Monday, April 3, 2017
"11. Demand a rejection of liberal ideas of "free speech," as tolerance be given to reactionary opinions. Free speech ends where oppressive speech begins." - Refuse to Cooperate Program
When Refuse to Cooperate released its formal program committed to a Marxist-Leninist position it ruffled a few feathers among its readership, but none of the points demanded by RTC caused the most heads to utterly implode as the eleventh, quoted above.
Accusations of tyranny and "Stalinism" (whatever that is) and fascism quickly followed, much to our expectation. Their poor sacred cow was under attack! This, honestly, exposes that these people are okay with the already existing limits on free speech, as if they are supposed to be normal.
After all, how dare we challenge the liberal feeling of entitlement that people have to say anything whatsoever whenever they want, regardless of who it might hurt! To recognize that speech does not exist in a vacuum, that it affects people, that people act upon it, and sometimes in horrific ways is anathema. It seems to reject the idea that there might need to be limits placed on speech to protect the most vulnerable sections of society. Further, to suggest otherwise, is horrifying to those secure in their privilege.
How dare we even suggest that people ought to hold each other accountable for their statements! To suggest that people's beliefs and opinions are not sacred or beyond critique, that they too do not exist in a vacuum, that people will act on those beliefs, sometimes horrifically, that we must hold each other accountable for our beliefs, what we support, what we vote for, what we tolerate instills dread into the mind of centrist and right wing liberal alike.
How dare we imply that the faith in the "free market of ideas" used to rationalize unrestricted free speech is as baseless as faith in any "free market" and for the same reason! As in any situation of open competition, winners and losers arise, and the winners consolidate their dominance. In the field of ideas, this is done through media and institutions allowing the dominant group to stifle opposing ideas (and the associated speech) while allowing status quo supporting ideas and speech to move unchecked and to the detriment of oppressed groups within society. Of course, there is no reason to think that the most dominant ideas are the most objectively correct, which is precisely what proponents of the free market of ideas assume.
Contrary to the overreactions of our ideological opponents, recognizing that speech has limits does not mean the implementation of some sort of top down tyranny. Precisely because we at Refuse to Cooperate hold democracy and openness in such high regard, we have actually gone out of our way to make certain that opposing views are heard within our group and even on our blog. In our view, a future socialist society would uphold democracy, just not an abstract and generalized democracy, but a class aware democracy, a democracy that serves working class interests rather than bourgeois interests; which understands that for freedom to be secured for the greatest number, freedom must be balanced with equality.
How do we determine what is oppressive speech? Objectively oppressive speech is not merely speech that causes offense, if that were the case fart jokes might be labeled offensive. Nor is the term hate speech very good as it is emotional and lacks context, making it very subjective. The more specific term of oppressive speech, however, refers to language that promotes or reiterates oppressive social structures, and who decides where the line is drawn on these issues? In a socialist society, it is the working class themselves armed with clear materialist analysis. In our daily lives before then, in our groups and organizations, we decide what we will tolerate.