Whether we are talking about Kwame or anyone who dedicates themselves to this struggle, we are talking about a lifetime of consistent and unrelenting sacrifice. We are talking about constant emotional fatigue and pain. We are talking about a life of isolation. None of these things are mentioned to generate sympathy. Anyone who takes that personal pledge to fight for the people uncompromisingly knows that these things are going to happen. We know this because we know that by deciding to directly challenge the values and practices of this capitalist power structure we are opening ourselves up to a lifetime of abuse by this system. And this abuse manifests itself in physical ways, but also in psychological and spiritual attacks.
The last two sentences answer the question about who these people are. We are talking specifically about those who choose to dedicate themselves to engaging in organized struggle to build capacity to fight nonstop against this oppressive system. We single out those who 100% oppose the system e.g. are not working to reform it, but destroy it and build something better, because these folks, by their very dedication and focus, are exactly the folks that those 95% have been taught to ignore at best and outright disrespect and harass at worse. These conditions clearly don't apply nearly as much to those who choose to battle inside of the system for change. Those who work on political campaigns to get people elected and pursue other policy results. This segment of people also have a heavy load, but they benefit from their views on reforming the prison system, police departments, etc., because their work is not necessarily always popular, but it is basically socially acceptable, at least to a certain point. In other words, only the most reactionary elements within society are opposed in 2019/2020 to adequate healthcare for all and police not indiscriminately killing unarmed people. The people who work within these realms, unless they are involved in the most militant elements of reform work like direct action, needn't usually worry about their family and friends ostracizing them for their beliefs and work, even if there is disagreement. For example, someone who works in a political campaign to elect someone, even if that candidate has some level of social reform in their platform, that organizer in that campaign will probably receive some level of prestige from their respective position to this candidate, who is probably relatively well known.
On the other hand, anti-capitalist organizers/activists are pretty much public enemy number one. The reasons for this are that as a society, everyone here is programmed 24/7 to never question that capitalism, the current dominant economic system in the world, is the way life, has been since day one of human existence, and it will be the dominant system thousands of years from now. Besides the fact that capitalism is actually only a few hundred years old, 95% believe its capitalism or human extinction. As a result of this low level of consciousness, anyone with the courage to declare that you are not only against capitalism, but desire a different system and - gasp - believe we can actually organize to create something better, are ostracized within this society on a systemic basis. And, this isolation happens even if the extent of your work is political education or just simply raising questions against capitalism and for something else like socialism, anarchism, etc. By isolation, what I mean is since people believe capitalism to be immortal, these folks remote control, automatically view you as insane for believing anything else is possible. And, often its the closest people to you who treat you this way and unfortunately, this is the best results of what happens. At worse, based on the degree of success you have with your work, you can be viewed as a threat which means you can be targeted by agents of the state that are in place to squash dissent against the system. Often, this can happen be covertly in ways most people don't recognize. Still, all of this is very well known to these activists and very few of these brave souls would move one inch off their principles of justice in order to stop any of the above abuses from happening. These things are byproducts of opposing capitalism and we all know this.
So, what is the issue then? In my humble experience, the most crushing and draining elements of this work are the internal challenges. As stated, we are prepared for the external attacks and in many ways, the external attacks validate the effectiveness of our work so we welcome and expect that. The internal represents the reality that in attempting to organize the masses of people it becomes apparent early on that by embracing the people you will be forced to also confront all of the dysfunctional elements that this backward society instills in our people. Examples are that persons involved in independent anti-capitalist work are consistently faced with challenges of personal abuse by participants against other participants. Some of these activists make the error of ignoring these contradictions which causes them not to go away, but fester and blow up. For those who decide to attempt principled approaches that confront these challenges you are faced with constant accusations that you are engaging in personally motivated attacks against the abusers. Those who do this work seriously know this is true because you have and are experiencing it. I've had to endure it multiple times along with you. And, in this bourgeoisie liberalism dominated society, when allegations that you are attacking people, or other accusations against your efforts to confront dysfunction are made, most people are not mature and/or principled enough to sift through the dysfunction. In other words, most of the time, most people believe accusations against you. Most people - for any number of reasons - view your efforts to confront the issue as the damage as opposed to the damage itself. Very, very, few people will ever speak out in support of your leadership and you suffer immeasurable assaults against your personal reputation. If there is another way to endure this trauma besides just living through it, I wish someone would help us find it.
