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Friday, June 25, 2010

Radicals, Reformists, Revolutionaries

If one's sociopolitical aspirations and historical/policy analyses are more radical than those of the political platforms and welcome constituencies of America's actually constituted political parties, it seems to me you can
either treat partisan politics as a reformist pathway in the direction of your aspirations while struggling as well within the party that best reflects that direction to adopt a platform closer still to your more radical terms,

or you can treat such partisan politics as an insurmountable barrier of incumbency, corruption, and falsehood to your aspirations leading you to revolutionary remedies instead.

However disappointed and frustrated you may be at actual partisan and reformist outcomes, as a person like me whose left-wing convictions are more radical than constituted parties and available reformism can accommodate, if you nonetheless remain wedded to the heartbreaking path of that reformism as the left wing of the possible and continue to vote for More, and Better Democrats, pushing and pushing and pushing all the while from the left on particular policy questions, then you are in much the same position as I am.

If instead you truly decide to eschew the path of best possible progressive reform within the constraints at hand, then this is a decision I can certainly respect (tho' it is not my own decision), but only if that decision truly cashes out in actual revolutionary action instead. Otherwise it's just narcissistic tantrum throwing pretending to be political radicalism as far as I can tell.

It is one thing to feel enraged or broken-hearted by DNC/Obama deficiencies, it is another (and false) thing to propose Dem-Rep equivalency theses. It is one thing to recognize that no party platform is adequate to one's radicalism, it is another (and false) thing to propose as a practical solution a third-party alternative when representatives independent of America's two parties are forced nevertheless to caucus with one of these parties in any case to have any actual agency in governance and in the absence of instant runoff voting to insulate third-party runs from functioning as spoilers.

Of course, radicals should continue to make their more radical cases, offer up their more radical accounts and proposals, provide more radical alternatives to think about and hope for and so on. I certainly will. But it is crucial that one grasp the differences between such activities and actual reformist or revolutionary activity on the ground.

It pays to be sensitive to the differences between campaigns that are intended to be reformist and those that claim to be revolutionary, the differences between analyses involving ideal cases as against best probable outcomes, and that one not use criteria more appropriate to the one to drive our sole evaluation of the other, and so on.

This is actually hard to do, and hard to keep in mind in the heat of conflict, and easy to get wrong case by case.

15 comments:

RadicalCoolDude said...

Carrico: Otherwise it's just narcissistic tantrum throwing pretending to be political radicalism as far as I can tell.

Typical.

Dale Carrico said...

So, you disagree? You agree? Do you typically agree or disagree with whatever you find so characteristic in this particular snippet? Entirely? With just some part, some shading? Presumably all the conditions, justifications, qualification I offered up around that snippet don't work for you, don't blunt or give pause to your assessment? Is there a reason for that? Anything you care to share with the rest of the class?

Nope. Just "typical." A comment with zero specificity, zero content, zero effort at actual responsiveness. Who's to say you even read the post? Who could tell? Talk about "typical." For you, I mean. You've been pulling this stunt in the Moot for years now, lobbing these high-altitude stink bombs and hydra-headed link lists to other people's texts that presumably function as "responses" to my claims, but never with any indication of just what it is in the pieces that count as a response particularly or to what in particular.

All the actual details of your judgments and the thought processes behind them are always left utterly mysterious, you're always up in the cheap seats nursing what you seem to fancy is your "radicalism" behind pseudonymity and a relentless refusal ever to say anything at all, commmit to anything at all, just offering up these little smug smoke signals.

Why do you bother? What did I ever do to deserve your lame vacuous attentions anyway? What do you get out of it? What are you looking for? What am I supposed to do with you? What would help you, what would see through to whatever it is you are surely trying to communicate in this interminable uncommunicative way all this time? What do you imagine your impact on me is supposed to be exactly? It's all utterly confounding to me, it really is.

Is that in itself the goal? Are you, like, some weird awful person or something? I don't get it.

Summerspeaker said...

Your comment is dangerous in as much as it can discourage revolutionary activity and beneficial in that it can encourage the same.

These days we radicals find ourselves often supporting reformist campaigns, if only in passing. I ascribe it to the overall weakness of the movement as well as the practical advantages of doing so.

Dale Carrico said...

