“You are either intentionally or unintentionally destroying this group. Your method involved creating Recomposition/ GFNY precisely so you can operate in a manner where you can gather people around you to…. Your method is destructive.” These were the words expressed to me by a member of Unity and Struggle, with the implicit agreement of the rest of US, in the middle of a meeting. No one in US disagreed with this particular member of US.
As I sat there, listening to that, I was stunned. Just earlier, I had given my analysis of Unity and Struggle’s intermediate project, Student Worker Action Group (SWAG). I argued that SWAG attempted to impose it own categories on struggles at CUNY City College which did not make sense considering that the Assata Shakur Center and Patraeus struggles were going on. That SWAG could not make transitions from one cycle of struggle to the next. That SWAG had isolated itself through its own failed rigidity. That the constant argument to do tasks was a school teacher mind set of thinking about politics. People will do tasks when they understand the politics, are inspired, have a clear vision etc and SWAG had none of those dynamics. When US argued that people failed to do tasks–a common mantra in the group which hardly explains anything, other then reveal itself to be a bureaucratic and teacher oriented mindset. It is not a social explanation of anything. I do not know to the full extent what connection, my explanation had, to being later denounced as a master mind of conspiracy that might rival the New World Order or the Illuminati.
I was told that my method involved critiquing things too much… and of course that meant critiquing US too much. Something about my leadership came up. I only explained that I had purposelly tried not playing a leadership role and tried to keep my mouth shut. That it was clear to me at least, that other people were arguably leading me and I was a follower. I laid out a case regarding that. Perhaps my biggest sin was that I had a big mouth, lots of energy, and a history with U&S that I did not fully understand the consequences of. I argued that my only two goals in GFNY were to read books and organize. I emphasized that I was not the person who introduced Delueze and Guattari, which I was receiving immense criticism for. That I had followed the rules and procedures for introducing new ideas and perspectives just as much any other member. I emphasized that many others had the same critiques as myself and often, my critiques were inspired from other peoples’ critiques inside GFNY. In other words I laid out an impassioned defense… But it seemed like most of it fell on ears that were not listening. Only days later would I realize this was like the Salem Witch Trials. I was already accused and that meant guilty in the eyes of US. Communist justice, communist fairness, communist objectiveness, and the communist search for truth were perhaps also on trial, but little did I know at that time…
Trying to grapple with what I heard, I proposed that I spoke in hyperbole too much…Ironically, days later I remembered that my style of critique and authors who have influenced how I write were Fanon, Marx, Richard Wright, and Nietzsche I can live with that tradition. Looking back, I do not think the hyperbole theses explain much.
Luckily, all the non-U&S members made clear defenses for my political integrity. That those accusations were just false. One non U&S member said, perhaps objectively I had been playing the role of a leader informally, but that is all. Another non U&S member said, they did not look at me as a leader of the group. What was left of US’s argument was in tatters, yet…
I never received an apology for the statements made by the U&S member…I stood trial from anywhere from 1-2 hours. I am not sure of the exact time. I walked home and cried. This was the second time, Unity and Struggle had done this to me. The first time was in 2011, the day I left the organization. I had seen this happen to another comrade before as well. A potential fourth demonstration of US’s blame game was also in the making while I was in GFNY, but did not happen, but that is another story…Although perhaps the most important story as the criticisms of U&S struggle by one GFNY person shook me to the core…
Considering that this was the second time I had raised a critique of U&S and this was the second time that the group attacked my political integrity, instead of deal with the criticisms at hand… I cannot but help to draw some conclusion, some deeper method these people have. For all their claims to marxist mastery they only personafied the messed up social relations in US and GFNY onto me. In laymen terms they found an easy scapegoat.
Perhaps most frustratingly many comrades who are not in Unity and Struggle, have decided to remain in the group largely because of the fear of being politically alone in New York City. The rest of the left is in such bad shape, everyone would rather stay in some formation, then be alone again. Obviously I find this line of argumentation highly problematic considering what I have written and gone through. I think we should all be suspicious of such a logic of organizational strategy. What purpose does it serve? Does it make sense?
While the old adage of do not take things personally in politics is used to justify all sorts of political calculus and no doubt I have used that method plenty of time. I see the limits of that well worn piece of wisdom. And yet it still hurts particularly. It particularly stings when one’s own personal pain and humiliation is rationalized and turned into political calculus. That is the break of social trust and bonds which political calculus will never explain. That is friendship, trust, loyalty… Things which often get swept under the run under rubrics of calculus and certainly professionalism. On a personal level, this is the hardest part of being a revolutionary. It is the fraying of close friendships. On one level, there is a certain internal adjustment we all have to make regarding seeing capitalism destroy so many things on this planet, but there is always the hope that being a revolutionary will at least result in meaningful relationships. No doubt I have been lucky to have experienced that at times, but also been unfortunate enough to see those friendships dissolve and break. I am just as guilty in this entire point as anyone else. I have broke off relationships because of what I thought to be fundamental political disagreements with other people as well. I am not sure that always made me into a better person, which is a big problem for those interested in communism. How can you devolve into a worse person and remain a communist? Over time, I have found that to be a crucial question on an individual level.
The paradox that remains with me to this moment is how can a member of US make such a claim and still be willing to work with me? I would argue the position put forth by the US member is a fundamental point. Interestingly, in the same meeting where I was told of my super-powers of conspiracy and destruction, US decided that the non-US members could no longer join as a single group, but individuals could. Luckily for me, I was not an idiot, and see the really sleazy ways US operated. Without openly saying we will not work with you, they implicitly dealt everyone that card by going down the individual recruitment road. People, according to US were free to join the group as individuals. Of course when I asked what that meant for me, the response I got was that my destructive behavior had to stop. Gotta love recruitment. The demands of recruitment!!!! What groups will do to accomplish their goals! I wonder when an U&S exploit will make it to Great Moments in Leftism. Or maybe this blog will!!!!!
Why I chose to write Decomposition:
I played a crucial role in the development of Unity and Struggle from 2004 and 2011. The fate of that organization is intricately tied to my own life. I bear a personal responsibility to what this organization does. I was one of the authors of Recomposition as well. I owe some public record of what I have helped build, especially if I no longer believe in those projects.
I want to be clear that I still believe LDD and US were important, formative, and overall happy years of my life. Perhaps the sadness, the regrets, and the pain are discussed in isolation from the many beautiful moments I had, because of the moment I write in, the treatment I have received , and the frustrations of building revolutionary organization.
But from my own understanding, US is an anti-subjectivity machine. It destroys them. US is a burn-out machine. US is an organizational left over from the Seattle 1999 days and it no longer belongs in this world. I helped start this project many years ago. It is time I help clarify many of my mistakes. Make sure other singularities do not partake in what I believe would be a fundamental mistake.
I have thought about what principles are involved in writing this. I have tried to be a principled revolutionary all my life–who has not I suppose… I have thought about the limited critiques of call out culture I have heard from folks. I have never written anything like this. For years, after I left US, I defended what they stood for, because I thought the political project to be extremely important. However, the horrible experiences I have gone through not only in this one meeting, but over the last 6 months with this group, has convinced me otherwise.
I also have to write everything down to understand, the larger processes at work. Everything has been a failure in such immense ways. All the little grouplets are a comedy and tragedy. All of us playing dungeon and dragons most of the time, grown adults lost in fantasy… After a decade of this, what is a criticism of this play, this spectacle, this… that has been put on again and again…