Towards a Social Concept of Speech, Part 1

  1. It is imperative for communists to understand the process through which disparate thoughts and expressions, derived from the interpretation of material and social experience, are formed into ideology. Speech, or more broadly expression, and its dissemination throughout civil society, are crucial to the development of ideology from the pronouncements of different people. Some people express their ideas, and which are heard by like-minded others who refine them, modify them, and finally express synthesized ideas of their own.
  2. Communists understand that ideology is derived from the experience of material life, and thus is not the root cause of historical developments. However, ideology does impact history when human beings act based on it.
  3. Communists understand that humans are social beings. We categorically reject the classical and neo-liberal assertion that people have rights and responsibilities distinct from the whole intercourse of society. The liberation of the group is the real liberation of the individual, and vice versa. This applies to speech as much as anything else. Speech (in the broadest sense) defines human sociability, and distinguishes us from animals. The extraction of the material necessities of life from nature and the production of new needs, which Marx defines as the first historical act (The German Ideology chapter 1), would not have occurred without the possibility of advanced communication between people.
  4. Knowing the significance of speech as a social phenomenon, communists must hold it to the same standard of criticism as we do other social phenomena. Just as we object to the existing relationship between wage labor and capital, and call for its overthrow, so too we must object to exploitative speech and demand its overthrow.
  5. The liberal concept of free speech depends on the rejection of speech as a social action. It removes speech from the productive system in which it was produced, insisting that all speech is equal in every respect. From the perspective of the liberal ideology, the speech of a bourgeois, which they may propagate at the center of political power through the resources at their disposal, must be the same as that of a worker, who has no resources and no political power save for their labor. This is a falsehood.
  6. Despite this very obvious fact, some communists insist on the necessity of free speech as a concept. The crimes of the Leninist-Stalinist states have convinced these communists that any reactionary swill must be tolerated, lest we return to the horrors of the gulags. The neo-Leninist fools, for their part, add a clause to their embrace of free speech that prohibits bigotry and advocacy for the return to the capitalist system. Of course, they cast themselves, in their terminal self-importance, as the arbiters of these qualities.
  7. The anarchists of the present moment take range of positions on the issue of speech, some of them very close to the social concept, but others stuck in liberal-radical ideologies. On the pro-free-speech end we see the remnants of 1960s lib-rad culture, an undead Free Speech Movement upholding a line drawn straight from the Bill of Rights. On the other we see the anti-fascists, the historical reenactors with their tired slogans and dreams of Catalonia, who insist on the world-historical importance of smashing up book signings. The two are equally impotent, the lib-rads because of their naïve attachment to the bourgeois concept of freedom, and the anti-fascists because of their vacuous “no platform” dogma.
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