Undemocratic, A Word Not To Be Taken Lightly

As an active DSA member I hear this word all the time, almost as much as I hear the words “organizing” and “socialism.”  I think active leftists in all organizations can relate to this, but I think the attack of something being “undemocratic” is overused.

Now I am not suggesting in any way we not call out undemocratic behavior, what I am saying is we need to acknowledge that being called “undemocratic” is the heaviest attack you can lay against someone in an organization that is supposed to be democratic.  That is not something to take lightly.

Behavior that is genuinely undemocratic is something that an elected official does not have the authority to do or is an action that goes out of its way to side step democratic procedures.  That does not stop people from throwing the term around when a comrade does something that they simply do not agree with.

Most of the time what is called ‘undemocratic behavior’ is actually just people disagreeing with how something was done, or it is people letting personal differences effect their outlook on what is good for their organization. If we attack every single thing or person we disagree with as ‘undemocratic’ then the word will lose all meaning.  It will be a boy who called wolf situation, the moment we actually have to face the consequences of someone doing something undemocratic we will be ill prepared to handle it.

An action is only undemocratic if it goes out of its way to defy democratic principles, unless it is intentionally sidestepping the consent or consensus of the voting body, the odds are it was not “undemocratic.”

I am not saying hold your tongue when you see genuinely undemocratic behavior, all I am asking is that people remember that in organizations that pride themselves on democracy, it is not a term to be taken lightly.

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Don’t Just Vote for Socialists, Vote for ECO-Socialists

I am a strong supporter of the DSA’s current electoral platform, and I say that as someone who is beyond disilluisioned with electoralism. However, the DSA’s current platform for getting as many socialists as possible elected to public office has been nothing but good for the organization and for socialism.

This platform of pushing for DSA members to run for office has successfully brought socialism out from the marginalized wings of U.S. politics and into the mainstream. It has brought attention to the organization and helped force the policy platform of many otherwise moderate democrats go further to the left.

However, considering the impending disaster facing our planet, species, and existence, I move that we not only work to elect socialists, but explicit eco-socialists to office.

I don’t need to remind anyone how disastrous of a state we are in. The carbon levels in the atmosphere are at their highest in the history of humankind and too many species are already on the brink of extinction. Farmworkers are being forced to work in even more complicated conditions since we are losing consistency in our crops, and we will be seeing more mass migrations as global warming gets worse.

Therefore, we cannot, I repeat, CAN NOT, take it for granted that the socialists we seek to elect are explicitly conscious of the need for an ecological, sustainable economy. The importance of electing socialists to office allows us to seize a form of state power and push for a democratized economy, which inturn can help create a more eco-friendly one, but that will not be an inevitability if we do not make it so.

Some will say that the terms “socialist” and environmentalist are inherently intertwined because the liberals have clearly aligned themselves with the carbon economy. I disagree with this logic and say we must take nothing for granted, especially not what it means to be a socialist.

A person can identify as a socialist or as pro labor but then can flip that to mean something that is not environmentalist at all. Some have taken the stance that the environment is secondary to labor. For example the AFLCIO has released all kinds of anti envromental stances, including support for pipelines and housing developments. They take the platform of “job creation” being the priority of the working class. This stance is flawed because it blatantly ignores the reality of job creation that comes from embracing a green economy. This is why cannot take for granted that a pro working class candidate is also a pro environmental one.

Support for an eco socialist candidate should not be limitus tested by one single policy either. While I support a Green New Deal we can not rely on that alone to save ourselves. An ecosocialist candidate must incorporate the realities of mass migration, conservationism, and animal rights into their pro working class agenda.

To say that the terms socialist and environmentalist are inherently intertwined risks us losing out ecosocialist candidates in favor of ones who fail to reconcile environmentalism and socialism. We must make our demands explicit and that must reflect in our electoral platform at all times. We cannot take for granted that every socialist is an ecosocialist, I think it is pretty evident that we can take nothing for granted.

Avoid the “Self Care” Trap

Self care is a radical act, never forget that. When you practice self care you are doing so in order to exist in a world that tells you you shouldn’t have any power.

This is why self care was created by radical black femmes in the 60s and 70s. It was an act of rebellion to do what it took to exist in an world trying to extinguish or diminish a person’s existence, and it still is.

This is why we need to make it clear that self care is about self preservation, not indulgence.

