Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Imagining the possible: A viable leftist party in the US?

One of the issues I've struggled with for a fair amount of time is that of whether an organized leftist political presence were a possibility. It's been long apparent that something went rather awry at some point in my young adulthood that culminated in the near-complete decimation of our left - to the point that I have often been tempted to use rather provocative statements along of the lines of "there is no left left." Oh wait. I did say that.

I've been a bit more hopeful as of late. To be honest, I have had this gut feeling that there was something a bit different about the millennial generation, and that they would haul off and create something of a leftist renaissance. Occupy may have been just a teaser of what is in store.

We have a window of opportunity...it is at least in part a matter of reminding ourselves and those who decide to be part of the cause that this is a long game that we are focused on here. I'm measuring progress along the lines of decades, rather than weeks. I'm thinking in terms of what is feasible perhaps toward the end of my lifespan, and then beyond my lifespan. Those roughly my age who choose to mentor the next generation of activists need to think along similar lines, as do young activists. There will be moments of gratification - some immediate, but often quite delayed.

Along those lines:

As mentioned above, another key emerging demographic is Millennials, a demographic bulge larger numerically than the famous “Baby Boom.” Millennials constitute the core cadre of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Arab Spring, and the uprisings in Turkey, Brazil, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, too many on the left are dismissive of the revolutionary potential of college-educated youth because they are “privileged” or “middle class.” This is an unscientific and moralistic reading of both the immiseration thesis and revolutionary history. A revolutionary class is no less revolutionary because it does not conform to theoretical precepts; more likely, the theory needs to be adjusted in light of new evidence.

Positive indicators for this demographic — besides a penchant for mass grassroots street protest after a decades-long lull — might include a decline in partisan identification, especially among progressive youth. As Rolling Stone reported:
The turn away from party identification has been a long-term American trend: According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans don’t consider themselves members of a political party, compared to 36 percent in 2002 and 33 percent in 1988. But that trend has been all the more accelerated among young people — and even more so among young progressives.
The increasing lack of trust in government and bourgeois political parties could lead to this demographic toward a cynical disengagement with politics, or alternatively, it could prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Left. It’s the responsibility of the Left to humbly yet earnestly offer another way forward.

None of this is to say a transition toward a new mass party of the Left is inevitable. Politics is struggle, and the emergence of a new alternative to the status quo will mean conscious action by individuals, organizations, and masses of people over a protracted period of time. As Bill Fletcher Jr. rightly reminds us:
There are rare moments in US history where there is a reshuffling of the deck that may result in either the transformation of an existing political party or the emergence of another. The emergence of a new mass party is not the result of a founding convention but on the basis of an adjustment and repositioning of political constituencies. This is a matter of mass politics, including but not limited to electoral action.
New possibilities exist today which suggest a mass party of the left can be built within our lifetimes. Now we must begin an urgent conversation on how to seize the time.

However, conversation is only the first step; it must culminate in action, in real-world organizing. If we succeed, the working class in this country will face its enemies — for the first time in many decades — with a great powerhouse of organization: a political party of the people, by the people, and for the people.


par4 said...

First thing first. Any viable Left in the U.S. can not use any symbolism or rhetoric associated with Germany or the Soviet Union.

DonDurito said...

I have no say in whatever symbolism gets used. The hammer and sickle is one that is universally associated with Marxism (and this is a Marxist-Humanist blog), but I can imagine a Marxist-oriented party or movement using something else as a symbol instead. That's something for any activists involved to sort out.

par4 said...

I don't have a problem with it,BUT it will never sell in Kansas.

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