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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A Quick Note About Leftist Strategy

Strategy and ideology are equally important but when one gets put ahead of the other you run into problems.

Put ideology ahead of strategy you end up doing stupid shit like not voting or joining cultish fraud left groups. If all you care about is validating your analysis instead of thinking tactically to gain the most materially for the most people then you are not helping the left.

Put strategy ahead of ideology you end up selling out important beliefs. If all one cares about is getting socialists elected and not about holding them accountable, about laying out a socialist program for society, and building alternatives to capitalism all at the same time, one is not helping the left.

Leftists should have a strong idealogical core. They should also use that ideology to think and act as tactically as possible.

I don’t think it’s that complicated.

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.

Leftists, You Don’t Need to Have All The Answers, But You Need to Have Some Answers

It’s all well and good to say, “Smash the system!” I support and agree with that statement whole heartedly.

However if we are not offering a genuine alternative to the status quo and the systems we are attacking then Leftists are screwing over ourselves by weakening our argument and, more importantly, we are screwing over the people we are trying to organize and liberate.

It is the staple of conservatives and reactionaries try to argue with us. I have lost count of how many times I have heard, “Well if you hate capitalism so much, what are you saying should replace it?” In all honesty Leftists are not obligated respond to this. Leftists are not obligated appease this sense of entitlement. We do not need to explain every point about every thing they believe, especially any Leftist of a marginalized group.

However when organizing if we are not offering the masses the clear alternative to the systems we rail against then we are doing a disservice to the capabilities of building momentum and we are weakening our foundation for our movement.

To put it bluntly, it is an insult to the victims of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism to say “smash the system” and not make it clear that there is an alternative to organize for.

It is the calling card of the “lifestyle anarchist” to say smash the system for the sake of saying smash the system. Do not mistake me, this is not an attack on anarchism nor any other form of Leftist theory. What I am saying is that when we say “smash the system” the alternatives we are offering must be made clear so that the unengaged will want to become engaged.

It is all well and good to say “smash the system” but if you are not making it clear that you are offering an alternative, whether that alternative is anarchism, Marxism, or social democracy, you are insulting the very people you are trying to liberate. You are not giving the victims of the system what they need. You are simply validating your own need to decry the status quo when you offer revolution for the sake of revolution. Which is all fine and dandy until the system is actually smashed and then there is nothing in place to help lift and protect the disabled or the otherwise marginalized. The current system does not do that at all, yet if we do not make it clear we are offering a structure that does protect the unprotected then we have lost.

It’s all well and good to say “smash the system” It is not all well and good to ignore the implications of what comes after the fact. It is not all well and good to put your own need to feel validated as a revolutionary ahead of the actual needs that go into a revolution.

Smash the system, and make it clear that when it is smashed there is something to organize, and hope, for.


The Soul of a Socialist

Sometimes one has to wonder, what is the point of it all?

Of course many argue there is no room for existentialism in a Marxist’s life style, and I am inclined to agree. But when left alone with a hyperactive mind, one can’t help but be tempted to wonder. Since embracing my Communist identity I still find myself wondering at times, and while the wondering remains the nature of my mind’s wondering has changed. I no longer ask “Who am I?” or “What am I doing?” I now wonder, “What results will all of this yield?”

As a member of the DSA I am a part of a goal and project oriented organization, which does not yield much time for existential disposition. Generally, though not to universalize, one joins a socialist organization with a fairly strong sense of who they are. Yet when one is marching, meeting, planning, and scheduling, there are moments in between where I am left asking, “What will happen at the end of it all?” I plan on organizing until I can organize no more, so when the day finally comes and I meet my maker I wonder, what will have come from all I have tried to do here and now in this capitalist world?

It is not an egomaniacal concern about what my “legacy” will be. Or perhaps it is. Maybe this is all just an ego’s ramblings from a young writer unsure about his direction in life and what his efforts will yield.

Perhaps this is just paranoia from my constant indulgence into cannabis.

In any-case, I am not worried. No matter what happens, no matter when my life and organizing comes to an end, I operate around a simple Greek proverb, “Great people plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit it.”