A Rebellious Goodbye

To my former comrades

Hi everybody

Some of you I consider friends, most of you I never met, but all of you are my comrades. When I joined the party, about eight months ago, I was convinced of the need to overthrow capitalism and I had some ideas of what kind of society I'd like to live in instead. I also had some doubts about political parties in general and about democratic centralism and planned economy especially. After all, we've had those two things in East Germany – I know what you'll reply: East Germany was Stalinism. But I think, you're making it too easy for yourselves, just labelling all that Stalinism and saying 'that's not us'. Anyhow, that's not my topic.
The first person from the socialist party whom I met was Sarah, and I immediately liked her. Then I attended the Socialism 2006 and met many more great people. That weekend I decided to put my doubts aside and join the party. I really want to thank all those who know me personally for the friendly welcome. I like you, and I felt at home among you. That's why it is not easy for me to say what I will have to say.
In discussions, I mostly remained silent because I just had an idea, but no arguments for it, and because all of you are so incredibly convinced of what you're saying. I refused to sell newspapers or try to recruite new members, because I cannot argue the way you do. I cannot argue that way, because that's not what I am convinced of, and your arguments did not convince me.
When I joined, I already knew a lot about politics, I knew basics of Hegel and Marx and I knew basics of modern left/emancipatory theories. I didn't attend the dayschools to be taught; I attended to be able to discuss about my doubts. But everybody only tried to convince me that the socialist alternative is the only right alternative. I lacked arguments to sustain my doubts and so the discussions ended.
But the doubts, that had before been only vague feelings that somehing was not quite right, became stronger over time. Until I knew that I do not believe struggle needs a vanguard leadership - people can very well do that themselves in self-organized ways (look at the blockades in Rostock!) - and I knew that I do not believe a state planned economy is the alternative to capitalism.
With those strengthened doubts, I went into the next dayschool and experienced what I wrote down in this poem:

As socialists, we think…

'Welcome to the party, comrade’
And I feel like I’ve come home.

Finally, people who
Do not watch mutely
When injustice cries to heaven,
Who are not so naïve
As to ask nicely for some justice,
Whom I can fight with
To get rid of capitalism,
Who share my belief
That another world is possible.

Then why do I feel
Like I have to defend myself
Against my comrades,
Now, six months later?

In a discussion, someone says:
As socialists, we think
That democratic centralism
Is the only way to organize
A revolutionary party.
As socialists, we see
That struggle needs
A vanguard leadership.
As socialists, we argue
That a successful revolution
Must be followed by
A workers’ state.

And my heart rears up
Under your attempts to convince me,
Like a wild horse
That refuses to be ridden.

I am not a socialist,
I am only myself,
I think only for myself,
I speak only for myself.

I cannot find the rational arguments against your convictions yet, but everything in me rebels against them. I hate the generalization 'as socialist we think...' because then I feel impelled to support whatever follows. But I don't. In this poem, I finally found a way to put my feelings into words. But this alone, the realization that I do not agree with you, would not have been a reason to leave the party yet. I wanted to share this with you, wanted to let you know how I feel.
But I didn't want to do that in eye-to-eye conversations, because your perfect argumentations would have made me speechless again. I cannot find any other expression for my discomfort than this poem. I don't want to be convinced any more because I have my own opinions. That's why I didn't want to discuss about what I had written. Can any one of you understand that?
So I sent it the Socialist newspaper. After all, you always ask for contributions from the membership, don't you? Nothing, it wasn't published. Ok, the newspaper is the party's representation to the outside, so maybe you don't like criticism there. But I didn't even get a reply! Someone could have answered: Well, sorry we can't publish it in the newspaper, but you could... . Nothing. So I tried to find other ways to share this with you and I found the possibility to comment on the web-site. Ok, so I tried this. Again, icy silence.
So apparently, criticism - wich is not even really criticism, but just an attempt to express what I feel - is not even worth a single reply! It's so typical for a party, for a democratically organized organization to ignore unwanted criticism. Why is there no way a single member of the party can voice criticism to the whole party without having to wait for the next congress and having to get up on that stage? Where's your precious democracy? That's it. I'm out. Whoever's responsible for the membership lists, please delete me. I am no longer a member of the socialist party.
This step came earlier than I had expected and I am sad about having to do it in this way, but you left me no other way. I would have liked to be one of you, but apparently I am not. And somehow, I don't think the party will miss me a lot. You will continue to do business-as-usual and I have learned for the future to avoid any organization that carries the label socialist.

Your former comrade
Tanja Schlemm

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