Before giving some tips on how not to alienate the working class, let me tell you how to give leftists a really bad name and alienate the working class in 6 easy steps:
1.) Bring a giant USSR flag or a Stalin shirt to a protest totally out of context
2.) Wear a gas mask or something to cover your face when you don’t need to conceal your identity
3.) Attack people who very obviously aren’t fascists by calling them ‘fascists’ or physically assaulting them
4.) Wear old Soviet/ Chinese military hats or any other cringe worthy nostalgia memorabilia. Everyone goes through this phase, don’t make it public.
5.) Extremely militant chants that are wholly out of context and alienating to a very large proportion of the population.
6.) Gulag jokes and other dark humor
I’m not saying all of those things are inherently bad. I’m saying that it’s about context, it’s about the conditions you find yourself in. A celebratory march for the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution? Bring a Soviet flag! Nazi’s come to your town? Bash the fash! The whole population is outraged at some horrible capitalist atrocity? Chant militantly and cohesively. Police tear gassing innocent protestors? Wear a gas mask. Fascists doxxing protestors at a big event? Conceal your identity. It’s all about context. Base your actions on the material conditions you find yourself in. It’s materialist, it’s Marxist. To not do so is ultra-leftist, plays into the hands of reaction, and is just plain stupid.
It’s about context comrades. Standing on a podium monotonously saying ‘revolution nothing less’ while holding up a picture of Mao up to 1000’s of people marching by for healthcare isn’t appropriate, neither is showing up to a May Day event organized by local labor unions in a gas mask while waving an anti-fascist flag, neither is dressing up in a Mao era red army uniform and bringing a Chinese flag to go protest at Occupy.
These things hurt us, they do not help us. These things create stereotypical images for leftists as a whole in the minds of reactionaries and non-class conscious workers alike. These things are childish and ultra-leftist. Unfortunately these are not examples I pulled out of my head but things I have actually seen.
Here are some tips for protesting:
When at a protest, base action and your immediate demands on the current political consciousness of the working class at that time and the material conditions you find yourself in, but always go one step further in your demands. Do not fall into liberal reformism either. Do not alienate yourself from the working class. Make your chants and demands relative to the situation at hand. This being said, do not “protest politely, in the corner” as the reactionaries would ask of you. Make yourself visible and heard, but at the same time, don’t be excessively militant in your chants and slogans when it is unnecessary. Don’t make dark jokes about gulags or ice-picks. Be polite to other workers, if someone (that is not a fascist) opposes you or asks you a question, answer politely. Many people in the working class currently hold reactionary or liberal views. We want to win them over to our side, to befriend them and patiently explain to them our views on current issues. We do not want to alienate these people. We want to show solidarity in the struggles they face, to win them over to our side and radicalize them. It can be frustrating, but patience is key to our success. All it takes is one bad apple to make the whole basket look rotten.
We make transitional demands in conformity with a transitional program. If we aroused the non class conscious workers (consisting mostly of liberals and moderates) today and called for a full blown socialist revolution we would no doubt alienate them and appear to not be relevant to the current issues they faced. We do demand a socialist revolution in the long term, but in the short term we have to listen to the masses, consider their demands, struggles, and worries, interpret them, and bring them back to the masses, show solidarity with the masses, and carry on class struggle with the masses. Every step must be regarded as a battle, we aim so that every battle will be marked off a victory.
War consists of battles, total victory comes not from declaring dogmatically the aims of the war but of analyzing the material conditions, planning tactically, and acting strategically. If you want a soldier to fight the last thing you do is alienate them from the battlefield.
I hope that this may be of help to some comrades.