Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

Ten lies lefties tell ourselves

with 10 comments

1. Teh revolushun is just around the corner!! 

This is because we’re fed up and want to get rid of bastards/capitalism/oppression. I engage in this all the time. The world is too far from how we want it to be for it to even be comprehensible sometimes. It’s fine as long as we don’t give up on organising or campaigning because we’re disillusioned. We should work towards a better future, and towards liberation, even if it isn’t gonna happen anytime soon.

2. That we’re right because we’re oppressed.

Oppression and discrimination in all forms should be smashed but re-organising society requires ideas. Too many times I’ve seen comrades’ opinions dismissed because they’re a ‘white man’. That might be true but not all oppressions are obvious and also even privileged people sometimes have good ideas (e.g. Marx, everyone’s favourite middle class white man). Further some people who are unpleasant in their personal lives can have good ideas, and some people can have a good idea one day and a crap one the next. The reason we talk about privilege is not because people with privilege are shit and should all go to hell but because sometimes ideas – and especially behaviour – can stem from privilege, and where that is the case those ideas and that behaviour should be called out and challenged.

3. That we’re better than other people.

We’re not. If you stop seeing yourself as an ‘activist’ who’s going around saving the world and start talking to non-lefties the state of things right now becomes a lot clearer. Most people don’t have the tools with which to dismantle the master’s house, to use a feminist expression. I hope this doesn’t come over as patronising to working class people (I’m poor but culturally middle class). Basically, I’m very lucky, I’ve had four years at a Russell Group university and have had the time and space to think about things. Some of the things we talk about are totally alien. Being leftwing doesn’t make you nicer or better. Your ideas are better but you’re not a better person. Of course, capitalist bastards are capitalist bastards and know exactly what they’re doing and that’s why they’re winning. If we organise, extend class struggle and spread egalitarian ideas that are dangerous to the ruling class we will destabilise them and ultimately defeat them.

4. That mistakes are unforgivable.

It totally depends on what they are, but if someone uses ablist or sexist language without realising, for example, but realises what they did wrong and apologises and doesn’t do it again, that is that. Sometimes these things can be very hurtful, and we have the right to be angry, but we also have to understand that not everyone has read loads of queer literature or whatever.

5. That people aren’t allowed to change their minds.

I used to be comparatively rightwing. I’m now a communist. This is a good thing. We should make this happen to everyone else who can be brought round. Give them the time and space to become convinced, rather than saying, ‘If you disagree with anything you can fuck off’. Likewise if you were once socialist and became an anarchist or vice versa, whatever, dude. If anyone judges you for it remember, they weren’t born a communist. Without wanting to sound like a hippy, we’re all on our own path as well as a shared one. We’re gonna need a lot more people on our side in order to defeat capitalism.

6. That if only everyone was like ME, we would smash capitalism tomorrow and live in a utopia.

Er, no. Because difference is okay, you’re not perfect, and it’s not all about YOU.

7. That people should come to ME about this because I am the EXPERT on X THING!

People sometimes treat me this way about feminism and it makes me uncomfortable. I am not a feminist oracle and get things wrong. I don’t care if you’ve been doing activism for x number of years that probably means you’re a bit out of touch, even though your experience is obviously useful. If you feel the need to have ownership of something, take a step back because you’re probably alienating people who want to be involved but are thinking ‘I don’t know as much as them! I’m going to look like an idiot!’ It’s okay for people to be ignorant and to ask questions, it’s not okay to talk down to people or make them feel stupid. Also, if you recognise these thought patterns or behaviour in yourself, sort out your ego.

8. That intimidating behaviour is alright.

It’s not.Sometimes it’s justifiable, for example shouting at scumbags on a demo, but it’s not acceptable in organising or meetings. Being intimidating isn’t the same as being radical. It’s about behaviour, rather than ideas. Some of the sweetest men I know believe in violent revolution, some of the most arrogant and aggressive men I know don’t (or I don’t know/care what they believe because they’re too busy shouting). Further, it’s not about class or about having a straightforward, no-nonsense personality. It’s about not invading people’s personal spaces, not talking over people and not being threatening. If comrades in Scotland sorted out what they meant by positive use of the word ‘radge’ that would be good. Because sometimes things that are described as ‘radge’ are abhorrent, sometimes they’re incredibly useful and admirable.

