In Defense of Politics

Michael Gecan in Boston Review:

If timing is everything, I’m in trouble. As a lifelong organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, I made a habit of instigating trouble for those who tried to exploit the leaders in the communities I worked with, but rarely made trouble for myself.

Yet now I am choosing to write a piece defending politics a few days before a national election roils the nation and troubles the world. This is a moment when the words ‘politics’ and ‘politicians’ are usually spoken as curses, smears, charges, indictments, not as descriptions, much less as constructive activities and urgent titles.

I’m also writing in another, albeit less immediate, shadow cast by a short book of approximately 270 pages written by the late British social critic Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics. The book was first published in 1962, when the catastrophic shadows of the holocaust alongside the horrors of totalitarian fascism and communism were still the stuff of our daytime dread and our 2:00 a.m. nightmares. I should say up front that Crick was a socialist. I am not a socialist—I never was and I never will be. Despite this obvious difference of opinion, Crick’s book remains one of the most penetrating and important critiques of ideology and ideologues. Even as Crick aligned himself with socialism, he simultaneously tried to convince his fellow socialists of the errors of their ways. I recommend his book to all of my fellow non-socialists, and even anti-socialists.

More here.