Welcome to Frontline Praxis, a podcast where we interview the activists and organizers that you want to hear from to find out how they’re doing it.
Full transcript of this episode:
Eden: Welcome to Frontline Praxis, Episode Zero. This is where we’re going to introduce ourselves, our intersections, our overview of the show, what we want to see out of it, as well as a little bit about ourselves so that you can get comfortable. My name’s Eden, I use they/them pronouns. I’m a queer nonbinary white mentally ill person. Why don’t you introduce yourself, William?
William: I’m William, I use he/him pronouns. I’m another cishet white dude on a podcast, right? I’ve also dealt with depression and anxiety in my life, I’ve got a history of substance abuse, mostly alcohol, that also has been a struggle for me, and so those are my intersections.
E: Our vision of Frontline Praxis is a podcast where we can interview the radical organizations that we’ve been hearing about on the web, and ask them the nitty gritty questions of how they got to where they are today. It’s intended as a show that can function as a loose how-to in order to empower you to be able to build movements in your area. We will be asking questions about resources, number of people involved, organizational structure, background knowledge needed, obstacles they’ve run into, advice for newcomers, goal for the future, and material conditions in their area. That’ll help you evaluate what you have in your area that’ll help you do the same things. My hope is that some of you will listen to an episode and think “I know some comrades interested in helping out, I think I can do that too.” With this podcast, I want listeners to finish each episode feeling empowered to be able to see the connections in their community, the opportunities for radical praxis in their lives, and help feel like they have the tools to get started on the work that their community needs.
W: I don’t know that I’d add too much to what you said, I think you pretty much nailed it, except that it’s going to also be very much a learning experience for me. I don’t have much personal experience in organizing or actions. I’ve been to some protests and some events, but being a single father and full-time worker, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to that, and I know other people are in the same boat as me. Perhaps when my kid’s a few years older, I’ll feel more comfortable taking him to certain events and certain actions, but right now, I’m just kinda trying to focus on helping him learn how to think about things and see things through a lens of compassion and empathy, which is something that I learned way too late in my own life. And then when he starts asking the harder questions about why the world is the way that it is, I’m not going to lie to him about it, y’know? But right now I know that I want to learn more about all the different efforts and the people out there and the organizations that are doing the work on the ground level, and it just makes sense to bring other people along in that to learn along with me, by boosting activist voices and organizations, hopefully getting the word out to get them more support and maybe even getting some people to join in on those particular battles, whatever they may be. And, like you said, this show might hopefully get some people started on those same efforts and actions in their own communities, as best as their abilities might allow them to.
E: Yeah, definitely. I do have some experience with organizing myself, though it was all prior to my radicalization, so it’s in very liberal establishment institutions. After I started to learn more about the Left, and I started listening to these podcasts, I was hearing about all these amazing groups that did really great work on the ground, and I was just thinking “How do I do it? How do I do it? Where’s the manual? How do I make this happen for myself?” So, this is the podcast that I’ve been looking for for the past two years.
E: I think next we can go into a little bit about our radicalization story. I think it’s helpful for people to see that Leftists didn’t sprout out of the ground, and that we all have a little bit of a background that people can relate to even when they’re new. So, why don’t you start out?
W: Well, my radicalization story basically, for all intents and purposes, starts with the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. Well, 2015 is when I started paying attention. I never really had much faith in or care for the electoral system. I’d always voted, but always for third party, and that was just to do my part to try and shake up the system a little bit. Definitely always had sort of an anti-authoritarian streak, and I didn’t understand this at the time but I’ve always had some Leftist leanings. I knew there was inequality, and I knew it was bullshit, but I was also of the school of “Well, I mean, what can I do to change it?” y’know? So there was a kind of angry desperation, a lot of nihilism. And then I heard this Bernie Sanders dude, and what he was talking about and I was like “Yeah, that’s the same stuff that I’m talking about.” So I got more involved with politics, trying to make some sense of it. In 2016, I actually voted Democrat, which was a first for me, and I voted in a primary, which was also a first for me, I don’t know that I’ll ever do that again. But then I saw what happened to this whole process that was supposed to be “so sacred”, that we’d been told our whole lives “That’s your voice, use it, that’s how you participate”. So it just completely destroyed any semblance of the faith that I may have had in federal electoral politics. At that point, I just happened to be placed at a crossroads where some people threw some literature at me and hit me with some dank memes, and it was off to the races. I realized that I was Socialist, and not only was I Socialist, but I was Communist. Since then, I’ve just been reading and trying to develop my own synthesis of various theories. I started reading Marx, Che, Lenin, Kropotkin – and my reading list only ever grows longer, it never grows shorter, obviously. But, overall it’s given me sort of a purpose. It’s not that I don’t still deal with sort of angry depression and anger towards the system that I dealt with before, but I have a better understanding of what it is that I’m supposed to be mad at. So that’s basically my radicalization story.
