FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left

Photo by Randy | CC BY 2.0

Walking past a farm on Martin Luther King Day in 2018, it’s hard to miss the huge dark blue silo that sits empty by this rural roadway. Small farms have been literally eaten up by agribusiness. These days, when fascism is on the move globally, it is hard to find much hope in any quarter and often even the natural beauty that this natural setting provides doesn’t do it either.

On Saturday, I’ll march with members of my family for the second time in a year in the Women’s March. Looking back at the past year, the catastrophe that faces us all is also obvious from a feminist perspective. The sense of dread is literally everywhere. The economy “grows” with mostly marginal jobs, while income inequality is at astronomical levels, the environment continues to deteriorate, wars go unchecked, and vulnerable communities are attacked along with immigrants.

And like the silo by the roadside, we are cut off, or siloed from one another on the political left in the U.S. This silo effect is evident everywhere. It’s apparent in the legions of students that came out for Bernie Sanders (Whether Sanders is the mechanism for change in this society or not is the subject for another debate, as is any prospect of change coming from the Democratic Party.) and who now are pretty much silent and marginalized on their campuses.

Perhaps the greatest personal disappointment is the lack of a vibrant antiwar movement in the U.S. In the 1960s and the early 1970s, the antiwar movement against the Vietnam War was not only massive, but it was the natural benefactor of the civil rights movement. Indeed, Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at Riverside Church in April 1967,  was a melding of the antiwar and civil right movements, and provided the haters a vehicle for attacking King’s analysis of the connections between war, militarism, capitalism, and poverty. Both the nascent women’s movement and the environmental movement would grow with and from those movements and give the very early 1970s the feel of a national and global movement and moment. Today, trillions of dollars are spent on wars and besides small circles of protesters, nobody seems to give a damn. The attacks of September 2001 seem to have put a nail in the coffin of protest against war and the mass media did a “phenomenal” job in that respect.

We’re increasingly siloed as organizers and protesters. The environment literally decays as we watch, and the Trump administration is hard at work dismantling what environmental regulations there are.

The sociologist Charles Derber (interviewed by Chris Hedges) makes an excellent argument, laying out the case of a “mass-based American left” in “The Failings of the American Left,” (On Contact, January 11, 2108). The economic system separates those on the left in all sorts of ways while providing unending wars and justifying those wars in the endless War on Terror. The latter is a great money maker and a means of mobilizing and silencing the general population. If the single issue of the military-industrial complex is such a successful part of the economic system, then why can’t even one war be won and why do new wars follow on the heels of the old wars that have not been won in the first place? We’re not only fighting Orwell’s (1984) Eurasia, but also Eastasia at the same time. Try to imagine a world in which the Second World War was still going on today? These wars are waged on multiple fronts while the domestic scene is left to rot on the vine, except for a minority of people, who either control the state, or benefit from the state in ways that keep them silent in the face of the gifts that the state has to distribute or throw at them.

Every single movement that I have been involved in since the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War has been highly atomized. Sometimes movements were somewhat effective, or at least temporarily effective, such as the anti-interventionist movement for Central America in the 1980s, or completely ineffective as the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the 1980s. The progress made by the left was ultimately rolled back by the forces on the right. Even the victories won by the women’s movement and civil rights movement have been broken upon the rocky shoals of reaction. Police violence against black people and mass incarceration are but two examples of how effective the economic, social, and political system is at rolling back gains.

Identity politics may benefit a special or threatened group, but victories not shared across a broad spectrum of interests for positive social change are Pyrrhic or temporary victories at best.

A social worker, who lives and works in New York City, will march along with us again at the Women’s March. She remained connected to the growing movements for change in NYC over the past year, until organizational meetings devolved into politically correct fests in which people were coerced into introducing themselves using a pronoun that would offend no one. Is that where we are as a movement today. Has protest become just a matter of pronouns?

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail