Years ago I was a ultra-nationalist, deeply conservative pseudo-fascist who was infatuated with Right-Wing libertarian loser Glenn Beck. During one episode of his television program, back when Fox hosted, I remember him lashing out towards a supposedly Maoist quote pertaining to suicide. The exact words are presently lost on me but the intent of the passage was something to the effect of: “death is not an issue in China… one person’s suicide is like a drop in a bucket”. This passage was then followed by more showmanship on Beck’s part, demonstrating how little regard the communists had for life since they encouraged people to assist in others committing suicide.
This post is not a assault upon whatever logic Beck had in that typical episode. Whether the quotes and examples demonstrated were lies or truths, the point I am wishing to make here is that between theist inspired moralist thinking and atheistic revolutionist thought, there exists a grey space. Such a nook defines each ideological outlook insofar as each is related to views on how society is organized; one can say that bourgeois opinion orients towards anti-suicide as means of ensuring a reserve army of labor, while the reverse is true of the “pro-suicide” (henceforth referred to as “existential self-determination”), that one person deciding to take their own life is not a means of concern since communist society is built around egalitarian principals and economic function (referred to previously as the proletarian dictatorship under socialism).
Even so, the question remains: if I am a revolutionary and a comrade threatens to kill themselves, how should I act?
This is an important question to ask because there is a difference, often, between knowing the correct theory and knowing the correct course of action (just because you know you should organize for revolution doesn’t mean the objective conditions call for above ground operations). Simply because you know that a comrade is debating on taking their lives, and understanding that such existential self-determination is their choice to make, does not automatically dictate your own course of action. You have a stake in the matter, after all: your comrade is a friend and you would hate to lose them. Therefore: what is your undertaking?
Mao Tsetung said that “A person’s suicide is entirely determined by circumstances(1).” That there are these “iron cages” which dialectically negate a person’s will to live, rendering the resolution as the will to die as the only tool capable of coping with material realities. Knowing this we must understand that our interference is not going to change the concrete conditions of the earth; all of our offerings to talk, hang out, cuddle, or sojourn on a relaxing get-away will not alter the fundamental facts of the other person’s life. Yes, perhaps consultation may arm our comrade with information on changing facets of their existence which ameliorate the burden of living; all the same, however, our original contradiction re-emerges- there is a difference between knowing what you need to have in order to be happy and between possessing the resources to obtain said joy. Additionally, there is the other material-existential aspect: even if the comrade articulates the short-term reasoning for continuing life, and even if they control the means of consistently re-setting their-selves to such a neutral setting, what if they are simply exhausted from life itself? What if they no longer wish to endure the never-ending cycles of rising to only crash again? In such a situation, something driven by unspecified material realities which may, or may not exist, even under socialist and communist means for producing, does not the person have the recourse as a responsible adult to void their existential experience?
This is a rhetorical question, of course: the comrade has the right to end their life. While I would also contend that other have the right to sway their comrade to not take their life, I also maintain that this period of argumentation in favor of prolonging life should be curt. A person should not be made to feel un-human, lesser, greedy or any one of the numerous insults hurled at individuals who reject existence on this planet; there comes a point where people must accept the decisions of others without passing judgement on their reason for undertaking self-harm.
I rush to defend this point because in bourgeois civilization there is a tendency among many people to meddle in the affairs of other persons. I do not need to explain how “everyone” thinks they know best for “everyone” else. The lengths persons will go to to ensure that their opinion is the correct opinion even extends towards engaging in un-Marxist behavior. Now, for a non-revolutionary individual this would not be an issue but for a person who calls themselves your comrade and adheres to certain philosophical principals inherent in everything a word like “comrade” connotes, a higher standard of conduct is expected.
This kind of code of conduct is in reality very simple: it means never involving the state. Activities like calling the police, forwarding text messages to said police and authority figures, contacting local hospitals, and berating the comrade who is suicidal not not commit suicide (out of un-principled moralism) are all obvious, or should be obvious, “no-go” territories. It needs to be stressed that involving law enforcement officers, crisis response workers, housing managers, hospitals and mental health facilities, is not only a gigantic step backwards in producing the proper outcome, since the repercussions involving these institutions can exacerbate the long-term psychological after-effects of a failed attempt eventually coalescing in a new attempt, but that a comrade reaching out to these state-authorized bodies is a reactionary, anti-communist move on their part.
Revolutionaries should never rely on the police or state in order to resolve a interpersonal dispute, especially when this said dispute concerns a matter truly only effective of one of the parties involved. Aside from the lasting affects of state involvement (hospital records, mental health history, career and job limitations, etc), the police themselves are agents of state control with a violent track record concerning the handling of suicidal persons (simply google “police kill suicidal man” and you will understand).Contacting them only props up the legitimacy of the police force as a body of armed men; only invites the state to expand the powers they already have over the working class to intrude ever more deeply into personal details). Calling on them to try and force an artificial dialectical resolution, ignores the reality of the situation in favor of bourgeois idealism. In the end it is behavior counter-productive, idealistic, and arrogant of the omnipresence of the materialist dialectic.
So these are my brief musings on the subject. Perhaps in the future I will write more of this subject. With social alienation at historical levels in the industrialized world I think it would be a good topic to explore more. But for now I leave you with those above sketches and encourage any reader to contemplate the subject more and offer contributions to a theory of suicide.
(1) Zedong, Mao. Miss Chao’s Suicide. 1919. Web. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/1919/miss-chao.htm