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Voices from the Collective

Letters from readers about past articles.

Issue #8, October 1993

I was with you until the third paragraph of page four, where you wrote: 'A leftist politics which is suspicious in principle of power ... cannot accomplish substantive ... change.' This is quite a leap. You were criticizing political cynicism, and suddenly you have rejected the anarcho-syndicalist and, more generally, the (socialist) anarchist movement. I don't know whether the anarchists have the right idea or not, but they're certainly not the same as cynics.

I also don't understand the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page four and continues onto page five. You say that you are using the techniques of capitalism because you are 'marketing' your paper. Nonsense! You might as well say that you are using the techniques of capitalism whenever you breathe, because the capitalists breathe also. You are not turning your paper into a fetishized commodity; you are not seeking to create artificial demand; you are not accumulating capital to monopolize the means of production; most importantly, you are not, I hope, reducing complex topics to slogans and 'sound bites.'

(I truly don't understand the purpose of that paragraph. Is it defensive? Do you mean, 'don't criticize us because we try to get people to read the paper?' Or are you really advocating as a positive program the use of the political tools of the right? The ACLU does that — I get a mailing from them every month explaining why this month's crisis is unprecedented and demands an extra donation. When the ACLU does it, I assume that it 'works' in the sense of generating more donations, but it does so at the cost of harming people's political consciousness — more specifically, it relies on people having short memories. That's not the way to build a competent mass movement.)

Finally, at the end you suggest that after the revolution 'no one will be lonely' and 'love will not mean vulnerability.' That's quite an ambitious program! It's clear that social pressure exacerbates individual psychological problems, but I don't think social problems are the only cause of individual problems!
— Brian Harvey


Many of us at Bad Subjects are skeptical of anarchism as a political philosophy. Whether or not anarchists are cynical, they are suspicious in principle of power and authority, and they have accomplished little more than the establishment of an interesting left-radical tradition. While we respect the tradition, it has arguably been politically ineffective. As regards the section of the manifesto in which we draw parallels between ourselves and a capitalist enterprise, we felt it was important to acknowledge the real resemblances. We are not capitalists, for all the reasons Mr. Harvey states so well, but capitalism is in a very real sense the air that we all must breathe, on the left or the right, and we must make use of whatever tools are available. The reluctance to draw the comparison is connected to the left's investment in a need to be politically 'pure,' even if that purity is largely imaginary or, if real, politically marginalizing. It's important to remember that we said we were like a capitalist business and not that we are one. In order to be vigilant about the dangers of becoming too much like what we oppose, we must be willing to acknowledge the resemblances that already exist, especially if they make us uncomfortable.
— Joe Sartelle

The Bad Subjects list was advertised as 'Political Education for Everyday Life'? I disagree. 'Indoctrination' not 'Education' seems more accurate. At lease the Manifesto forwarns the unusual (i.e. anti-capitalism and multiculturalism) stance on this list.

I have some comments on the Manifesto. Does tolerance include other opinions? I have doubts but, if allowed, I will offer an dissenting voice.

What's wrong with capitalism? OR What's good about socialism?

Reward for achievement seems like a pretty good idea. I've always known the P.C. movement was anti-business and an alternate name for socialism. But, try to corner a P.C. advocate and you'll only get denials.

Socialism is great theory but performs poorly outside the classroom.
— John 'The Rock' Stone


The best and simplest response to the question, 'What's wrong with capitalism/good about socialism?' is, read our Manifesto and get back to us.
— Steven Rubio