Political radicals– those who believe we need systematic, revolutionary change in this world in order to upend oppression and the horrors of the capitalist system– have a unique role to play in this time period in (her)story and (his)story. This blog post is devoted not to what particular ideas a radical revolutionary person should have but, instead, I want to focus on the personal values that I most admire in radicals. I have gleaned these values from a variety of radical perspectives, from socialist to anarchist to just plain working class and fed up. I hold these values close to my heart, and I often want to share them when I find myself at the intersection of conflicting belief systems where one radical sect launches an attack at the other for being too authoritarian, too individualistic, too unorganized, too undemocratic etc…
1. One of the most important values is to organize and interact in a way that addresses the alienation people feel between personal and political life. For example, many working people could not make it to all the Occupy protests, but they may have been there in spirit. To go directly from work to an activist event creates a feeling that one is living two lives, with a sense of alienation lying between these lives.
2.It is therefore important to address ourselves and our experiences directly, to speak of our mental or emotional space in the present moment, to bridge the gaps in ourselves that the capitalist system has created. Introductions are crucial. Spontaneous energy that may seem unrelated to the topic at hand is equally as important as quoting from Marxist theory, for example. We need to create spaces and interactions where we can feel whole both theoretically– by learning about how all oppression is linked to Capitalist ruling class– as well as personally by feeling that the way we relate to each other is respectful of our daily alienation.
3. One of the ways we can respect peoples’ daily struggles is to come together in a space that allows for fluid use of one’s body. Perhaps by sitting on the floor, organizing chairs in a circle, or allowing for freedom of movement across a room where it is easy to begin conversation or easy to sit quietly and observe.
4. It is also important to respect where people are in their world view. Creating a division between “ignorant” and “educated” may be useful when combating one’s enemies; however, if you believe the 99 percent has a reason to organize together, then it is important to realize that ignorance can be as useful an experience to reflect upon as an educated mindset.
5. Anyone can initiate the process of learning and providing education. If you don’t follow this value, then you are participating in shaming and blaming people for their ignorance rather than valuing who they are.
6. Be serious when it is crucial to be. Start meetings on time. Actually do the things you set out to do or reevaluate why that didn’t happen.