Tankies have created their own counterpart to Wikipedia: ProleWiki.
You can learn that the correct name for Americans is actually “Statesians.” You’ll also learn that North Korea—I mean the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—is a happy workers’ paradise, not a totalitarian hellhole full of people who are fed a healthy diet of propaganda rather than actual food to eat. Russia’s RT, Iran’s Press TV, and other state media from authoritarian states, as well as conspiracy-mongering publications like CovertAction Magazine and The Greyzone, are now “anti-imperialist media.” And you’ll learn that virtually anything wrong in the world is a “Statesian” plot led by the CIA. The words “bourgeois,” “capitalist,” “ruling class,” “means of production,” and “material” are thrown around liberally.
And to the editors of ProleWiki, Stalin and Kim Jong-un are deeply misunderstood men who want to do right by their people, not iron-fisted tyrants. And Xi Jinping is praised by way of a quote from that stalwart champion of human rights, Fidel Castro. In general, if the media say anything negative about the USSR, North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, or any other “actually existing socialist state,” it’s bourgeois propaganda.
At least the ProleWiki editors are pro-LGBTQ, unlike some other Marxist–Leninists who see anything non-heteronormative as being bourgeois, idealist, or degenerate. I guess even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again: Hamas is a right-wing, repressive, theocratic, authoritarian, dogmatic, inequitable, terrorist organisation. If it gains control over what is now called Israel, it will be no better than the current Israeli government. Instead of Jewish-supremacist nationalism, it will bring Muslim-supremacist nationalism.
Just two months before Hamas started its attacks, people in Gaza were protesting against Hamas’s mismanagement and repression, as well as Israeli oppression. Hamas responded by beating protesters and clamping down on dissent. Hamas claims to speak for the people of Gaza, but it doesn’t give a shit about their welfare. Gazans are starving, unemployed and struggling to survive, while Hamas leaders are livinghigh off the hog. For example, Hamas’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, is a millionaire. The Gazan government has been known to harass and muffle journalists.
What happened in August was a legitimate pro-democracy protest. What Hamas is doing, on the other hand, is terrorism.
Instead, leftists must reject both Israeli and Palestinian nationalism, as well as the leaders who promote it. Although Palestinians are clearly the victims of Israeli oppression, it is dangerous to counter eliminiationist nationalism with more of the same thing, this time with a crescent instead of a Star of David. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership is worthy of our support.
Nationalism, regardless of its variety, is one of humanity’s worst afflictions.
If it weren’t for virulent ethnic and religious nationalism in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians—or Muslims and Jews in general—wouldn’t keep killing each other over and over again. These parties’ competing claims are rooted in religious supremacism that disallows peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society.
If it weren’t for virulent ethnic nationalism in Eastern Europe, Russians and Ukrainians wouldn’t keep throwing their soldiers into a meat grinder for nearly a decade.
And if it weren’t for virulent ethnic nationalism in Central Europe, millions of Jews and Roma would have avoided the Shoah and Poraimos.
Nationalism often arises out of systemic oppression. Those who cling to these beliefs often want to defend their cultures and people against invaders or imperial overlords, whether past or present. We see this with ultra-Orthodox Zionists, Palestinian nationalists, Russian nationalists, and Ukrainian nationalists, all of whom have legitimate grievances against antisemites, Israeli nationalists, Nazi Germany, the USSR under Stalin, Poland, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But these groups go beyond simply defending themselves. They promote their own chauvinistic ideas that invert what the Germans, Russians, Poles, or Israelis said about them. They sully their reputation abroad by attacking civilians, defending ethnic cleansing, oppressing their own citizens, and silencing dissent.
You cannot fight oppressive chauvinism with more of the same. Fighting for liberation need not mean that you copy your oppressor’s tactics—or plan to do so once you have regained your power. All you have done is drunk the poison and internalised it.
Both woke and anti-woke activists are tiresome scolds who need to shut the fuck up and stop treating people as census designations rather than complex human beings. All they see is categories: Black, White, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Trans, Non-Trans.
I am fed up with the woke movement. But I hate the anti-woke movement even more, and I think a lot of “wokism” is a reaction against the rise of far-right movements in America, Britain, Europe, and elsewhere.
Why do I hate these movements? Because both sides focus on what people are, rather than who they are.
Sexists (which includes homophobes and transphobes, not just misogynists) and racists treat their targets as something, rather than somebody. Race is a what; cultural expression is a who. Sex is a what; gender is a who. If you fixate on race and sex, rather than culture or gender, you are likely to make hasty generalisations that flatten the complexity of human experience. I don’t trust anyone who calls himself a “feminist” and uses sex as a way to define the righteous and the damned, and I don’t trust anyone who calls himself an “antiracist” and uses race as a dividing line between the sinners and the saints.
