Anti Intellectualism Hurts the Left and Insults the Working Class

I have noticed time and time again at multiple meetings, protests, and other organizational gatherings that there is a haste in several leftists to abandon intellectualism and academics. Either intellectualism is synonymous with whiteness to some of these people or their is this sentiment shared by many leftists that intellectualism is inherently alienating or off putting to the working class.

I reject these notions and I implore my comrades to reject them as well.

I am not unsympathetic to leftists who have a distain for academia and the intellectual jargon that comes with certain avenues of socialist theory, nor am I blind to the exclusion that academics has perpetuated. It is true that academic rhetoric has been used as a tactic for class elevation rather than for the improvement of ones community. To put it blutnly, people under our current capitalist system view education as a method for moving up the class scale. Instead of a degree being a symbol of your knowledge it is often used as a symbol of your class.

There is also a predominance of white supremacy in all, and I repeat all, institutions born under a capitalist system. This includes our schools, universities and even our unions and leftist organizations. As such the intellectualism that is attached to these things has a predominate tendency to enable white supremacy and I am sympathetic to that fact as well.

However the notion I reject is that the working class are incapable of comprehending intellectualism, that in order of our programs to be considered “accessible” they must be dumbed down. This is the notion I reject. One reason I reject this is because distain for academia is a right wing value, and in turn enabling distain for it by the left is a validation of a right wing talking point. Our job as leftists is too disprove the right wing, not validate it. “The poor are to stupid to organize and rise up,” is an inherently capitalist right wing sentiment and when we perpetuate the idea that the working class cannot comprehend intellectual topics or jargon then we are validating this sentiment.

What is even worse is that distain for intellectualism insults the working class. “Intellectual” should not be equated with “inaccessible.” I do think this is where most leftists are coming from when they express annoyance with intellectualism. It is not that they have a distain for intellectualism itself, but rather it is that they want our program and interpretation of socialism to be as easy to understand as possible in order to foster and build a genuine mass movement. I think that is a fair sentiment.

However, too often than not I see friends and comrades equating the idea of making our work “accessible” with dumbing it down. This is reprehensible. I acknowledge that we need a shift in our jargon, and adaptations to our rhetoric need to be made in order for our socialism to be relevant to the working class of the 21st century, but this does not mean we need to insult the working class in the process. To argue that something is inherently “too intellectual” or “too academic” for the working class is to say that the working class are incapable of complex thought and that intellectualism or academia is too good for the working class.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is too good for the working class.

It is also nearsighted to reject intellectualism when you are a leftist organizer because it ignores a very large part about the reality of the 21st century working class. The truth is that most members of the working class today do in fact have some degree of post k-12 education. The existence of the student debt bubble is evidence alone that most people who qualify as “working class” are indeed educated to some degree. Therefore the working class of the 21st century is perfectly capable of intellectualism or of comprehending academic rhetoric because most have already gone through the realms of academia.

My comrades who want to make things like our program and jargon more accessible to the working class are in the right to do so, yet it must be remembered that “accessible” does not mean “dumbed down.” I refuse to insult the very people I want to organize by giving them a program that condescends to them.

It is true that intellectualism has been used to intentionally exclude people, especially non white people. Many of our oppressors have used academics and intellectualism to openly exclude non males and non whites from their ranks. In short, they have used their education and jargon as a method of control rather than as a method of liberation. I think this is another place where our anti academic comrades are coming from when they express distain for intellectualism, and I am sympathetic to this outlook as well.

However I also think that to synonymize intellectualism with whiteness erases the numerous non white intellectuals, such as W.E.B Dubois, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Cornel West, who have graced us with perspective and theory in manners that are both complimentary to the working class’ capablities AND are accessible to those in the working class who have not undergone a secondary education. We cannot counter erasure with more erasure!

Socialist programs and rhetoric in the 21st century need to adapt, and to adapt they need to be made accessible to the masses. However “accessible” does not have to equal “anti intellectual.” I said it once in this piece and I will say it time and time again until I am dead, nothing is too good for the working class!

