I never really “chose” to be on the left side of the political spectrum. I just ended up there because the traditional left was more logical than right and center if you come at life from the point-of-view implied in the founding documents of the American Republic (alas, now past). In America the left is really fulfilling the role of conserving the ideas and ideals of the American Revolution. Generally we believe in the rule of law rather than the law of privilege. But most importantly we believe in using principles established during the enlightenment that reason and science should be appealed to in setting public policy. Religion does not work as a foundation for public policy because people differ in religious principles. We, in the West, did not invent reason but we were the first to realize that appeal to reason was the only way to wars like the Thirty-Years War which devasted much of parts of Europe (mainly Germany) much as Afghanistan is devasted now.
U.S. history is not a pretty story. We have been as cruel and nasty as any other important society. But we have also been amazingly self-critical and we have been able to correct injustices at least to some degree and not every society has been able to do that. Just in my own lifetime I have seen the recognition that non-whites had historically been treated in an appalling manner and we did something about it because, during World War II and the Cold War there was a lot of focus on the founding principles of this country. That education, I believe, fueled the Civil Rights and Anti-War movement of the sixties. I remember that in the late sixties we got a Mr. Magoo cartoon about the American Revolution and showed it to an anti-War rally and the people love it. That tradition, often misleading, was everywhere in the media in the fifties and sixties. We felt that the United States had to live up to the principles that were publicly stated. Many of us took a magnifying glass to the society we lived in and were appalled by what we saw–in out minds we were patriots and we had a narrative behind us. We had a sense of solidarity, we believed in free inquiry, we believed reason should trump prejudice, we believed in equal rights of all citizens as guaranteed by the Constitutions. We similarly believed that the government existed to protect people from oppression rather than oppress. We had a strong dose of pragmatism as well–if it worked we were for it–we did not reason from ideology, we reasoned from what was so empirically (an important distinction from the leftists of Continental Europe). Unfortunately, as time passed, drugs and general craziness (we needed to self-medicate to keep the insanity of a seemingly benumbed culture at bay) destroyed (in my view) the left and its future as well.
We need to restablish our uniquely American leftist identity personified by people as like Peter Dale Scott and Michael Parenti to name a few elder statesmen of the movement. This identity has a cohesive narrative based on reason (but not denying or belittling Faith) and the still revolutionary concepts that came with the American Revolution.
An important part of this identity is facing the fundamental political and cultural facts concerning this political and cultural moment. The following are some essential issues I feel we need to address and attempt to agree on or not.
- The single most important defining event of our time is the 9/11 terrorist attacks on which much of government policy is based. 9/11 truth should be the central plank on which to build a true left-wing movement that actually opposes rather than caters to the oligarchy.
- We need to establish a true picture of power in the United States and the World. The ultimate power is not in the official government structures but elsewhere. As Mao said (correctly) power comes out of the barrel of a gun. In other words, power is the ability to threaten people’s lives and livelihood. The arrangements we see today reflects power–Democrats in Congress and White House aren’t “weak” they simply reflect the actual power structure–that’s their job. We, not they, need to wake up and investigate what we are up against. One way is to follow the money. Where the money is going is, obviously, where the power is. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?
- Understand that we are still in an unique position to find ways to change the political balance. Laws are still on the books and can be worked to our advantage (though time is running out). Despite some severe crises we are still, as a society, on our feet and we have access to tools to create everything from our own corporations, cooperatives, unions, communes, self-sufficient communities and so on and so forth. The fast growth in technology gives us a chance, if we are more intelligent than our opponents and their henchmen/women, to prevail as much as lose–and that should be enough. People will, in my view, flock to a movement that appears muscular, principled and willing to suffer and go for broke. One thing I know about many populists who are the left’s natural allies is that they don’t like the wimpy nature of our movement and of “liberals” who don’t seem to believe or stand for anything. We need to stand on our lineage and let the chips fall where they may.