Brief interview: Revolutionary Comics
[Appears in The Socialist: http://www.thesocialist.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/TS-RADICALART-2014.pdf]
by Jen McClellan
CSUN did a week of lectures in October, titled “Comics v. Capitalism v. Climate.” The first presentation I caught was given by Professor David Klein and Stephanie McMillan, who spoke fearlessly about the incompatibility of capitalism and
…. well … life.
Stephanie McMillan, you critiqued capitalism for needing exponential expansion in order to survive. You offer, in response to this destructive system, inspiration via cartoons, and suggest that transformation away from capitalism will be economic, political, and ideological. You also emphasize that the working class are the only ones that are able to offer a solution. My first question then is – if we live in a system that sucks every last ounce of energy out of its workers, (giving them less than enough to live decently as human beings) then where are they going to find the time or strength to study economics, become politicized, or develop an ideology?
These are social practices arising from the conditions of class struggle. The fundamental contradiction of capital vs. labor is constantly manifesting in the workplace every day. Every struggle there is inherently anti-capitalist, and is against economic, political and ideological domination. Ideology and political practice aren’t separate; they’re constructed in this context. Though capitalists may want to take all of the energy of workers and convert it into surplus value, we see that they aren’t able to—workers are striking and rising up all over the world.
Different classes have organized, fought for their interests, emancipated themselves and developed new modes of production all throughout history. They’ve done it without studying or even knowing how to read. Those who fought for the eight-hour workday had even less time than many workers do today, and they managed to win that struggle. The task is always to connect with those who share your interests, and organize with them to fight the enemy.
Your comic style is interesting because when I imagine a militant revolutionary I get a shadowy figure with a bandana covering his or her mouth, but your art depicts revolutionaries as bunnies. That’s also confusing to me because when I think of rabbits I think of massive reproduction. That just makes me think of the over productive nature of capitalism. So maybe you can explain why you have chosen the style you have and what you mean for it to accomplish.
When depicting a bunny as a revolutionary militant, I wasn’t thinking of their reproductive capacity but their cuteness. I also use a guinea pig and other cute animals, along with flowers and kids and curly lettering. I chose to present ideas this way because revolution can be a difficult topic for many people to approach, and the colorful comics are intended to make it more accessible and appealing. The style is like a welcome sign on a doorway into the unknown; it makes it easier to enter.