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Elizabeth Warren’s Mistake In 2016

I acknowledge that in 2016 I came very intensely after Elizabeth Warren. Like many of Bernie’s 2016 supporters I was hurt by her endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I think Warren has since almost made up for the error by coming forward with genuinely radical and necessary policy platforms in her presidential campaign, policies that remind us that she was once a people’s hero in the fight against Wall Street and can be once again.

Her plan to cancel student debt is as pivotal as Bernie’s Medicare for All or prisoner voting rights platforms. Her open challenges to Joe Biden on his ties to the credit card companies is commendable and so is the work she has put into protecting consumers for this entire decade. She deserves credit where credit is due.

With all of that said, I am still a little bitter about what happened in 2016. I realize it is somewhat trivial to complain about what could or should have been, but damn it I am genuinely convicned that if she had not played the 2016 primary as cautiously as she had we would not have a Trump presidency.

Here is what I mean, because Warren waited to endorse whoever won the nomination instead of endorsing Bernie from the beginning of his candidacy she hurt his campaign, a campaign that would have easily defeated Trump in the general election. Yes, I am still a “Bernie would have won,” kind of person and truth be told I probably always will be.

It is understandable why she waited to endorse the definite front runner instead of taking a stand early on. At the time it made sense as the politically cautious move to stand for a united Democratic party against Trump. However that caution came at a price. It hurt Bernie’s ability to develop the klout needed to counter harmful talking points spewed by the Hillary people.

When Warren endorsed Clinton she went from being a darling of the Occupy alumni to another mouth piece for neoliberals, at least in the eyes of Bernie supporters who also supported her. One of the reasons that Bernie, and Warren for that matter, have stayed so popular is that several of us who came out of the Occupy movement remember them as the only public servants to demonstrate admiration and respect for the movement and its sentiments.

So Warren did not only hurt Bernie by endorsing Hillary late in the election, she hurt herself. By endorsing Clinton and by endorsing her as close to the end of the primary as she did, she synonymized her name and platform with the vomit inducing identity politics of Hillary’s campaign. Instead of having her working class values and background tied to Bernie’s pro working class platform, she attached her identity as a woman to Clinton and by doing so she helped enable the “only sexists vote for Bernie” talking point of Hillary supporters, a talking point which erases and hurts all of the non male supporters of Bernie.

Had Warren endorsed Bernie from the get go, the myth of the “Bernie bro” would have been squashed and would have had no foundation to grow. Also, with her endorsement would have come her very extensive and supportive base, but now that base is arguably very much in the establishment camp because of her hesitancy to get involved with the primary until a front runner was decided. Warren is now synonymous with supporting establishment capitalist democrats like Hillary, which is folly because Warren’s policies are arguably much closer to Bernie’s than they ever were to people like Clinton, Harris, Biden, or Booker.

I want to make it clear, I do understand why Warren didn’t endorse Sanders, but I think it was a mistake that inevitably cost Bernie the primary and damaged Warren’s reputation as a challenger of big money capitalism, which in-turn gave us the shitty general election that birthed the Trump presidency.

But what hurt Warren the most is the fact that despite her policy and platform being much more in line with Bernie’s she endorsed someone with completely opposite values to her. Warren has much more incommon policy wise with Bernie than she ever will with the Clintons and Bidens of the world. The fact she did not make that clear in 2016 not only hurt Bernie but it hurt her, because now there are leftists like myself, who do remember her public challenges to Wall Street and her bold demands for consumer protections and market regulations. Now it is hard for me to get excited about her candidacy because I still view the Clinton 2016 endorsement as an act of political cowardice. I used to think it was straight up betrayal, but after getting involved with politics as an activist and as an organizer I’m willing to say I understand why she did what she did in 2016. However let us always remember that understanding an action is not the same as supporting it.