And what revolutionary activity are you engaged in? I've organized strikes, I've participated in sit-in takeovers of bigot-owned restaurants, I've helped build defenses for feminist separatist enclaves threatened by gunfire, I've engaged in illegal needle exchange out of car trunks in parking lots, I've done women's health clinic defense in the Deep South, I've had bottles thrown at my head for outing myself as an atheist among fundies, I've been thrown in jail, I've been teaching communism and eco-socialism and anarchism and nonviolence and queer lib to my students for over fifteen years. What a shame I'm such a stealth reactionary Obamabot... if only one day I could be a True Revolutionary like you critics in the peanut gallery, swoon!

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Hey Dale Carrico, I find your words to be a fire-under-butt inspirational, the good stuff that gets me thinking — but my fire doesn't overcome adversity well.

The damn language, that's what keeps getting the voters, eh? I hear "reformer" I think: awesome, I'm totally don't vibe with the conventional form. I hear "radical" I think: Also awesome, let's blow this mother up and redo it from the foundation.

The hope — my hope, I mean — is that reforming our current way of going would spark fantastic debates, building from the bottom, cut out all the b.s. presuppositions and things left unsaid — say it all! But, for the less patient, the debate is always debilitatingly disappointing, and that's why I end of reading a cookbook and making a fancy meal and getting drunk and/or/while riding a bike — it's just so overwhelmingly satisfying.

I sometimes wish (you know, the wishes you know you don't actually want to come true) I had it in me to do the grunt work, whatever that means, but I don't find nourishment. It seems to have just occurred to me, literally at the end of the last sentence, that the job — teaching the kids, public school style — saps all of my energy to shape and reshape. Ah ha, this feels good. Perhaps I'm not quite the lazy, non-voting, disengaged political misanthrope that I blame myself for being. This is nice.

Again, thanks for the words, they're good words.

Summerspeaker said...

And what revolutionary activity are you engaged in?

Similar sorts of things to your list, though I question how much of it is legitimately revolutionary. I give out free food on the street both a practical measure and propaganda for universal access to the necessities life, often under the threat of fines or arrest. I do manual and organization work for community spaces such as the Catholic Worker house and local peace center. I've materially supported radical and progressive causes such as Iraq Veterans for Peace, Juarez femicide activists, and health clinics in zapatista Chiapas. I've done the same for and participated in strikes, protests, and marches of the typical varieties: anti-nuclear, anti-war, queer, pro-immigrant, anti-capitalist, etc. I research anarchism and feminism in my academic capacity.

What a shame I'm such a stealth reactionary Obamabot... if only one day I could be a True Revolutionary like you critics in the peanut gallery, swoon!

You're misinterpreting my comment. I think we're on the same side politically - or at least should be. If there's one thing my historical investigation has taught me, it's that the left needs to transcend all these factional disputes and personal hostilities. I have my faith in the Robot Cult; you worship your own infallibility. That shouldn't prevent us from solidarity on our many shared values.

Dale Carrico said...

I didn't mean to enter into a pissing contest, I was expressing frustration at commenters -- of whom thankfully you seem possibly not to be one -- who denigrate my reformism from a "Revolutionary" vantage consisting of their ability to post links to AlterNet or Common Dreams almost every one of which I have already read in any event.

As for your unfortunate foray into Robot Cultism, well, your superlative futurology is no more a "left faction" than the Raelians, Randroids, or Scientologists. That claim doesn't even make sense frankly -- even among those transhumanists and Singularitarians who aren't actually explicit or inertial rightwing market fundamentalist tools a sizable number declare themselves "beyond politics" or to advocate a "politics of technology" that involves the most facile and reactionary determinist or autonomist or technocratic assumptions imaginable. True there are a handful of socialist and liberal identified Robot Cultists (given how insane-right the Extropian glory days of the Robot Cult were, and how sweeping were the failures of Movement Republicanism under the Killer Clown Administration it isn't surprising that at least some of you superlative futurologists would try to whomp up a left flank), but I have rarely met a group of "leftists" so eager to blow kisses to Randroids and Bell Curve racists and corporatists, frankly, not to mention the structural affinities of futurology to industrialism, incumbency, authoritarianism, moralism I have noted many times elsewhere that skew rightward whatever the avowed convictions of their adherents.

I think you have a chance to outgrow this Robot Cult business. I wish you the best.

Thanatz said...

Lesser Evilism doesn't work if the lesser evil arrogates to himself the right to dispose of your person in any manner he sees fit. Hand wave all you want, Dale, but nothing will change that fact. When confronted with actual evidence of this, fair-minded human beings who understand the importance of not doing violence to language will assess the relative similarities and differences and will find that, whatever distinctions may be discernible, ON THIS MATTER THEY DO NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

But this won't mean anything to you, because this is just a "deficiency" according to your reified, parochial conception of The Limits of Responsible Progressivism.

