Wednesday, September 01, 2010

I'll never be an 'Ex-Communist'

It's something I vowed when I first became associated with the Communist movement and it's something that I've stuck to. My first organized political involvement was with a group that had split off from the Communist Party USA and had moved towards much more democratic positions. Unfortunately, many members of this group have since gone back to the CPUSA. In any case, the group represented the more democratic currents in the international Communist movement, particularly in regards to Eurocommunism, like the Communism that was and is prevalent in Italy, as well as Glasnost and Perestroika. But getting back to the point, I decided then that I would never become one of those people who seemingly suddenly get religion, or who experience a sort of Saul of Tarsus conversion on the road to Damascus and suddenly disown all of their beliefs wholesale.
I believe people who identify with something and who fight for something for years on end and suddenly declare that they were wrong are either being dishonest to others or to themselves. You don't just disown beliefs like that. Sure, if it was a flirtation of small duration, maybe, but not if it's been part of your worldview for a substantial period of time. It's always politically convenient to apostatize yourself if you're a leftist. The Right will always welcome contrite and apologetic ex-Lefties who tell stories about how wrong they were. These people are like Judas betraying Christ for his thirty pieces of gold. Sometimes people's opinions change, but when it happens in a genuine way it happens gradually, or is triggered by something very concrete, like Khruschev's secret speech, which lead to the defection of many people from the Communist cause but not necessarily from the Left itself.

Me, my opinions have changed. I started out with my core beliefs as a socialist humanist, identified the sort of 'revolutionary humanism' in the Communist movement that I believe either Che Guevara or Castro talked about, but eventually criticized even the Eurocommunist movement for residual Stalinism in its worldview, eventually moving on to more libertarian expressions of what I believed in. But there was no sudden break. Instead, there was a logical series of steps that lead from where I was to where I am now, with lots of stuff intervening in the in between time. I started this whole involvement, ironically, in the months leading up to September 11th, and started to criticize residual Stalinism in the post-9/11 era, regarding the sort of easy attitude towards implicit nationalism that certain Stalinist doctrines have. Very topical when the country that you're in is devolving into a patriotic frenzy.

But, I like to think that I'm still connected to the general Communist worldview, particularly that part of the worldview that didn't view the Brezhnev era Soviet Union with much enthusiasm but instead put its hopes in the Communist parties existing outside of it. I have a more libertarian approach to things now, but I think that understanding this sort of context has been a valuable political education.

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