I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that this year marks 50 years since I began my political activity and study. Steven Patten on Facebook asked what I’ve learned in that time, which is a fascinating question that’s been buzzing around in my head ever since. Here are some answers:
- To study nuance, to go after detail, to dig deeper, to be suspicious when I think I finally understand something complex.
- How impossible it is to the separate the pieces: philosophy, economics, history, news, politics. Every time I try to focus on one, it keeps leading me into another.
- To look critically at the SEP’s positions rather than accepting them blindly, and yet, after doing so, I nearly always end up agreeing. (It took a year of beating my head against the wall attending protests to come around on #BLM, and I’m still not quite 100% about their position on trade unionism in the abstract, but they’re certainly right in the specifics of unions today).
- I’m still learning to avoid the glib in favor of serious analysis; I screw that one up more than I should.
- I’ve learned I’ll never make a really good communist because I have too much Kamenev and too little Trotsky in me, and, above all, because I’m lazy–the hard part involves detailed study and research, rather than repetition of abstractions and slogans. I do that when I’m writing and can only rarely get myself to do that kind of work politically.
- I’ve learned that it is utterly pointless to argue with hardened reactionaries, unless there is a good opportunity to use the argument to advance my own positions in a positive way for lurkers.
- I’ve learned that discussions on Facebook and on my blog are not, in fact, the waste of time I’d once considered them. There are people here searching for answers, and there is additional value in sharpening my own understanding.
- Marxists are very good at Who, What, How, and Why, but really suck at When (at least, when talking about the future).
- I’m still learning to patiently explain rather than letting myself get frustrated, and that anyone genuinely looking for a way forward is deserving of the time it takes to explain. Working on that one.
Anyway, that’s some of it. And that is certainly enough time spent on personal reflection. Back to the fight!