As I was reading Yves' and Avedon's recent missives (roughly around the time I was watching the recent mini-series on Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, or as he is better known, Carlos "The Jackal"), I had one of my deja vu moments. To wit: our "left wing" in US politics is largely nonexistent, but it doesn't have to remain nonexistent. What passes for a "left" has an infrastructure - I suppose if you can call it that - that is primarily tied to the Democratic Party, which is itself hostile to individuals and groups that hold left-wing views. To build a career (as an individual) or to maintain funding for an organization within such an infrastructure, to be one of the "serious people", it is imperative to acquiesce to our current neoliberal world order. Our "progressives" merely wish to anesthetize our pain as we continue to transition into a more stratified, privatized, and militarized state of affairs, and will gladly take the "necessary" dives and make the "necessary" compromises while persuading the rest of us who might be receptive to a left-leaning message that if we don't accept further cuts to our rights and our social infrastructure, our hard right nationalists will take further hostages.
That's hardly a message that would leave anyone feeling enthusiastic for long. At bare minimum, once the veneer of hope and change wears off, cynicism and disconnection are all that's left.
What we on the left need desperately, and what we've needed desperately for decades, is a coherent political infrastructure, relatively independent of both major US political parties. We need more than anything else to have our own party, communications, and security apparatuses. We need a coherent theory to drive our messaging and our actions. We need an international orientation, given that neoliberalism is an international problem facing all workers. We need to embrace, rather than vilify, those whose message is revolutionary. Think of how relatively left-wing reformers have historically succeeded: there was somewhere in the background a tangible threat that if the reformists weren't at least somewhat appeased, the revolutionaries would use the means available at their disposal. In our own country, the few labor and civil rights reforms that were won surely didn't happen because a few well-heeled reformist policy wonks wrote polite columns in NYT, but because there were people ready to put their lives and bodies on the line, and who were willing to fight the violence of the system with a bit of violence of their own - and they were well organized. Think of Popular Front approaches used to fight fascism in Europe and the US during the early decades of the 20th century. Think of the coalitions of radical and reformists organizations that have led to practically any worthwhile social change we might wish to mention. We live in a particular social and historical period in which the status quo is clearly not working for the vast majority of us, and in which the defenders of the status quo are bereft of ideas (Subcomandante Marcos has referred to neoliberalism as a state of perpetual crisis in search of a theoretical rationale). A leftist front uniting radical and reformist elements is something that is doable.
Okay, when time permits, I'll try to have a bit more to say on this topic. Suffice it to say, it is one that is near and dear to me.