Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tempests, Tea Pots, Death Threats, and Commie Parasites

Many of you have, I know, been participating in the in-world demonstrations in support of the Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters, first at the Egypt sim, and later at Terra Egypta. Much of the impetus for and organization for these virtual demonstrations has come from SLLU member Czarny Zsun; he and others have done a great deal to raise awareness in-world about the ongoing struggles of the Egyptian people, efforts that have been rewarded by extensive coverage in a number of Second Life news sources, including New World Notes.

Predictably, these demonstrations also caught the eye of the ever-bellicose and reactionary Prokofy Neva, who blogged about them on Saturday under the eye-catching headline "SL Commies Parasite Off the Egyptian Revolution." Prok's basic thesis is that the SLLU and associated Left groups in Second Life are exploiting the crisis in Egypt to score points. Castigating the SLLU (and me personally) as "a bunch of hard-left opportunistic sectarians," Prok notes:

[At the Egypt sim] I saw the commies' rent-a-crowd -- various unemployed furries pressed into service with big boxes on their heads (so that they didn't have to try to rez a sign object on the ground). They were all *non* Egyptians -- the usual British, Australian, etc. socialists and outright communists who make up SL Unity, which is..."united for unity" like the old parody song has it.
All of this is to be expected from Prok, who tends to assume that anyone to the left of John McCain or David Cameron is secretly a card-carrying operative of the Comintern. Attempting to debate with him is, as I have discovered in the past, a largely futile exercise; after posting a couple of responses, I decided to leave well enough alone. Czarny Zsun, however, took up the slack, responding more aggressively, and at times very effectively, to Prok's attempts to paint Second Life leftists as unredeemed Stalinists.

Trouble arose however, when the rhetoric became more heated. Czarny, unfortunately, seems to have lost his temper and, in response to a comment by Prok supporter Laetizia Coronet to the effect that she would be associated with communists "over my dead body," Czarny responded "We can arrange that."

This was, we will most of us agree, a stupid, ill-considered, and frankly distasteful thing to say. It isn't necessary to take this seriously as a death threat (which clearly it is not) to feel that it is a highly inappropriate response.

Still, a tempest in a teapot, you may say -- and I'd agree, but for one thing: because of the context created by Prok's attack upon the SLLU, it seems to have been assumed that Czarny was speaking on behalf of, or in his capacity as a member of this group. Czarny himself makes no such claim, and would (I am guessing) probably feel more comfortably associating himself with the SL Marxists group in any case. Nonetheless, the impression created has been that a member of the SLLU is now issuing "death threats." One commenter responds to Czarny's post with the suggestion that "if Czarny is an officer of SLLU I'll be leaving this group ASAP," and the expressed hope that "some of the officers of SLLU post in this comment section a strong denunciation of what Czarny said, because it was reprehensible."

Well, one officer of the SLLU -- yours truly -- attempted to do just this, but without success: my comment is either awaiting moderation (which has never happened before when I have posted on Prok's blog), or I have been blocked from posting. If the latter is the case, then Prok will have, in effect, created the impression that the SLLU endorses Czarny's comment by preventing us from repudiating it. [*Note: My comment has since appeared on Prok's blog.]

What follows below is the comment that I attempted to post on Prok's blog. I need to emphasize, for the reasons given within the comment, that this is not in any way an "official" response of the SLLU: it is very much an expression of my personal feelings (as, of course, is this entire post).

A couple of points:

First, Czarny Zsun is not (so far as I am aware) an officer of the SLLU, although he is a member of the group (along with nearly 400 other residents).

No one posting here -- not Czarny, and not me (and I am not merely an officer, but an owner of the SLLU) -- speaks "for" the SLLU. That (despite Prok's portrait of us as a highly organized and centralized "party") is simply not the way we work. We don't produce "official" communiques or have "official" spokespeople: the diversity of the perspectives held by our membership would likely make that unworkable. Czarny and I are cases in point: he is a Marxist, I am not. And that's fine: the SLLU comprehends many shades and varieties of "Left."

The SLLU is, by its charter, explicitly and entirely nonviolent: we don't "do" violence, nor do we threaten it, even in a "jokey" manner. Czarny's comment is not only incompatible with the SLLU's own charter, it represents, I regret to say, the very opposite of what our group is striving for: "a creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue." There is, in this sense, no need for the SLLU to "repudiate" Czarny's comment, as it does not in fact emanate from the SLLU, nor does it in any way represent what the group stands for.

