For Communism: “What’s Left?” January 2008, MRR #296

I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it. But if by some freak of history communism had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in jail.

-Pete Seeger

I’ve been in a confessional mode for these past few columns. I owned up to being middle class in the November issue, and talked about how that’s not a sure bet for economic security anymore. This is part of a larger issue I’ve been grappling with lately, that being the role of the working class in revolutionary social change. In December, I admitted that I no longer considered myself an anarchist or left communist because I didn’t think that social revolution was sufficient to realize a revolutionary society. That’s part of a larger realization that what seems to be possible is not communist, and what is communist doesn’t seem possible.

Right off, I’d like to anticipate some of my critics, who would seek to use my own Marxism against me. Given that I’ve confessed to being middle-class, perhaps I’m following my own economic interests in disassociating myself from these potentially revolutionary traditions. No longer working class, no longer radical, so the argument goes.

The current state of the world, if anything, has strengthened my analysis that thoroughgoing social revolution is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid a barbarism that’ll make the Dark Ages look like a Grateful Dead concert. Ecological collapse, social disintegration, war without end, mountains of corpses; it’s not a pretty picture unless there are some radical changes, and soon. Which makes it all the more difficult to admit that the ways I’ve pursued revolutionary social change for the past forty years haven’t been up to snuff. Or, that I really don’t know where to go from here.

I was in a similar indeterminate state in the mid-1980s, when I found the theory and practice of anarchism less and less tenable. I started reading Marx then, and gradually made the transition to left communism. I plan to do a lot of reading in my current state of limbo, maybe join a study group to talk out some ideas. Normally, I would also channel my political energy into projects that harbor a post-anarchist/post-left communist potential, while remaining on the lookout for ways to go beyond anarchism and left communism in whatever political work I’m doing. I haven’t been doing a whole lot of politics lately, however.

You see, I’ve become all too familiar with both the local anarchist and left communist milieus in the fifteen years I’ve lived in the Bay Area. And, you know what they say familiarity breeds. I’ve met some intelligent, committed, well-intentioned individuals. But, for the most part, I’ve encountered self-righteous, intolerant bastards, neo-anarchist trustafarian college kids, preening, solipsistic egomaniacs, subcultural, drug-addled crusty punks, belligerent, sectarian wingnuts; the list of dysfunctional types to the left of the Left is long. I don’t trust most of the people I’ve met and worked with to properly wipe their own asses, let alone do what it takes to win a social revolution and maintain a liberatory society.

That aside, there’s a more-revolutionary-than-thou attitude endemic in anarchist and left communist circles that I now find tedious. I have little use for the purity so often espoused by such folks. Myself, I’m a communist, but I’m riddled with contradictions. My crimes are many. I shower daily, I eat meat, I like dining in decent restaurants, I have a middle-class existence, I hold a union card, I vote, just to name a few. If, by some historical fluke, anarchism or left communism took hold in this country, bringing one or another gaggle of assholes to power, I’d be one of the first tossed into an anti-authoritarian reeducation camp.

I recognize that I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon over the years. Yet the thought of going to a meeting and finding any number of local characters-A-squared, bolo’bolo Boy, C-squared, Puffy Amiyumi, K-squared, et al-in attendance, gives me the creeps. I’ve chosen discretion, and nicknames, as the better part of valor here. Life is too short to waste dealing with such idiots. And I’m also looking for a better way to do politics altogether.

Speaking of life being too short, Lance Hahn died on October 21, as I was beginning this column. I first met Lance in San Diego during the late 80s, when Cringer played several times at Bob Barley’s Vinyl Communications sound studio. They even did a benefit for projects I was doing through my ‘zine, San Diego’s Daily Impulse. I wasn’t a big fan of his next musical incarnation-J Church-because it was just too pop punk for my tastes. Plus, I didn’t care for their pro-situ, postmodern bent. But they were always a fun band to watch perform live. While in San Francisco, and besides the band, Lance had his record label, volunteered for Maximum Rocknroll, Gilman Street, and Epicenter Zone, worked a regular, paying job, and always had a half dozen other projects in the mix. He was musically prolific, multi-talented, and an all-round nice guy.

Lance died of complications from kidney failure. His last years were spent in DIY dialysis because he didn’t have health insurance. He had to ask the punk scene to help defray his medical expenses. (Those medical expenses are still formidable, and folks can contribute at vulcanvideo.com.) Lance was only forty years old when he died. Perhaps he had so much going on because, on some level, he sensed he didn’t have all that much time on the planet.

Forty years is about as long as I’ve been involved in politics, mostly spinning my wheels as it turns out. I have no desire to squander any more time and effort on fools, nor do I want to pursue political dead ends and pretend I’m accomplishing something. I certainly don’t want to exploit the memory of an exemplary punk rocker and a fine individual. Rest in peace, Lance Hahn.

2008 PREDICTIONS

I may have done one or two of these in the many years I’ve written a column for Maximum Rocknroll. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I feel compelled to make a couple of predictions for the year, seeing as how this is the January issue.

US Bombs Iran in the spring. I really do think Bush thinks he’s on a mission from God to battle the evildoers, plus he wants to have as part of his legacy that he “took care of Iran.” Of course, he will leave the Middle East, and the world economy, in shambles. Spring, because that’s the best weather for a comprehensive military attack.

President Giuliani. It’ll be Clinton and Giuliani neck and neck, and Giuliani by a nose. Pack your bags for Canada, Manhattan’s Mussolini is headed for the White House.

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