Will Liz Warren make the same mistakes this time? It is very possible that she will. Warren clearly is a politician who acts with caution. I do not fault her for being tactical but I will fault her if that tactic comes with compromising her values. However I can say that if she remains consistent with her demands for canceling student debt and if she does not backtrack support for Medicare for all then I would be genuinely happy with a Sanders/Warren or Warren/Sanders 2020 ticket. However I would be thrilled by the idea even more if she stepped up and admited that not endorsing Bernie in 2016 at the beginning of the primary was a mistake.

All in all, I do want to like Elizabeth Warren, I do miss the days where she and Bernie both were patron saints of the 99%. But until we address what happened in 2016 I will always have misgivings about her. I do not think Warren is bad, at least not as much as I used to, I do think she has to answer for 2016.

Activist, a poem

Philosophy is dead.

May theory reign supreme.

For we don’t reflect,

We plan,

We vote,

and we care.

We are your neighbors, your daughters and sons,

We are nothing to fear,

Yet we are everything you hate.

We are hear and we are loud.

We are and will be hear

until this work is done.

What I Mean When I Say “Bernie isn’t perfect”

We have all heard it. Every Bernie supporter has said it at some point. Whether it be about his vote for FOFSTA or his near sighted comments about the border, every Berner has had to say these words at least once. “Bernie isn’t perfect.”

However something needs to be made clear, I am not giving Bernie a free pass on his shortcomings when I say that. Some of my fellow Bernie supporters are but that is a folly in my opinion. When I say “Bernie isn’t perfect” I am not saying we should ignore where Bernie needs improvement.

What I am saying is that his shortcomings are where we as a base need to build our own popular power. We can count on Bernie for certain material gains, but we can not count on him to solve all of our problems. It is not he who will change everything, it is us, the sullied and ignored masses. Bernie’s short comings are where we must organize the most, where we can strike where the iron is hottest.

I do not think Bernie is a saint, he has made several comments over the years that can only be responded to with a Captain Picard face palm meme. Nor do I think he is the patron saint of socialism, Bernie is definitely more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist. However I do think that his candidacy increases the odds we can answer some of the most immediate material needs of the modern day working class, the biggest being our need for healthcare. I think it can be said without much debate that Bernie has been solid on the medicare for all part of his platform as well as an increase in social services, meaning a Bernie presidency can be a catalyst for ending privatization. Yet there are several other issues such as his reinforcement of an imperialist dialogue and his lackluster stance on sex work.

Bernie’s comments on Venezuela and open borders are disappointing to say the least and his votes in favor of Sosta and Fofsta were genuinely damaging to the lives of sex workers. However, as Bernie himself states, this momentum that is becoming a genuinely left movement in the country is about us, not just him. Where Bernie falls short is where we, the socialists and the organizers, must step up.

Bernie’s stance on social services is solid, but his stance on sex work is vapid, it is therefore the duty of the left to assist the organization of sex works. I am not suggesting we step into their lives with a savior complex, no, we must build an environment where sex workers can organize themselves. It is the duty of leftists and labor organizers to foster self determination and democracy, and that can be achieved through genuine bottom up organization that we know will be forsaken by Bernie, not because of a lack of concern but because of alack of attention on his part. I do not think Bernie hates sex workers but I do think that he is focusing his energy where he knows he is most capable. The fact is no matter how much Bernie can help us make gains he cannot fix everything, no single person is able to do everything, period. While Bernie focuses on one avenue of material gains, so shall we focus our efforts wherever he falls short or wherever we cannot count on electoralism to give us a material win. It is there we will build communities and help others to build theirs. This is the ultimate truth of the inside/outside strategy. We must put equal energy to both the in and the out.

Another example of where we can build a genuine base is through international solidarity. I do not think we can count on an inherently imperialist office, I.E. the U.S. presidency, to be an agent of ending imperialism.

I do think that having a president like Bernie can increase the odds that our over blown military budgets will stop, but will he bring justice to the Indigenous? Will he account for our contributions to colonization? And how will he approach Venezuela, DPRK, or Cuba as president?

