Socialist club denies ‘laziness’ responsible for poor popularity
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a socialist club, but even self-described socialists are hesitant to join.
A chapter of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, the club’s goals include overthrowing capitalism with a program that “unshackles … the working class” and leading a movement that isn’t just made up of white college students.
"[A] revolution—which is what we’re advocating for—more or less threatens their comfortable life situation."
Will Osselburn, a sophomore at Cal Poly, started the club last year, but has made little progress in building its membership.
“I think it’s because there’s an extremely large middle class and wealthy contingency here,” he told Mustang News. “And while a socialist program would be in their interest, the fact of the matter is they’re comfortable, they’re living a good life. They’re materially and socially tied in to the existing mode of production, and a revolution—which is what we’re advocating for—more or less threatens their comfortable life situation.”
The club adheres to the tenets of Marxist-Socialism, also known as communism, but despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, members aren’t looking to overthrow the bourgeoisie with guns like in the Russian Revolution. Instead they are going to have an “epithetic” revolution, one “of the mind.”
“We need a collective evolution of the human race....where love is a universal language,” club member and sophomore Christian Kelleher told Mustang News.
The group doesn’t do much besides pass out leaflets and stream a seminar on Skype from UC Berkeley every week, though members also say they are afraid of a coming World War III and discuss how to redistribute power.
There are divisions in the club, as well. Lorenzo Nerrocio, who joined the club at Osselburn’s invitation shortly after its creation, complained that the club clung to an old “Trotsky-ist interpretation of Marxism” that does not address “modern economic and socio-political problems.”
However, he did wish that people would “understand that socialism came from a good place,” arguing that there is an association of “laziness” with socialists that he considers an “unfair and untrue characterization.”
In the end, he said, socialism’s primary concern is “that there are millions of people who are getting screwed over because a few tens of people want to get super rich—which is the current situation.”
Osselburn gave his reasoning for becoming a socialist at the end of the interview, saying that he felt he had the “responsibility” to do so because he had “knowledge” and he “cared so much.
“When I think of the more than 60 million people who are living as refugees, or the people who are going to die today because the imperialist countries in the West are trying to secure resources—when I think what’s at stake—I just need to do something about it,” he said.
One online commenter had a different explanation for the weak interest in Cal Poly’s socialist club, suggesting that students are reluctant to join because “most normal people know from 100 years of history that socialism doesn't work, and the few times people actually tried this ‘revolution,’ the result was.... not exactly the most desirable.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @elias_atienza