Lefty Bullsh*t Buster

Anyone who’s ever tried to get involved in any  kind of radical politics will know that it can be a strange and confusing world to navigate. It seems like lefties have a whole different language to rest of the world – what the hell is an individualist and why do people scoff at the word liberal? What’s worse, when you try to ask what any of this stuff means, they’re likely to treat you like an idiot and start quoting lengthy passages of Marx at you.

Well SASS is here to help you bust through some of the bullshit and maybe make sense of some of this stuff. This handy guide aims to explain a bunch of the terms and phrases that get chucked around with no explanation in political circles – some of them (confusingly) have totally different meanings out there in the rest of the world, others never get used at all outside of meetings and protests.

While we try to be as accessible, un-cliquey and not boring as we can in SASS, we might end up using some of the lefty bullshit terms in this book. If
we do, we promise to try to explain them as well as
we can, without quoting loads of old dead dudes at you.

Corrections? Suggestions? Heard more bullshit you want us to try and explain for you? Write to us, and if we like your suggestion/think we can help we’ll add your word to the list!

ACAB Abbreviation of ‘All Cops Are Bastards’. Acknowledgement that the police in every nation are a corrupt, murderous organisation that uphold the privilege of the ruling elite at the expense of everyone else.
Antifa An action, person or group of people that is/are anti-fascist. One of the few things most lefties can agree on is that the Antifa are good people.
Apologist A person of group that makes excuses for, tries to rationalise or plays down the impact/importance of horrible, horrible things. e.g. a Nazi apologist would say “you know the Third Reich did some good things too”
Autonomous/autonomy A group that is self controlled (without the influence of a party, outside leader or other meddling busy body) is autonomous.
Binary A system where only two options can exist. Applied to lots of social categories, almost always wrong.
Black Bloc A tactic (not a group or organisation) where a large number of people turn up to a protest or action all dressed in identical black clothes with faces covered to avoid identification/harassment from the police. Effective when hundreds participate. Not so much when it’s you and 5 mates.
Class The group a person belongs to due to their social/economic standing. Sociologists have all kinds of ways to determine class, but here’s an easier one: if you’re forced to sell your time and energy to someone richer just to afford what you need to live, you’re working class.
Consensus Not just a system where you vote with jazz hands, but a method of decision making that tries to ensure that the views and opinions of all those involved are respected and heard. A basic consensus model involves a proposal being made, discussion being opened up (including counter proposals) and modifying the proposal to satisfy everyone as much as possible before trying to reach an agreement. Can take ages.
Dialectical A theory that says change comes from conflict between opposing forces. Put simply, there’s a contradiction between factor A and factor B. The conflict between them creates a new factor C. Some Marxists use this (in very complex ways) to describe everything that ever happened or will happen.
Dichotomy A bit like binary. A division of two things that are represented as totally opposed to each other. But remember – some dichotomies are false dichotomies!
Direct Action An act that aims to directly achieve the goals of a group or campaign, rather than indirectly (i.e. by pressuring or persuading someone in a position of power to act). NOT just any form of protest or stunt that involved wearing a stupid costume.
Discourse The ongoing conversation or debate on a given subject. If the discourse isn’t constantly changing and becoming more nuanced, it’s probably very out of date.
Facilitate To allow or make it possible for something to happen, without being in control or taking credit. Most consensus based meetings have a facilitator rather than a chair person.
Fash/Fascist Very often misused against anything a bit authoritarian. Fascists (or ‘the fash’) are usually violent, racist, ultra-nationalists who want to suppress workers’ rights, enforce ‘traditional’ oppressive hierarchies, centrally control all of society and boot anyone they don’t think fits into their version of the nation out of it. Very bad people.
(see Dr. L. Britt’s Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism for more)
Individualist Not just someone who cares about the rights of individuals, but someone who puts their personal well-being or comfort ahead of what’s best for everyone else. Basically a selfish tool.
Insurrection Like revolution, but usually with more guns and stuff on fire.
Intersectionality An annoyingly complex word to describe a pretty simple concept. Put briefly, the idea that oppressions don’t exist separately from each other but overlap, intersect and are equally important.