Anygay, I'm sure glad that my family can pay Wellpoint half of our earnings while Barry O'YHWH hides people from the IRC and remains willing and able to render any one of us to Cairo for the ever-stimulating application of electrodes to testicles.

Is the desire not to have your balls electrified reformist or revolutionary? MORE AND BETTER DEMOCRATS!!
[/Righteous Snark]

Dale Carrico said...

Thanatz, insinuating that Dems can "dispose of you in any manner they see fit" (and we all know what THAT means, mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!), neglecting to mention that the majority of people in positions of authority who actually oppose, as you rightly do and as I rightly do, our awful ongoing rendering and surveillance policies, our drone attacks and assassination runs, just as the majority of people in positions of authority who actually are struggling to build on health care/insurance reform to continue the push toward single-payer are, yes, DEMOCRATS, then calling Obama "Barry" like some dot-eyed Teabagger at a La Palin rally, then pretending all the Bad Democrats want to electrocute your testicles, Mommy... I mean, honestly.

Your snark isn't righteous in the least as far as I can tell. You have profoundly lost your way. You are doing the work of a Republican operative in an era when Republicans are functioning monolithically to undermine secular democracy, respect for science, diversity everywhere you look.

You seem to me (from the limited information I can glean from your repeated comments here in the Moot) to have assumed a vantage so alienated from events that you can no longer discern differences that make a difference.

While you seem to think this "A Plague on Both Your Houses!" schtick makes you a Revolutionary even though it costs you absolutely nothing in the way of effort, discernment, or judgment, I would be very surprised if your thrilling repudiation of compromised heartbreaking progressive reform in the world we actually live in has cashed out in your assumption of actually Revolutionary activism instead. Whining in your poopy diaper certainly isn't the Revolution. Too many of your declamations just seem like yet another pampered preening male scratching embarrassingly about the pen for dominance.

If, by the way, despite your apparently undifferentiated disdain for all actual efforts at governance and reform, you still vote for More, and Better, Democrats, and if you do your part to help those suffering in this epoch of white racist patriarchal extractive-industrial corporate-militarist distress (and I do mean actual help, soup kitchens, teaching prisoners to read, street patrols to protect sex workers, not just the opportunistic deployment of your awareness suffering to illustrate the awesome radicality of your attitude), then I have no quarrel with you, even if the terms of your political critique are obfuscatory, demoralizing, and infantile. Bad theory usually matters less than good conduct, though good theory inspires and provokes good conduct, which is far better. But your theory will get better with the experience you acquire doing good in the world.

Summerspeaker said...

As for your unfortunate foray into Robot Cultism, well, your superlative futurology is no more a "left faction" than the Raelians, Randroids, or Scientologists.

To the contrary, [i]my[/i] transhumanism is decidedly leftist much as Firestone's was/is. The movement overall may be generally reactionary; I'm endeavoring, however futilely, to shift that. This sort of thing has a history in radicalism. Anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón appropriated elements of the positivist worldview for his propaganda. That didn't make him a científico. Visions of profound change have been employed by countless different political alignments.

(given how insane-right the Extropian glory days of the Robot Cult were, and how sweeping were the failures of Movement Republicanism under the Killer Clown Administration it isn't surprising that at least some of you superlative futurologists would try to whomp up a left flank)

I was a leftist long before becoming familiar with transhumanism. Rather foolishly in retrospect, I saw little difference between Bush and Gore and voted for Nader in 2000.

You seem to me (from the limited information I can glean from your repeated comments here in the Moot) to have assumed a vantage so alienated from events that you can no longer discern differences that make a difference.

Considering all the people I know personally who've been abused by state power under both Republican and Democratic administrations, this alienation makes a lot of sense. Activist Keith McHenry, for example, got tortured by the U.S. government under Clinton. He and so many others have been beaten senseless by police for political offenses. That's just within this country. When you think about the vast suffering caused by the U.S. military abroad, there's no credible moral defense for the folks in power. As the head of the largest imperialist power in human history, Obama is undeniably war criminal. This does mean his administration hasn't been an improvement, but you have to keep both the ideal and the reality of the situation in mind. Any politician who doesn't call for the immediate end to war is deeply complicit in unspeakable atrocities.

