Hey, Brother (Comrade) Have You Seen Starlight On The Rails- A Short Note On Political Salutations
Dialogue: [Markin] “Hey, comrade that was good point that you made about finally breaking with the Democrats. It’s good that others are seeing that we can’t get anywhere politically without acting on our own.” [Mr. X, formerly known as comrade] “I am not your comrade. My comrades are only those who are members of the Internationalist Marxist-Leninist Communist League Of The Just And Pure Of Heart.” [Markin] Okay, then brother you still made a good point. [Mr. X, formerly known as comrade and brother] “You are not my brother. My sisters and brothers are only those who are supporters of the Internationalist Marxist-Leninist Communist League Of The Just And Pure Of Heart.” [Markin] Okay, sir.
Alright, alright this is not Brechtian finely-spun didactic wordplay and is a little ham-fisted to boot. But it brings up an important point about how we of the “movement” and here I speak of the broad left-wing currents, nationally and internationally, identify with each other. Ham-fisted or not this above dialogue, based on a real experience, brought to mind the comrade or brother (sister as well, of course, but since this involved two males let me use the brother as an all-inclusive stand-in) controversy up close and personal.
If we were still solely under the sway of the French revolution then we would be able to dismiss this issue with a quick neutral “citizen” and be done with it. But that was a couple of hundred years ago and society has in the meantime become much more class-divided and politically diffuse. In the 19th century you can still read of anarchists and socialists of various hues designating each other as comrades without embarrassment, or a second thought. The 20th century really brought matters to a head. One could not in the general left-wing socialist and communist movement after World War I continue to call those socialists who supported that war comrades, especially in places like Germany where they were complicit in murdering comrades Luxemburg and Liebknecht. A blood-line had been drawn. Later a river of blood separated Stalinists and Trotskyists. And so on until we get to Mr. X’s exclusive Internationalist Marxist-Leninist Communist League Of The Just And Pure Of Heart example. Something is surely organically wrong when such a designation applies to only ten or twelve people in a multi-billion world.
The use of brother (and remember sister, okay) is more problematic. Brothers in Christ, “Brother, can you spare a dime?” “greetings, sister and brother union members,” “oh, brother,” and solidarity brother all express some sense of commonality without overt political kinship. And that was really my sticking point with the inscrutable Mr. X. Sure there are political differences, perhaps wide political gulfs, between member of the “movement” but a mere recognition that we are on the same page, or at least in the same book should arouse certainly brotherly sentiments. Right?
By the way, Mr. X that point about breaking with the Democrats this year is worthy of more that a “sir” designation. A lot more.