What do Mark Twain, Helen Keller, George Orwell, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malala Yousafzai have in common? They are, or were, socialists. Capitalists love to conveniently leave this fact out when speaking about any of them and prefer to focus on their individual accomplishments.
In Malala’s bestselling book, I Am Malala, the word “socialism” appears only three times, twice in a quote, and once referring to being “torn between Islam and secularism and socialism.” I don’t want to sound all conspiracy theorist, but perhaps her American publisher, Little, Brown and Company, a subsidiary of Hatchette Book Group USA, has kept something from us.
From Al Jazeera America:
“I am convinced,” Malala wrote in a message sent earlier this year  to Pakistan’s International Marxist Tendency (IMT), that “socialism is the only answer, and I urge all comrades to struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”
I’ll not bore you with my version of Marx for Kids. There are accessible versions of his works in abridged and manga versions, although I’d suggest everyone read the Communist Manifesto in full. It’s a pamphlet and written to capture your attention, and I don’t think it’s aged badly in that respect.
I must tell you that I’ve had to pause here and consider how to proceed without punching down. I think I can do this indirectly, by punching up at some of your corporate masters. If you still feel a sting, that’s the trickle-down punches working their way to you. We all know trickle-down doesn’t work, though, so you should be safe enough from direct bombardment. Sure, a rising tide lifts all boats, but what if you don’t have one?
Here’s an anecdote I never thought would be useful. I worked for Sam’s Club for a short time in the mid-Aughties. Back in the day I had no idea what labor laws were, or why worker’s rights were important. I knew we had loads of safety rules, and breaks for some reason. I assumed it was because it just made sense.
As my training went on, I realized how stringent the rules were concerning clocking in and out, working off the clock, and taking breaks on time. They were serious about getting those right, and as a manager I spent a big chunk of my time policing it. Again, I thought the benevolent company wanted to take care of its workers and would stop at nothing to make it so. Later I realized they were probably sued for some complaint or another and they must have instituted those rules to save themselves the trouble.
That’s The Wal-Mart Way!
One day an employee of mine had worked six hours and missed her lunch. This was a thing people got written up for, and she was extremely upset. I’d just promoted her to a thirty-hour-a-week job and she’d been written up once for tardiness. This would have been her second time-related write up and the third would mean termination.
Being the nice guy I was, I told her I’d take care of it. I logged onto the trusty ol’ Tandy 3000 green-screened menace, threw around some punch cards and magnetic tape, called Alan Turing, and before long I’d adjusted her time onto the wrong day. The next day someone caught it and I was immediately terminated, but that’s not the important part of the story.
Why was she horrified about being fired? Why did I jump through all those hoops just to get sacked? Somewhere back through the ages, during prehistoric times when Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble must have gotten together and formed a union at the quarry, they came up with a series of demands. In the epochs since, some of those demands have been made into state or federal laws. Many of them haven’t but they’re the kinds of things people strike over. Things like having a lunch on time or at all.
There’s no Arkansas law that says you even have to have a lunch, but what a great way to union bust. “If we give them all the things they’d ask for anyway, profit sharing, breaks, time off, then hell, they’ll have no reason to ask for bargaining rights!” the CEO says, followed by maniacal laughter. “Bonus: If they fuck up our company-mandated time requirements, we’ll fire them.”
This is how they appropriate what you hold dear, and it ain’t just Wal-Mart, honey. Corporate America owns our government, so believe me when I say every right you are afforded is being used to bludgeon you over the head until it breaks, at which point it’s tossed in the bin.
The really cool thing is that once you’ve killed labor movements long enough, once even Victor Frankenstein cannot resurrect them, it’s time to start rolling back the very perks that buried them in the first place. People take on more responsibilities for no increase in pay. They get cut to under 30 hours a week and lose their health benefits. Their position gets erased when they’re on maternity leave. “We only have to offer you a comparable one!”
We carry this appropriation into our personal lives. If a film represents a cause we care about, it’s suddenly required viewing. If you want people to watch the controversial Digital Buffalo Love (starring Autotuned Hermione) so they can learn about same-sex villain/henchman relationships in France be my guest, but don’t pretend you’ve done anything other than convince bigots to give Disney money.
On a slightly more serious note, when people go see Get Out and rush online to tell everyone to “go see it now and self-crit,” their intentions seem justified, but what exactly are they doing? Some of you may ask, “Self-crit? Is this one of those new buzzwords I’m going to be forced to learn?” Why yes, yes it is, but never fear, because it actually means “Look deep inside yourself for all the shit you’re wrong about, say a few Hail Marys and publicly self-flagellate.” Liberal thinking has much in common with classic strategies embraced by organized religion, like public shame, but the ineffectiveness of tarring and feathering people, figuratively and literally, has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. Nine out of ten psychologists agree, “It’s bullshit.”
At this point I’m so deep into left thinking that I’m not convinced there’s any good way to pursue social issues under the mantle of capitalist thinking. It always, always ends up propping up someone’s business or political career. Even the aforementioned film about race relations is specifically written to be some Invasion of the Body Snatchers type tale about how horrible white moderates are, and I agree, but their answer is to do what, exactly? See the movie and tell your friends to see the movie? Well, that made some folks rich. Change the way you live? How? Vote for Democrats? Has that been effective so far? Although pretty much everyone dies at the end of Get Out (spoilers, sweetie), I’m pretty sure the answer they’re suggesting isn’t socialist revolution.
