Ian Ricoy on Leftist Ideology, Political Empathy, and the Praxis Problem

Nick Shereikis
June 8, 2021

Welcome to the Political Empathy Project Podcast, our monthly podcast series. In this inaugural episode, PEP founder Nick Shereikis sits down with guest Ian Ricoy to discuss the modern leftist movement and its role in national political conversation, the leftist psyche, and the caucus’ perceived praxis or strategy problem.

Below is an excerpt from the full transcript — listen in wherever you listen to podcasts for the full episode!

Nick Shereikis: In my understanding, leftism is very economic — or socio-economic — in its ideology. Marx is, you know, a founding father; [he] comes up regularly. And it’s all about reimagining these capitalist systems and our distribution of resources for the social good.

But I guess I just have trouble accepting the idea that it’s the end-all, be-all, capital-P ‘Problem.’ And I think that’s because, you know, I see leftists that I know saying things like “Oh, all identity politics are bad, we need to focus less on racism or sexism and more on capitalism as the underlying cause.” But that doesn’t totally sit well with me. So I guess I’m wondering what your thoughts are.

Ian Ricoy: Yeah, no, that's a big discourse. I think that's actively going on. Should try to be focused on just class or to try to be really intersectional? And, at least in the leftist circles I'm in — basically a couple of Discord servers — it feels like it's moving towards the intersectional end of the spectrum, for a multitude of reasons.

Leftists will tell you, a lot of people don't really identify with their class much. Like in the United States, working class kind of means that you're poor, when really, what leftists want to get on to is if you work for a living, you are working class, and I'm sorry. If you make money through owning something, maybe you're a big landlord, or you have this giant trust fund, you're part of the owning class. But through lots and lots of, let's say propaganda, or a lot of like, cultural influence, people really do not identify with their class much. But identity politics has brought out other identities that people do identify with, kinds of communities, vulnerable communities, such as LGBT, you know, black and brown people, immigrants, and stuff. And I think those intersect a lot better with class. So I think that's actually just a better avenue of reaching people and having them like awaken their class consciousness.

There's a really good movie about how gay people in England raised money for miners who were on strike. And there was only one mining town who would take their donations, and the movie’s just about their connection. Like, these working class folk and these LGBT folk, and it's just a great case study about how important intersectionality is.

Nick Shereikis: I also think that you touched on, you know, translating your interactions or your presence into positive praxis, which is really the important part that people should be focusing on. Because I think that’s why a lot of people are kind of hesitant to identify as leftists, right? They see this online community that's so incredibly passionate, but also, you know, defensive and quick to preach, or things like that, and it's a turnoff. It's not necessarily accessible.

Ian Ricoy: So, oh, yeah, I think it's definitely gotten better in recent years. Like when I first took the Karl Marx class my sophomore year of college, I tried getting into like, the socialism subreddit, and people were very, like, “Get out of here, liberal” kind of stuff. And that, honestly, really turned me off to the community. Like, you're literally turning away someone who you could be turning to your side.

I mean, then again, to be fair, I didn't know any better, but it's just really bad luck and a really bad first taste. But over the years, I think it's definitely changed. We're trying to change that image.

We’re definitely trying to get away from the whole contest of how much theory you can read. Because, again, the problem with left is that all the ideas are in books, they're not in real life. So there's a big push to do lots of reading, which is time consuming, especially if you're not in college.

But yeah, I think I think it's getting better, especially as it's getting more popular. And as it does, leftist knowledge is getting more accessible. The leftist YouTube community has been growing really, really strong; lots of really high quality information out there on YouTube.

Nick Shereikis: And I want to talk about, you know, making this accessible, and how it's possible to hold these radical — or seen as radical — views and this kind of ‘us against the world’ psyche and still have positive interactions with liberals, or conservatives, or right-wingers, or members of the national community that don't necessarily share your beliefs. Because, and not to put you on the spot here, but I think that that's something that you've always been better at than me — definitely in my college years. And I'm curious to get your thoughts on that. Is there an Ian Ricoy guide to cross-partisan communication?

Ian Ricoy: I think definitely understand what's important to the other person, because we all want good things in the end, or we hope.

But I think it just comes down to like environment and how you surround yourself. I feel like that kind of gives me a good window into, like, people who are liberal and conservative. Like in my Boy Scouts troop, we had some diehard libertarians. And it was really eye opening; we got along famously, no problem, because we were all just working towards getting over this mountain, or making sure — cliché — this knot is tied correctly. So like that.

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