- Category: Revolutionary Strategy
- Created on Tuesday, 08 November 2011 18:34
- Written by Mike Ely
by Mike Ely
Louise Thundercloud writes: One of the exciting things about a political awakening is that many more people come into contact with accurate (i.e. radical) narratives of U.S. history — and get a chance to learn the real role that the U.S. has played historically. People who have uncritically “learned” the official versions of history and politics get a chance to become “unmoored” from that previous indoctrination, and we all have an active role to play in accelerating that process.
There is an old communist saying “We have to raise the bucket from the ground” — meaning that we can’t control where things start from. People enter into radical activity and struggle (as Lenin once said) “with all their prejudices” and then we (together) “raise the bucket” from there. And this is not just a matter of the middle classes and their prejudices. Anyone who doesn't think the most oppressed enter struggle with very mixed ideas and baggage.... well they don't know very much about the oppressed in real life.
This means (obviously) that many people in the U.S. come into political life with patriotic misconceptions (about history but also about the current U.S. role in the world). Even the very oppressed often arrive with non-rational, mystical or semi-religious notions about how society works (which helps underscore non-rational conspiracy theories).
They are sometimes only thinking about how to better THEIR personal position (or the position of people like them) — and so we get notions of “buy American” or “energy independence as a security issue” or “maintain U.S. dominance in the world.” Or “speaking as [fill in the section of people]” — as if our struggle is not global and universal, or as if our view of reality can’t be held in common.
People sometimes arrive thinking that things are now terrible and worsening — but still believing that somewhere (in the recent past, or some distant past) “things” were somehow better — and so we get slogans like “take America back” (as if “we” every had it!), and as if there is some previous ideal that we want to return to, or as if the “founding fathers” had the right idea that has since been perverted (and so on).
One thing I try to maintain (after years of radical activism and study) is a sense of respect for people who are just starting out. Sure they don’t know many things I have learned. They often still have ideas that I questioned and rejected long ago. But that is no reason for me to view them with anger, or revulsion, or dismay or mockery.
“We have to raise the bucket from the ground” — and not respond to every discovery of lingering backward ideas with shock or denunciation. In fact a tone of disdain and superiority (among the relatively more conscious) is (to me) a sign of lagging in OUR responsibilities — because it is easier to denounce the newly awakening than it is to play a constructive and creative role. We need to share consciousness and insight — and that is hard work. You have to listen as well as speak. You often have to become a student of the new, before you can successfully help as their teacher.
People (many of them) are awakening for the first time to political life, and radical political stances — they often know a lot (about their own situation, or about life) but often have not really engaged critically over the official history and politics they have internalized.
I think we should welcome them with respect into a community of resistance, share what we have learned and (with some humility) even seek to know what they bring into the game that we didn’t previously appreciate. We should struggle against the backward ideas of the system, but not treat everyone who holds a wrong idea as some kind of oppressor. After all, who among us has not held wrong ideas? And who among us (dare I say) doesn’t have something to learn?