E: Mine’s pretty similar in a lot of ways. Yeah, the 2016 election was huge for me. I was raised in a really conservative and reactionary, poor white household that was very religious. I knew I wasn’t the right-winger that my parents were, but I was very much a stalwart Democrat where I thought that the system was built in a way that was going to work, American Dream, all that stuff. Typical naive whitewashed America. So, I got involved with the 2016 election hard. I went to my primaries, and when I went to my state primary, I got really inspired and I actually volunteered for a Senate campaign, which was eye opening on so many levels because I saw how broken the system is – and later did I learn that it was actually intentionally built that way. After going through the 2016 election, it was a huge wake-up call on so many levels. I had started to unpack a lot of my fragility and a lot of my privileges in online intersectional feminist spaces that were led by black femmes. But I still had so many naive viewpoints on the world, and I think the 2016 election really woke me up to that. So, in the aftermath of the election, seeing what my country actually was for the first time, I started doing a lot of research, and was actually feeling really depressed about it. After that, in November or December, Fidel Castro died, and that was huge for me because my spheres of feminist and reactionary liberals exploded in this divisive argument over which side you should take on how Fidel Castro lived his life for Cuba. And so when I decided to do the research and look into it to see how I actually felt and not just listening to other people’s opinions, after looking into US imperialism in Cuba and the revolution and the ongoing socialist movement in Cuba as a government and as a people, I was blown away, and I was like “Oh, fuck, I’m a Communist.” I’ve been doing a lot of self-study ever since and unpacking a lot, especially along the lines of US imperialism and race relations within America, as well as globally with colonialism and – it’s just been a wild ride ever since.
W: That it is, at many many times.
E: Yeah, definitely. So, you mentioned that you’re a Communist, how do you feel about tendencies and discussions about that?
W: I don’t have a particular tendency that I would say perfectly identifies me. I understand a lot of parts of a lot of them, and I think that most of them can be synthesized together in a lot of different ways. But, y’know, when it comes to groundwork activism like we’re going to be focusing on on this show, tendency doesn’t make a single difference in that whatsoever. The folks with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief aren’t carrying water through hurricanes knocking on doors to ask people if they follow Lenin to a T. But when it comes to personal tendency, I’d say that I’m just a flat-out Marxist. I’ve got sympathies for Anarcho-Communism, and I like some of the ideas I’ve seen presented in Maoism, but for the most part I just say I’m a Marxist and I leave it at that. I’m not anti-tendency, but I am anti-sectarianism, when it gets to the point where it starts devolving unity or solidarity, then that’s when it becomes an issue. I’m all for debating theory and discussing ideas, and this that and the other, I’ll read the same 150 year old dead dude that somebody wants me to read, cool, no problem. But when it starts, like, online bickering and belittling – especially in online spaces, it’s worse – but at a point you gotta cut debate off when it starts to threaten solidarity.
E: I have a lot of similar viewpoints on tendency discussions. I still have not landed on something that I feel I can claim as a tendency, I usually just call myself a Communist. I’ll have discussions with Anarcho-Communists, and be nodding along, and find something that I disagree with, have a deep discussion, and I’ll do the same with Marxists and with Maoists. I think that, like you said, the thing that really matters is putting boots on the ground. I don’t think that people need to compromise their tendency in order to do that. I believe in coalition building and making a broad Pan-Left movement that can really bring the people up and build solidarity among the Left and Left institutions. I think building Dual Power is a really great way to do that, and I think it’s super important.For those of you who are listening who don’t understand what Dual Power is, it’s basically building counter-institutions that take over the same tasks as the Capitalist State, but in a radical and democratic way. I think it’s really critical because it’s a way to meet people where they are, it’s a way to build institutions that alleviate the conditions under Capitalism. But it’s also a way for us to show that the State is not actually listening to the people. We have a democratic institution over here doing what the people need and listening to the people and being run by the people, but then we have the Capitalist State that’s falling short and not listening at all. So, it’s a way to really build that framework of the Left that we can use going forward to get to that place of revolution.
E: So, we discussed a little bit about backgrounds in organization. Have you ever run into any obstacles when organizing?
W: Well, I’m able-bodied, and as a white cishet dude I’ve got access to all the spaces that I could ever want, y’know, so really the only obstacles that I personally face in my organizing is just my limitations on time and my ability to focus on that. And also my location. I’m isolated. I’m an isolated in a Leftist in a sea of blue collar conservatives. With the exception of my one comrade who I work with that I helped radicalize, there are no other Commies in this god forsaken place. And we’re literally central two hours from any major city in any direction. We’re limited by that, we’re both parents, it’s tough to get some organizing off the ground with only two guys that have all these other responsibilities. That’s one of the reasons why I’m really interested in doing this podcast, because I want to hear about actions that I can take here on a small scale, how I can support large-scale actions elsewhere, and hopefully even get some other isolated Leftists out there engaged in some good-ass praxis.
