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.

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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.


Poetry’s Place in the Revolution: The Rant of a Socialist Poet

God fucking cock sucking mother fucking damnit!

Quite a poetic opening am I right? Yes a bit blunt but to be honest I am in a foul mood. I started off the year strong by getting published twice in one month, but ever since June it has been a series of pitches and rejection letters.

I start my work days by checking email, and to be honest I am just getting tired of opening my inbox only to find reasons why literary journals don’t want to publish my poems about the heart, the body, the soul of the creatives in revolution.

Poetry and art are all about putting what is in the heart, mind, body, and soul into a tangible thing for others to experience.

I am a socialist, an organizer and proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America. I love my organization because we are only as good as the work our members put into it, and I love to work. My place in this organization was like a hand in a glove (cliche I know but still) but what has escaped me is a very important question:

What is art’s place in the revolution?

I know some of you might be thinking, “But James, this has nothing to do with your rejection letters!”

I’m getting to that. I am a writer and I will do whatever it takes to make my living doing this. Prior to my complete radicalization, my incorporation of a material analysis into my world view, I was very much just hoping to be one of the next great poets. Someone whose words would just resonate with the times they are in and become a controversial definition of the days it was written. The next Shakespeare, the next Allen Ginsberg, that was what I wanted to be.

But then I realized something, I was creating just to create. I was writing in a totally self expressive way with no political motivation behind my words. “Art for art’s sake” was my original motto, but now I see that does not exist yet. That can never exist as long as the arts are commodified, as long as creatives are at the mercy of wealthy patrons and publishers who want to control the tone of our cultural and political dialogue.

What is the place of the poet, the artist, the filmmaker in revolution? It is not as propaganda agents of a worker’s state as some may believe. No, their place in the revolution is to bring truth to the masses. Their job is to express truth in ways that the petty bourgeoisie artists of the status quo, in other words “hacks”, cannot.

That is what my poetry is about, asking and answering the question about what art or poetry can and should do to aid us on the March of History.

So that is what I write, that is what I pitch to publishers and literary journals.

And what do they publish instead?

Corny hacks who write poems about cookies and daffodils and memories of an over privileged childhood in a way that is so over the top and self indulgent that it would make even Marcel Proust vomit.

I rest my case.