Lower leftism

As Mastodon is decentralised, instances are ‘federated’ together using a social networking protocol called ActivityPub. Instances within the ‘Fediverse‘ can be more or less specialised. For example, social.coop is focused on co-operativism, humanities.one is for discussing the Humanities, and donteatanimals.org for discussing animal rights and veganism. There’s even a guide at joinmastodon.org for choosing an instance that suits you.

I was talking with Mayel earlier today about some controversy there’s been around social.coop’s federation policy. Over and above the ability of individual users to block or mute other users, instance administrators can ‘silence’ other instances. The proposal was to implement a federation policy which states:

An instance will be silenced if it meets any of the following criteria:
  • Explicitly allows something forbidden by Social.coop’s Code of Conduct
  • The instance has as one of its goals shitposting or the instance has no moderation policy.
The following are examples of any of the instances that would be silenced:
  • sealion.club (shitposting)
  • shitposter.club (shitposting)
  • toot.love (no moderation)

In practice, that means that if you’re a member of social.coop and toot.love is silenced by the administrators, then you don’t see any toots from that instance in the federated timeline. It also mutes any notifications from that instance. You can, however, still follow specific users from that instance and you’ll get notifications from them.

I thought it was all pretty uncontroversial, to be honest. But then I’m a straight, white, middle-aged man who doesn’t have to deal with online/offline harassment.

This brief conversation between Mayel and I reminded me of a post he’d shared a while back entitled Lower leftism: expanding upon the political map by Margaret Killjoy. It made me think in new ways about my own politics. You can read the post for the nuance, so I’ll skip straight to the diagram I found useful:

Political map

One thing that frustrates me about (what’s usually referred to as) ‘the Left’ is the constant in-fighting. Killjoy’s map, however, explains some of that. We’re not all advocating for the same future; it’s much more nuanced than ‘left’ vs ‘right’.

A lower leftist is anyone whose politics fall into the anti-authoritarian, cooperative quadrant of the political map. It includes anarchists, Zapatistas, anti-state Marxists, democratic confederalists, libertarian municipalists, and a large number of traditional societies from across the globe… any society that does not desire a state and does desire economic cooperation. (While we’re at it, let’s throw in that we’re only talking about identity-tolerant societies, because regardless of how “anti-state” they claim to be, a society that persecutes people for ethnic, sexual, gender, or ability reasons is just as authoritarian in practice as any formal governmental society.)

I wouldn’t call myself an ‘anarchist’ but I’m definitely some kind of left libertarian. As such, I fall squarely inside that purple ‘zone of solidarity’ — although probably closer towards the middle of the map. (Which explains, if you read the post, why I vote for The Green Party.)

The key insight in Killjoy’s post for me is that we shouldn’t form alliances with those who seek different futures as it won’t end well:

When considering strategic allies (in contrast to the natural allies to be found in the lower left quadrant), my suggestion is that we ought not prioritize one axis over another. We ought to only form strategic alliances with those who aim to push society — in relation to the existent society, rather than in relation to our ideal society — in the same directions that we do. We ought not, presumably, ally ourselves with those who aim to push society in a direction counter to our interests. This seems obvious, when written out, but is a mistake that lower leftists have made time and time again.

I’ve still a lot of thinking to do around this.