By Rachel Hertzberg, Staff Writer
As far-right and nationalist politics find a stronger voice across America, one group in the Bi-Co is trying to raise awareness on the other end of the political spectrum. The student organization Bi-Co Anti-Capitalists, or BAC, formed organically at the start of this semester, and, after only two meetings, includes several dozen enthusiastic members.
When Simon Balukonis (HC ’19) joined a handful of others in approaching the Haverford Student Activities Office about forming the club, he had been envisioning a leftist reading and discussion group. Reading Marx and other thinkers, Balukonis said, had caused him to question his political outlook this past semester. BAC includes an education committee, which will select readings and host discussions periodically. The group is also looking into more direct actions and protests; for example, several members attended recent actions at the Philadelphia International Airport in opposition to the executive order banning travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries. These protests and their tactics prompted lively discussion at the recent meeting, as well as extended conversation about alternatives for those who are unable to attend protests for a variety of reasons.
So far, the group has been organizing through a secret Facebook page, and the email list is kept private. These measures are meant to avoid attracting harassment from so-called “alt-right” internet trolls, as well as possible awkward questions from families who may not support the organization. Some members in attendance suggested putting even stronger online securities in place to protect the group from ever being hacked. Hacking is a real threat, as right wing extremists have been increasing their usage of doxing, the practice of searching for and publishing private information in the public sphere, as a tactic of intimidation. Reddit recently shut down the /r/altright thread in response to rumors of users posting people’s personal information as a form of harassment.
Despite the potential response from those outside the group, the atmosphere of the most recent meeting was intimate and earnest. The discussion leapt from topic to topic. As the group is still new, it lacks a codified set of core tenants, and the membership’s personal ideologies vary among schools of leftist thought and modes of activism.
Perhaps as a result of this variety, BAC is also distinctive for its lack of leadership; the students who founded the club decided from the beginning that the organization would never be run by a specific person or group of people. As Balukonis put it, “We felt that [having one person be in charge] would essentially undermine direct democracy … We didn’t want one or a few people making executive actions that changed how the group run; we wanted everyone to feel like they had an equal say.” However, the lack of structure has the potential to create certain organizational programs, or else raises the possibility of certain members dominating discussion while others stay quiet. As of now, it is too early to tell whether or not these concerns are valid.
The next general meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. in the CPGC Cafe at Haverford.