on Anti-Anti-Racism and the Left


The writer reaches a point of insight in the negation of their previously held beliefs, but unfortunately falls into the same logic that they are decrying by failing to synthesize it.

Their progression of thought has basically been: 1. There is racism in the world. I want to change that. 2. I’ll become an anti-racism trainer. 3. Wait a second, this paradigm of teaching anti-racism is not effecting a fundamental change to structural racism for white people. 4. I should cease being an anti-racism trainer. 5. Yup, that’s it.

My observation is that it’s unproductive to simply say that anti-racism training should stop. We feel a sense of immediate identification in the author’s revelations of their inability to change a paradigm on their own. We eagerly cling to this critique of negation, and lift it up as insightful, correct, just. The problem is that is simply negates, and does not synthesize - and this, to me, is the quintessential conundrum of the Left today.

We don’t need less theory, we need more critical theory. Perhaps the resolution is not to stop teaching, but to stop teaching. Humans don’t learn by being taught, they learn by doing, and people who are in a position to work with people and do it with them serve a critical role. Whether that role is formulated as an instructor, a collaborator, a partner, a comrade – this is a malleable relationship…

The Red Square is a symbol of student solidarity from Québec to Colorado, Tennessee to Paris, São Paolo to Cairo, New York to Greece. And it’s back. View Larger

The Red Square is a symbol of student solidarity from Québec to Colorado, Tennessee to Paris, São Paolo to Cairo, New York to Greece. And it’s back.

If a man becomes a revolutionary, if he goes about life in the hollow of his hand ready to sacrifice it at any moment, he does not do it for the fun of it. He does not risk his life because sometimes when the crowd is in a sympathetic mood it cries bravo in appreciation. He does it because his reason forces him to that course, because his conscious dictates it.

— Bhagwat Charan

Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm more swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other, men and things seem set in sparkling brilliance, ecstasy is the order of the day – but they are short-lived, soon they have reached their zenith, and a long crapulent depression takes hold of society before it learns to assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period soberly. On the other hand, proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, [in order to] draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again…

— Karl Marx - The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)

The mere consciousness of the infinite mixture of contingency and necessity – of necessary contingency and of ultimately contingent necessity – that conditions what we are, what we do, and what we think is far from being what freedom truly is. But it is a condition for this freedom, a requisite condition for lucidly undertaking actions that are capable of leading us to effective autonomy on the individual as well as on the collective level.

— Cornelius Castoriadis, “Democracy As Procedure and Democracy As Regime”

political intersubjectivity as hobby

The individual presents him/herself to our society as a swirling amalgamation of identities.

This identity usually determines one’s role, or function in both the social economy, and in economic society.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"What do you do?"

"Where do you work?"

Aren’t these questions all answered by a more fundamental essence of our life force, that drives everything that we do?

The most passionate among us, the ones who follow this essence as their guide through life, who pursue their vision with fervency, are often the most alienated. The poets, artists, radicals, and dreamers are isolated by economic society’s demand for production.

So the artist takes a second as a bartender or secretary, relegated by an economic imperative to find lucrative work in order to supplement their ability to pursue their essence.

Worse, they are sometimes forced to take on an entirely different career path or discipline which overtakes their true passion.

"I wanted to be an actress, but instead I went to med school."

In this way, the competitive capitalist labor market that awaits all students like a fearsome monolith just outside the gates seeps into the grounds of the Academy. The insecurity, alienation, and mistrust of the cutthroat jungle of “the real world” breaches our psyche as student before we ever even step foot out into it.

Thus we are left ever the more isolated, disaffected, and diffuse. Cohesion around the commonalities of being a student is stripped of its political identification as a class, and we remain pushing against each other by blinded slaves in a cave.

We are divided, and even when our passion inspires to rise and and organize against an issue; whether it’s sexism on campus, inadequate facilities, academic determination, labor justice, or tuition warfare — our organizing is divided, and reaches its logical conclusion or reinforcing our collective self-separation.

If we don’t engage in the Political through our passion, our essence, then the Political is destined to reach its conclusion of a relegated side show, a hobby.

But there is another way…

Politics Is A Croissant

My politics are not so condensed that they can be summed up in one word, and I wouldn’t want to ascribe to any kind of politics that could be.

But still in any event, if you want to examine the word ‘anarchist’, it comes from Greek; ‘ana’ meaning ‘without’ - ‘arkhon’ meaning ‘ruler’, or a single ruler.

Even in a straight translation, there’s room for debate, because instead of using ‘arkhon’ you might interpret ‘arkhê’ as the root, which means “that which everything else relies upon”.

From there, there are just so many directions to go in. Is anarchism a political ideology, a social ideology, or a branch of political philosophy? Is it a unified or complete theory? What does it hold on the topics of economics, science, law, ethics, religion?

If you ask 10 people these questions, you’ll get 9 different answers, some quite different. My observations have made me inclined to believe that is not a discrete ideology with a program of what its adherents believe and are thereby defined as its adherents; but rather an inclination, a tendency for a diffuse range of political leanings generally falling on the left end of the common conception of a single-axis left/right political spectrum (which I would  argue is really more accurately represented by a crescent moon, since approaching the polar extremes, the marginal differentiation decreases and actually reverses and brings the poles slightly closer together a bit.

Politics is a croissant.