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Greg Godels:Is There a Future for the Left?
     Release time: 2024-04-16

  It is true that today the left’s unstated action model is a plethora of focused, but single-issue social movements. However, that model has enjoyed, at best, limited success in the US since single-issue activism won big gains in the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights era of the 1960s and 1970s. One of the movements effectively complemented a bloody defeat of US Cold War aggression and the other completed the formal constitutional promise of full-citizenship rights for Blacks, women, and other minorities. But substantial, larger, associated issues remain unresolved. US imperialism continues unabated with ever-more casualties and injustices;the inequalities suffered by oppressed groups remain intact, with a token stratum of those groups allowed through the door of privilege, even to elite status, but with most lagging far behind.

  Social movements have focused on specific policies (NAFTA, tax structure, minimum wage, healthcare, immigration reform), emerging trends (globalization, “neoliberalism”), gross inequality (Occupy), changes in governance (Arab Spring, police reform), environmental degradation (fracking),or US foreign intervention among many other identifiable wrongs, all of which burn brightly in the beginning, then unfortunately just as quickly fade, as protest confronts the glacial, fractured electoral system.

  It is also true that most of the left operates and acts without any overarching program of reform or revolution.The majority of US leftists,for example, enthusiastically, reluctantly, or by default rely upon the Democratic Party and electoral politics to drive broad, systemic change. They may hope that their issues will be embraced by the party’s policy makers, they may struggle with the party’s entrenched leaders for a suitable program, or they may simply defer to the Democrats out of desperation. DSA, a self-described ‘democratic’ socialist party, is very far from cutting the umbilical cord with the Democrats.While the Green Party expends impressive effort to achieve ballot status, it brings a hodge-podge of candidates to the ballot, seldom aligned with any kind of common program or larger goal. And the small Marxist parties have failed to impact the labor movement or pressure reform movements from the left, as last did the US Communist Party of Gus Hall’s era when anti-Communist repression was far more intense than today and the word “socialism” was then a term of abuse.

  But it is not just a program that is missing, but a vision as well. ‘Anti-capitalism’ is not a vision, but a defiance; it expresses hostility and resistance, but not rejection. It gives us no alternative to capitalism. Most of the US left counts itself as anti-capitalist, but one can only guess at what that might mean.

  Some are more specific:they are anti-neoliberal capitalism, anti-disaster capitalism,anti-racial capitalism,or perhaps anti-monopoly capitalism.But, by implication, are they for some other kind of capitalism? Do they pine for the era before neoliberalism? Do they imagine capitalism without racism? Do they wish to turn the clock back to the stage before monopoly capitalism? An imagined time when capitalism did not spawn disasters?

  These are not political visions, they’re mere fantasies!

  Certainly, the failure of the Left and the current numerous fractures on the Left deserve serious retrospection and assessment. The way forward could well come from such study. But it will falter if poisoned from the onset with thoughtless anti-Communism. It will be prone to the same limiting calls to individualism, to identity, and the vacuous, vague, but always heralded cry for more “democracy.” A challenge to capitalism will require more than virtue-signaling.

  Surely, the lessons of a century of social upheaval, confrontation, and revolution animated by working-class organizations cannot be cavalierly dismissed. The role of Communists and Communist Parties was decisive in colossal social change in the twentieth century. Could they be decisive again?

  Editor: Zhong Yao Wei Xiaoxue


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