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“Leaderless” Movements, “No-Boss” Collectives, and Other Left-Radical Hypocrisy


(Photo: Sunset ParkerPix/flickr)

Maybe, maybe not, if you have been following what I have to say since last autumn, you probably noticed a steady “rightward” drift. The truth being, as much as I agree with some of the progressive-radical platforms, personally I find myself to be somewhat more conservative in outlook. During the past several months I have rejected most of the left-radical ideologies that drove the big part of the Occupy movement, at least in Portland, Oregon, where the movement seemed to be driven by the radical anarchists and radical leftists.

This past year has been truly life-transforming for me. I have found a community, a passion, and then lots of learning and growing up.

Since its beginning, the Occupy movement has been called “a leaderless movement” where hierarchy ostensibly does not exist. At least in theory it was an experiment in flat leadership and radical direct democracy.

In reality, though, not everyone is equal. Someone is more equal than the others.

The ones who are most aggressive, most manipulative, most testosterone-driven, and the loudest and the most obnoxious, and the ones who apparently have a kind of “charisma”, are the ones who exercise leadership in this movement — and in other “anarchist” and “collectivist” organizations — but without the kind of accountability and responsibility normally required of someone in the position of leadership.

One of the others reasons why I have abandoned left-radicalism in recent months is this culture of “calling out” (oppressors, oppressive behaviours, etc.). Lack of civility often accompanies this, and like in the days of the Great Cultural Revolution circa 1960s China (and is reportedly still practised in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), the rhetoric of anti-oppression and revolutionary thinking is twisted into finger-pointing and witch-hunting. I have seen plenty of this especially in a radical-queer and radical-feminist environment. It is one thing to raise consciousness; it is another thing to pull each other down in the name of “self-criticism.” In the Caribbean countries, as Alice Lucy Trent writes in her book The Feminine Universe, fishermen catch octopi using clay pots. A plain clay pot, with no traps, suffice in this, because once octopi are attracted into the pots, they ensure that they all stay inside. If an octopus tries to escape the pot, the other octopi would pull it back down.

Often consensus-based decision-making in a radical ideological environment creates an atmosphere of groupthink stifling personal responsibilities, individual initiatives, creative and innovative thinking, and freedom of thoughts. In the end, the group becomes dysfunctional, caught up in the idolatry of “process” while accomplishing nothing in reality. Many affinity groups, committees and caucuses within the Occupy movement quietly died this way.

The Occupy movement needs a real leadership, unless it wants to continue fooling itself within the fantasy of having no leaders.

One of the most popular slogans at Occupy marches is “This is what democracy looks like!”

Sorry, this is what a mindless mob (ochlocracy — note its etymology!) looks like.

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