TERFs are not feminists by any reasonable definition. They are reactionary fascist-adjacent ideologues who are just as sexist as their conservative counterparts. Their mentality is “penis = evil,” which is just the inverse version of “vagina = irrational hysteric.” Ironically, some woke activists end up sounding like TERFs, though their focus seems to be more on skin colour.
You can be antiracist or culturally inclusive without making excuses for oppressive behaviour by marginalised groups. I abhor Islamophobia, but I’m not going to defend Islamism or any other form of religious extremism. Islamists, along with other religious fundamentalists, deserve to be marginalised because their views are incompatible with a functioning civil society. This is why I have no patience for leftists who go out of their way to defend right-wing fundamentalist states like Iran. They’ll rightly criticise evangelical Christian nutjobs but give a free pass to their Islamic fundamentalist counterparts who ban women from being educated or cut people’s heads off for being gay. Just because Muslims, whether liberal, moderate, or extreme, are a minority in Europe and the Americas doesn’t mean that fundamentalist Middle Eastern or African governments are beyond criticism.
Sometimes I want to read criticisms of the woke movement, but these criticisms tend to come alongside a heaping dose of racism and sexism, including hostility toward LGBTQ people, a dismissiveness toward people who have real grievances about racial discrimination, and other forms of intolerance. All I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d even see me as a who, and they hate me just for that.”
When I read woke writing, I come across essentialist bullshit about how if you’re straight, white, male, American, Christian, British, European, or non-trans, you’re the devil. Bullshit. This is the right’s hateful rhetoric inverted as a form of purported self-protection. And all I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d see me as a who if I belonged to a ‘privileged’ demographic. And because I’m ‘multiply marginalised,’ they love me just for that.”
It is virtually impossible for me to read anything in the media about racism or sexism without my skin crawling.
Classism is a common feature in both woke and anti-woke discourses. A lot of it looks like elites playing off each other, though I don’t mean that in a class-reductionist way.
Claiming that any group of people, including white people, are inherently evil because of their ancestry or skin colour is counterproductive, essentialist garbage that should be wiped out of any social justice movement.
If I excluded everybody but LGBTQ+ non-white people (I hate the expression “people of colour” and will not use it here) from my social circles, I wouldn’t have many people to talk to. Some of the most virulent prejudice I have experienced has come from members of my “own” race, including relatives.
Both woke and anti-woke activists make me feel like a what, rather than a who. The problem is that I’m the right what for the woke movement and the wrong what for the anti-woke movement. Either way, I’m something rather than somebody.
If I hate something or someone, it’s because of who they are, not what they are. Donald Trump is odious because of his beliefs, not because he’s a white man. Candace Owens is also repugnant, though she’s a black woman. When woke activists say “listen to black women,” do they also mean Candace Owens, or do they mean only those who are ideologically similar to them? When anti-woke activists say that they should be listened to, do they include members of the “wrong” demographics who agree with them, like Caitlyn Jenner or Blaire White?
I’m a grudging supporter of affirmative action because of my who-not-what orientation. Although I hate the idea of ranking people based on what they are, I also acknowledge that historical injustices should be combated.
Fighting racism and sexism is important. But that fight should be focused on humanising people, rather than using demographic categories as a sign of virtue.
I feel I have to be woke to protect myself. But at the same time, I’m sacrificing a lot of my authenticity. I can’t say what I want to say without being told that I’m making excuses for bad actors, even though I have the same goals—that people are treated fairly and kindly. That’s why I’m blogging about this stuff anonymously.
If you focus too much on what people are, rather than who people are, I have little respect for you or your movement.
I want to see a fairer, more equitable world. But I want to do that without all the bullshit I see from the woke movement, or the reactionary racism and sexism that have arisen both as a cause and as a consequence of it. I want to be somebody, not something. Is that too much to ask?
(I’ll talk more specifically about sexism and racism later, but this is a good overview of how I feel.)
About The Woke Contrarian:
Anarcho-communist in theory, democratic socialist in practice. Feminist, internationalist, pro-LGBTQ+, pro-disability-rights, pluralist, progressive.
Antinationalist, anti-capitalist, antifascist, anti-Nazi, anti-identitarian, antiracist, anti-authoritarian, anti-Stalinism (and similar ideologies, e.g., Juche and Maoism).