FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toward a New Leftist Politics

by RON JACOBS

There is no need to despair; no need to retreat; and no need to lash out at the liberals cheering Barack Obama’s re-election. Leave all that to those who voted for Mitt Romney. It is their world that has changed, hopefully forever.  For those on the left, it is time to organize. The desire to change the nation remains. Obama’s reelection is evidence of that.   Instead of choosing the failed millenarian politics of Mitt Romney, voters chose the uncertainty of Barack Obama and his hopeful change.

Will he continue appeasing the far right and Wall Street?  Will he maintain the status quo at the Pentagon, fighting wars that only serve to fatten the war profiteers, kill innocents and soldiers,and guarantee the exorbitant waste of tax monies?  Will the infrastructure of the nation continue to crumble while the roads, bridges and beaches of our land cry out for a jobs program that puts men and women to work rebuilding?  Will he allow attempts to further privatize the nation’s educational system to continue and encourage policies that expand student debt?

These are just a few of the questions the left needs to be organizing around. While it is certainly easier to point out the failures of Obama and his closeness to the very same forces that have created the situation we find ourselves in, this attitude is nothing more than that: attitude.   There are some on the left who argued that there was no difference between Obama and Romney. While this may have been so in a general sense, the facts seem pretty clear.  The Romney forces represented a proto-fascist mindset, and the nature of the campaign and election is evidence of a fundamental divide in the ruling class.  So is the ongoing “gridlock” in Washington; the forces of the right representing robber baron capitalism are reluctant to align themselves with the more liberal capitalist forces represented by the Democrats.  If I understand history correctly, it is the job of the left to take advantage of this divide.  Instead of sounding like the partisans of the right and lambasting Barack Obama and his party for what they are, we should focus on the people of the country who know something is wrong and understand that the reactionary policies of the right cannot remedy the situation.

Last year’s Occupy movement proved that thousands (if not millions) of US residents know that the situation we face is a systemic one; it cannot be fixed by voting in one politician or the other.  Nor can it be resolved by meaningless reforms.  Also understood, especially in the wake of the police attacks on the Occupy encampments, is that those that profit from that system will do whatever it takes to protect those profits.  This understanding is a positive step forward.  Yet, it is not enough.  As anyone who spent time with Occupy (or read their literature) knows, this general understanding led to many different conclusions, some of which were liberal in nature; some which were revolutionary; some that were conspiratorial, and some that were just plain nonsense.

I mention Occupy for the hope it provides.  Not only did it prove that people understand the systemic nature of our situation, it also showed that they understand that it will take popular protest and a willingness to confront the authorities to change that system.  Both of these realities are positive and both of these realities are also what the left should focus on.  Of course, revolution is not around the corner, but the opportunity for building a left-leaning movement opposed to monopoly capitalism in all its manifestations exists.  One need only look at the protest movement in Europe for evidence of this possibility.  Of course, the European movements have a longer tradition of organizing behind them and work in a different electoral system, but the US has its own traditions of protest.  The left should revive those.

In parting, let me revisit the days of Richard Nixon’s presidency.  First, let me make it perfectly clear (as Tricky Dick used to say) that I agree with musician Stephen Stills’ recent comment saying that Mitt Romney was the “creepiest politician” he had seen since Nixon.  That being said, it is currently fashionable among some mainstream commentators to claim that Nixon’s policies were more progressive than Barack Obama’s, as if Nixon was progressive.  He was not.  He was a reactionary and a wannabe fascist. However, he ruled in a time when there was a popular left-leaning movement with a large militant wing.  The existence of that movement and its leftist politics is why his policies were more progressive than many of those pursued by Barack Obama these last four years.  That movement forced Nixon’s hand into agreeing to policies and programs he would not have agreed to if there was not such a movement.  If the left can organize a similar movement today with comparable power, then a new and leftist politics might truly flourish.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail