Sunday, 12 April 2020
I’ve come across a large number of Twitter accounts in which the account holder describes themselves as an activist. In every case I can recall, this is linked to a self-declaration of also being a socialist. Being a socialist, one has to wonder what they mean by ‘active’ in the first place. Do they mean they actively lead a socialist lifestyle, owning the means of production and taking from each according to their means while giving to everybody according to their needs?
Or do they mean going on endless pointless marches, signing petitions which nobody will read, holding candle-lit vigils for minority issues and generally identifying with the right-on poster people for every lost cause? Or – and this may ring truer for most – do they just serially retweet every negative claim made against the government and continue to bang the drum for their lost Magic Grandpa? Maybe they just believe that declaring themselves as a socialist isn’t quite enough for their bio and the word activist sounds so much better than sore loser?
I don’t recall seeing anybody identifying as Conservative describing themselves as an activist. Possibly this is because, in being industrious material contributors to society, active is a normal state for them and to make a claim for what is normal just seems superfluous. Certainly, from the Conservative side of the fence, socialism and socialists, if anything, are characterised by inactivity, non-productivity and getting in the way of any form of progress at all.
And while we’re on the semantics ‘progressive’ politics seems to hark back to a world of a century and more ago where the advance (regression) to a socialist utopia sounded so good, to some. The use of the word reactionary to describe their opponents and the rational choice of most working people is also odd, portraying as it does, some actual response, as opposed to the indolence of socialism in general.
Oh, I know that many determinedly left wing people are industrious, working in the NHS and academia in particular, where their activism takes the form of following the approved doctrines and spreading it wherever they can. Such bubbles, such echo chambers of belief are maybe part of the reason why the left are easy to mobilise. Whole communities exist where the ‘Evil Tories’ mantra, taught from birth is never questioned, even as 120 years of the Labour movement has brought no improvement to their lives.
But ‘the left’ is the only visibly coordinated political movement in town because these bubbles can persuade them to board buses and descend on the capital with thousands of other like-minded (wrong-minded?) ‘individuals’ for their regular day-trip, carnival marches. It must be a powerful reinforcer of their beliefs, much like mass Friday prayers. Look at us, as far as the eye can see, all worshipping the same totems. We must be the chosen ones.
This collective identification with some higher moral purpose also allows them to unleash the most vile and hateful attacks on those they see, not as fellow citizens, but as inhuman monsters, complete with their own mythology of wrongdoing. A lefty lie on Twitter – like the one which claimed that only one MP turned down the (non-existent) £10k ‘bonus’ and that man was the sainted Jeremy Corbyn who, they insisted, donated it to the NHS – will get a thousand retweets within minutes and will persist long after it has been comprehensively debunked.
While there are obviously some such shenanigans on the right, it is right-wingers themselves who are quick to debunk and shut down falsehoods. It is not a look we would wish to be associated with. As for activism, given that right-wing thought is most typically characterised by individualism, it would feel distinctly odd to go on marches demanding that things stayed ‘more or less the same, but with a few tweaks’! Seeing how little all that lefty activism has achieved, I think we can be forgiven for saying ‘what’s the point?’.