March 2, 2019


One of my favorite Twitter accounts is the official Twitter feed of the Socialist party of Great Britain. Folks often criticize me for engaging with it because it is so irrelevant, even in socialist circles. That in itself is a kind of accomplishment. It’s like the guy who attends Civil War reenactment-society meetings, but dresses in full Klingon battle regalia and screams at everyone that no one knows how to fight Romulans. “You call yourselves warriors, but none of you even knows how to swing a Bat’leth!

Virtually every time anyone says anything critical of Maduro’s — or Stalin’s — socialism, the SPGB Twitter feed leaps into action, raining “ACKSHULLYS” down like a UFC fighter beating on a 98-pound mugger. “Actually” real socialism is collective ownership of the means of production! Real socialism has never been tried! Soviet Communism was “state capitalism!” You can almost smell the old socks and stale urine wafting up from the guy tweeting from some public-library computer, his overstuffed shopping cart full of dog-eared copies of Das Kapital and back issues of Juggs close by his side.

But that’s kinda what I like about the SPGB. At least they take their ideas seriously. They’ve constructed a wholly hypothetical alternative world that is simultaneously as plausible and impossible as Middle Earth or Westeros or a great meal at a Wolfgang Puck Express at the Newark airport. It sounds like it could be real, and it’s kind of fun to think about, but it’s not actually reality. It’s like they think they can pluck the Platonic ideal of a hamburger out of the ether and use it as a rhetorical cudgel to say a Five Guys burger “isn’t a real hamburger! Real hamburgers have never been tried!” Even the Wikipedia entry on the SPGB says: “The party’s political position has been described as a form of impossibilism.”

Related: “‘Sorry to Bother You’ caused quite a stir last summer. Not only did Boots Riley’s film overperform at the box office, it earned raves from film critics nationwide. The movie just snared a Best First Feature award from the Independent Spirit Awards. Could the film’s strong anti-capitalist bent have anything to do with it? The Guardian asked, ‘Sorry to Bother You: is this the most shocking anti-capitalist film ever?’ Now, Riley is waging a one-man war on behalf of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. Don’t believe the stories of Venezuelans starving, he says via Twitter. It’s much worse in Oakland, Calif.”

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