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. 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
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail