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Lessons from STORM

October 12, 2012

storm coverSo many amazing questions raised in this piece, about what kinds of cadre are needed in our historical moment, how to practice and not just preach revolutionary feminism, the relationship between leadership and democracy and how to build revolutionary leadership in oppressed communities during a non-revolutionary period… totally daunting and absolutely essential inquiries.

A couple small points that are feeling particularly relevant and challenging for me right now:

We [STORM] also made a mistake in not considering emotional development to be a part of our members’ development as revolutionaries.  We did not help our members heal from past life trauma or from personal challenges encountered during political work.  Such hurt and trauma are inevitable and, if left to fester, can negatively impact our political work.  STORM’s inattention to this matter allowed members’ political and practical skills to outstrip their personal capacity to handle the pressure of their work.  This led to a lot of interpersonal conflict and tension with other activists.

and later:

STORM tended towards an emphasis on the common struggle of all people of color instead of a more in-depth understanding of the specific histories and roles of different oppressed communities within U.S. imperialism.  Our work tended to focus only on multi-racial constituencies and organization.  We neglected to build organization in and unity among specific communities with distinct interests and issues.

On a different — but related — topic, STORM did not create intentional spaces for members from different oppressed communities (e.g., different racial/national groups, women, queer people, working class people) to build community and political analysis around the particular issues facing their communities.

It’s just astonishing to me how, although I think they’re off the mark in some areas and self-contradictory in others, overall the people who wrote this document display such level-headed self-criticism, as well as appreciation for the strengths the group did have.  (And their strengths were many.)  Hindsight is 20/20, I know, but damn… nearly a decade later, these articulations still feel so relevant.  Especially in the Bay Area Left.

It’s too late at night for me to form really coherent thoughts about these things, but one question I do have is: what do we mean by  “emotional development” and “emotional growth,” and what do we want these things to look like?  Are there universal qualities and phenomena connected to emotional development, or are there many, very different permutations that may not look alike at all?  And what kind of timelines are we talking?  How do we ‘measure’ emotional growth in our revolutionary development when emotional life might be irregularly cyclical, not linear?  And how do we move beyond a triage model of emotional work, addressing subtleties of emotional dynamics without getting completely bogged down in them?

Sometimes I think the emotional realm is just as complex as the Marxist intellectual/theoretical realm, but we tend to not respect the complexity.  We demand easy answers and go for simplistic fixes.  Other times I get completely frustrated with emotional study and feel like many of us are very invested in making it seem more complicated than it actually is.  We feed on the drama.

And when you’re of two minds about something like that, how can you ever know which mind to believe?

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 12, 2012 8:44 am

    “We demand easy answers and go for simplistic fixes. Other times I get completely frustrated with emotional study and feel like many of us are very invested in making it seem more complicated than it actually is. We feed on the drama.”

    In my experience, 12-step recovery programs walk a nice middle path between these two extremes–the focus on the pragmatic nature of the steps (among other “rules” in the programs) balances the also needed deeply emotional sharing that happens during meetings. You get to see the complexities of the emotional lives of others, but within a framework that allows for “simple” progress. (Of course, there are problems with 12-step programs, too, but I’m on board with “take what you like and leave the rest”.)

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