I have no doubt that Bernie will continue to disappoint with his international stance but I do think 1. His presidency would reduce the odds we will carry out constant, devastating interventionism and 2. His presidency would allow us to redirect the excessive funds received by the military into the social programs he wants to enact. Yet when it comes to solidarity, true solidarity with the working class in nations such as Syria, Palestine, or Venezuela, it is our duty to elevate the voices of those organizing for liberation.

Cliche though it is, I do agree with the sentiment that where there is crisis there is also opportunity. There are harsh realities to deal with when taking about Bernie’s candidacy. I acknowledge that FOFSTA and SESTA are not just policy talking points, we are talking about peoples lives. The same goes for the effects of American interventionism, this is not just a policy talking point, lives have been destroyed in Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Venezuela, and too many other nations to list.

We can depend on Bernie for increasing our odds of serious material gains, especially when it comes to healthcare, but we must still and always depend on ourselves to be the true agents of community and organization. Those efforts of community and organization must be directed where Bernie or public servants like Bernie fall short.

This is our duty no matter who is running or who is president. Where there are needs to be met, leftists must be there to foster community and organization and work to elevate the voices in the midst of the hardest part of that work. Sex work and internationalism are simply two places where we as leftists have a duty to work, as we have a duty to get medicare for all and college for all. When I say Bernie is not perfect, I am not saying we must forgive him or ignore those imperfections, I am saying that these shortcomings are arenas for genuine base building. When I say Bernie is not perfect, what I am really saying is, “We must never stop organizing.”

What Is Art’s Place In The Revolution? An Essay

I was in the midst of writing a new essay for this blog titled “What is Socialist Art?” which is going to be a review and response to Leon Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution. The book offers an incredible degree of insight into what the effects of class revolution can be on poetry, literature, and art. As I was beginning to write my essay another question arose, and the more I tried working on my original question the more this other question gnawed at the back of my mind. This question needs to be answered before I can properly answer my first one. The question “What is socialist art?” cannot be answered until we solve another riddle, “What is art’s place in the revolution?”

Since April is National Poetry Month and I think this is the perfect time to address this topic. I have written multiple poems about art and revolution and in conjunction with National Poetry Month they will be published here in the coming weeks. This article is my humble attempt to answer the question “What is art’s place in the revolution?” with the same socialist lens that Trotsky applied to poetry and painting in Literature and Revolution, my poems shall be the praxis form of my theory. It should also be noted that the terms Marxist, socialist, leftist, and communist are used interchangeably in this piece of dialectic, but enough jargon for one paragraph!

Art clearly does have a place in the revolution because revolution is nothing more than the overhaul of society, not the abolition of society itself but the abolition of the society as we have come to know it. Art, as most Marxists would interpret it, is a key historical reference used in our analyses to help us define the class relations of the society where that art was produced. Art is always a product of it’s time and place and therefore inevitably has a place in times of upheaval and revolt. Art has a place both in the overhaul of society and use as a reference when discussing or reflecting on that society or the progress towards that society.

Art in the time that Trotsky wrote Literature and Revolution was significantly more conservative than today. Literature and Revolution was written in the early 1920’s when “the arts” were understood to be theater, poetry and novels, painting and sculpture, and architecture. Film was just coming into it’s own as an artistic medium and the radio broadcasts which later evolved into television were just starting. Literature and Revolution was written almost a century ago, and within that century the number of mediums of art have exploded in addition to film and broadcast mediums. In addition to what we might call the “traditional arts” we now have graphic design, 3D printed sculpture, street art and graffiti, and an endless list of music genres or painting styles. This is a self evident aspect of art, for while it is a reflection of its time and place art itself evolves and grows on its own terms. The laws of art are different from other natural laws because of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of categorizing them completely. Art is its own entity and the explosive growth of artistic mediums in the last century reflects that.

So the question “What is art’s place in the revolution?” requires us to answer not just for a handful of artistic mediums, but an entire dimension in of itself. While we can study art through the Marxist theoretical lens, we can only understand it through the lens of art itself because art exists within it’s own natural laws. So within the context of looking at art through a socialist revolutionary lens and acknowledging that because art is so autonomous this list can in no way be totally conclusive, it can be argued that art has at least three places in the revolution. They are agitation, the fostering of democratic participation, and subversion.

