Ideas & Debates
We Revolutionaries Also Need Inspiration
US artist Stephanie McMillan draws comics that are designed to motivate political activists. Her “Daily Affirmations for Revolutionary Militants” feature messages to encourage us in the daily struggle for revolution. She recently published a desk calendar with 365 comics.
September 16, 2016
We got one of your calendars at the Left Forum in New York. Can you tell our readers what it is?
“365 Daily Affirmations for Revolutionary Proletarian Militants” is a perpetual desk calendar, which can be re-used year after year, with daily messages meant to inspire and give strength to revolutionaries. It is for those struggling for social transformation in the interests of the working class. The written messages are accompanied by colorful drawings of animals, plants, and cartoon characters.
If you asked communists what they think of motivational posters, most would probably vomit. How did you start making motivational drawings for proletarian revolutionary militants?
People need encouragement, especially when attempting anything difficult. We see a ton of inspirational literature and materials for all kinds of endeavors that serve capitalism and focus on personal achievement, like wealth creation, financial success, weight loss, serenity, and romance. But I was annoyed that there is nothing like that for those of us who put our energy into something much more important and challenging: destroying capitalism. Revolutionaries also feel discouragement, isolation, and weariness – we need encouragement and inspiration as much as anyone else!
I started drawing the Affirmations as a way to offer that encouragement- a friendly hand extended to comrades everywhere, so we don’t feel so alone. I also wanted to share inspiring words that may help us live up to what’s required of revolutionaries- to put us in a frame of mind where we can muster our best qualities: our courage, steadfastness, critical thinking skills, and collective strength.
How do you see your comics in relation to real political and social struggles?
My comics, like all genuinely political art, must not only accompany the political struggle but be integrated within it. Political artists must be involved in the struggle, or we can’t really understand it. Too many artists believe that it’s enough to stand on the sidelines cheering on the struggle, but then can’t grasp its needs and processes with any depth, and can only offer superficial observations.
I’ve been involved in political and social struggles since the early 1980s, and continue to be. These Affirmations draw on my own experiences, and many are directly related to specific issues that I was facing or observing at the time I drew them. Similar concerns and problems constantly crop up almost any time people are engaged in this struggle, so I realized that these are probably fairly universal.
When I started posting them, they seemed to resonate with a large number of people, who shared them with others. Some began requesting a calendar, and when I asked in social media if people wanted me to produce that, I received an overwhelming response of “Yes!” So I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
We’ve been reading your comics for a while now – they are part of our daily routine. But some of them can be pretty hard core- they express very high standards for us as revolutionaries. How do you reflect about how far you can go while making these?
Thank you for reading them! I hope they’re useful.
My work, which has gone through many phases, reflects where I am in my own organizing efforts – what I’m thinking about, aspiring to enact, and observing. Many who organize for revolution will recognize positive and negative tendencies in themselves or others that are addressed in the calendar: from something simple like the need to stop being late to meetings, to something sweeping like the willingness to dedicate one’s life to the cause.
We are all fallible and human, and the affirmations recognize this while encouraging us to overcome our weaknesses. When we falter or make mistakes, we must pick ourselves up and keep on trying. Affirmations are aspirational; by definition they don’t reflect what we have already achieved, but what we need to strive for and keep in mind as we work.
How can readers get your calendars?
The calendars are available in the shop on my website, and I am happy to ship them internationally. I have a few hundred left and I’m not likely to produce them again once they’re gone. (Please don’t be shocked at the high shipping price internationally – it is the actual price charged by the post office, and I don’t make any extra money from that.)
A lot of my other comics are also available on the site, including a “pay what you like” pdf version of my book “Capitalism Must Die! A basic introduction to capitalism: what it is, why it sucks, and how to crush it.” Like the calendar, it combines text and comics. The book offers a more political analysis and line, while the calendar is more concerned with ideology, emotion and attitude.
Solidarity to you and your readers!