The Czarny Kapturek Manifesto


Trump winning in the US, a small majority voting for leaving the EU in the UK; the electing of the PiS government in the UK and its subsequent high ratings, despite its Stalinistic attack on democracy; Fidesz in Hungary, the EU’s backing for a government in Ukraine with neo-fascist members; Front National polling highly in France and the sudden growth of AfD in Germany, we are seeing all over the world attacks on democracy, health care, the rights of immigrants and refugees, working conditions and pay and the environment.

How do we deal with this?  In the Czarny Kapturek Manifesto, I am addressing political activists, those who deal with non-formal education and the voluntary sector, NGO members, members of various religions, concerned people who work in corporations and historians.  I am familiar with and to some degree work as part of each of these sectors and therefore see strengths, but also weaknesses.  Therefore, the Czarny Kapturek Manifesto takes aim at key beliefs and practices within these groups that are failing, that fall short of what’s needed.  You may therefore feel attacked.  That’s the aim.  I am not disrespecting your values or aims, rather, the way you try to achieve them.  Some may feel more attacked than others; put this down to the fact that some people are more present in attacking (for want of a better word) Trumpism than others, and therefore are more dominant.

  • Internationalise problems. We are seeing a global wave of racism and authoritarianism.  Each country has its specifics, of course, but we no country is more moral.  Americans, the British or the Poles are not “idiots”.
  • Don’t be relativist. A commitment to human rights means that we can’t be so liberal as to openly wonder whether it’s OK for huge amounts of people to die due to a lack of health care and basic positions.  Note that the people more likely to die are people poorer than you.
  • So you’re post-materialist and have cut down on your consumption?  Good for you.  For many however, including those who either (a) voted for the likes of Trump or (b) didn’t vote for social-democratic parties, don’t have this luxury and need bread on their table.
  • We will have no success if we avoid the issue of class. All over the place, working-class people are increasingly turning to racist and authoritarian parties/leaders, be that Front National, UKIP, PiS or AfD.  Either that, or they’re not convinced by social-democratic parties.  Class is an issue.
  • You think you don’t live in a class society?  Even if it takes different forms in different countries, there are differences: Whether you live in a gated community or not, how often you buy new clothes, how often you go abroad on holiday, whether your job is respected in society (compare teachers/trainers and those who work as cashiers in supermarkets), whether you speak more than one European language, whether you can afford to go to hipster places and the such all show issues of power and money.
  • It therefore follows that you cannot look at the issue of Trumpism without addressing neo-liberalism. For decades now, the rights of workers have been attacked, welfare is being cut and the working- and under-class have become increasingly demonised.  Values of competitiveness, hierarchy, order and self-sufficiency are growing and this leads to less solidarity and a desire for social justice; people are increasingly wanting the state to be penal against perceived enemies in order to feel safer.
  • Seminars/memes/workshops/articles/courses/books tend to ignore this, focussing on non-class and non-disability related identities.  This work is very needed, but doesn’t speak to the kind of people who vote for Trump/don’t vote for social democratic parties.  Some intersections are sexier than others, reflecting biases.
  • You do work for diversity?  Good.  It does however have limits, set by economics, which is currently dominated by neo-liberalism.  These limits will always exist as long as you don’t deal with economical issues.  Get smart about neo-liberalism.  It’s complex, but without dealing with the concerns of people who vote right-wing/don’t vote, we have no chance.
  • Don’t call those who vote for Trump/PiS/UKIP etc. idiots. That doesn’t help to convince them.  That they are less likely to be university-educated does shows more about class  (middle-class people are more likely to go to university) than anything else.
  • At the same time, don’t underestimate neo-fascists.  They are real, are spreading their hate, are killing people and are well-organised.
  • Don’t embrace nihilism. Nihilism means surrender.  Embrace hope.
  • Be aware of your own biases. Be properly intersectional.  Of course combat discrimination the women face, but note that, to paraphrase Birgit Rommelspacher, feminism can be about enabling the white middle class to participate in domination.  Hilary Clinton’s actions are that of racism, classism and imperialism.  In other words, don’t be single issue about themes related to one of your intersections.
