The topic of the evening was violence at the SMCM Left meeting, but for such a combative topic, it was a rather tranquil scene on Wednesday night in the PG common room. As it approached 8:15, members of the club trickled in while the Magic Club quietly shuffled their cards off to the side. Ivy Radcliffe, club president of SMCM Left, and Andy Turszick were the first members to arrive and promptly began rearranging the common room furniture into a large circle suitable for group discussion—a circle so wide and inclusive that it was sometimes hard to make out what people said on the other side.SM
“Sorry the Revolution is late,” apologized Exec Board member Katherine Kempton as they breezed in on time.
The Revolution having arrived, Radcliffe began the meeting by establishing upfront that despite its name, the club is inclusive of all people of all political views. Introductions were briefly made before the group quickly picked up a discussion of the nuances distinguishing individual violence from structural violence.
“Violence doesn’t have to be deliberate,” asserted Kempton. “There are people who participate in a violent system but aren’t necessarily violent themselves.”
“So like bumping heads with someone?” Ivy posited.
Kempton smiled. “Well—maybe not that specific example.”
Radcliffe then voiced her belief that anything forced or compulsory counts as “violent,” taxation being her chief example: “If taxes are compulsory, then that is inherently violent.” She then asked Exec Board member Danny Coco for his thoughts.
“I’m just listening for now,” Coco replied. “I’ve never thought about it this way—taxation as violence.”
Kempton bridged the discussion to examine the question of what kinds of consequences count as violent. Radcliffe stood by her position that violence is anything forced.
“So—anything that violates human rights,” Turszick summarized.
Radcliffe went on to address the systemic nature of morality: “What is determined to be right or wrong is determined by society and its circumstances.”
Club member Louis Randall agreed, elaborating on this point: “There is not one thing across every single culture that is considered ‘bad.’” Coco supported this observation, noting that honor killings in the Middle East are violent acts, but the people within that cultural context do not view them as such.
As group discussion plunged deeper and deeper into the dark realities of the American political system, what was rather striking about the group was the their ability to address such heavy issues head-on while maintaining a light environment.
“Do you know who’s really bringing us down?” Radcliffe said sarcastically. “All these lazy, entitled poor people.” A PG resident who was passing by stopped to shake a snack out of the vending machine before continuing on his way.
SMCM Left is a new club on campus and strictly non-partisan. “We’re willing to hold Q&A panels for senators or other officials, but we’re not getting behind anyone’s campaign,” explained Radcliffe outside of the meeting. “Similarly, we’re more than willing to discuss electoral proceedings, but our focus is going to be on the specific interests of the student body.”
The intent of SMCM Left is to create a safe space such that those of varying political—or lack of political—backgrounds can come learn about leftist ideology regarding issues such as racism, sexism, LGBTQIA-phobia, and exploitation in the US and abroad. “I think SMCM left is important for the community as a whole because it offers more diverse viewpoints on politics,” remarked Coco. “I think there were a lot of students who have come and gone who were interested in leftist politics but didn’t have an environment where they could safely voice their opinions and points of view.”
One of the club’s biggest challenges has been defining their image. Coco envisions the club as having a greater community presence and sense of service, taking on a role akin to groups like FUSE, MAPPS, STARS, and Habitat for Humanity: “I think that it’s great Ivy and the rest of us created this club early in our time here, so that we can make sure that it gets a good foothold alongside the other clubs that have been here for longer.”
“Any closing remarks?” Radcliffe asked, the meeting coming to a close.
“Tax is theft,” Turszick shot back.
Radcliffe laughed. “Don’t step on snakes.”