I will admit, I have a tendency to sound more angry than rational in political debates. I curse, I laugh sarcastically, I even yell sometimes. I try my best to not do this around friends or at parties or get-togethers, with the result of me then seeming too quiet, shy, and nervous. But that last part is neither here nor there. Anyway, my personal methods of dealing with debates or even talking about political issues are a little on the harsh side, and now I’m starting to think that may not be a very good method. Not that there is anything wrong with passion or a fiery drive to achieve what needs to be acheived, but there is certainly a downside to always sounding like a grumpy asshole. And I’m begining to understand this.
My way of voicing my opinion has created a few healthy, civil debates, but it has also driven people away, not because of the points I am making, but because of how I go about trying to get those points across. This has led to those who I encounter almost daily viewing me as a kind of cynic, and therefore tie in my views with that of a cynic. This is not a good thing for me or for the communist movement. We are still a political minority, and I now realize that my harshness isn’t really making that much better. Those who have come to agree with me on certain issues have only done so in spite of my methods, not because me calling others “shitheads” changed anyone’s mind.
Consider this a self-criticism of my own actions. I shouldn’t immediately jump into defensive obscenities as soon as any social topic is brought up.
The other day, I surprised myself in a debate by not losing my shit, for once. I acknowledged the other person’s points and refuted them calmly and provided information without any additional name-calling or put-downs. When all was said and done, the other person thanked me for the information provided, admitted that they got some things wrong, and we ended the conversation on a very good note. To just give you an idea of what we were discussing: This other person, evidently a liberal of some sort, claimed that Putin was a communist. Instead of me calling this person a “moron” or saying that they’re “stupid”, I decided to simply point out all of the vast differences between Marxism-Leninism and Putin’s ideology, in both theory and practice. And this other person actually paid attention to what I had to say and thanked me for being civil while I was disagreeing with them. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, but it was the moment when I realized that there are more efficient ways to discuss political issues than being so abrasive and condescending.
Now, I do want to say that there are many people out there, who I have never spoken a word to, who believe any type of insurrectionary ideology is “cynical”, so it isn’t just because of me. This is the issue I really want to write about in this post: The perceived cynicism of rebellion.
Regardless of how I have, up until now, framed my pro-communist arguments, the ideology of working class revolution is not cynical. Those who claim it is like to point out how we revolutionaries are always talking about what is wrong with the current state of the world; we talk about corruption, war, murder, greed, the enslavement of the masses. They believe this means we will always look for an ulterior motive, a “reason to whine”. To them, we are forever locked in an outlook that is not trustful of any person from any background for any reason. That we only see the bad in everyone we meet and in everything we experience. And that these characteristics are inseparable from our ideology.
To be frank: this is completely untrue. Let me tell you why.
Yes, we do spend our time talking about and protesting against all those things mentioned above, as well as racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia, and everything else borne from the classist system of exploiters versus exploited(capitalism). But opposing these things does not mean it is some kind of chronic cynicism, nor does it mean we hate or distrust every other human. Let me ask you this: Why would a cynic even bother actively fighting these things? I am not going to give the dictionary definition of cynicism because I find that to be annoying whenever other people do that in arguments, but if you look it up, you will find that taking action against oppression is not in line with the common, accepted definition of what it is to be a cynic. Cynics do not see a way out, they consider all of these things to be totally connected to the human experience. We communists don’t see it like that, and that is why we fight. We wouldn’t bother fighting for a better world if we believed that every single human was guided by selfishness and ulterior motives, and that that is just the way it will always be.
Granted, there are some on the Left who just want to appear to be as edgy as possible. They will refuse to celebrate any victory until the whole world is a classless, stateless communist society. These kinds of Leftists can make for some good, loyal comrades when it comes to rallying around certain issues–they are sometimes a militant and dedicated bunch. But their refusal to take part in praising successes of the people will ultimately only alienate them from those they wish to help liberate.
For instance, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality just the other day, there were some who refused to be even slightly enthused by a ruling that took decades of struggle by the people to push through. But, those people were a vast minority in the Leftist circles(at least, from what I could tell). The rest of us joined in to show our support for the LGBT community, and to praise all those who fought so long for this ruling to become acceptable and even necessary for the bourgeois government to pass. For this was not a creation of the ruling class, it was something for which people struggled for years and years, until it finally got the state’s attention and scared them into taking action before we got even more “unruly”. A small victory is still a victory. Yes, there is still a long way to go in this and other areas, but it is still an accomplishment.
But, again, these kinds of Leftists are not the majority, so I will get back to my original point.
The way I see it, it is our duty as humans living in a society to care about our fellow humans. To fight for a better life for the great masses of people. To struggle to lift and eventually dispose of the yokes of oppression weighing down the vast majority of human beings. To end exploitation of one human by another. To analyze the problems in our world so as to find ways to fix them. This is the opposite of a cynical view, because it sees greater possibilities, it rejects the belief that all humans are inherently selfish. There is no room for defeatism, hopelessness, or nihilism in revolutionary thought. There is no room for cynicism if we are fighting for a better future. And all of this struggle to build a better future would be meaningless if we didn’t analyze and try to rid the world of all that which oppresses, kills, exploits the majority of the earth’s population. We have to know what the problems are before we fix them. We have to spread the word of these problems to make others more aware. We have to care about these problems because we care about humanity’s well-being.
On the other hand, those who so often label revolutionary, anti-capitalist movements as “cynical” often show more signs of being cynics themselves. Those who refuse to talk about or even acknowledge what is happening in the world may seem more easy-going, but that doesn’t mean we are the cynics and they aren’t. Their inaction is purely cynical, even if they don’t act cynical in other areas of life. They evidently see no point in fighting for a better world, and are therefore hopeless defeatists in practice(even if they believe they aren’t practicing anything at all: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu)
Likewise, those who believe revolutionary socialists are just angsty cynics who trust and love no one are usually those same people who believe socialism “can’t work” because humans are “born selfish”. If you didn’t look up cynicism in the dictionary earlier, do it now, because that line of thought fits perfectly into the definition of a cynic.
So those who follow and act out on Marxist-Leninist revolutionary thought are the ones being labelled as “cynics”, despite we believing that humans are not inherently competitive or greedy, and fighting for a brighter future we believe to be entirely possible due to humantity’s enormous collective accomplishments, while those who are pointing their fingers at us are those who have given up or don’t even bother to try pushing for further liberation, and believe humans are not trustworthy enough to live in a more collective way. We look into the oppressions currently going on every second of every day in order to find ways to end them, while the self-proclaimed “anti-cynics” don’t want to lift a finger for their fellow humans, unless it’s to point at and laugh at and scold those who are attempting to make a difference.
I’m not going to be a cynic and say that all of these people are purposely trying to be cynical themselves. I am just saying their judgments are very misplaced.
So, to bring this entry to a close, I will now refrain from disrespectful forms of argument and misrepresenting the revolutionary movement with hurtful statements and insults(though I make no such promises for fascists). In return, I hope some people will read this and realize why we communists condemn terrible acts. We are not being cynics, we are doing what is necessary to eventually help to make life better for the people of this world.
To paraphrase that oft-used quote from Comrade Che: Every revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. There is no place for cynicism, defeatism, or careless apathy in our movement.