  • Take racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia seriously. “Listening to the concerns of Trump voters” doesn’t mean that one accepts their views and needs to support the discrimination of others.  Again, note class.  This isn’t about trading anti-racist work for a more class-conscious work.
  • Embrace socialism. This doesn’t mean, dear liberal, embracing the gulag.  Note that it is socialists who through their work enabled legislation for good working conditions, better pay, free health care, good housing, welfare and peace work.  People who vote for the likes of Trump have been socialised to blame the lack of these provisions on immigrants.  Even if you don’t embrace socialism, at least realise that a lot of good things have come from that tradition.
  • Be aware of jargon that you use. University campuses and academics have become increasingly good at producing words and phrases that are well-meaning and may be just, but can also exclude people and lead to dogmatism.
  • Be critical of your own tradition. No single movement is holier than others.  Of course, criticism of your tradition by white racists is one thing, criticism by allies and people within your tradition is another.
  • This means embracing nuance about themes that the left/”progressives” tend to be dogmatic about: Israel, religion and men’s issues.
  • Question whether your anger is sustainable for your health. One can find solace in a perceived world full of things to get angry about, an anger that is manufactured.  By all means, get angry, but consider the effects.  One can surround oneself with people who stirup your anger and read books/look at memes that do so; question whether this helps you win people over.
  • Trainings, flashmobs, memes and art events are all well and good. Do they however reach people who are not like you, or do they bolster the white middle-class and in doing so, increase the distance between you and those who vote for the likes of Trump?  We need more than the spreading of the values of diversity and respect.  For many people, diversity is seen as a threat.  That doesn’t mean less trainings etc. about diversity and talk of “love”, rather, ones that enable people to talk about their fears and, and this is important (which is why I mention it again) deals with neo-liberalism and class.
  • Be militant. That doesn’t mean buying weapons.  It means learning how to intervene when discrimination happens.  It means supporting strikes, protests and occupations.  Do you want the likes of Trump voters to see your support for their problems with work, or not?  At the same time, attend anti-fascist demos.  Block their parades.  Destory their posters/stickers.  But be safe.
  • Realise that the police are not your friends.
  • Network, network, network. Especially in Poland we see many small groups of people who like each other and agree with each other doing their own cool project.  Embrace trust.  We stand no chance if we only see ourselves as being parts of small groups.  Embrace the mass.  Otherwise the right will.
  • Don’t fall for talk of “extremism”. There is no comparison between a few stones thrown at armoured policemen and women by anarchists and the murder of People of Colour by Neo-Nazis.  The left has many problems, but they’re not worse than the right.
  • Don’t be vague, analyse how prejudices are perpetrated and made possible by institutions such as the state, schools, churches, family structures, informal groupings and the such. Putting your values of solidarity, respect, tolerance, diversity, freedom and justice into action needs form, not just by sharing links on Facebook.
  • Have concrete policies that you can aim for, and market; policies that target Trump etc. voters that are environmentally friendly that deal with investment, such as the setting up of state banks that invest in green small businesses, subsidised child care, the mass building of environmentally-friendly accommodation, minimum wages, the living wage; jobs in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, care homes, carers, disability assistants, green tourism, transport and technology.
  • Embrace democracy. Pursue it at all levels, including within the family.
  • Show solidarity by turning up to events that are done by other organisations. Talk with them beforehand to make sure that you are not competing for a similar event happening at the same time.
  • Don’t fall into escapism such as through music. But look after yourself.  Go to concerts, films, theatre, opera and the such to recharge your batteries.  Allow yourself to be happy. Look after your health.  Just don’t be individualistic about it.
  • Laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Don’t try to make yourself unhappy by seeking to control at all costs situations that may lead to a repeat of past trauma.  See people are multi-faceted and being capable of being loving and hateful.  Be aware of your inner tensions and contradictions.  Of course, be safe; get out of abusive relationships and evaluate whether situations can be dangerous.  At the same time, forgive yourself and others. Don’t expect perfection.  You don’t have to compete.  Laugh at failure and learn from it.  Express anger creatively.  Don’t however be holier-than-though, using a more reflected vocabulary.

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