It doesn’t take one very long to realize that the Left-wing movement is full of oddballs; most of these oddballs are loveable. Others, however, are not so loveable and so I found it fitting to be the topic of this short post– overly serious “professional” revolutionaries who fancy themselves the Lenin of their times.
Or, Lenin Complex for short.
Ignoring the maybe slightly Ableist connotations of the word “complex”, these people are the sort of comrades which frustrate me more than any other comrade. Why is because, at best, they turn Leftism into a drab military-esque formation where everything is sacred, and all is black and white. At worst, such comrades hide reactionary politics and/or toxic behavior.
You know who they are, they are the Leftbookers who will never be caught uttering a joke, mentioning anything about their personal lives which hasn’t be filtered through fifty-shades of SERIOUS™ and POLITICAL™, and who always act as though every post and story shared, every sentence of commentary, is akin to a polemic which will be read by online archeologists decades down the road. Maybe they even are working on their “collected works” or an “autobiography” of their political lives.
I deplore these people.
Now, there is nothing wrong with taking yourself or your organization seriously. Not everyone needs to be a clown-in-training. But there is a difference between taking yourself seriously and immersing yourself within the SERIOUS™. The former is something mature people practice from time-to-time while the later tends to be, more often than not, a cover for self-aggrandizement and reactionary politics.
To give an example: I have known several comrades over the years who have transitioned to far-right extremists. It is a sad development but something which happens from time to time. What every instance had in common, however, was that the comrades in question had bad cases of Lenin Complex (nothing against ya, Lenny!).
These comrades would try to mask everything they did. One, a younger fellow, posted an overly long, yet emotionless rant about how he lost his cell phone while on a study trip to Europe. Why the post was long was because he wanted to be taken SERIOUSLY® for his newly acquired Right-wing pals; he didn’t want to be perceived as a stereotypical, whiny American kid who was so concerned about his cell phone. It will not surprise you to learn that this behavior was something which followed him throughout life, even when he was a leftist: before he ditched an organization which, at the time, we were both members of, he called my on Skype to say that we were still comrades; a touching sentiment, yes, but something which is hardly needed if you are merely leaving one group to join another.
Another example, this time with someone older than my ex-comrade: in short, he was a class reductionist National-Bolshevik. He was incredibly transphobic. Part of how he would hide his fascist sentiment was with overly-serious attitudes; he would post lengthy commentaries on how carefully he decided on the course of action to take. To him, every time he deleted somebody from a social media profile was a BIG EVENT©. People such as him hoped to find their fame as a left-wing personality by making it seem as though they took a personal interest in each and every action and story they shared. It was pathetic.
What I am getting at is that this behavior indexes larger problems.
One can just as easily hide their counter-revolutionary politics with “ironic” humor, it is done every day, especially with TERFS. But, if one uses humor, it is harder to build a cult-following and easier to pass one’s self off as a respectable commentator and source of opinion. Whereas comedy tends to alienate the respectable, the serious attracts the crowds out of the authority fallacy.
I want to shift gears, though, because I think this Lenin complex cuts deeper. This is where my personal frustrations peek.
Lately, I have been becoming more and more frustrated with the revolutionary left. Do not mistake me, I have never been more of a revolutionary communist, but I have been finding it harder and harder to have non-hostile conversations with people from certain tendencies and outlooks, mainly because of how they operate in a subset of Lenin Complex.
What irks me is when a comrade will remain connected to my profile for a long time but only comment or react to my content when it comes time to disagree with a political statement I make. Now, I tend to be selective about who I let on my profile, but there is a variety of people on there, not all of whom are Leftists. But what I strive for in my interactions has been to keep up an interest in my friends’ activities. Sometimes this means liking/reacting to stories, other times commenting, or if they are of the persuasion, messaging them and deepening the connection. What I have been seeing lately, though, is comrades who simply only care about my activity when it clashes with their own beliefs.
These comrades you will not see taking an interest in anything you do: they will not like/react to your posts, they will only rarely comment or message you. But, don’t worry, they will comment on your posts if you post something which offends their very exact political sensibilities. Never will they interact with your content about your personal life, even though you clearly give off the vibes of someone who is open to people becoming closer via communication.
Obviously, this is not a position shared by comrades who have thousands of friends. As I said, I am selective about who I let on my profile. Additionally, I understand boundary issues and some people just wanting to do their own thing. I get that. So what bothers me is when I see Lenin Complex intersect with other bad behavior; behaviors such as: overly serious, religious-like, reverence some comrades have for their group or tendency, or how it leads them to remain connected with known abusers but does not lead them to conduct self-criticisms. Such comrades place personal affectations above politics while remaining attached to that overly-serious political model which allows them to deny any personal stake in their actions; it is the reverse of my own frustrations but a very real present all the less.
Personal affectations aside, however, the general conduct of the left in organizing has been disappointing. There have been many premature declarations and larger than life assertions with poor practice. I hope that organizers start taking their roles as political agents more seriously. I say this because in my personal experience, there is a lot of weirdly misplaced effort in the most unlikely of places and it disturbs me.