Several rich, mostly white people, use the term “self care” as an excuse for spending thousands of dollars on spa treatments or for drink service during nights at the club. I have no problem with indulgence but self care is not just about self indulgence. Calling self indulgence self care is once again a co-opting of the work and culture of non white radicals.

Self care is taking a mental health day. Self care is opening your mail that has been piling up on your desk. It is doing your laundry and organizing your space. That is self care.

It is true that for some, especially those with PTSD or anxiety, a yoga class or a massage is in fact self care, because what might be an indulgent treat for some of us is to them a need for preservation of their sanity.

It is easy to fall into what I call, “The Self Care Trap,” because the truth is humans are always looking for an excuse to indulge. Humans are effort minimizers and euphoria maximizers, especially the privileged and the rich. Any excuse they can use to indulge in yacht trips and day drinking, they will, but rich people aren’t the only ones who have co-opted the term self care.

I have seen several self proclaimed “leftists” use the term self care as excuse for a night of binge drinking or as an excuse to avoid an organizing meeting and get stoned for the billionth time. There is nothing wrong with a drink or a toke, in fact I’d say I’m very self indulgent with those two things myself, but I am not about to pretend my drinking is an act of self preservation.

I am a white, straight, cis male, so my need for self care is far less than that of someone who was queer, non white, and non cis gendered. This is why it is important for us to avoid the “Self Care Trap.” We cannot use a term that is about the self preservation of the oppressed as an excuse for our own self indulgence.

So the next time you go out for drinks or go on vacation, ask yourself, is it self care or self indulgence? If you live in a world that allows you to exist, then you probably aren’t the one who needs self care.

We Are Not The Socialists We Love: A Further Case Against Personality Cults.

I have written pieces before about the toxicity that personality cults have on the left. As much as I do love the words of Lenin, Trotsky, and Rosa, as much as I appreciate the dedication to ideology that several of my comrades have, I have a cold sobering reminder for all of us;

You are not Lenin.

You are not Emma Goldman.

You are not the socialist that you love and idealize, and you never will be.

So many people on the left are quick to tear apart or derail perfectly sound material gains in favor of an ideological purity, a purity that is often attached to a loyalty they have for their favorite leftists who have long slipped from our realm and into the realms of the historical dialectic. What many modern leftists often forget is that the leftists of the past are just like the leftists of now, they are products of their time and place and are trying to make the most gains for the working class within their time and place.

This is why it is foolish to write off organizations like DSA on purely sectarian lines. People who say that “electoral politics has no effect” ignore the fact that the GOP dedicates all of their resources to voter suppression. If voting had no effect it would not be such a constant target of the capitalist class.

At the same time people who put all their efforts into electoral matters can forsake material gains for workers, this can happen if a self identified leftist ignores a communities need for mutual aid or when a leftist writes off all forms of direct action as street theatrics. It can even lead to the erasure of people who make up the majority of the working class such as women of color, indigenous people, trans people, and sex workers because these are groups who are often the most forsaken in electoral matters in America.

There is a time and place for mutual aid, direct action, and seizure of state power, and to reject anyone of those tiers for purely sectarian reasons is to insult the people you hope to radicalize. You cannot scream revolution while refusing to meet the material needs of the working classes, especially since the working classes is predominately made up of people who are constantly facing erasure as mentioned in the paragraph above.

This is the reality of the world we live in, we live in a time when socialism is in a position to both gain genuine state power and can provide genuine material gains for the working class in America. Neither can be foresaken and we cannot afford to put hero worship ahead of our material realities and we risk forsaking everything if we do not make our doctrines relevant to the time and place we are in. Our doctrines should be attached to achieving communism, adaptable to the times, and applicable to those whom seek liberation. The doctrines we use should not be attached to hero worship for a single leftist thinker or interpretation of theory. Remember, it is never just about the individual, it is about our power as a collective, sectarian personality cults hold us back from collective power.

I love Lenin, but his arguments came from Russia 1917, not America 2019. I am not saying there is nothing to learn from socialists of days past, quite the contrary to be honest because there is much to learn from them and it is the duty of every leftist political organizer to study the history of our movement as much as possible. The thinkers who are so often deified were trying to make sense of the world and change the world of their times. This is our task and it is still what we are doing today. There is plenty that Lenin can teach us in 2019, but what Lenin cannot do is be the guiding light for all organizing and decision making, nor can Trotsky, Rosa, Mao, Stalin, etc. and so forth.

