Another element I’m liking in Nihilist Communism is the statement that being working class is not an identity, it’s not a cultural thing, and that there isn’t anything necessarily virtuous in being working class.
That’s something that has marked a lot of leftist and social justice analysis, something I’ve brought up before but the association of ‘oppression’ as a concept with ‘virtuousness’ as a concept both obfuscates a lot of aspects of oppression (for instance in creating the moral desire to be oppressed, hence people either donning working class clothes or trying to analytically ‘edge into’ oppressed spaces by arguing that they, themselves, are oppressed), or by engaging in guilt rhetoric or by finding some contrarian point (by casting the oppressed as, themselves, being inherently oppressive; leaving the ‘normal’ ‘middle class’ analyst as the most clearly Good person, see the way northern liberals talk about the Southern working class, or the way white liberals construct PoC as inherently homophobic).
Certainly there’s a colonizers mentality that comes with occupying an oppressive position, but we shouldn’t get into abolishing oppression because the oppressed are better / more deserving people, we should be trying to abolish oppression because it destroys people’s lives, whether those people are virtuous or saintly. The association of Oppressed / Revolutionary (that is, being of the revolutionary class) with ‘goodness’ helps no one.
I think that ‘virtuous’ narrative is what leads to appropriation by the oppressive classes: white people thinking suffering under racism is some sort of tortured soul aesthetic, cishet aro/aces being genuinely jealous of the systemic homophobia LGBT people suffer, et al.
I see this a lot in First World leftist cycles and it’s shite. Fuck you, being unable to afford food and medicine is violent, not an aesthetic bougie whites should be aspiring to.
It also leads to a point that MD makes regarding the way anarchists dealt with the working class in the early 00s: it leads to this kind of, why would you want to stop being oppressed? line of thinking, most obvious in terms of class (as it’s something that is more easy to change than other kinds of oppression). Why would you want to stop being working class? Isn’t living in poverty a more moral mode of living?
And it utterly misses on what it’s like to live in poverty and misses the way oppression actually works on those who experience it
Yeah showing oppression as desirable is very much a bad thing.
I very much appreciate the turn-of-the-century communist rhetoric that sang something to the tune of “things DON’T have to be this way and things CAN be made better for everyone” which is a far cry from “hey everyone living in rats and squalor is the best, if you live in a house FUCK YOU, CLASS TRAITOR”
There’s something kind of reactionary about it to me. As leftists we should be arguing from the stance of “everyone deserves to lead a decent life” instead of “no one deserves to live a decent life”
print this post out and show it to every crust punk
Lest anyone get the impression that this is a unique product of the modern Left, I’d like to point out that “blessed are the poor, the meek, the suffering” has been a thing at least since Jesus.
Which might well be where SJ has it from – SJ was explicitly Christian to start out with.