Scratches on Believing in Liberation

It’s interesting that there’s so little discussion of what it means to believe in the necessity of liberation, how people can come to believe it, and what role that kind of agency has in social transformation. The cognitive and ethical component of motivation is noticeably absent in contemporary discussions of strategy and methods for getting us closer to liberation. The two main approaches that are most popular prioritize strategies and tactics that can bring victory and the view that objective context and events either guarantee victory or open the possibility for victory.

Readings of important revolutionary experiences usually are taken apart using those approaches. Key figures or groups failed to take some strategy or tactic, the backwardness of the economy held back the process, isolation internationally made moving forward difficult, etc. For example in Occupy there are frequent references to facts about demographics, methods of publicizing, the demands, organization, the context of the economy, etc. There’s surprisingly little discussion of what Americans were actually thinking, believing, and wishing during that time. During the Spanish revolution there’s a similar gap. I’ve yet to find a real exploration of why it was that the Spanish people themselves didn’t rise up against the CNT and UGT leaders betrayals, but instead went along with decisions they disagreed with.

My hunch is that there’s an unconscious consensus that consciously revolutionary movement is off the table, and that some combination of the right moves and right situation is sufficient to deliver a new society. Part of this comes from belief in the inevitable collapse of capitalism and guaranteed victory of socialism. Likely another component is the belief that under the right leadership conversions would follow assuredly.

We need a different orientation. There are gaps between liberatory values and aspirations and the dominant ones. Active revolutionary thought has a role to play in making liberation approachable, and within that values that run counter to dominant social order are crucial to be motivated to take on revolutionary action. Recognizing this and really going deep into how we can get to new forms of liberatory subjectivities is key to any new politics.

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