My road to Marxism is probably a bit more unusual than it is most people. For one, I was in my mid-30s, which is indeed an anomaly among the comrades I know personally. Then there is the fact that for most of my political life I was a sort of semi-political nerd social democrat. Left of what the Democratic Party actually is, but more in line with what a 90s Republican would have said a Democrat is. Basically, I was a Bernie Sanders supporter before Bernie or perhaps a Corbynista in exile, since I had always been for the banning of nuclear weapons.
When it came to politics in my younger days, it was mostly about following the horserace and hoping that somehow the Democrats would get better—which of course they never did. I’d follow a primary very closely, pick whoever I thought was the most “liberal” of the candidates and then be annoyed when they’d inevitably lose. In fact, in 2000, the first presidential race I was eligible to vote in, I was so anti–Al Gore, that I was even considering voting for McCain if he had been the Republican nominee!
Over the years my interest in politics waned, only to spark up again when some candidate or another looked promising and this time oh so different. First, there was Obama mania, which I got swept up in until about three months after he got elected. Then some people on an online forum got me interested in the Elizabeth Warren Senate race. Then it happened! Then came the candidate I had been waiting for my whole life—or so I thought at the time. The most epic candidate of my 35 years on the planet to that point: Bernard “The Bernie” Sanders.
Jokes aside, this was more or less how I really felt. I was politically in love, and immediately began to spend far too many hours of the day obsessing over every detail. Every article, every stump speech, dozens and dozens of posts on a thread in an online forum with fellow supporters. Far too many pointless arguments with Hillary Clinton supporters. Then I powered through my anxiety to start making phone calls to Iowa, followed soon after by making trips to the local campaign office. All of this ramped up to a fever pitch of excitement—then suddenly it was all over. Bernie had lost. Then he capitulated and supported the enemy. An enemy who had lied and cheated and tried to cynically erase the existence of my numerous female Sanders supporting friends. At this point, I realized what I kind of knew all along: The system is broken, fundamentally broken, and no politician within that system was going to be able to fix it.
At some point in the primaries season, when Bernie’s defeat was all but assured, some of the more left-leaning people on the Sanders message board thread created a Discord chat server and we began to go about the process of radicalizing each other. After discussing with each other about various political ideas, and watching closely events like general election and the Labour leadership contest in the UK, many of us were on the lookout for an organization to join. One actually joined Socialist Alternative, another got involved heavily in anti-fascist activity in their local city. Most of us, however, considered joining the DSA.
It was around the time of DSA’s national convention and everything seemed so exciting and headed in a radical direction. I got swept up, and after the Danny Fetonte hiccup decided to join. Oh, and did I ever! I was petitioning, I was canvassing, I was attending every single committee meeting. Then the Stockley protests began here in St. Louis and I kicked it into overdrive. Night after night, marching, chanting, shouting, trying to to find clever ways to get onto the highway. I was just convinced that this was what it was all about, this is how you change the world. As events carried on though, I came to have a very different perspective.
One of the very first people I met after attending my first DSA meeting was a member of the IMT. It was after the meeting at a local bar where the group had gone to have drinks. This comrade was there and I ended up sitting next to him, so of course, we struck up a conversation. He was very knowledgeable, and I was pretty curious about this group because I hadn’t actually encountered it before in my research. I’d like to say everything clicked right away, but it didn’t quite work that way. Nevertheless, I was certainly interested in learning more.
Then I met another IMT comrade who would ride with me to the protests. They were also extremely knowledgeable and we had many conversations on many topics, night after night in the car, and I was very intrigued. In addition, during this time, I was attending the monthly DSA book club, and those conversations were also very good. It was there I met a third IMT comrade and they were every bit as brilliant as the rest, and I couldn’t help thinking: “Wow, they’re all that way!” I started to think that maybe I wanted to be that way too.
As events happened in DSA and on the streets, I began to learn a few things that pushed me in a new direction. First, I experienced firsthand how a lack of theory to base your movement on soon dooms it to impotence, and then I got to experience first hand how opportunists will try to use you if you’re just an unthinking activist. I began to believe more and more in the importance of theory. Soon I was invited to Fighting Fund parties, then to branch meetings. It wasn’t long until I was certain that this was the right path to achieve the socialist world that I want to live in. When the members of the IMT put forward a slogan like “Socialism in our Lifetime!” I truly believe it. So I knew what I had to do if I wanted to play my part in that goal. And that is why I joined the IMT.