E: Yeah, definitely. I’m very similar. I’m in a deep red state, rural area, two hours from the liberal city, and for a long time I didn’t know anyone else who were Communists besides my partners. I think a lot of my radicalization process has been something that I’ve take a lot of my friends with me. I do a lot of organizing in queer spaces in my area, which is also a struggle in a rural red area, and I’ve been radicalizing a lot of my queer comrades –
E: – and that’s been pretty great, it’s been awesome. But now we’re at this point where none of us have done anything on the streets because we’re too far and too poor to go all the way down to the city to do these things that are already set up, but nothing’s really happening in our area, and we’re like “Ok, we have enough people, what do we do next?” So, that’s something that’s really huge in wanting to get us the framework in order to be able to do the things and be successful at it I think is really important.
E: So, I want to talk a little bit about our goals with frequency. Our ultimate goal is to be producing an episode every other week. We’re going to be doing some buildup in the next few weeks so that we have a little bit of a backlog in case depression or life or scheduling comes up. We want to be really transparent, though, because I know that’s something that a lot of us deal with, and I don’t want to ever give off the facade that we’re perfect. So, basically, if we ever run into a point where we have run out of back episodes and there won’t be an episode out to you, we will let you know, we will be up front about that and be totally transparent. I just want to lay that groundwork that I’m not just gonna disappear off the map without telling you.
W: Absolutely, and obviously, follow us on Twitter, any updates will be posted there pretty much immediately.
E: Another thing that’s really important to bring up that I found a frustration in as a mentally ill queer person in Leftist spaces online and on podcasts is I noticed that there was a lot of lack of access, particularly to people who suffer triggers as well as to people who need transcriptions. So, that’s something that we’re really dedicated to on this show is making sure that we’re using appropriate trigger warnings, so that you’ll be able to skip forward in the episode if you cannot deal with the content at that moment while not losing out on a whole episode, or feeling like you just need to not listen to the podcast anymore, as well as giving out transcriptions so that you can have access to that. We’ll be providing a link to that in the episode show notes.
W: We’ll be very very clear as to the time signatures of when the questionable or possibly triggering content could be coming up, and we’ll obviously let our listeners determine their best judgement of how to deal with their own things, but we’ll absolutely do that as well as in the transcriptions, right out of the gate at the very top, y’know, “In this episode we contain X, Y, and & Z triggers”. So, we’ll be very very clear about that.
E: If you ever come up with an idea that could make the show more accessible, or if you found that we missed some sort of trigger warning, let us know. We will definitely take that, and make sure that in future episodes, or maybe even depending on resources go back and edit that episode for future listeners. We just want to make sure that you guys have access to a Left podcast that isn’t going to be something that you have to choose between your mental health or your accessibility in order to get to. We want this to be available to all comrades, that’s why podcasts are awesome, because they’re free and they’re accessible to everyone in a lot of ways, and we want to be that accessibility for you guys to learn about praxis on the Left.I also want to state that I do recognize that we have very limited perspectives, and while we’re always learning and working on listening to those who are more marginalized, if we ever slip up – which, we will slip up because we’re human and we are privileged in different intersections – we will listen to you when you give us feedback. We will be doing our best to try and prevent that from happening, but if it does, we do want to hear from you. We want to make sure that we don’t marginalize people, or that our analysis didn’t go outside of our lane, and we didn’t overstep anybody. We want to make sure that we have that, we’re aware, we research it further, we recognize where we did wrong, and we go forward making our podcast more inclusive. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as on Twitter with any call-ins to uplift the voices of marginalized communities.Also, if you find yourself hearing about a cool group you’d really like us to invite on the show, feel free to let us know. We would love to reach out to as many different types of groups of possible. We might also from time to time send out a call-out to find different types of organizing groups to fill our roster. We have a large catalog of different types of groups we want to organize with, including unions, feed the people campaigns, disaster relief, anti-police brutality, queer liberation, medical access, housing, and much much more. And we want to be able to show how many different places we can build power as a Left movement, and show you that you can take the issues that matter to you and to your community and actually start to fix them.
W: I think you pretty much nailed it there, other than that I don’t really have much to add, I think you pretty much covered it. So, if you don’t have anything else, I think that’ll probably do it for Episode Zero. I just want to says thanks everyone for listening. I hope you’ll join us for future episodes. Please rate and review the show, it helps our reach and our ability to help others find information that could potentially be very useful to them. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @FrontlinePraxis, or you can always shoot us an email. Thanks, we’ll see you next time.
E: Thanks, bye.
(Closing music – Pat The Bunny “Make Total Destroy”)