Dale Carrico said...

my transhumanism is decidedly leftist

You're wrong but you're not open to persuasion on this at the moment (tho' you may be in time) and it's getting boring. Let's agree to disagree on this and stick to more productive disagreements for now, shall we?

Considering all the people I know personally who've been abused by state power under both Republican and Democratic administrations, this alienation makes a lot of sense.

It's understandable, sure, but to the extent that you want to accomplish progressive outcomes within actually-existing constraints I personally do not agree that it makes sense. I definitely agree that the activist has to remain attentive both to pragmatic considerations as well as to animating ideals -- else, too pragmatic we are assimilated or too ideal we become irrelevant -- and that this is actually enormously difficult, and that most of the insults getting flung back and forth here are a function of this very difficulty.

I do hope that despite the fact that Obama is a war criminal your sensible regret about your Nader vote in 2000 has taught you that the democratically minded thing to do in 2012 is vote for Obama the War Criminal instead of voting (via an actual vote, via not voting, or via voting for a quixotic third party candidate) for whatever fascist theocrat tool the Republicans provide the white racist patriarchal Know Nothing Christianist set.

Summerspeaker said...

In 2008 I voted for McKinney-Clemente. I feel better about this than I do about voting for Nader in 2000. I had done a lot of (paid) get-out-the-vote work for Obama and felt confident he would carry the state, which he did handily. I just couldn't resist when I realized they were on the ballot - that ticket excited me orders of magnitude more than Nader ever has.

jimf said...

Dale wrote:

> I do hope that. . . your sensible regret about your
> Nader vote in 2000 has taught you that the democratically
> minded thing to do in 2012 is vote for Obama the War Criminal
> instead of voting (via an actual vote, via not voting,
> or via voting for a quixotic third party candidate) for
> whatever fascist theocrat tool the Republicans provide. . .

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> In 2008 I voted for McKinney-Clemente. . .
> I just couldn't resist. . .

Republicans **love** lefties like you. As the
irrepressible Dan Savage puts it:

Daily Pennsylvanian Interview with Dan Savage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDzbTyz3_VI&feature=related

2:05

"You have to be a pragmatist about these things. Lefties
do idiotic things like vote for Nader 'cause it "feels
good". And in the short run it may feel good and be
gratifying but in the long run it's been a disaster. . ."

2:52

"The Green party and its supporters are tools and fools
for the Republicans and the radical right. Santorum
**entirely** funded Romanelli's effort to get on the
ballot to drain votes from Casey. The Green Party in
Pennsylvania is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the
Republican Party. Any progressive who votes for a
Green **any** more after Nader, and now after Romanelli,
is a **fucking idiot** and should be beaten with
sticks. And Romanelli is scum."

RadicalCoolDude said...

Carrico: So, you disagree? You agree? Do you typically agree or disagree with whatever you find so characteristic in this particular snippet? Entirely? With just some part, some shading?

By "typical", I simply meant that it is typical of you to dismiss anyone whose radicalism you disagree with as needing to grow up or see a shrink.

Carrico: You've been pulling this stunt in the Moot for years now, lobbing these high-altitude stink bombs and hydra-headed link lists to other people's texts that presumably function as "responses" to my claims, but never with any indication of just what it is in the pieces that count as a response particularly or to what in particular.

As I've explained to you many times before, I freely admit to "lobbing high-altitude stink bombs" at you only so that you understand how it feels when you do the same to other people. However, the notion that I have sent you links to other people's texts as a responses to your claims, but never with any indication of just what it is in the pieces that count as a response particularly or to what in particular is BS.

I am willing to bet that every single one of you readers would be able to figure out exactly what it is in those pieces that count as a response. If you disagree, let's test it. Let me post my quote of Chris Hedges' text in the Moot under your And Now A Little Love for the Haters post and let's ask everyone what they think.

Dale Carrico said...

That's a stirring crusade, I must say. Poor Radical Cool Dude must be free to spam the blogs of others with links to texts by others whenever he likes, he must expose those who have actually hurt his feelings by telling him his comments are vacuous or narcissistic! Radical Cool Dude is Radical! Radical Cool Dude Will Have Justice! The low-readership blogger and tyrant Dale Carrico will be stopped by bravely pseudonymous Radical Cool Dude! Oh, what a day it will be when Radical Cool Dude is free to preen and pout in the Moot and post links there to AlterNet and Common Dreams that everybody has already read as his brave free heart dictates! On that day, at long last, the world will have peace.