Family is a Cadre, Home is a Base Camp
By: Adam Powell
Among the variety of absurd positions taken by modern leftists is the notion that one who leads a family, whether as a husband or wife or, even more so, as a mother or father, is unfit to properly perform his or her duties as a revolutionary actor. The premise for such a notion as I’ve understood it is rooted in the idea that one who has a family has neither the fortitude or sacrificial spirit required to wholeheartedly devote to the responsibilities of organizing and resisting – a parent or spouse has too much on the line, has too many obligations of time and energy, and is therefore unable to adequately foster a revolutionary education within themselves or properly manage or interact with a revolutionary cadre. While this assertion has been attributed to socialist theorists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, wholly ignoring that Marx was the father of seven and a devoted husband for nearly 40 years, there can be no historical evidence found of this position being held by either of the movement’s foremost thinkers – though both Marx and Engels had expansive theories on the effects of capitalist society on the family unit, as well as the position and role of the family within a socialist society, neither have seemed to make the aforementioned assertion. Likely, this stems from the modern generation’s disdain for parenthood and the reactionary position that one who takes on the role of mother or father has done a disservice to both society and the revolutionary movement. But, like many notions taken on by the radical liberal factions which now pollute the modern left, it has neither a base in historical theory or a logical place within modern theory or action.
“The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” – Karl Marx
Marx, in his most notable work “The Communist Manifesto,” was right when he made the aforementioned assertion. To be sure, this argument cannot be denied – the existence of an exploitative elite has very much stolen much of the most valued pieces of familial interaction from those who take part in it. Though Marx may well have been referencing the bourgeois practice of uniting families for economic benefits – wedding two families of class to one another to ensure that economic benefits could remain within that family for generations to come – the same assertion could be made for the ways in which the proletarian family was robbed of the romanticism and devotion that once was the cornerstone of common marriage. Working class parents today, just as in ages before, are forced to spend so much time just trying to eke out a survival for themselves and their children that they have little time left to thoroughly enjoy those things which make being a part of a family so rewarding – there is little time to take pleasure in watching our sons or daughters grow, appreciating the minute changes which take place in them every day; hardly is there a moment to bask in their embrace or record with your mind the feel of their hands or the sound of their laughter. Every moment of the day of the proletarian sufferer is fraught with the worry of how he or she will get to the next. The same is true of one’s relationship to his or her spouse – what surely began as a relationship built on years of passion and a deep connectivity is short-circuited beneath the weight of endless expenses and tragedies, which seem never to end or even let up, and that abundant adoration is whittled away at endlessly by the tidal wave of poverty, hunger and general anguish. But such struggles do not render the familial comrade incapable of party work or even the ability to contribute productively to the furthering of the revolutionary agenda. In fact, they provide within the psyche of parents and spouses a fire which can not be experienced by those not so thoroughly attached to the family unit or familiar with the inspiration a child or a lover beget.
While the argument can be made that those who are married or are busy at the work of raising children are incapable of making the sacrifices required of a revolutionary because they have too much at risk, the exact opposite could simultaneously be asserted – it is precisely because of our children that we are so concerned with the modern conditions of the world and its continual degradation which will inevitably be passed on to our children if something is not done. When I look at my children, I see two faces fascinated and inspired by all that is around them; I see inquisitive and optimistic minds growing silently within their respective craniums, becoming ever more attuned to the conditions in which they live, and watch as that inquisitiveness slowly gives way to a realism which can not but chip away at that optimism with each new setback beset upon them by perpetual class struggle; I see the respect and gratitude my children unconditionally give to my wife and I – today because they want for nothing, or know not what they do without, but eventually because they will realize the desperate struggles we unduly endured to provide for them all that a proletarian existence can, they will begin to see that their mother and father often missed meals to ensure they were fed and they often spent hours away toiling for pennies so that they might have all that they needed to prosper.
