Don't Call Me "Comrade" – A Short Critique of 6th-Form Socialism

Over the recent Christmas period, gave permission for the Communist Party of Great Britain to use one of our articles (the Band Aid 20 review) for their Christmas publication (“Weekly Worker”) and their website. We stress that this is not out of any strong ideological identification with that particular Party, with its quasi-vanguardist approach to societal change. Rather, we simply wanted as many people as possible to read the article*, and I in particular felt that this represented a more progressive approach than the usual dogmatic bickering that has for so long undermined hopes for a progressive dialogue between people with broadly left-wing sensibilities. There are a million and one “left wing” parties, most of whose indulgent squabbling and name-calling recalls the ill-fated Popular Front of Judea in the famous “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” feature film. The urgency of the times calls for a more mature, progressive outlook that should pander neither to nostalgia nor petty partisanship.

And it is with this in mind that I relate my extreme annoyance at being addressed as “Dear Comrade” during the e-mail correspondence that led to the article being shared. On the surface, it’s a peripheral, almost unimportant matter, and perhaps I am guilty of the same kind of petty griping which I have just lamented. I shan’t go into a full critique of the substantive content of much of the “Weekly Worker” – suffice to say that there seems to be an innate disrespect for the achievements of the Labour movement, of the Labour Party as agents of the “bourgeois state”, for the United Nations, and for any left-wing organisation not advocating an immediate uprising by the working class. My concern here is purely literary, yet just as significant. By the end of the 20th Century, socialism was almost completely obliterated in the popular consciousness – as a viable ideology – by the combined efforts of the servants of monetarism in all areas of public life, from government to media and commerce. In light of the enormity of the forces against us, one has to consider the wisdom of adopting partisan and almost Kilroy-esque language in what is essentially a struggle for credibility in the face of an almost complete cultural block.

A brief glance at the “Weekly Worker” website reveals a method of arguing that is devoid of dialectics or reasoning, in favour of some rather trite name-calling. The “left” is accused of “prattling on” about this or that, while “pseudo-communists” are berated, as are “evil imperialists”. The far right can afford this kind of sloppiness – they will always be periodically bankrolled by big business or xenophobic millionaires, so their “lowest denominator” politics always stands a chance – but for a movement whose sole asset is the enormity and moral strength of its ideas, namely of peace and social justice, the presentation of a coherent argument is crucial. I believe in the intelligence of ordinary people, and I believe we can communicate without recourse to vulgar rhetoric. By the same token, I would submit that calling people “comrade” in your correspondence gives the strong impression that you’re not interested in communicating, but rather in fetishizing the past in order to give legitimacy to the most base type of misanthropy. The correspondence signs off “With communist greetings”, and it occurs to me that perhaps these people don’t really even want mass appeal – a sinister thought in itself. If this is indeed the case, their continued failure can only be a good thing.

*if anyone from the Daily Mail or the Telegraph is reading this, you are of course welcome to use the article on Band Aid, free of charge

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