9. That if someone’s sexist/somethingelse-ist they are irredeemable scum.

This is sometimes but not always the case. For example, people I met in my first year at uni four years ago often acted and spoke in very sexist ways. In those short four years the folk I’m talking about have become decent pro-feminists and feminists. Obviously oppressive attitudes are irredeemable and disgusting, but sometimes the people who have them aren’t, and often they change their minds, thank God. And that is a very good thing.

10. That people can easily be separated into two categories: good people/heroes and scumbags.

Meh, some people are scumbags, but most of the time it’s a lot more complex. This kind of thinking is often applied to the most complex and important issues. Praise people when they do something or say something good; tell them what the fuck is up when they’re being oppressive scum. Also scumbags can occasionally say vaguely useful things.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

June 21, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. These are all wrong, but I want to have fun with just two of them.

    “That if only everyone was like ME, we would smash capitalism tomorrow and live in a utopia”

    Firstly lefties can like capitalism, but that aside, if everyone was like someone who didn’t like capitalism, explain how capitalism wouldn’t be smashed?

    “That if someone’s sexist/somethingelse-ist they are irredeemable scum”

    Marxist is an ist, Communist is an ist, Socialist is an ist, leftist is an ist. you’ve even written about activist here, that’s an ist.

    Have I made my point? Yes. Good.


    June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  2. Are you sure these aren’t just ten lies that you have told yourseslf! Im not sure what evidence you have to merit suggesting that all lefties make these same mistakes? Im a lefty and have right from my introduction into left-wing politics been concientiously carefull to avoid making most of these mistakes, and get that impression from a lot of lefties i know. Perhaps it’s just particularily a problem with student activists. I think the main reason radical lefty politics doesn’t get taken seriously by the majority of the population right now is because we’re percieved to think and act exactly as you’ve outlined above. If it’s true what you say that most lefties think like this, then thats very worrying indeed.

    Oh and it might be me being a little prickly about scottish language, but surely it’s perfectly fine to have varying meanings and intended uses of the word radge, some in positive contexts some not, like you know the varying meanings and intended usags of the word angry. And aren’t you kind of commiting lie number 3 by the very use of the word scumbag in this article? Who are these scumbags? Are they by any chance people who aren’t as good as you, who lack the same tools as you have? Sorry to be so critical, i usually appreciate this blog but found this article a tad daft – i agree very much with the implication that these ten things are bad attitudes and perspectives to have, i’m just put off by the tone, and the implication that everyones like this. Though if indeed most lefties are, nice one for bringing it to thier attention!


    June 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  3. ‘Tis silly and a little naive. By taking the moral high ground, e.g. identifying feminists and pro-feminists as ‘decent’ without a tip of the hat to cultural relativism, not to mention the chasm between academic ‘isms’ and the more complex realities of women’s rights ‘on the ground’ in the real world, you shoot yourself in the foot by judging people on the ‘ism-ist’ basis you warn your imagined audience of experienced activists and ‘lefties’ against. By identifying yourslf a ‘poor’, again failing to identify your own privilege (do you have clean drinking water, three meals a day, shelter and access to medicine/ healthcare, the computing and telecommunications equipment you are using to read this demi-rant on and a world class education? ‘Poor’ is not a fit descriptor on the world stage), you display a cotton-wool wrapped naivety that renders your cautions and instructions quite inappropriate and discredits any worth in the points you make. Still, it’s all about the learning process. Perhaps you are talking to yourself.

    Michaela Mouse

    June 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    • Hahahahaha

      I fucking *hate* cultural relativism! Bad things are still bad no matter where they take place.

      Also you’re a mean prick.

      Kate Harris

      June 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm

  4. Have to say having been involved in a very minor bit of activism over a six month period I think you’ve nailed it with most of these, expecially the arrogant, intolerant, exclusive, ego driven, aggressive behaviour, you have to agree with me absolutely and no-one can ever change attitudes. Most people are learning (and with any luck through meeting tolerant people or sussing things out for themselves), changing for the better all the time. We might as well give up and go home if we think it’s only us and our clique of mates who’ve got the right ideas and everyone else is just an ignorant scumbag incapable of learning, teaching or changing. (Certainly not possible in the five minutes people/scumbags are usually given to affect said change!) Having said that there are loads of brilliant,open-minded and tolerant activists/politically involved/concerned folk out there as well. Strength to your elbows!