Another common challenge is just how people are socialized in this individualistic and entitlement based capitalist society. If you are a revolutionary organizer you will spend your entire life doing work to help people improve their conditions and I'm not just talking about your primary political education and/or community work. I'm also talking about the countless number of single parents and other people needing assistance that you help move e.g. battered non-men needing that support, etc. The countless people you help by mentoring them, organizing them to do justice work, even helping them get jobs and/or get off the streets. You will do this type of work so many times that after a while it will become automatic for you because you live to help people. That's what revolutionaries do. What you receive most often for your contributions is people who many times don't even acknowledge you the next time you encounter them. Or, people who take your contributions to their lives for granted e.g. feeling entitled to your work. I remarked to someone I was helping in a mentor and financial way recently that I felt that whenever I saw them that I owed them money the way they approached me with aggressive demands for assistance.
Although the examples in the last paragraph do take their toll on you, I wish to make it clear that from this perspective, its still not the dysfunction that causes this to toll to be taken. Just like the lack of credit you will be given for the work, the dysfunction you have to encounter is also a byproduct of this work and we definitely understand that. So, what's the major rub then?
The primary reason I'm raising this issue is based in the title of this piece. I don't pretend to speak for revolutionary activists/organizers the world over, but from my humble vantage point, the only thing that makes enduring all of the above almost more difficult than many people can bare is due to the level of neglect and disrespect revolutionary activists/organizers experience in this society. What I'm talking about is the paradox where someone in the U.S. can even fix their lips to ask someone as immortal as Kwame Ture what he did for the people while these same people turn around every Veterans Day, etc., and without prompting, offer participants in the U.S. military all the respect and more for "their service." Meanwhile, I watched a video today of a panel from 1973 that included Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, and others, including an assortment of local and even nationally elected officials at the time. I viewed with contempt how these politicians, who only occupied their positions because of the back breaking work Kwame and Ms. Hamer did for the vote talk over the two of them and completely dismiss their perspectives for how we achieve power as a people.
This happens because of the lack of political education in this society. As a result, most people have no actual idea how they have the right to vote. They just accept the nonsense that the military fought for them to have it while they disrespect the actual people who won that "right" for them. We are actually programmed to believe that stars and stripes wearing terrorists who kill people globally are doing so to protect us when in truth,, they exist and function to advance imperialism's global agenda, nothing else. Still, its difficult for me to accept that people will support someone in the imperialist military without critical thought, while acting with contempt towards someone who is pepper-sprayed, arrested, beaten, harassed, etc., for fighting for water rights in North Dakota, or protecting someone's right to have a house, or marching for justice for humanity. The answer of what these activists/organizers do for everyone should be obvious. Water is a sacred right. The ability for our children to walk the streets without fear of being incarcerated and/or murdered for no legitimate reason is a right. The right to food, clothing, and shelter is a human right and the more we have a worldwide culture where those things are upheld, the safer everyone is.
So, if you don't clearly understand what the ask is from this piece, the ask is simply that you begin to take a moment to think about those who fight without resources, with regular contempt hurled at them, with internal challenges that take up as much of their time and energy as direct work against the system. That you take a moment to ensure you are thinking about those people. That you tell them how much you appreciate their service and that you stop acting like the work they do has nothing to do with you. You see them doing everything they can to help others. Stop acting like that's no big deal because if that was true, you would be doing it too. And, trust me, there are far too few who are doing it. So, take a major leap and offer some of these people a breakfast muffin sometimes. Not because they need it but because they spend all their money on this work so by doing a simple act like that you demonstrate that you recognize their contributions. Highlight these people and make sure when haters attack their work that you speak up for them. When people talk about police as corrupt, there is always no shortage of people who immediately ensure that everyone knows "all police aren't bad." Besides the fact that statement is absurd, where are the people who defend revolutionary activists/organizers? Where are the voices who say "those people are our best and most loyal protectors!" Try doing that because it really helps create a more positive atmosphere for us to be able to more effectively do our work.
My argument is that burnout in revolutionary activists/organizers can happen for many number of reasons, but if the rest of you would just lift the load just a little bit, through the ways indicated in the last paragraph, I do know that would help so many people and add strength to them so that they can continue on. And, God knows we definitely need them to continue on.