversational identity politics in which any man arguing with a woman often becomes accused of some kind of transgression.
The hardline feminists have a role in the ring. For one, their hardline position doesn’t come from nowhere – it comes from a viciously sexist reality. Secondly, they play a role similar to the black nationalist example above, in activating a community, which fights necessary struggles unto itself, and the more moderate periphery of which can act as a go-between among the opposite sides of the circle (moderate feminists can talk to moderate left dudes and often get along) or more mutual participant in other struggles.
As for me, while trying to recognize the necessity of all components in the ring, I seem to be occupying the opposite end of it. (This type of contradiction is experienced by everyone in their unique role, both harmonies and tensions along the ring.) It seems I have become some type of unapologetic brocialist. I don’t think I even intended this in the beginning, and I haven’t always understood precisely what I was doing when I was doing it, but I have trusted my gut and followed it. Following my gut has often led me into conflicts, resulting in damaged or broken relationships with others on the ring, even getting me kicked out of various spaces. Nonetheless I persist because being true to yourself is necessary, as every shade of the color wheel on the ring is necessary.
I have come to realize I play a hardline role on the ring (at least in terms of this particular issue), perhaps not the apex of it, but in that grouping. I am one of the guys. I’m a guy who other guys can vent to about their irritations with the left. You’d be amazed how common this actually is, not in the sense of people needing to vent (lots of that obviously), but in the sense of just how many white or male or cis or hetero people are out there who have sincere good intentions, who are leaning toward socialist politics, who are socially progressive if sometimes a bit politically incorrect, who may even identify with feminism, but who just can’t handle being part of the organized left because the circular firing squad is too intense. I am not speaking here of organized leftists, but the vast unorganized leftist majority whom the left must ultimately organize in order to win. And it’s surprising how much even people who may be women, nonwhite, or queer also find themselves alienated by just how high-horse, moralistic, and guilt-tripping the organized left can be. I find myself serving as a listener, and thus a gathering center, to their frustrations as well.
My role cuts me off from certain populations who find my nature offensive. It also connects me with other populations who find my nature compatible, and then I can lend those networks to those elsewhere on the circle, or even trying connecting them with the other side. The same thing applies to every role, including roles opposite my own. The more uptight feminists and SJWs have their scene, and score points with certain women and leftists, but alienate many other people who I don’t. Even the moderates alienate the hardliners, though they may get along with everyone else.
There is no simple answer here. We actually do need the grim boundary-setting of political correctness, or human beings will not be treated with dignity. And we also need to laugh at it and break it, because in a world that followed all the rules all the time, nothing would ever happen (certainly no one would ever fuck). The politically incorrect crowd is fun, is able to get its hands dirty in the imperfections of the masses and socialize with them, and doesn’t cut itself off with an alienating mode of communication or puritanical intolerance. And yet the political stances of the politically correct crowd are typically correct, and necessary. We all take turns playing every role.
I’m not saying I’m right and the other side is wrong. Hell, half the time I identify with the other side (being as I am a proper brocialist-feminist). Sometimes both sides are right. Sometimes both sides are wrong. Sometimes it’s 50/50 on each end. I don’t think this is a contradiction we can escape until capitalism is overthrown actually, or maybe ever. Leftists must find their own place in the ring. They must also learn to embrace and coexist with the Other on the opposite side of the ring from them, as we all try to support each other. These can’t always be done successfully at the same time.
Be Yourself and/or Don’t
The universe is a totality. It is a whole, but the whole consists of parts, and without each precise part, it would not be the same whole. The parts exist not only in quantity, but in infinite rainbow variety of qualities.
This means that, among other things, one of your first duties to the universe is to tell the universe to fuck off and insist on being your absolute self-most self. If you do not do this, you deprive the universe of your own personal quality which is a key component, along with all others, of constituting the whole sum of the universe, as the precise whole sum totality that the universe ought to be if all the parts are expressing their genuine natures. By suppressing your own authenticity you damage the authenticity of all being.
The universe is a contradictory mishmash of pressures toward universal harmonious merging and distinct particles with boundaries that obstruct each other, collide, and refuse to combine. Everyone wants unity, but everyone’s got their own idea of what kind of unity is right. The others in the universe will pressure you to conform to their contours. And yet you also find your own pressure, from within yourself, to be yourself, and disregard the pressures or even boundaries of others. Life is all for one and one for all, and also all against all, simultaneously, not simply because of the structure of society, but I suspect also because of the structure of matter and consciousness themselves. You may want to avoid conflict, you may want to not start drama, but given that drama is often the expression of genuine macro-political conflicts across the scale of individual particles, you really don’t have any choice if you are going to be yourself. You may not want to be a compulsive shit-starter but may often find yourself dragged into or even initiating conflicts simply because your nature doesn’t allow you to remain silent before what you are witnessing. Speak the truth even if, especially if your voices shakes.
We cannot be ourselves without possibly insisting on our own way and disregarding others. And we cannot be ourselves without also regarding others, possibly disregarding ourselves.
Sometimes the two are mutually incompatible – often, actually. The challenge is to struggle to find a way to be yourself while also living in harmony with others. Most of us usually fall off onto one side or the other, compromising ourselves in the name of cooperation or breaking our relationships with others in the name of authenticity.
Rather than offer an answer, I offer a struggle. The struggle is the answer. The struggle to find a way to satisfy both conditions, self and other, is coterminous with your struggle to participate in the revolutionary process. They are the same thing. So keep struggling. Insist on perfection ultimately, but accept and even celebrate increments of progress as they come. Being part of the ring of solidarity means both finding your own place on it and also embracing the entire ring, at the same time. This is the challenge.