Agitation

The whole point of agitation is to foster debate so that revolutionaries may educate the classes they seek to organize and inturn motivate into action. Art has always shown it has the power to foster debate and motivate people into action, for better or worse. There are several examples in history that record people getting into fist fights, even rioting in the streets, as a reaction to artistic endeavors.

Consider the composer Igor Stravinsky and the stories surrounding the debut of his ballet the “Rite of Spring.” While the accounts of the event vary in their details about the severity and violence that broke out, the overarching detail of all accounts is that there was a violent reaction to the performance by the audience. The ballet caused fights to break out when it premiered in Paris because of the divided audience reaction. You either loved or hated the performance and would fight to defend your view, there was no middle ground for the Parisian’s who attended the legendary performance.

By modern standards a fight over a ballet performance seems trivial and unlikely, but what the mythos of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring demonstrates is that art can foster massive reactions by the public, even to the point of violence. It also demonstrates the power that art has to foster debate and how far that debate will go.

One must also talk about the world’s most influential medium of art to come out of the century since Trotsky wrote Literature and Revolution , film. There are too many controversies surrounding film to list. There is the christian conservative reaction to Martin Scorcese’s The Passion of The Christ. There was ongoing debate in the christian community about how to properly follow and celebrate Jesus when The Passion of the Christ came out. There is the debate about casting diversity and exclusion of trans actors or non white actors for trans and poc roles. There is the ever growing list of actors, directors, and producers who have permanently fallen from grace in the public’s eye as the Me Too movement unfolds. The industry behind the medium of film is so forward facing that it inevitably fosters, and at times even guides, our public dialect. This was true when the Birth of a Nation was released and it is true today.

Allen Ginsberg’s obscenity trial for his public readings of his magnum opus “Howl” is another example of the incendiary nature of the arts. A poem going into vivid detail about drug addicts, poor black neighborhoods, and sexual perversion was shocking for all of America in the 1950s. After years of being ignored the arts gave the dark side of America a spotlight and the conservative capitalist establishment reacted to the poem with censorship and one of the world’s most historic indecency trials. Whether the message of the artistic piece is positive or negative does not effect the incendiary nature of art either way. People heard Ginsberg’s poem and reacted either with amazement or disgust, a sense of disgust which drove many in power to support a very vocal public trial. The trial and the debate about decency in art that came of it is yet another example of how art can and is utilized for agitation. If the capitalist class is so offended by your work that they arrest you for it, you have done something right.

While all of these examples differ in their messages and their politics, the reaction to these pieces are all the same. We see both excitement and anger from the audiences. We see people take action and we see people react to the actions thereof. We see people who are either shocked out of complacency and relieved because of it or they are shocked out of complacency and reactionary. This is the ultimate purpose of agitation. To shock people out of complacency and foster a space for debate, which in-turn fosters democratic participation.

To Foster democratic participation

From agitation we move on to the topic of democratic forums, an essential part of revolutionary organizing. Art allows platforms for people who might otherwise be oppressed or marginalized or flat out ignored by our inherent tendencies to erase certain people. What does this mean in the simplest of terms?

Well to put it plainly, some people might speak up for themselves more through poetry or painting than in democratic forums or dialectical conversations. Consider the popularity of poetry slams and open mic nights. There is also the ancient cultural arts we see being practiced by Indigenous communities, as well as African, Latin, and Asian ones, which are attempts to reclaim what had otherwise been a lost or colonized way of life. The reclamation of culture is a revolutionary act, and some would prefer to focus on reclaiming lost culture than sit through meetings to debate and vote on organizational matters.

Some people might just be more introverted and not confident in their abilities to speak up, often times a person will have an opinion on a topic but does not feel ready or comfortable sharing it in that setting. Where some people might not speak up at a meeting, for whatever reason, they might be likely to express themselves through the reviving of their culture or through a poem shared with other like minded poets.

