Anticommunism and Cults

Candida Ellis (
Thu, 2 May 1996 10:00:55 -0400

Since lots of us are confessing to being alarmed by various things on
this list, from the assumption that politics and drugs were bedfellows in
the sixties to the assumption that Vietnam, no the Civil Rights Movement,
no hippies, kicked off the sixties. . . allow me to express my own sense
of frustration.

When I see the argument that multiculturalism is responsible for the
failure of the left (as well as for all the racism in the world) and when
I see the argument that black nationalism turned "nonracists" off to
antiracist struggles and when I see the argument that those who explored
Marxist solutions to capitalist problems were prompted (in toto and in
whole) by the same need to sacrifice their autonomy that prompted the
followers of Jim Jones to scurry down to Guyana for a Kool-Aid festival,
I think the world has perhaps turned on its axis and that is why these
announcements appear to stand facts on their heads.

In the Civil Rights Movement I noted that whites were often prompted by
feelings of self-alienation to join the struggle. They felt better
helping someone else because it made them appear stronger. I used to say
that there were people in the Movement who were not content to be better
than black people; they wanted to be better than the people who thought
they were better than black people. I'll never forget the look of horror
on the face of one young man who was told to join a demonstration group
heading out to sit-in "so that it would be integrated." Since everyone
in the group was white, he understood this to mean he was believed to be
black. He was not black and the only thing he had to hold onto was just
that. His reaction to the moment inspired some discomfiture among those
of us who understood the implications and were ourselves white. Among
our African American fellow demonstrators, it inspired only a moment's

My point is that the neat categories we have set up to understand the
world are merely ways to divert us from any real understanding. All the
noise, for example, that is made about "political correctness" amuses me
because its own internal contradictions overwhelm the argument and reveal
it as demented to any perceptive observer. For example, anti PC types
often complain about the "victim mentality" that frames an anti-racist,
anti-sexist view of the world. Yet the anti-PC argument postulates its
own victim: the white male. He is silenced, driven from the workplace
and continuously passed over for the sake of reverse discrimination.
This posture cannot be shaken by facts, such as the statistical
insignificance of progress in hiring from under-represented categories.

In the same way, rabid anticommunists, having consumed their daily dose
of conventional wisdom, can see only dupes, martyrs and fools on the
radical left. I saw my share of fools, even a few dupes, hardly enough
martyrs, but most of all I talked with people for the first time in my
life who read and thought and logically defined their positions rather
than reacting out of gut feelings and Chicken Little syndromes. While I
eventually felt that the problems of the world lay less in systems and
their solutions less in ideologies than I wanted to believe, I never gave
up my admiration for people who took chances with their own lives and
certainly with their futures to pursue their vision of a more loving
world. If those who dropped out and dropped acid find the attention to
these people detracts from their own stories of the sixties, I can say
only that the world then and now is far more complicated and thus demands
far more attention than you may be willing to give it.

But then I suppose we all subscribe to the motto, enough about me, now
what do YOU think of me. . . .

I'd settle for thinking any day.

Candi Ellis
UC Berkeley