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Let's Stop Being Assholes

Why is it that so many of us leftists are raging assholes?  If we really want to win the masses over to our line, you would think that we would learn how to behave properly amongst the masses rather than coming across as self-righteous shits who prefer to yell at each other and sanctimoniously declare the purity of our politics.  Earlier, I joked about making communism hip––perhaps I should have added that we need to make it hip without the stereotypical "hipster" arrogance, thus reversing the leftist arrogance that persists without any foundational hipness.

Clearly online sites of discussion and debate tend to amplify the asshole behaviour amongst leftists.  I know that I've found myself embroiled in online arguments that have increased my jerk factor (this is one of the reasons that, over the summer, I've tried my best to limit my internet engagement), and I am pretty sure that the normative internet leftist––that is, the communist/anarchist whose politics are limited to online forums––is an essential asshole.  After all, if your political praxis is confined to social media platforms, and you are not involved politically in anything other than online forums, you are most probably a troll who has adopted some sort of radical identity.

But I'm not talking about online asshole behaviour, which is known to be problematic and is something of a cliche.  Nor am I talking about the traditional exchange of polemics between leftist groups and individuals which can sometimes devolve into asinine attacks.  While these are indeed areas where we all require rectification, and where principled behaviour and discipline might be necessary, they are also areas that are generally limited to the already-convinced leftwing population and are thus inward looking.

I am also not problematizing asshole behaviour towards our class enemies.  Since reactionary scum are dedicated to anti-people politics, and thus are essential assholes despite their occasional nice behaviour, it doesn't make much sense to not be assholes back.  Screw the moralism of polite behaviour in this context: it's perfectly acceptable to be a jerk to bourgeois scum and their pig protectors.

The problem, however, is our behaviour amongst the masses that we are supposed to be winning to our side… Because we are not going to win anyone over if our actions do not resonate with our words and, after preaching about the virtues of communism, we act in such a way that, if our behaviour is anything to go by, the average outside observer is driven away.

At the centres of capitalism, activism is determined by the discourse of fashion: there are in groups and there are out groups.  Sometimes if you do not dress appropriately, or do not resemble a certain activist style, you will be treated with suspicion.  Proving your activist credentials is always an interesting game: you have to learn how to say the right words, adopt the prevalent discourse, and slowly claw your way to the top of the activist food chain by attending and participating in whatever demonstrations and activities are en vogue.  Self-righteousness abounds; sanctimonious lectures are delivered to those who are just outside of the boundaries of fashion.

Then there are those marxist cabals who reject the normative activist fashion in order to cling to their own sub-culture, like a group of role-playing nerds who adopt their own coolness in the face of unpopularity.  These people can be even worse assholes because they like to disrupt coalitions with their predictable interventions and yell at would-be recruits for being "stupid".  If they aren't selling newspapers at the fringes of demonstrations, and harassing everyone they see as ignorant, they are running websites that are aimed at proving why they are the only legitimate leftists in their society, driving away many people who might even be interested in their politics with their sanctimonious behaviour and specialized lingo.  But since legitimacy is only provided by the masses, if you aren't winning them over then you aren't very legitimate.

Perhaps this general asshole behaviour is the result of the combative spirit of the average anti-capitalist: if you are forced, day in and day out, to justify your politics in the face of bourgeois ideology you tend to become overly defiant.  There is a point, however, where this process becomes another method of bourgeois socialization: you are transformed into an individual set against other individuals, a competitive maverick.

But if we claim to be communists then we have to be concerned with the well-being of the masses.  We cannot alienate the people we are trying to organize; we need to learn to act with humility.  Part of winning people over is to prefigure communism in our behaviour, to make our politics beguiling by demonstrating that we are trying to act in a way that is contrary to the bourgeois mode of being.


  1. My perception is that a major contributing factor is how identity politics encourages an unhealthy understanding of the difference between antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. I all too frequently see this "oppressed people don't have to explain their oppression to their oppressor" line of argument being used to signify that everyone not a part of a certain oppressed group is therefore, by definition an OPPRESSOR of that group (e.g. white people oppress black people, straight people oppress gay people, abled people oppress disabled people, etc.). It's a very dualistic, un-nuanced orientation toward the people that has snuck its way into a lot of Marxist circles and manifests itself in very bad ways on social media.

  2. Why should we be concerned with the "well-being" of First-World Labor Aristocratic overpaid Asses? The First-World Asses aren't the Masses. If they understood how imperialism worked in their favor, they'd whole-heartedly support it.

    I was once an activist for these First-World asses. For years, I did unpaid activity of all sorts to attract people to the anti-war movement. I was nothing but a pawn of the Labor Aristocracy (and by extension) the DemoKKKratic Party. First-World radiKKKal "Left" organizations, even so-called Marxist-Leninist ones, are all in a conspiracy of silence regarding the nature of the AmeriKKKan Labor Aristocracy. Not only do they not put the issue of the Labor Aristocracy front and center, the largest and most influential organizations deny it outright (the International Social-Fascist Organization and the Solidarity bunch, who run "Labor (Aristocracy) Notes").

    We should do everything we can to win the real masses over. The REAL MASSES are in the Third-World (and maybe small pockets in the First-World, almost exclusively amongst immigrants and prisoners). We have to convince THE REAL MASSES of the revolutionary line, which is that THE ENTIRE FIRST-WORLD is their ENEMY. The First-World must be COMBATED in its totality.

    1. Well the third world masses aren't going to be won over by you, who is operating in the first world. They are going to be won over by revolutionary movements in their context. As for the term "masses" this is a much broader concept than "proletarian". Now while I do agree that there is a labour aristocracy that predominates in the first world, and that there is an entire constellation of organizations that base their theory and practice upon the misconception that this labour aristocracy is the proletariat [you've mentioned some], I disagree with the totalizing third worldist analysis that often produces revolutionary inaction, simplistic overstating, some ur-Trotskyism where the entire world is conceived of as a single mode of production, and self-righteousness. You speak of going to the "real" masses and yet, if you work in the first world in a privileged position, there is no way to go to these "real" masses and, if you did in an attempt to organize them, you would indeed be (most probably) guilty of first world chauvinism. Moreover, as I indicated above and in a different post, the term "masses" is not purely synonymous with "proletariat"; there is a reason Maoism has a tradition of using this term not as a replacement for "proletariat" (as some charge us with doing) but as a broader concept within which the proletarian forms the revolutionary nucleus. Hell, even the bourgeoisie are part of the masses they just happen to be that part of the masses that we (who are also part of the masses) are against. In any case, I also wrote a small piece on the whole "masses" thing last month.


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