You might be more likely to hear someone’s point of view at a poetry slam than at your committee meeting. You might see more of the Indigenous perspective in a Navajo sand painting than in a conversation about the Indigenous. You might learn more about the experience of being a person of color or an immigrant in a piece of street art than in a debate on a resolution.

These mediums of art and the perspectives they offer do not have to be stand alone, nor be separate from democratic action. These pieces of art and expressions of culture can foster further conversation. The conversation and perspective generated by people’s reactions to them can in-turn be channeled into our democratic organizations. Art’s place in the revolution includes the reclaiming of colonized cultures and creating avenues of self expression that cannot be achieved in procedural matters alone, socialists and the left need to make sure there is a place for this in our organizing. Art and expression of culture fosters thought, thought fosters conversation and debate, that debate needs to be apart of our overall democratic procedure to insure the widest participation possible.

In other words, art is good for democracy, period.

Subversion

In the realm of political subversion and art, no medium has been used more in the last 30 years than street art. Street art is a prime example of how subversive art can be a tool for revolutionary organizing.

It is impossible to visit an area that is both predominately poor and non white and not see a galleries worth of street art on at least one building. One sees murals to black leaders such as Malcom X, Angela Davis, Harriett Tubman, Cesar Chavez, Zapata, and Dr. King throughout the neighborhoods of Compton and East Los Angeles. We must also not forget the popularity of street artists such as Plastic Jesus, Blackhat, and the legendary Banksy all of whom to some degree or another are political and subversive. While these are contemporary street artists we must remember that graffiti is nothing new to political expressionism. Since the 1970s and 80s, artists such as Keith Herring and Basquiat were forcing the streets of New York to face tragic political realities with their messages about black lives or the AIDS epidemic. All of these are artists who either reject the bourgeoise galleries or who have been rejected by them still create and they create their art to be seen by the masses for the sake of educating people about the reality of oppression or expressing the pain that the artist has either witnessed or experienced due to that oppression.

Yet subversion in the arts is not exclusive to our modern mediums, it is nothing new to art. There is a rich history of subversion in the traditional arts as well. Consider Voltaire, he was ever the subversive with his tale Candide essentially serving as a farce about the standards and practices of the bourgeoisie of his time. If Voltaire had just come out and said “Fuck you, you greedy entitled mother fuckers!” he would have been killed. Instead he crafted a novel where a man wanders the Earth and finds cities that treat gold like we would a piece of scrap paper.

Another example of the power of subversion is the popularity of Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother YOu.” Riley does not simply come out and say, “Organize your workplace! Overthrow the capitalists!’ (save for his twitter account of course). What he did was create a film that is the equivalent of Get Out meets an Adult Swim show and the result is a pro union call to action not seen in film since Norma Rae. All of these examples are important things to consider as the capitalist establishment works to censor us and whip up another red scare.

The truth is that the more the left succeeds the harder our opposition will come down on us. Be aware my fellow comrades, a wave of sabotage and censorship is already coming our way. We are already seeing the ground work for a new red scare in the current administrations obsession with Venezuela, and on a personal note I have lost count of how many Trumpers have called me a “filthy communist.” The terrors of censorship are already beginning, let us not forget that TeleSur has already been deleted from Facebook multiple times without reason. Sex-workers have been deplatformed to the point where they are facing more violence than ever before. The Washington Post, the paper owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, are releasing record breaking amounts of negative op-eds about Bernie Sanders much like they did in 2016. Make no mistake, the groundwork for the new censorship of the left and our base has already been laid out before us and it will only continue to grow until the capitalist class is defeated.

The more we succeed the more they will make moves against us. We will need to be creative about how we communicate our message of organization and revolution to the public. Arts, of all mediums and dimensions, from film to street art, allow us our avenues for subversion where we might otherwise be censored, ignored, or deleted.

Conclusion.

