Consider a radical writer crafting an article that explains how “Move On” isn’t radical, “Our Revolution” isn’t revolutionary, Democrats aren’t Democratic, the anti-Trump resistance overemphasizes Trump, Sanders isn’t seriously socialist, #MeToo is institutionally weak, BLM underplays class, unions underplay race, every demand does less than demand everything, and more.
Suppose this radical writer pinpoints real inadequacies and claims his or her targeted project is insufficiently informed, motivated, courageous, broad, or committed to win a new world and that without winning a new world our future is to melt, drown, starve, get incinerated, exploited, raped, or shot. The writer may even get many dismissive claims about others (partially) correct, but who does it help to disdainfully conclude or even just imply that every effort is about nothing more than turning activists into system supporters, or about winning less than everything we should want? Who does writing that slams but doesn’t uplift help? What does it accomplish?
The only way it makes sense to claim #MeToo only misdirects activists into electoralism is if one believed the huge audiences relating to #MeToo are long-time radical activists who will soon journey back toward system support. But isn’t it obvious that #MeToo involves huge numbers of people who are newly moving in an activist and empowering direction? How can any radical writers not see and prioritize aiding rather than discounting that?
Similarly, radical writers who tell us that huge numbers of awakening people supporting ecological, or anti racist, or electoral, or other campaigns, may move no further and in time may fall back, are correct. They are also correct that some seek to impose that result, that more would like that result, and that many would settle for it without shame or pain. All that is true. But is saying it enough for those radical writers to have made a contribution? Maybe saying it is better than competing for who can bash Trump with the best turn of phrase – but is it enough?
Even if he or she regrettably starts out wanting only to criticize, who should a radical writer usefully investigate as causes of newly active folks falling back away? The Democratic Party? Oprah? Sanders? The people first getting active? Maybe there is a better answer.
Does railing yet again at all the inadequacies of liberalism, limited electoralism, or even less redundantly largely elite-identified narrow dissent, while offering nothing better to take their place, welcome newly roused folks toward more sustained commitment and awareness? Does it supportively offer tools, insights, or hope that they can use for a continued journey? Or does it alienate them, derail them, and drive them back toward a state of inaction they had just now begun escaping?
If we want to find causes of the potential devolution of anti-Trump, anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-inequality, anti-global warming, anti-war upsurges back into limited electoral quiescence, maybe we should look in the mirror.
Why do we point at liberals, elites, and everyone but the few who actually already have high understanding and commitment and who should be trying to grow, inspire, and enhance activism, when we wonder why so many people moved toward activism by upsurges get sucked back into non-activist life?
Is the radical writer’s task to write mainly to be applauded by people who already agree with what we say even at the cost of avoiding more difficult and controversial issues that might aid those who don’t yet agree? Or is our task to write to constructively and to supportively reach out even when doing so requires tackling trickier issues and tasks then bashing Trump, or, for that matter, bashing everyone but ourselves?
Perhaps we radical writers ought to consider that applying our prodigious wisdom and endless energy to debunking every new step every newly engaged person takes, much less to endlessly lambasting only Trump, instead of celebrating new steps and then modestly and tentatively offering vision, strategy, program, and support, has a share of the fault.
Perhaps constantly attacking whatever seems bigger than ourselves and isn’t yet part of ourselves is part of the problem. Perhaps our not offering a compelling destination and not critically clarifying and celebrating peoples’ tentative initial steps forward is part of why those first taking such steps too often get derailed.