There really is no struggle but class struggle, and while institutional racism absolutely exists in America, along with a shitload of problems relating to race/ethnicity/religion amongst the populace, the answer isn’t “Be a dick to each other online and support massive corporations.” I’ll take criticism from socialists who understand the answer isn’t throwing money around, especially when it involves making wealthy corruption-supporting moderates richer.
When it’s coming from folks, even well-meaning folks, whose answer is, “Vote for candidate X because they are the lesser of two evils, this is how the system works and somehow magically our problems are solved,” I consider them misguided at best.
Hillary Clinton lived in Arkansas for decades but either she didn’t pay attention or she conveniently forgot that deplorables are experts at bullying and don’t take kindly to being referred to as garbage. The bottom line was that 75% of eligible American voters weren’t compelled to vote for her. I recently argued with a Hollywood script supervisor who claimed Clinton was the victim of a coup. Hey, if Hill-Dawg wants to be President of the People’s Republic Of California, where she actually did win, I hope you’ll accept my application for residency. Anything is a step up from Red State Hell, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to process my visa from underneath the smoldering rubble of war-torn Sacramento.
Even Bernie’s milquetoast, half-assed Obamacare version of socialism was a bridge too far for the DNC, and their oligarchical immune system kicked into high gear in order to expel the disease. It was successful, but the host may not survive. While the Trumpenproles appropriated her insults, the bros mostly recoiled in horror and fell all over themselves crying about how they weren’t sexist.
Learn to adapt. Take a page from the #winners. If some pantsuited Lean In faux feminist calls you a “bro,” own that shit. If killing the beast that hollows out worthy causes and slips them over its heaving, vicious bulk like sheepskin makes you a bro, then I’m a Revolutionary Brocialist.
Don’t tip your fedora too hard while you attempt to wake Sleeping Bougie. Don’t confuse my figurative language for a man/woman dichotomy either, because this works all ways, but do remember that just because something rubs you the wrong way doesn’t mean you have a prepaid pass to online or real life harassment. Any cause worth filching will be canned, watered down, and delivered along with a complimentary t-shirt by capitalists looking to solidify their station. We can’t expect people to give up their life’s work because it got popular enough to commercialize. As long as the Thing lives and breathes, no one is safe, and it’s a direct sock to an activist’s jaw if we punish them for what we know is an inevitable outcome.
I will, however, torch the Thing when I can spot it, fallout be damned. No advertising campaign funded by a hedge fund manager will move me for long. Knee-jerk emotions are part of the human experience, but once you have a moment to wipe away that manly single tear, you don’t have to be an investigative journalist to Google the source of a moving viral video. The answer waits two or three clicks away, and, “Worked for Conservatives in the UK parliament,” isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s public knowledge no one points out because they’re too busy taking the bait.
We all know steering leftists towards any common goal is like herding cats. It’s always been that way, though it’s often glossed over, but if you study the history of revolutions they’re all made up of a mixed bag of folks with their own alliances and strategies. Some people, like the Bern, think Democratic Socialists can work at their own version of incrementalism. There are folks on the other end of the left who think the system won’t change until it’s burned to a cinder. Whether that’s supposed to happen actively through violence or passively by waiting for the long decline of late-stage capitalism to exhaust all our resources and collapse in on itself depends on who you’re talking to. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I also can’t see how we’re supposed to save the patient without removing the cancer.
Fully Automated Gay Space Communism seems a silly, glittering utopia at this point. We can’t get there from here, and while I’ll never stop dreaming of Star Trek when I shut my eyes, if we’re talking about real-world action, that dog won’t hunt.
Revolutionary Brocialism, though, is something you can apply to everyday life. When you’re faced with corporate bullshit in disguise, bro up. When it’s implied a film release will do something concrete for race or gender relations in America, don’t buy it. We’re not emotionless cretins, here. If something made you identify with someone or feel alive, I’d not take that experience from you. If you imply it’s something other than entertainment, that’s where we part ways. You’ll never see a film about socialist Twain, King, or Malala (first name feels right), because a studio won’t stab itself in the eye. They’ll core out a husk and present what feels good and sells and when they take the stage to accept the award, they’ll shit on the bad capitalists and pump their fist for the good ones.
There are no good ones. We can’t polish that turd, and no matter how much liquid nitrogen they apply, it’s all going to melt back into diarrhea when heat is introduced.
I’ve called myself the Chairman of Arkansas Space Communism so much that people around here have started thinking I invented the notion. Like most of my ideas, it’s a jalopy cobbled together from science fiction and stolen memes. Maybe I’m not so different from capitalists in that respect.
I will, however, lay claim to Revolutionary Brocialism. I’m just enough of a dick to be that guy, and if we’re talking about the hero Gotham deserves, you’re looking at him. I was born a bro, baby, and I’m never going to change, so I might as well put it to good use.
The next time someone tries to feed you pig shit and tell you it’s caviar, tell them you don’t like caviar then point them towards the outhouse. You can’t always shoot the messenger, here. Someone powerful told them what they were delivering was a delicacy and they believed it, but the goal was to poison you so badly you wouldn’t bother to fight back.
I’m poisoned, infected, riddled with this shit but I’ll fight. I’ll damn well fight as long as I breathe and there’s something left to fight for.
There is a spectre haunting America. It is the spectre of Revolutionary Brocialism.