Monday, December 10, 2007
I recently came across this interesting piece by a former member of a Trotskyite sect in the UK called the Committee for a Workers’ International. Now in academia, the author argues that in some cases, fringe political organizations such as the one he was part of can become a cult, similar in many ways to the religious cults most people are more familiar with. If you remember my definition of political extremism (a group with a monistic political outlook that seeks to suppress all other viewpoints), then it becomes easy to see how an extremist group could degenerate into a cultish mindset. These political cults extend their rejection of mainstream culture into a rejection of all personal contact with non-members, leading to the group taking complete control of not only their members’ political lives, but their personal lives as well. Adherence to the groups’ doctrines dictates that all communications with corrupted non-members must be cut off as a sign of loyalty. Soon, the members come to rely so strongly on the organization for social and emotional support that they cannot imagine life outside of it. At that point, the organization can make extraordinary demands on their members’ lives that would be rejected by more casual adherents. Most of the groups that could be described as political cults in the US have been Communist sects such as the Weathermen, the Democratic Workers Party, and the mysterious “O” group of Minneapolis (more on them later). There have been a few exceptions to this, such Lyndon LaRouche’s group (which started out as a Communist organization, and later morphed into a semi-fascist outfit). Several persons who were associated with Ayn Rand’s inner circle later described it as cult-like, and today the Ayn Rand Institute displays some distinctly cultish traits. Christian Identity Churches exist as both religious and political cults in many cases. Political cults, rare as they are, represent the logical end for groups who espouse a “sacred truth” and seek to separate themselves from, and in effect destroy, the corrupted mainstream world.