This multifaceted contradiction in children, and by virtue childrearing, creates a multitude of inspirations in the comrade tasked with raising the next generation of revolutionaries. On one hand, our children’s blind optimism, inquisitiveness and inspiration reminds the familial comrade that, despite all evidence to the contrary, all hope is not lost – though the weight of exploitation and oppression bears down ever harder upon us with every passing day, still there are morsels of resistance popping up across the revolutionary map. Those morsels can be found in the voices of teachers walking out of classrooms demanding to be paid reasonably for the invaluable service they offer to our children and, thus, our society and culture; they can be found in the sound of feet marching up and down avenues across the country in opposition to the fascistic policies of a government that demands evermore sacrifice from the people while providing perpetually less for that sacrifice; they can be found in our own cadres which work with dwindling resources to make a positive impact on the lives of suffering people within their communities; and, perhaps more than anywhere else, we can see them in the desperate frenzy that revolutionary parents employ as they simultaneously raise radical children and promote the revolutionary ideal through deed and word. Similarly, our children’s slow realization of the reality of things – the conditions which force their parents to struggle in every effort and somehow rise above those struggles to provide them with love, educational and athletic resources, and the camaraderie of the familial structure and the revolutionary cadre – should fill the familial comrade with both a sense of inspired fury and moral desperation, both necessary elements of a complete revolutionary and capable comrade. The fury felt by a parent is both the rage which comes with seeing the endless destruction being levied upon the world, both the planet itself as well as those who call it home, and the desperation inherent in the feeling of utter powerlessness to make the economic, environmental, governmental and cultural overhauls necessary to ensure that they will inherit a rock somehow less dreadful than the one upon which we now reside. However, that fury gains purpose, direction and inspiration as we begin to commit ourselves to those efforts which aim precisely to cure those ills, to solve those problems, to oust from the soil those weeds which threaten to totally overtake our gardens and choke-out all life within them – parents see, perhaps more vividly than any other actor involved in the revolutionary struggle, exactly what is at stake, exactly who will be left to breathe the atomic air and till the toxic soil left behind if capitalism is allowed to run its course unabated.
“The children of the working people have always been poor because the world has never been just. For ages and ages those who have built the houses, cultivated the fields, raised the crops, spun the wool, woven the cloth, supplied the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and furnished the homes live in, have been the poor and despised, while those who profited by their labor and consumed the good things they produced, have been the rich and respectable.” – Eugene V. Debs
Debs made the above quote in his 1912 “A Message to Children,” and loosely touched on another argument made by those who believe a parent is incapable of actively contributing to the revolutionary movement. While it is obvious that Debs was not making this assertion, he was noting that the children of the proletariat, the children of people forced to work long hours for little pay, were thus forced to suffer the mental and physical anguish which accompanies such work. With this in mind, some would argue that parents simply do not have enough hours in the day to commit to the revolutionary movement, that their children require so much time, attention and energy that there is simply nothing left over to contribute to the movement. Again, this argument is not wholly baseless – a parent is perpetually hounded by one need or another as it pertains to their children, even those requirements which do not directly relate to parenthood. Aside from the obligations that come with childrearing – being at home to care for your children, prepare their meals, wash their clothes and so on – are the obligations which indirectly relate to that responsibility – the requirement of maintaining some form of employment which allows for their sustenance and health, the endless attendance of school functions, sporting events and the like. However, the same assertion can be made of any comrade who has obligations beyond the requirements of revolutionary action. Indeed, employment itself is a strain on one’s time, as is maintaining a healthy relationship of any kind, engaging in a hobby to which one is devoted or simply tending to one’s personal health and happiness. In short, there are thousands of roadblocks which stand between a comrade and that comrade’s ability to be involved in every effort made by the revolutionary cadre – to argue that a parent experiences any more of a roadblock than any other comrade is to assert that a parent simply does not have the fortitude to engage in that responsibility and simultaneously carve out the required time for revolutionary action.
