Sunday, 4 May 2014

a response to a local controversy:the hammer and sickle flag

(Revised)

a response to  
http://www.studentnewspaper.org/blog/2014/04/30/it-is-hypocritical-to-advocate-a-safe-space-whilst-wearing-soviet-symbols/

This article very clearly raises 3 issues which must not be conflated but must be clearly distinguished

  1.  Do Soviet symbols breach safer spaces - I think so.
  2. Do safer spaces need to be adapted with more care- I think so
  3.  are Soviet symbols offensive or should they be dropped - I think so

Do Soviet symbols breach safer spaces:
If safer spaces aim  to prefigure the society we wish to create then they must facilitate constructive discussion  within safe and non oppressive limits .We must not prohibit what is considered offensive or insulting if they do not oppress  or prohibit discussion or display of things which are in of themselves not oppressive not triggering etc.

I have been convinced that Soviet symbols can be triggering for some people and so should be avoided when this is pointed out.


Safer spaces: 
 Safer spaces policies'  purpose is to ensure spaces which are inclusive, non oppressive and safe. Safer spaces policies should not be used  to stifle legitimate  debate otherwise  they become oppressive i.e.  someone cannot say they are merely offended by something someone said or did and so it breaches safer spaces policy e.g.  if someone is offended by a picture of Emma Goldman and said it breached safer spaces policy merely by the fact of being Emma Goldman without any other issue with it(such as being triggered by it) I would consider that oppressive if the picture of Emma Goldman was prohibited or banned.

 Our tendency has been to demand  that safer spaces become universal but probably that was us getting carried away by the positives of them. Life doesn't always call for safer spaces. Safer spaces policies should not be absolutist and applied regardless of context . Of course we don't want spaces which are unsafe but there may be times when we deliberately seek spaces which are exclusive  if we want to educate people who may not know about feminism etc. We could give notice beforehand that they will be potentially offensive and or triggering and give notice for those who don't feel comfortable with that to avoid them

 I would also say we should remember  that  safer spaces are not a  cure all.We risk falling into  decontextualized liberalism if we think so.Safer spaces policies have definite limits within existing oppressive society.We cannot create an oasis amongst  a desert -much as we may want to or try. Safer spaces are prefigurative but can only succeed in the context of wider revolution against all forms of oppression.


The history of the Hammer and sickle:

While it is true symbols can have diverse meanings and depend on usage, we cannot ignore historical context .Symbols have a historical legacy and it must be taken into account.

I am unconvinced that those who use what is a soviet symbol today are entirely benevolent and wonder why they would do such a thing.

The Hammer and sickle is strongly associated with 'Communist parties ' (a contradiction in terms and in fact really just state capitalist). There does not seem to be any reason to believe the Hammer and sickle  has any meaning pre- Bolshevik Russia.  The Hammer and sickle  was worn  by those who oppressed the working class   peasants etc. as well as by  those who oppressed and killed ( First said to have begun around April 12th, 1918 by Lenin ) my fellow anarchists of that time- including Nestor Makhno,Gregori Maximoff, Volin, and Lev Chernyi. If I were to have been alive then, I would likely have been similarly oppressed or killed(or both) so you'll forgive my heated emotion and rage at the disgusting amount of Bolshevik apologism that goes on. I am in agreement with those who suffered under the Bolshevik State and who never wish to see it's symbols  again.

Ultimately  this discussion  cannot avoid a debate between those who are Leninist and those who are not. The Leninist coup of the Bolsheviks has done more harm  to the words Socialism and Communist than anything else in history. I will never ever ever forgive them for that.
I think imagery  used by the Bolshevik State capitalist government should be dropped. We could not use iconography specific to the Third Reich or Stalin for apparently good purposes  without being offensive and insulting.

Lenin was no hero but a dictator  and tyrant
this was the man who said  in his  Speech at Second All-Russia Conference of Organisers Responsible for Rural Work June 12, 1920
"our slogan in the war that has been imposed on us must be—an end to all slackness! " and

"To restore our economic life, we need discipline. The proletarian dictatorship should display itself primarily in the advanced, the most class-conscious and most disciplined of the urban and industrial workers—the greatest sufferers from hunger who have made great sacrifices during these two years—educating, training and disciplining all the other proletarians, who are often not class-conscious, and all working people and the peasantry. All sentimentality, all claptrap about democracy must be scrapped. Let us leave the claptrap to the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks"


 
 
If we seek  a society which brings out the best in humanity then Bolshevik Russia is about as far from what we would want to call socialism or communism as I can imagine.

a better symbol aesthetically and historically is the Red Flag which is inclusive to both socialists and anarchists.

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