Updates & miscellaneous musings!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The first time I've heard someone non-ironically call someone else, "comrade"

Oh, good.

Thursday night, I went to a meeting of the International Socialist Organization on campus.*
The socialists were not, as I predicted, either incredibly dumb or incredibly awesome--they kind of ran the gamut.
The meeting was advertised in huge letters on the chalkboard in my Politics class--a class with several hundred people.

We came to the meeting, in one of the conference rooms above the bookstore, a few minutes after 8.
Not counting the six members of the Organization, there were four people there, including me and Stephanie.

The guy I talked to on the phone was very nice, and showed me their huge wad of Socialist and misc. left wing literature. I asked if they lent them to you or what. He said that they were for sale only, but "there's no tax." Ok...

We were introduced to everyone, and told to sit down at the semi-circular table.
They began by having some dude talk about the election--not as much about why Bush won (which would involve considering that most of the American class, for whatever reason, seem to think Republicanism is a good idea), but why even if Kerry won, it wouldn't be a good thing--since he's nearly as conservative as Bush, albiet not, "The Devil incarnate".
They supported Nader/Comejo for president this year, but to them that's pretty much incidental.

As far as I can understand it, they're banking on things getting so bad in America that the proletariat will be motivated to reuinte and abolish our current system.
On some theoretical level, this sounds ok to me, but in practice, (aside from being terrifying), I'm not convinced it would work at all.

Even if people were sufficiently mobilized to overthrow the overhwhelming power of the American government, what's to make sure that the nice Socialist system would be set up instead of a couple more assholes taking over and making things even worse?
If this election has showed us anything, it's that lower middle class folk in that huge middle chunk of America aren't the most staggeringly perceptive people. If you could establish a neat little Socialist system, it'd be awesome, but I'm having trouble making that inferential leap.
Maybe it'd happen after the third counter-revolution or some such. Comforting thought.

The mood of the place was incredibly awkward. The turn-out was very low, but there were few chairs, so apparently they weren't expecting otherwise. Whenever anyone spoke, they were followed by minutes of awkward silence.

Then the guy I'd spoken to came up next, and gave a half hour speech about the way the Socialist society would work after the revolution.
I really like him, because he's a very clear intelligent speaker, but doesn't seem particularly aware that he is. He doesn't seem overly attractive, charasmatic, or even smart**--just clear, earnest, and thoughtful.
The basic idea is that society would be organized into regional collectives of 500 or so workers, governed by a council from within their ranks that can easily and quickly be replaced if they're assholes. They represent the collective on a national level, because national coordination is needed for shipment of goods and such.
This sounds basically ok (I asked who does all the terrible jobs that no one wants, and they said everyone would alternate, which is a sensible, if obviously problematic, answer), though there's still the problem of who's going to set this system up to begin with--the members of the International Socialist Organization?

He talked about how revolutions in places like Russia and China had been co-opted because they were run by people not from the proletariat...but all of these people are University students, and don't seem terribly working class--are they supposed to precipitate the revolution and then just sit back and let it happen?
Honestly, I don't know how much faith I have in "the proletariat", whoever they may be. On a pragmatic idealogical level because you run the danger of mob rule by the un-educated, and on a personal level because (though I hate to admit it), just about every career ambition I have depends on being comparitively well-off. Is there a lot of time for cartooning in The People's Republic? Though I suppose communal labor could be likened to housework--something everyone has to take care of on a regular basis before going on with their own shit.

But for all my bitching, I have to admit I find Marxist rhetoric really appealing on some level***, and I want to believe in it.
I love the closing words of The Communist Manifesto--
The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of all countries, unite!
Our current system of government (and for that matter, of life) is deeply fucked up on some level, but is it (in the words of Wallace Shawn in the play we had to read for Multicultural class) "irredeemingly corrupt"?
I find it hard to believe that capitalism as it exists today can continue to do so three hundred years from now. Maybe that's partially based on my childhood belief in the quasi-Socialist future of "Star Trek", I don't know.
But a fundemental reconstruction of society requires a revolution, and is that really what we want? I seldom think in those terms, and don't really like to--planning for the future neccessarily assumes the future will be like the present.

The triumph of evil this last election shows that something needs to change. The ISO would say that that "something" is "everything".
I don't know where I stand on that.

I asked for a copy of their pamphlet "The Future Socialist Society". Someone offered to give theirs up to me, and it was after that that they revealed it cost $3. I felt bad for making them go through all that effort, so I relented.
I'm not sure how I feel about this though. It's 30 pages long and black and white (except for the cover). There's no way $3 is cost, so does the difference go to the ISO? Cause trying to raise funds for Socialism through selling stuff is pretty hilarious if you think about it.
Damn peer-pressuring socialists.

They asked us to go with them to some kind of seminar or something in San Francisco. I said maybe. I'm kind of fascinated, but I don't know that adding Socialism to my life will make it any happier or better. We'll see.

When I came back, Nikki came over, and the CRE (asshole who is in charge of something or other and who everyone ignores), got mad at us for being too loud while it was technically quiet hours, even though everyone else in the building was still awake (except, apparently, for him). He said that he normally would have let us off with a warning, but we were just too annoying. He asked for my name, I gave it to him, he accused me of faking it, then he assholed away to wherever assholes go when they're done voting for Bush and giving people speeding tickets and such.

Fucking jackass.
Let him tremble at revolution! I've nothing to lose but my chains, puto!

*The International Socialist Organization, that is, not to be confused with the other Santa Cruz ISO.
**Which isn't to say that he isn't, but that he doesn't act like he is.
***Do right wing people feel the same way about fascism as I do about socialism? I wonder.


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Location: Oakland, CA, United States