I must emphasize this point, I am not saying these classical theorists have nothing to teach us anymore. The comprehensive study of communist theory, history and applications is a must in order for us to develop a doctrine of socialism that works for the here and now. Socialism and the road to communism must be applicable in order for it to be doable for a mass movement which can be turned into a revolution, and to make it applicable it must be adaptable, not stuck in a form of doctrine locked to the popularity of the author.

We need to be thinking about material gains and revolutionary stepping stones in 2019, we need not be evangelical newspaper salespeople with dead eyes and souls with zero understanding of Alexandira Ocasios Cortez’s politics.

The same goes for any anarchist, socialist, or communist whom their organizations have made into deities. Even Marx, we must make our efforts about the collective, not just the individual elaborating the collective.

What we need to is to adapt our theory to the present while learning the lessons of the past and using them to guide us to our future. This is not an easy task for socialist and communist organizers but it is a task we must take on. Marx himself said that “Everything moves, everything is subject to change.” So must it also be true with his own communist doctrine. I do not want people to think this is a rant against centralization or having a doctrine, or in any way a rejection of the works of Marx or any classical leftist thinker. What I am saying is that our doctrine needs to be applicable to the times we are in to best meet the needs of the working class. When you attach the doctrine to a single individual, it is almost impossible to adapt that doctrine to meet those needs. This is hero worship and it breeds sectarianism, period.

We owe it to the people we seek to radicalize, who we hope see revolt, to meet them where they are, and to build them up to where they could go. We need a socialism that is fluid, adaptable to the times, a socialism that speaks to peoples needs not one that merely preaches to them old doctrines which do not engage them. We need an intersectional communism, a socialism for the 21st Century.

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Socialists, Communists, Anarchists of the World, PUT OUT THAT LIGHT!

I am sick and tired of the constant gaslighting that socialists of all schools are forced to deal with.

Constantly we are told by the people who have never been apart of our organizations what we stand for. Every day pundits who hate us will misrepresent us and sometimes even the most well intentioned progressives will perpetuate the stigma that “communism” is a dangerous word. Many liberals will say to us “I like your principles but I don’t like socialism because…” and then they will proceed to give some tedious illogical diatribe that will mistakenly call Putin a Soviet or end in some other illogical fallacy.

The conservatives claim we are terrorists who hate freedom, despite Leftist groups like the YPG and YPJ liberating cities such as Raqqa from ISIS. They claim we hate Americans despite the Soviet Union being the allie’s key to victory in World War II, effectively ending the holocaust I might add.

I am no anarchist, but I despise the people who call Black Block anarchists terrorists or “excessively violent” when the people making such accusations support fascists like Trump or drone enthusiasts like Obama.

So, in an act of solidarity across the spectrum of leftism, be you a Berniecrat, a Black Block Anarchist, a loyal tankie, or a run of the mill DSA member, I implore you to no longer let others tell you what you believe.

We are leftists, we are not talking points to be used as fodder for pundits who are out of touch with the realities of living in our modern, vampiric economy. We know what we are and what we are not and we cannot, must not, let those outside of our ranks be the ones who define us.

I for one will no longer allow the gaslighting of leftists to go by unquestioned. We will not be told what our own beliefs are nor will we let anyone speak for us but ourselves.

We are not threats, we are not dangerous. We are your neighbors, your coworkers, and in some cases your children. We are teachers and nurses, graphic designers and web technicians. We are state workers and we are janitors. We exist in all dimensions and in all classes of life that are outside of the billionaire bourgeoisie. We are people, and we deserve to be treated as people.

So when Fox News or Pelosi loyalists try to tell us what we are or what we are not, put out the gaslight with the raging wave that is our collective power.

I am a socialist, a communist, and a proud member of my organization. I will put out my gaslight and start a new fire, a fire that will rage and burn down the oppressive systems and state that doom us.

Do not let the gaslighting of the left continue. Put out that light and let the fire that is our rage spur a new flame, the flame that can guide the specter of communism to victory in the dark days that we live in.

People Can Be Products, A Socialist Poem

People Can Be Products

Who are we but products?

Products of our time

and place?

Dare what questions are such to be asked?

Asked and then asked again!

Trivial though it be,

meaning is always the goal,

the objective,

the end.

Are we just products?

Products of anger,

reaction,

of hate,

Or are we something more?

Who are we but products?

Products of our time

and place?

We are the artists, the thinkers,

the doers, and the workers,

And in fact we are still much more