“Knee Jerk” Activists Don’t Last Long

I appreciate everybody in the progressive movement for anything they say or do.


But the “armchair socialists,” who don’t actually do anything, and the “knee-jerk activists,” who try to do everything imaginable, worry me.

The main problem with the knee-jerkers is that they won’t last long. A lot of the things they try won’t work out, and they will tend to get discouraged early. Burnout. Years later, we’ll hear them saying, “Oh I used to be full of piss and vinegar, but…”

As they don’t think through any plan nor program, they just grab anything that comes up. In fact, if something seems pretty outrageous, then they figure it’s more “anti-establishment” and consequently even more attractive to them.

If we don’t think through what we’re doing, we’re leading other people down wrong paths. Some of those paths are dangerous and some of them are just wastes of time. That’s why I keep arguing for people to make up their minds what strategies they like and how those strategies relate to what they are actually doing.

If you think the next president is going to set everything right, then why are you spending all your time on something else? If you think organizing is the key, why would you go “rabbit chasing” all over the political spectrum? If you agree with me that single purpose coalitions (click here) are far stronger than those that try to do everything, why would you try to turn every meeting into a convention of a New Communist Party that will solve all ills?

The best activists are those that take action, then re-evaluate in terms of an overall strategy for what they want to accomplish, then take more action. Action and thinking have to combine. The knee jerkers will be whatever help they may be, do whatever damage they’re going to do, and will be seen no more — unless we can convert them into rational activists before they burn out!

–Gene Lantz

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