Personal growth, career and the party?: negotiating self in the context of revolutionary socialism

How do activists manage life commitments and membership in a radical social movement organization? I start with the assumption that activists are "more than activists" who have personal lives that can affect their movement lives. I use new social movement theory to assess how the collective identity of a revolutionary socialist organization impacts the personal identities of activists. I call the movement identity a "socialist identity" which must then compete with other identities that the activist may possess. I also use identity theory to analyze how competition among identities influences the political integration of activists into the organization in which they belong. The methods used were modified life history interviews of former and current members, participant observation, and content analysis of the organization1s documents. I found that education, especially book-reading helps internalize the ideology of the organization, fortifies the socialist identity, and increases its salience. Additionally, one's socialist identity often becomes de-centered when other identities emerge to challenge it. On the other hand, a weak socialist identity will still allow for participation if there are no other competing identities. Keywords: Leninism, Radicalism, Social Movements, Identity, Activism.