Bluegrass Cosmonaut


Sectarianism and Generally Being Nasty

This is something that is all too common online, and something I'm guilty of. I think it's a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic forcing everyone online, but it existed before too.

I've come to think of sectarianism and inter-organizational sniping as a symptom of despair. One of my favorite Lenin quotes is:

Despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out, and are incapable of struggle. The modern industrial proletariat does not belong to the category of such classes.

If you're like a lot of people in the U.S., especially if you're on the left, you probably slip into despair from time to time. If you don't have a good grasp on dialectics, you're likely to stay there. That nagging sense of hopelessness is corrosive, and leads a lot of people to turn their frustration at the state of things onto others.

Another side to this is what John Sanbonmatsu describes as the "politics of personal expression", as opposed to thinking of politics as strategy. Tied up with the terminally-online phenomenon is the idea of presenting oneself as the pure revolutionary. Every line you take has to be correct, and reasonable disagreement becomes grounds for an angry denunciation of the other person, demonstrating how much better you are than them. I know this formula well because I've done it more times than I can remember.

Now this isn't to say that principled criticism is wrong or anything like that. Going back to dialectics, everything is in motion, contradictions are everywhere. But not all contradictions are equal. There are antagonistic contradictions like the one between the working class and the bosses, but there are also non-antagonistic contradictions. Non-antagonistic contradictions don't require ruthless struggle to resolve.

So what's the solution? Stop and identify which type of contradiction you're dealing with, and if it's non-antagonistic, act accordingly! Know when civil conversation is appropriate. Obviously, not everyone is going to be acting in good faith, and part of this is recognizing that and disengaging. But that's on them.

As revolutionaries, we don’t have the right to say we are tired of explaining. We must never stop explaining. We know that when the people understand, they cannot help but follow us.

Bro, I can see the dialectic