I’ve always struggled with what to label myself. I’m a registered Democrat for the sake of voting and other sorts of civic participation, but two parties really isn’t enough, and they’re only a little less openly racist than the Republicans (though I will not pretend there’s no difference between the parties).
But Democrat isn’t really an ethos. It’s a party affiliation.
Liberal was once a title with a strong history, but it’s unfortunately been perverted into cowardice by those who favor inaction over justice. There are certainly some righteous folks who call themselves liberals – we can’t paint everyone with one broad brush – and I won’t bite the political hand that fed and raised me. But I think it’s long since lost the power it once had. It’s an insult from both the left and the right. It’s a no-win proposition.
Progressive? It’s not bad. It aligns with a lot of what I believe in. But, again, I find that the people in the movement can be really terrible at certain forms of oppression. There are far too many racist and sexist progressives, and you can say that the worst of any group doesn’t invalidate the title, but that’s not how I get down, man. I don’t want a big part of it.
This is more or less how I feel about calling myself a Democratic Socialist. Great ideas, great folks, some real racists who think that marginalized groups supporting their own folks is bad. Among both progressives and DS folks, there is the legitimate idea that “GirlBoss” unaware support of women can lead to the support of women with terrible policies. But to dismiss intersectionality whenever something other than class is centered is reductionist, sexist, and racist, and there’s far too much of this among these groups in their rhetoric, even if their policies are generally sound. So while I don’t much disagree with their policies, I disagree with their approach, and approach matters to me.
So what of Socialist or Communist generally? Again, the policies that support a truly egalitarian society are those that I agree with. But I am not at all fond of authoritarianism, and many leftist societies aren’t any less prone to this, which leads to people support leftism of any sort, even when led by dictators. This is not to say that traditional politicans aren’t just as bad! They are! It’s just that, you know, there are ways to really support people without authoritarianism.
Would I go so far as to espouse Anarchism? I agree with many of the tenets. I no longer believe that the state is the best way forward. But I remain skeptical that, had this current situation occurred, full self-governance would have been able to coordinate a response. Maybe I’m just naive, but although I’d rather we had no prisons and no police and many fewer nonsense laws, a very minimal state for emergencies, chosen among the people to serve them and coordinate to avoid chaos.
I’ve looked into things called libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism and a lot of complicated mash-ups and finally I just wanted to pick my own labels.
I think we are in a transformative time, for better or worse. Trump and his clowns could use our eventual recovery as justification to turn this into Gilead and slaughter reporters and intellectuals and so on. But as much as they like power, deep down, I think that guy wants to be liked by the smart people who don’t like him. I think there’s a difference between him and someone who had the singular drive to commit active genocide. Passive genocide, sure, but holocaust-type things require effort, and dude is lazy. That may be the only reason we have a chance to survive this with a chance to continue to accomplish things.
I say all this to say, what I finally came to believe in is what I call Autonomous Collective Liberationism. I think you need all three of those to forge the future we all deserve.
You need Autonomous because, although selfishness is a massive issue, if we don’t give people options about what they themselves can go, provide them with ample agency, and remove hierarchies, we don’t get anywhere.
You need Collective for obvious reasons, that society will be split into a very American style of small uncooperative groups without it.
But you also need Liberationism because you can seek collectivist goals while remaining oppressive. If you seek collectivist goals without specifying liberation, the oppressed wll remain as such with no end in sight. Otherwise, traditionally collectivist societies would have no oppression, and we all know that that’s not the case.
This is the very best way I can conceptualize my politics and my goals in life. I fall short, I will continue to, but Autonomous Collective Liberationism is what I believe in, and also what I made up out of whole cloth to describe my beliefs, because I think we’d all do well to define our views our own way.