Recently there was a split, purges, and resignations, with much resultant gnashing of teeth in the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. SWP is a Leninist formation that fancies itself a vanguard party, ready to lead the workers to the inevitable proletarian victory. However, this can only happen after the masses have realized the correctness of the ideology of SWP. Of course, they must never question the revealed truths of the SWP leaders or take independent action.
I was in a group like that in the States for a while. PSL was also convinced of its inerrancy. I was in ANSWER at the time, watched as a several dozen Worker’s World members resigned one Sunday, took ANSWER with them, and then started PSL. I joined PSL out of curiosity and got purged a few years later. Apparently my inability to accept doctrinaire groupthink was judged a liability. Dang.
The purge was done in such a way that instantly vaporized existing friendships. For such ideologues, the political and personal are inseparable. American Leftist has a long thoughtful post about why this badly damages the far left.
Despite over 100 years of trying to figure it out, Marxist-Leninists have not found a way round this intersection of the personal and the political and the destructive consequences that often ensue.
Because, you see, it’s all very very serious – deeply grim in fact – with frivolity and giggling frowned upon as counter-productive and boojie.
One anarchist novelist recently said, I distrust any activists who don’t read fiction. The remark struck a nerve with me, because I have had a similar experience with political activists generally, that the ones who were disinterested in various forms of cultural expression, like theatre, film and literature, were the most rigid and intolerant. There is a relativism in such creations that enhances one’s perception of the world and one’s place in it. Such relativism is not incompatible with radical left beliefs.
Indeed. “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Seriously. And neither does hardly anyone else, for that matter. That’s one reason such groups inevitably remain tiny and on the fringe of the fringe.