So, what is arts place in the revolution? Aside from elevating the voices of the colonized and the most oppressed classes by giving them avenues to reclaim culture, it can be a tool we use to agitate the public and shock them out of the complacency that capitalism brings. Art can foster democratic discussions that might otherwise be lost in the ether of ingrained social constructs or practices. Art gives us avenues to combat censorship and oppression, and more importantly allows us a forward facing avenue for presenting our message to the world. While we cannot make a conclusive list because of the never ending growth of artistic mediums what we can say is that art has a definite place in the revolution.

Perhaps now my original question, “What is socialist art?” will be a little easier to answer.

Serious Resistance: Why I Joined the Democratic Socialists of America!

Like many other people, when Donald Trump was elected in 2016 I decided to take action. I have always identified as a socialist, a leftist, and a progressive. While growing up I always did my best to get involved with activism, especially when the Occupy movement began to explode in 2011. Yet as time drifted on I could find few causes that motivated me to do anything more than share a tweet or a Facebook post. That all changed in 2016.

I am from a family of left leaning activists. My grandmother was a well known activist in Sacramento who had always organized for the homeless, migrant farm workers, and war refugees. I had the good fortune of tagging along with her to all of these causes as I grew up. She and my mother took me to my first peace march when I was five years old, and I have been there ever since. It was probably thanks to their upbringing that I ended up being voted “Most Opinionated” by my graduating class in high school. In college I became obsessed with Occupy and kept track of every single occupation that I could while trying to also find a cause to organize for at my school. Besides a few protests about tuition fees, momentous as they were for my school, I did not do much.

Then came the Bernie Sanders campaign, and as a socialist I was thrilled to just have our names on the board. I had little confidence his campaign would take off though, but I pledged my support for him from the beginning and both Bernie and the country pleasantly surprised me. It was thrilling to hear people take the platforms of the working class seriously. Anti racism and feminism became unavoidable topics thanks to the 2016 election. No matter how you want to interpret it or whose side you were on during the primary, it cannot be denied that a serious conversation about progressive policy and theory finally was taking place in the United States. When Bernie came to California I was lucky enough to make it to the front row at his first rally there, that was when I started to figure out what causes needed people the most.

It still wasn’t enough for me though. At this point getting involved still looked like nothing more than showing up for protests or Bernie events. This was around the same time that the Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles, where I was living at the time, took off. I was following BLM since the events in Ferguson and I wanted to get involved as much as I could because black liberation is synonymous with working class liberation.

What finally got me to show up was the case of Jasmine Richards, a BLM organizer who was arrested for lynching because she touched a police officer. The officer in question is caught on camera assaulting a friend of Richards’ and Richards reacted as any person would to seeing a friend assaulted: they tried to interfere and de-escalate the situation. The law that was actually used to arrest and prosecute Richards is the same law that California had passed in order to prevent lynchings of black people who were already in police custody. The law is meant to protect black lives not the police force who already have extra laws protecting them from assault. The fact that a black woman can get arrested for breaking a law that exists to protect black people was a wake up call to me. That wake up call said, “The system is just plain wrong!” I know I should have woken up long before this and the fact I eventually realized white supremacy and my privilege are systemic are not things I should be rewarded for.

When Bernie’s campaign ended I was disappointed and heartbroken, but I was still inspired to carry on. I stayed dedicated to the cause and I knew I would be voting for Hillary in order to dodge the bullet of a Trump Presidency. As disappointed as I was that Bernie would not be president I was relieved that at least an Oxford educated woman would be keeping Trump from the highest executive office in the country. So as you can imagine I was one of the many people who was shocked and horrified when it was announced Donald Trump had won the election thanks to a fluke in how we count and allocate votes. Trump’s victory was the grandiose wake up call I needed. It was the realization that I cannot be dependent on others like Bernie or Hillary to change the system. I knew that as did the several thousand people who took to the streets the next day screaming “Not My President!” The time for delay was over.

I had been raised in Sacramento, the capital city of California. I knew that I could accomplish more organizing in the capital than I could as just another protester in L.A. Plus I could carry on the legacy of my grandmother whose work I was worried would go in vain thanks to the new administration. I moved back to Sacramento, but was still not sure how to get involved. When I say “get involved” what I mean is what one should be doing beyond just showing up for marches and protests. While they are important I wanted to do things that I would see the immediate effects of. I did not want to just validate myself for being anti-Trump.

