Part of the Imperial Diss List.
I am the Emperor, I criticize the groups, kneel for mercy, you know the drill.
There are a handful of good people in SPUSA whom I respect, who may be running for local office doing good things, or doing good work under its extremely useful name, but by and large as a group it has to be called a failure. People will say it’s “growing” in the sense that literally any fucking socialist group is growing right now because we live in the fucking apocalypse, but that’s not really an accomplishment. Its growth is not as significant as the mass party accelerated growth of something like Democratic Socialists of America is right now, which is at there rate where socialist group growth ought to be right now. You could start a group called “Socialist Group” and your party program could be a picture of a piece of shit and your group activity could be dance parties and your group would grow.
So the title of my piece really summarizes the problem with SPUSA (which shall henceforth be phonetically pronounced “Spoosa” for comedy). If political coherence is the combination of quality and unity, I would describe them as unity without quality, ie a broad formation allowing everyone but without sufficient specificity to really stand for anything or do much, meaningless lowest common denominator type stuff.
Socialist Alternative may be a narrow cult but you know what, the $15 stuff gets noticed, they do stuff that actually has momentum, they might not allow unity between different opinions but they do have quality insofar as they are specific.
The ultimate hope, what our ultimate hope should be for the Left is a best-of-both-worlds situation: a group that BOTH allows people to pursue various different campaigns, but where these campaigns have actual momentum and effect; where people are allowed to express freedom of opinion, but the level and quality of opinion and theory and politics in the organization is actually high instead of a mishmash of crap. So far instead what we have is we have to choose one or the other: groups where the politics might be somewhat specific and advanced but they’re narrow brainwashing cults demanding mental conformity, where if you’ve ever been in one you literally will experience your mind being closed, and which get things done but which also burn out their members demanding excessive sacrifice, or a broad church where you can think what you like and they don’t make excessive demands of you but the political ideas are pretty basic, dumb, not really sharp political strategies that lay out how we will actually defeat capitalism, and not much momentum of getting stuff done is actually generated. SPUSA falls neatly into the second category.
It’s true that SPUSA does have an array of national campaign working groups. I know this because I’ve asked them, incredulously, “dude, what the fuck do you actually do?” and this is the propaganda answer they give. But you can tell by the fact that I have literally never heard of these campaigns from anyone but the SPUSA leadership, upon pressing them for an answer, that none of these national campaigns seem to be actually making an effect, getting results, or making actual splashes in any way that get anyone’s actual attention, and they probably barely exist.
The group also has the typical leadership clique problem. If it has any political tendency, it has a handful of democratic socialists, but also a weird anarchist IWW-influenced dominance led by Greg Pason.
And when I say dominance, I mean it. Greg once wrote this article as a territorial, party-line-enforcing response to something one of my past propaganda efforts I had calling for socialist unity, defending SPUSA’s far more narrow range of unity. As you can read yourself, the response was rather curt, thought-terminating, and rather much like an insecure alpha gorilla making noises trying to chase away a competitor threatening his control of his roost. As one of my friends joked, “that’s the most authoritarian anti-authoritarian response to anything I’ve ever seen.”
Look, I’m a libertarian communist (sort of a cousin of an anarchist while not quite the same identical thing) and I’m definitely down with rejecting Stalinism and Maoism, and even critiquing a lot of Leninism while borrowing some of their more intelligent party-building strategy (I do think Lenin was a strategic genius even if he also ended up also imposing restrictions on democracy that could no longer be called socialist during the Russian Civil War). But for SPUSA’s talk of unity, Pason’s model of unity is actually weirdly narrow. He’s okay with neither Trotskyists nor Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders. Now I have my criticisms of both Trotskyists and Democratic Socialists but I’m fine coexisting and working with them.
So anyway, if you’re looking for a broad-unity socialist group just for the sake of where large amounts of new socialists are actually joining up that actually has momentum, join Democratic Socialists of America.
Part of the Imperial Diss List.
I am the Emperor, tremble before Saturn ye mortals, I came to Earth mainly to bask in my power and glory, I hope at the very least some feelings are hurt. Surrender and be spared. Next up, who can say.