BY JORDAN ROGERS
An interesting question posed to me earlier was this: “Is reactionary thought spreading like wildfire, or is it just suddenly more vocal?” It’s a thought-provoking enquiry, but not one that holds much importance. The real question is this: “With the prominence of the right, how will the left respond?”
On the U.S. front, the Republicans control both the House and the Senate (albeit by a small margin) and, of course, the Presidency. Trump is thus able to manipulate a reactionary judge into the Supreme Court, distressing the American people for decades. In the U.K. Nigel Farage continues to occupy a wide platform. Meanwhile Marine Le Pen, although perhaps not as charismatic as Trump or Farage, has gained far more popularity than other Le Pens in previous years.
The first thing to do is to organise. The left has been in pieces for decades and this is the best chance to finally unify.
Many people were content with the idea of a Clinton presidency merely to avoid a Trump regime, but that has all changed now. If Clinton had won, I expected no real movement to spawn simply because there would be a universal feeling of dodging a bullet. But there can now be a shared feeling of anger. Anger towards Trump and anger towards the reactionaries that elected him; a feeling that should be shared by all on the left.
The danger here is to rebel through the establishment Left, which would fail. We cannot just hope for a new progressive hero to come along and save us as before.
Why can we not accept the Democrats anymore? Regardless if Bernie could have beaten Trump, the DNC manipulated the race and chose one of the most hated politicians in the country as their leader. Whether they were fully aware of it or not, they chose Trump instead of Bernie. They were unwilling to change. It is foolish to think that real change, the change we desperately need, can come from a party that is part of the problem. They are not the lesser of two evils, they are evil nonetheless.
For the Left to unify and organise there are some changes to be made. In many ways leftist politics (that which we Leftists would like to remember) were always based on the idea of a universal struggle. We cannot focus solely on one identity – no one race, gender, or ability is more important than the other. The only identity that truly unites us all is resistance to exploitation and oppression – and this is what we must fight for.
If our politics is not based on a universal principle, then we end up in the mess that we find ourselves in right now. The empowerment of any one group leads to a natural resentment of the other, something we must avoid. It’s no wonder that baseless white empowerment leads to the animosity of minorities. Instead we must be empowering people, not identities.
Next, for the Left to unify we must forget our differences. The Spanish Civil War serves as a good tale for what a broken movement can accomplish. The fractured parties, the distrust of other leftists, and the eventual victory of the fascist Franco is a warning. If the left does not set its differences aside, then the reactionaries will win. I’m reminded of the US Communists early in the election that refused to support Sanders; their only reason being that he wasn’t far enough to the left. This is folly. There is far more difference between Sanders and Clinton than Clinton and Trump.
When we organise, what exactly do we need? Many are already calling for grassroots action to help facilitate change but there are serious limitations to this approach. We need top-to-bottom change. Grassroots action can be useful for specific issues, such as protesting the DAPL or for higher wages, but it cannot bring the systematic change that is needed.
The next step is to learn.
If we want to build a movement we must have the philosophical, political, and economic foundation firmly set if we are to avoid the mistakes made by the leftists of the 20th century. We must read, learn, and know as much as we can to fight against the demoralising propaganda and deliberate misinformation that will be shoved down our throats. We must no longer be the doting subjects of the misinformed elite – they have shown they cannot help the country any more than they can help themselves.
We cannot be afraid to express our opinions just because we are in the minority. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned being in the South of the US. My views are largely in the minority of my peers – we must recognise that reactionaries’ beliefs can be without foundation and based purely on religious faith. They have no logic to their political views which cannot stand up to scrutiny and that’s why an open discussion about the greatest issues we face are often suppressed.
To quote Martin Luther King Jr:
You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.
This gets to the heart of the issue, if you question one aspect of the ruling ideology you must question the entire thing, and that is exactly what they don’t want you to do. People can fight ferociously without thinking if the values they’ve been told to believe in all their lives are put into question.
In 1943 Jean Paul Sartre wrote “If war breaks out, it is in my image, it is my war and I deserve it” and this is so true of today as well.
The important thing now is to change the future, the future that we believe we deserve we can have if we organise and fight for it. Unification of the left is our only hope at this point as the wave of reactionaries continues to rise throughout the world.
We are in uncertain times and we must fight to keep our Leftist hopes and dreams alive.
Left-winger Jordan Rogers is a writer working out of the Memphis area in the US. His writing is housed here at The Politics of Writing.