Liberal A common insult in Lefty circles. Not necessarily someone with ‘liberal’ ideas, just anyone or anything that isn’t ‘revolutionary’ enough.
Libertarian Concerned with upholding and increasing the liberty (autonomy, freedom of choice etc.) of people. In recent years, the word has been hijacked by right wingers who only care about the liberty to make money.
Manarchist Someone who claims to stand for the liberation of all and a free and equal society, but still acts like a sexist, misogynist or generally unsafe person around anyone who isn’t a man.
ML Marxist-Leninist – a person or group who think the Soviet Union was great until Stalin came along, despite Lenin’s secret police, prison camps and state sponsored strike breakers.
Neo-Liberal The dominant political/economic current in the Western world since the 1970s. Borrows the ‘free trade’ and free movement of money from classical Liberalism but forgets all about the freedom of people. Very keen on privatising services and spending lots on the police and army. Often similar to the right wing usage of Libertarian.
NUS (National Union of Students) A way to get discounts in Topshop and a career in the Labour Party. Not very useful for much else, but still gets talked about like something relevant in certain (power hungry) circles.
Occupation Can refer to either: a) the actions of a privileged group aggressively claiming the land and controlling every aspect of the lives of another people (as in an apartheid state) b) the taking over of a space or resources by a less powerful group as a form of protest or direct action. Knowing which context this word is used in is VITAL.
Patriarchy A system that privileges and gives preference to all things ‘masculine’, ‘manly’ and ‘male’, at the expense of anything or anyone who doesn’t fit into those (made up, poorly defined) categories.
Picket A line set up by striking workers in front of their workplace in order to dissuade non-union members from entering and undermining their campaign. An important and valuable tool in workplace struggles, crossing a picket line is deeply disrespectful and is only done by scabs.
Privilege A combination of factors that people who fit into certain categories more easy access to power and which distance them from certain oppressions. For example, a person who is white in a society where most of the powerful people are also white is more privileged than a person of colour and will have an easier time accessing structures of power. Privilege should be viewed intersectionally since it can overlap and combine with various oppressions in various ways. It’s a complex issue.
Proletarian Working class, but with connotations of flat cap wearing and factory work like something from the 1930s.
Reactionary Not actually someone who reacts to situations, but a person or idea that is anti-revolutionary or oppressive. Most often just applied to anyone who disagrees. Even worse than being called ‘liberal’.
Revolution A total transformation of society, hopefully from the bottom up, empowering the downtrodden and oppressed.
Safer spaces An attempt to create an environment in which peoples’ privilege is recognised and social hierarchies are redressed. Safer spaces are not automatically created just because a policy is in place, but are defined by how they attempt to deal with oppressive behaviour and language when it arises.
Scab A person who breaks a strike, disrespects a picket line of striking workers or otherwise betrays their class or the struggle for a better world. Probably both an individualist and a reactionary. Pretty much the worst thing a lefty can call you.
Sectarian/Sectarianism A group that attacks or trash talks another group (or ‘sect’) on the left to make their own look better and more relevant. Usually used as an accusation to attack or trash talk another group on the left.
Single Issue A campaign or group which has one specific goal (i.e. stop child poverty) as opposed to one with a wider political program (i.e. dismantle the economic structures that causes poverty, combat the racism and classism that compounds it, construct a sustainable and and decent life for all etc. etc.)
Solidarity The act of standing with others, recognising the importance and relevance of their struggles to your own and acting alongside, not for, them. More often just chucked around like the lefty equivalent of ‘I’ll pray for you’, totally devoid of all meaning.
Stalinist A person or group who thinks the Soviet Union was even better after Stalin came along, despite the famine, purges and mass murder of civilians.
Trot Trotskyist – a person or group who follow the ideas of Leon Trotsky and see him as some kind of socialist messiah, despite his selling out of other revolutionaries and all the murder.
Ultra-Left The opposite of liberal, anyone or anything too revolutionary to be controlled.
United left What left groups appeal to when they want other lefties to support them instead of other left groups. A major cause of (and supposed solution to) sectarianism.
Vanguard A self selected group of revolutionary VIPs, who plan to lead the rest of us into revolution because we’re too thick to do it ourselves.


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