Anyone who has spent time in the far-left knows that, along with those you have become incredibly close to (comrade is a class of social relationship all its own), some of the people sitting in that branch meeting with you are folks you would never, in a million years, find yourself associating with if it weren’t for politics. In the US particularly, I think it takes a bit of a social outcast to cast their lot with communism. Seven out of ten times that’s a good thing; rebellion needs rebels. However, three times out of ten (sometimes more, a lot more, depending on the tendency) it means you’ve made common cause with folks whose eccentricities would, in polite society, at the least be frowned upon and at the most be grounds for some sort of institutionalization.
I’ve often said that the very best thing about being in the movement are the honest-to-goodness, genuine heroes beavering away at the class struggle and filling their brains with the world around them that you get to learn from and get to know. Without a doubt, the most interesting and intelligent people I know are Marxists. Fact. It’s also true that some of the strangest people I have ever met have also been Marxists. Some of the odd is just fine, I’m plenty odd myself. Human variation is rich; let a thousand flowers bloom and all that. But some of the anti-social socialists I have met are characters that just couldn’t be made up.
At any number of meetings I have seen frothing mouths, wild eyes and heard things fall from damaged psyches that neither Marx nor Freud could account for. Sometimes it leaves me scratching my head and lamenting the smallness of the movement where characters like these are on Central Committees, other times it has made me wonder what I was doing there at all. Like a family, we find ways to accept the ways of others and like any family we like to keep certain things ‘in the family.’
I’ve been in a few left groups over the years and none has been free of strange. The ones I left many years ago, where many of these vignettes come from, being by far the worst offenders. I must say, though it may just be lost in translation, that on trips abroad the quotient of crazy seems to be much lower, but let’s face it – our species is strange. It’s bound to manifest itself wherever we are and the left is hardly the only place where simple variation or complex social ills are seen, but it does seem to abound there, especially in down days. I’ll not name names of people or groups, let me just assume that you know folks like these yourself.
-The potential psychopath who at meeting declared of an ‘opponent’ leftist organization, ‘I wish this were Beirut, then we could kill them and nobody would care.’
-A comrade who throughout the meeting picks his toenails and crumbles his finds on the conference table.
-The comrade who in an oral assault on Pabloite revisionism hits the table causing his pen to fly up and smack him in the face or the comrade who, in a tirade against sectarianism, gesticulated coffee right across the table.
-The frothing at the mouth bit mentioned above. I’ve seen it a half-dozen times.
-A comrade who ends her incoherent 7 minute intervention from the floor of a union meeting by bah-ing like a sheep.
-The leading comrade who never leaves his house and has the personal hygiene to prove it, whose entire nutritional intake consists of diet soda and wheat germ and who hides his baseness behind the ‘dialectic’.
-The comrade who in front of a small crowd screams an entire 10 minute speech on health care into a bull horn (the bull horn is there so you don’t have to yell, comrades).
-The literary comrade who ends every single article, including movie reviews, with a sentence beginning with ‘Genuine Troskyists uphold….’.
-That comrade with an utterly unique, room enveloping, body odor who ate only raw root vegetables.
-The comrade who makes uncomfortable reference to bestiality when outlining his tactics in the union election, then makes additional uncomfortable references to bestiality when discussing tactics in the anti-war movement. A theme has developed and sensing comrade’s twitchings of discomfort as chuckles of laughter continues with said references for length of discussion.
-A comrade whose sexual peccadillo was attempting to sleep with every new recruit then claiming, when they inevitably left the organization, that it was because they “were moving to the right.”
Tip of the iceberg, comrades. Tip. Of. Iceberg. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the left and the movement. I’ve been a partisan now for 22 years of my young life and I’m for the long haul. But on occasion it’s good to take a little step back, look at the weirdness around you and laugh if it’s funny and cry if not.