One might speculate that there is an inverse relationship between the momentum of a movement and the number of distinct factions within it. In times of upheaval, everyone focuses on events, arguing about tactics and strategy; in such periods, sweeping tides often wash people from one camp into another, blurring boundaries and shifting stances. On the other hand, when there is little going on, all the exciting verbs of resistance stabilize into nouns; then, radicals differentiate themselves by adopting static ideological positions. These positions serve as a sort of compensation: unable to engage in the activities they desire, frustrated revolutionists satisfy themselves by constructing speculative taxonomies of utopia. Yet this tends to put off the general public, who know that the vast possibilities of life cannot be encapsulated in mere isms.
Such factionalism was famously satirized in the March 1913 issue of The Masses:
“A Syndicalist, you know, is a Possibilist Anarchist, just as a Socialist is a Possibilist Utopist, but a Syndicalist is an Antistatist, whereas a Socialist is a Statist and a Political Actionist, only an Antimilitarist and Pacifist. I’m a Collectivist Revisionist myself. Now, it’s a funny thing, but my brother claims to be a Hervéist, and says he’s a Possibilist Sabotist, but at the same time an Extremist Communist and a Political Actionist… I don’t think that’s a possible thing, do you?”
“I thought he was a Chiropodist,” I said.
Indeed, whatever he may have fancied himself, we fear the fellow in question was simply a chiropodist with a big vocabulary.