My work at first was very similar to what I was doing before I moved back to Sacramento. I showed up for anti-fracking events, No Dakota Access Pipeline solidarity groups, Black Lives Matter rallies and vigils, and every march including the Women’s March, the Science March, and the Tax March. Despite all of this I still had a desire to do more; I did not just want to protest for the sake of protesting. I wanted to organize and achieve tangible victories on the local level that would help the working class. That is how we can stop Trump’s fascism and reduce the effects his legacy will have; we should focus on getting resources and protections to the communities most affected by Trump’s policies.

That was when I started showing up for meetings for Sacramento’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. I had been following their social media before I had even moved back from Los Angeles, and one day I decided the time was right to join and attend a meeting. At my first DSA meeting, without even knowing a single person there, I was immediately welcomed into a sphere of like minded people who had the same exact goal as me. They wanted to achieve tangible victories on the local level that were socialist, progressive, and therefore inherently anti Trump. I was both impressed and thrilled to discover such a group existed in my home town. At the first meeting I attended I learned about how in November of 2016, a former Co-chair of the DSA named Michael Israel had been killed in Northern Syria as a rebel fighter for the socialist revolution in Rojava. The chapter was planning a memorial and was inviting people to attend, including myself. I was at first hesitant because I thought it would initially be just for people who knew Michael but the membership encouraged me to attend. The memorial was not the somber event I had expected but was a lively thing with dancing, music, food, and what seemed to be the entire activist community of Sacramento coming together for a day to celebrate a life so dedicated to the cause of humanity. At both the meeting and the memorial I felt a degree of acceptance and belonging that I had never felt before. The sense of togetherness that seemed inherent to the DSA was awe inspiring, unlike anything else I had witnessed or experienced before. The strong community that I both witnessed and experienced with Sacramento DSA had so impressed me that I decided to attend the 2017 DSA convention.

Within three months of my joining DSA, I ended up becoming the chairperson for the Sacramento delegation at the convention. This was the convention where we made abortion access a national priority, where we started our Medicare for All campaign which has become a mainstream policy platform, and we laid out our electoral strategy which has brought on the success of people like Lee Carter and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I feel an immense sense of pride that I took part in a piece of socialist history. The convention was one of the most stressful experiences of my life but one of the most worthwhile. There were intense outbursts from the voting floor and passionate debates about the direction of the largest socialist organization in America. It was something that I got to put a piece of myself into and I am proud to see that our work from the convention is constantly yielding such successful results. With Sacramento DSA I witnessed and experienced true community, at the national convention I witnessed and experienced true democracy. Not only did I feel happy to belong, I felt proud to be involved.

I have since put a piece of myself nationally into an organization that goes against everything that Trump stands for. He attacks women’s healthcare, so we make abortion access a priority. He attacks immigrants so we adopt the policy of abolishing ICE which like Medicare for All has become a mainstream platform. With these national priorities, on the local level Sacramento DSA has organized support for Black Lives Matter and the unhoused. We have worked with the Brown Berets and other anti ICE groups. We have a flourishing socialist feminist reading group, thanks to which I have learned to reconcile with my own sexism. I have taken action against the very institutions that create and enable Trump, I did not just throw weight behind actions against the man himself. This is only a fraction of how much I have learned from my experience with the DSA. Not only have I worked hard and found a sense of belonging, I have grown and continue to grow intellectually thanks to the people that I call, “comrades.”

In short, if you want to get serious about resistance, about stopping Trump and obstructing his presidency, then look no further than your local DSA chapter. Don’t have a local chapter yet? Even better, because this is your chance to start one and therefore your chance to create an organization to fight Trumpism on the local level. The DSA combines anti racism, feminism, and class issues into one fight. If you are serious about resistance, if you genuinely want to create a space and community that goes against the racist and sexist status quo, look to the Democratic Socialists of America.

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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