No one said it would be Easy

Nabil Nahas, Eclipse, 1978.
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By VALERIO ARCARY*

Author introduction to newly published book

“Those who do not act as they think begin to think as they act. Whoever tells the truth does not deserve punishment” (Portuguese popular wisdom).

No one said it would be Easy it is a book that has been written little by little over the last four years. We are, since 2016, in a defensive situation, although with a more favorable inflection from mid-2021. A defensive situation opens up when the defeats of the workers and the oppressed people accumulate, which qualitatively displace the social relationship of forces.

Bolsonaro’s election in 2018 made it clear that the situation had evolved so badly that the scenario was already reactionary, because the offensive was in the hands of class enemies. Defeat makes us more reflective. Left militancy is a commitment that stimulates enthusiasm but challenges our limits.

As soon as the first note on the relationship between militancy and friendship was published, I realized that there was the possibility of a project. The reception of that text surprised me. Activists from different currents of the Brazilian left were interested in the article. I discovered that there was a demand for specific reflection on the subject of socialist militancy.

Although I have very definite opinions, after almost fifty years on the road, the issues were approached with a distance from my programmatic preferences, ideological leanings and political alignment. The objective was to be useful, disregarding the party affiliations of each militant. The nexus of the book was the problematization of the experience of militancy from very different angles, but I believe that the common thread emerges clearly. Socialist militancy is not a painless undertaking, but it brings immense rewards. So the summary is simple.

The fight is worth it.

The fight is worth it for many reasons. Firstly, because the world will not change if there is no one to fight for it. But it's worth it, too, because along the way to transforming the world we've had to live in, we transform ourselves. I like to believe that for the better. The anthem of the world left, The International, records a powerful idea in the verses of the chorus. Well united let us make this final fight, a land without masters, the International. It turns out that we don't know when the time for the final fight will be. Engagement in the socialist struggle requires the temper of marathon runners. This resilience favors intense maturation, a sense of responsibility and, more importantly, solidarity as an experience.

Betting on militancy is a shared choice in which we make comrades. What are comrades? Comrades are those who, in the socialist tradition, share a common worldview, egalitarianism, and a practice of voluntary and selfless giving of their time and energy to the victory of fair struggles that pave the way for greater social equality. The socialist worldview is based, first, on the recognition that all human beings have common needs, even if different capabilities, preferences, temperaments and vocations.

Being socialist means an ideological break with the world order. Being a socialist is an adherence to the movement of workers and the oppressed, a commitment to the project of anti-capitalist transformation, and an internationalist aspiration for a world without imperialist domination. In the societies in which we live, being socialist therefore requires a class choice. It does not matter what social class we are born into. What matters is the class with which we unite our destiny.

This choice for activism is an option that affects all subjective dimensions of life. It turns out that not all our friends are comrades, and not all comrades are friends. Because friends can have different worldviews. Friendships should not have the same worldview as a condition. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, we can be comrades with militants we don't know so well.

Trust in a project is not the same as personal loyalty to members of the same organization or movement. Personal trust is different from political trust. The first is constructed as personal intimacy. The second as the defense of a common program. When we are, in addition to comrades, friends of someone, a very strong bond is established. Very strong indeed. But it is dangerous not to know how to distinguish the difference between the two ties. Because the loss of political trust should not necessarily contaminate the personal relationship.

What are opponents? Adversaries are those we fight against in a dispute. It is not possible to live without having opponents. Because life is a sequence of struggles. But conflicts have different natures and degrees of importance. Knowing how to weigh, calibrate, measure, assess the severity of differences, controversies, debates and rivalries is essential. Because not all opponents are enemies. It depends on what the nature of the conflict is. Opponents may or may not become disaffected, that is, the dispute of ideas may degenerate into personal antagonism. But not all of our opponents are our enemies.

What are enemies? Enemies are the opponents we face in unavoidable struggles, because they correspond to irreconcilable class interests. Hostilities with enemies are inevitable, as they are harmful to the interests of the class we represent.

In the history of the left, cracks, separations and divisions occur due to different perceptions of the political situation which, in turn, express different social and political pressures. Serious project differences justify political splits, but they should not necessarily turn former comrades into enemies.

In any human collective there are, with greater or lesser ardor, personal conflicts. Some people are especially conflicted. We have given little thought to the strategic importance of patience. In socialist engagement, we highly value honesty of character, courageous personality, brilliance of intelligence, erudition of scholars, and passion of charismatics.

Speakers arouse enthusiasm because they say what we would like to be able to say, and agitators represent us in public. Propagandists are admired because they explain the program ideas we advocate, and educate us. Patience is the first quality of organizers, those who have the necessary skill to keep us together. They are the facilitators of collective action who protect us from our excesses, who help us not to fight with each other over any tactical difference, who defend the mutual trust, indispensable for a fraternity of fighters.

Those who always think they are right don't have much patience to try to understand the arguments of others. Comrades like that may have extraordinary qualities, but they don't adapt to militancy in a collective. Having political patience is emotional intelligence.

Political patience is not resignation. It is resilience, serenity and balance. Patience is not indifference, nor coldness, nor meekness. Political patience is self-control, discipline and restraint. It is self-control, discretion and detachment. It's accepting that each of us is different from each other, but imperfect in our own way. Nobody is omnipotent. It is a reconciliation with our immature and untimely youthful illusions, and with equally imperfect organizations.

To be patient is to understand that the dynamics of the class struggle is conditioned by factors that go far beyond our will, that the urgency of the times of the class struggle can wear us down, and the wait may not be short. It means accepting the idea of ​​a revolutionary project in your heart as a bet that is renewed in each struggle in which we place our strategic hope.

Activism is not possible without the experience of personal frustration. There is no way not to suffer disappointments. It is about articulating the function of individuality within a collective. There is room for everyone in the struggle against capitalism. But finding our place is not simple. When we are young, we don't know ourselves. We don't know what we're capable of. Militancy itself helps us in this discovery. But nobody does it alone. We learn from each other.

We can never forget that honest militancy needs to be an act of donation. Valuing cooperation and thanking those who fight by our side does not diminish anyone, on the contrary, it enlarges. The collective is always a totality greater than the sum of each of its members. Political patience is the cement that maintains the unity of a collective.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).

Reference


Valerio Arcary. No one said it would be Easy. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 160 pages (https://amzn.to/3OWSRAc).

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