On a personal level, I am disappointed that Czarny has expressed himself in this way, precisely because I know him to be a tireless activist on behalf of social justice. He also happens to be one of the prime organizers of the SL protests in support of the Egyptian people, a task for which, I know, many in the SLLU would want to thank him. As ill-judged and highly regrettable as his comment here is, it does not erase the good that he DOES do.

I would like to suggest that maybe the rhetoric on all sides of this debate should be toned down -- a lot. Yes, it is reprehensible to appear to threaten someone with death. But it is not a great deal better to imply, as Prok does here, that anyone on the Left is, de facto, complicit with the murder of millions of people under Stalin. Nor does the crude labelling of anyone on the Left as "commies" assist in establishing civil and constructive debate.

Perhaps we should ALL chill out a bit?
As a sort of addendum to what I say above, I'd like to affirm and emphasize three things, drawn from the SLLU's own charter, that seem terribly important to me.

The first is that the SLLU draws its greatest strength from its diversity. "Party discipline" or the enforcement of a single "party line" would rob us of the insights that come from hosting a great many different perspectives and approaches.

The second is that, despite or perhaps, in an odd way, even because of this diversity, we are ultimately bound together by our determination to seek social and political justice everywhere, through alternatives to an appallingly unjust system built upon capitalism.

And the third is that we do stand for nonviolent action and resistance. Perhaps the only thing really left to "learn" from this whole absurd little imbroglio is that we must be mindful, always, to ensure that our language reflects this absolutely central tenet. It is, in my view, not merely as important as our principled pursuit of social justice, but an actual precondition of it.

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Plot Tracer said...

What a brilliant article - and a superb reminder of just what SLLU is.

SLLU was created nearly five years ago. the Charter we agreed on, after much discussion and debate over a period of weeks was - and is - "The SLLU seeks creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue. We oppose capitalism, as well as racism and sexism as a part of capitalism. Our goal is to develop socialism in order to maximise left activity and thought on SL.

SLLU is part of a world wide left unity movement in SL. We are a diverse group, united around social justice and anti-capitalism. We are a democratic collective."

It is important to note - a democratic collective - not a top down hierarchical organisation with stances or tickets. Damn, the group doesn't even claim to be the only left unity group in SL! Read the Aims and Principles here -

"1.1 The group offers the means of a left environment, the term Unity
does not claim anything since there is no monopoly. It is a proposition."

SLLU has had an amazing history - from widening and publicising the fight against the French Front National back in 2007, helping in the "Lag For Peace" demos; organising "don't Iraq Iran" demos; through the Italian IBM virtual strike and helping with the protests against the Israeli attacks on Gaza and along the way helping students with thesis and dissertations; holding exhibitions and talks; opening up both a very successful SLLU Feminist Network and LGBTI Network and bringing all of it's work both into SL from RL and vice-versa. It is very much a materialist, in the political meaning of the word, organisation operating in a virtual environment.

I am very sure Czarny did not mean his comment - but I feel some people need to ensure their language is moderated to what exactly they would say to someone were they to meet in real life. Protests and organising can be highly emotive and indeed emotional pastimes in RL and in SL - but there is no need for nastiness. Having said that, Prokofy is no angel, and I have a multitude of saved conversations and articles from Prok's keyboard directed both at me, and at SLLU going back years - for no apparent reason only she just doesn't like the Left. Prok has always come to the strange conclusion that the left has somehow always been Stalinist - always supported Stalinism and will always be Stalinist. Does that mean that all of the right are all, have all supported and will always be "Pinochet-ist?"


Anyway - well done all who organised the demos - including Czarny - and remember - if you are annoying Prok - you are doing something right. But don't stoop to her level of demonisation.

Lisabeth Nikolaidis said...

of course he didnt mean it. he was infuriated at Prok's vicious stereotyping of Marxists, SLLU, Furries, and the need to demonstrate in SL. he has been barred from posting on Prokovy's blog (good! it's a poison blog and begs for more poison in return). Czarny is a great organizer and great spokesman for all progressive issues. in reality his character is beyond reproach. the statement came from anger and pain at such a miserable blog piece full of untruths about our role in SL concerning the vital issue of Egypt's liberation.
i know Czarny and i know he gives his life and all his mental abilities and to fighting for human rights in a world with far too many Prokovy's in it; narrow minded people with reactionary viewpoints which serve no purpose but to hold in place, and increase suffering everywhere on this planet. he lost his temper. i for one understand how that could happen, am lucky it wasn't me this time. thank you Czarny for all your hard work and dedication in our fight for human rights and (someday please??) a humane and truly democratic world.