Monday, August 01, 2005

[politics] Without adjectives

I don't have a lot of patience for dogma - never have, probably never really will. I know the things that I resonate to, and they're all over the idological map, but mostly they cluster around what Political Compass would describe as left/anti-authoritarian. Leaving the exact nature of my philosophy unexamined was, up until recently, okay with me: it was consistent enough to get by, and it covered as many bases as I cared to think about. Don't get me wrong - I'd tried before... A number of my friends and lovers have been much more dogmatic about their politics than I. They gave me books of essays and monographs about Bakunin and collective villages during the Spanish Civil War, Marx and Mao, and so on and so forth. I thought much of this sucked, to be frank. At turns dry, bombastic, jargon-laden and pedantic, every chapter felt like a class struggle unto itself. The state-centric views of Communism seemed leaden and oppressive; Maoism seemed too much like a flash in the pan, a product of a unique situation unlikely to be replicated successfully anywhere else. And this is even before we get to the horrific abuses of state power committed under Stalin, Mao and their successors and imitators... Maybe I was reading the wrong stuff, but they insisted. I had much better luck reading closer to the source: Emma Goldman's autobiography? Sure. Camus' Resistance, Rebellion and Death? You bet. These seemed vital and alive, and not overly concerned with rigid rules and procedures. What was important in books like these was an overall commitment to ideas: let others worry about the implementation details, there were secrets to uncover, truths to validate, ideas to uphold. So much of the other stuff seemed like, well, particularly poorly done typeface versions of Maoist-era Heroic Tractor paintings. At least the Socialist Realist art has some redeeming features as kitsch - to me, much of the theory and history only had value as a doorstop. But recently among the political blogs that I subscribe to I've been reading a couple that are written by people with very distinct and well-thought out philosophies that have forced me to think. I don't always agree with them, but I do find myself spurred to think when I read them. And so I recently found myself spending much more time than I'd intended in the Wikipedia's sections on Anarchism. You see, I recently indulged myself and ordered a "Sabo Cat" t-shirt from Northern Sun:

The Sabo Cat is one of the symbols used by the IWW, better known as the Wobblies. On a lark more than anything else, I started poking around Wikipedia's pages about the IWW. Being the trivia sponge that I am, I really enjoy Wikipedia's combination of easily-digestible bites of information combined with organic, eclectic and idiosyncratic topical cross-linking. Given the right topic, I could probably spend hours on Wikipedia, despite its shortcomings... And so it was that I would up spending more time than I care to think about on various and sundry pages about Anarchism and Anarchists through history. It was through this process that I discovered a not-terribly-well-written piece on "Anarchism without adjectives". But something in the piece clicked... one sentence in particular leaped out at me:
Over time, most anarchists... started to stress what they had in common, rather than the different visions of how a free society would operate.
Click. You see, I know I'm not going to be accepted by any hardcore partisan, be they Democrat, Green, Socialist, Revolutionary Worker or what have you. There will always be something I believe in that they won't find ideologically palatable. And I'm okay with that, because, well, I don't share a rigid world view with any one particular philosophy or political alignment. My views trend together and cluster together, but there's at least one component that's gonna make someone else squirm. Like I said, I'm okay with that. For now I think I've found myself a label of sorts, a label I can live with. I'm okay being a Leftist. Without adjectives. Without apology.

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