As has already been discussed, a parent is a valued comrade simply by virtue of raising a child and, as a result, dutifully noting all that stands between the next generation and its ability to prosper. Because a parent has a responsibility to do all that they can to provide all the best that they can for their children, that includes doing the work required to provide a better world and better cultural relations for their children to experience and be involved with as they grow. In my own children, I have noticed what any parent notices as they watch their children grow – without much thought to it, my children have taken an interest in those things which my wife and I invest so much time and energy to working on. Both of us read insatiably and, as a result, so too have our children developed a love for the written word; my wife manages a museum dedicated to a literary icon and, as a result, my children have developed a passion for helping out at the museum and learning the history of its famed former tenants; my wife is a former chef and conjures brilliant meals at our home and, thus, my children have become interested in international cuisine, what it consists of and how it’s made; I’m a musician and, in turn, my children have developed a love for listening, dancing and singing along to music, as well as plucking at and banging on the various instruments which adorn every corner of our home. And, in much the same fashion, they have developed an interest in their father’s revolutionary commitment – they constantly ask about the ideals of socialism and refer to themselves as comrades; they notice the contradictions of everyday life – the opulence which some enjoy and the destitution that others endure – and have begun to recognize the socialist solutions to those problems; they enjoy sitting in on meetings, both to say hello to their comrades across the nation and to listen in as we discuss the issues related to the party and its work. In this way, if no other, a parent is leading a revolution in the home – the family is the cadre and the home is the base camp. As parents, we are in a unique position to intimately educate the next generation on the ideals which will singularly liberate the people from the suffering they now experience, we are able to surround them with the voices and ideas of comrades and involve them in the work of the local cadre and the local struggle. This is no small contribution and, though it may not be the same as attending every meeting or demonstration, it is just as valuable a contribution as any other being made to the modern struggle.
There are people within my local, just as I’m sure there are in every local across the nation, who don’t have the revolutionary excuse of childrearing as a reason for their lack of involvement – for these comrades in name only, their absence is generally evidence of a lack of commitment or a laziness which they have neither the ability nor the willingness to overcome. Obviously, this is not the case with all comrades whose only commitment to the party is their membership – some are stricken with disabilities which make active participation an impossibility, still others are overwhelmed by the obligations inherent to surviving day-to-day in a decaying capitalist nation. Are we to write them off as worthless comrades as well? Are we to dismiss their contributions, whatever they may be, simply because they can not be involved at all times in all efforts? Certainly not – to do so would be the antithesis of socially revolutionary thought and action. In much the same way that we laud Marx’s notion of providing for each according to need and extracting from each according to ability, we should also subscribe to the notion that each comrade should do what they can, where they can. Because our movement is built upon the ideal of standing up for those now trampled, our ranks will be populated by those same people and, as such, it is impossible to think that these people will be able to sacrifice their time and energy to every whim of the revolutionary apparatus – simply put, we can not put the sufferer on notice simply for suffering and we can not expect the laborer to forego that which provides for personal and familial sustenance and survival, at least not for every demand of the radical organ.
Raising a revolutionary family in a reactionary age is a radical act in itself, in need of no other guidance than that which a socialist perspective provides to the one educating and caring for a family – raising children in such a fashion that their mindset is directed from the onset toward revolutionary thinking is arguably one of the most profound contributions a comrade can make to the modern movement. For, if not for this contribution, there are no bricks to continue building upon the foundation we now lay. Like any other comrade, one who cares for a family has much to add to the revolutionary movement, even if that contribution is not always manifested in practical support – a comrade who leads a family lends an air of discipline and experience that is capable of leading younger comrades to a more profound sense of camaraderie and commitment; a comrade who leads a family lends an alternate perspective to our movement in as much as that comrade is concerned profoundly with the future, and is capable of considering that future and the effects it will have on those who inhabit it, and therefore is ever directed forward; a comrade who leads a family lends new voices to our movement, voices that will carry it forward and inoculate new generations to its ideals, lending credence to an age-old thought and providing for it new light and life. Our contributions to the party, whether those be the commitment of every spare moment to revolutionary effort or simply holding a red card and raising a red family, are of the utmost importance because there is so much demanded of us beyond the socialist movement. To be a leader of children, to work beyond one’s constraints – whether those be the constraints of time, responsibility or physical capacity – to live in every moment a revolutionary existence is certainly an enormous contribution to our movement and no person who enters into such an effort should be undermined for doing so but celebrated at every turn for the sacrifices made to uphold our ideals and instill them in the minds and mouths of tomorrow’s leaders.