||CHAPTER 6: AFFILIATION VS. ANARCHISM AND INDIVIDUALISM||Page 16|
We don't need any special psychological principle to explain why activists move on to the step of affiliation: quite simply they find that the power of their action is greater when they work in a group rather than alone. As Debs concluded at the end of his life, "Unorganized you are helpless, you are held in contempt. Power comes through unity."
Affiliation is not just a practical matter; it produces a psychological transformation. Purpose becomes shared. Anger is collectivized. Action becomes not only effective, but also more complex, with a division of labor. With all of this there comes a profound psychological change, as Martin Luther King Jr. has eloquently described:
If anybody had told me a couple of years ago, when I accepted the presidency of the Mississippi Improvement Association, that I would be in this position, I would have avoided it with all my strength. This is not the life I expected to lead. But gradually you take some responsibility, then a little more, until finally you are not in control anymore. You have to give yourself entirely. Then, once you make up your mind that you are giving yourself, then you are prepared to do anything that serves the Cause and advances the Movement. I have reached that point. I have no option any more about what I will do. I have given myself fully.
Debs,in his eloquent style, makes a similar observation about the importance of his affiliation in the Socialist Party:
The little that I am, the little that I am hoping to be, I owe to the Socialist movement. It has given me my ideas and ideals; my principles and convictions, and I would not exchange one of them for all of Rockefeller's blood-stained dollars. It has taught me how to serve - a lesson to me of priceless value. It has taught me the ecstacy in the handclasp of a comrade. It has enabled me....to take my place side by side with you in the great struggle for the better day.
And Emily Balch put it quite simply that her affiliation with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom gave her "great exhilaration in the sense of active and organized comradeship with women working for peace all over the world."
Affiliation provides not only inspiration, but it also provides a necessary psychological support to initiate and sustain difficult actions. For example, after being fired from his job as a minister, A.J. Muste joined "a group of radical Christian pacifists who were loosely associated in what we called The Comradeship." Stimulated by a group discussion that "somehow we had to translate the ideal of brotherhood into reality," Muste and other members of the Comradeship involved themselves in the difficult Lawrence textile strike of 1919:
The fellowship among us was constant. There was never the slightest doubt that our families would be taken care of if any of us were injured or failed. In the feverish atmosphere of a mass strike, amidst the practical decisions that had to be made daily about matters in which we had no previous experience and which involved "compromises" of a kind which would never arise in an intentional community, we were, on the one hand, under a real, though not externally imposed, discipline of the group and on the other hand, materially and spiritually sustained by that fellowship.
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