  5. I slightly lost the thread there; too dependent on precision in language to interpret non-linear assertions, but you do appear to have taken something very personally here, Kate.I apologise if you are the author of this piece and I have offended you; I’m simply dissecting the reason in the piece, it’s not a personal attack. I do not comprehend your language of hatred and sexual slur. To hate a concept, that is an idea, that has evolved and continues to evolve over generations in helping humanity self-examine, without which there would be nothing to refute and we would just be stumbling in the dark land of ‘savages’ still, is incomprehensibly simplistic and dismissive from my worldview. I’m just not a hater by nature. Who was it said that the ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in one’s mind at the same time and not lose the plot was a mark of a flourishing intellect? Anyway, in any discourse, intellectual or otherwise, where someone is reduced to calling me a prick :-D and attempting to discredit an entire historical school of thought simply by loudly acclaiming that they hate it, I would consider that person to have somewhat lost the plot, and would no more attempt to sustain fruitful discourse with that person than I would ttempt to milk a bus stop. Dearie dearie me. Good luck with your inclusive and non-confrontational activism. Peace, love and sausages.

    Michaela Mouse

    June 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    • This is really sarcastic. Say what you mean.

      I insulted you because you came on to my blog purely to talk down to me and insult me. There was nothing constructive about your first comment. It ended with ‘maybe you are talking to yourself’, ie. implying that I do all of the things above. I’m certainly not innocent but unless you’re someone I know who’s using a pseudonym you likely know nothing about me.

      I still don’t like relativism. It’s one thing to acknowledge and try to confront racism and current and past imperialisms but it’s another entirely to judge one culture harshly but not another for doing the exact same thing. If you can hold diametrically opposed thoughts in your head, just means you haven’t found made your mind up.

      Kate Harris

      June 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

  6. Now we’re talking. I don’t know you, just to reassure you that I am not a hostile nemesis from struggles past returned to haunt you, but I hadn’t even mentioned ‘you’. I address the writer, and when presented with a piece of writing that doesn’t make sense internally I don’t really need to know you. If someone presents me with a flawed equation I do not need to know their favourite colour and how many sugars they take in their tea to point out the flaw in their logic. You are correct in saying that you are doing many of the things you accuse others of, all laid out in black and white. As you reminded us all though, in your piece, it’s not all about YOU (did you have to shout? it seems a bit confrontational). You threw this to the world wide web. I fully expect a battalion of trolls and critics to wander in and out when my own blog goes live, but I’ll shy away from calling people ‘pricks’ (I’ve never been called a prick before! Mum of two, lol).
    Regarding cultural relativism, I will strongly assert that it has its limitations, but without the convoluted exchanges of ideas, comparable to the one we’re having now, that formed new conventions to be questioned, I am unconvinced that we would be conceptually prepared to discuss racism at all. In the context of, for example, conceptual feminism, I have known loudly declared feminists to be utterly ineffectual in ‘the field’ when troubleshooting exploitation while people who eschewed ‘feminism’ as an ‘ism’, informed or otherwise, displayed all the judgement, sensitivity and courage that makes an excellent field companion (we’re talking activism here, not anthropology!). I don’t see you wriggling out of this one, short of cyber assassinating me by means of blog-based defenestration, but I applaud you for putting your stuff out for nitpicking old ladies like me to read. You have asked me to say what I mean, so I will be succinct and to the point. Yes, you’ve just caught yourself doing most of the things you accuse others of. Perhaps this feels horrible and a little bit embarrassing. I know that because I’ve felt that way a thousand times while watching my own ego-dance. That unpleasant feeling is usually followed in my experience by a period of deepening spiritual understanding, during which I feel much better, and I have found that life and people are usually forgiving. If you don’t say it, nitpicking old pricks like me can’t come rolling in and piss on the parade, so I applaud you for speaikng your present (and transient) truth. Here is a smiley as a token of my non-aggression :-) Also, no human is scum, but that’s another box of cats entirely.

    Michaela Mouse

    June 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

  7. All your points are wrong.


    July 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm

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