Want to write nonfiction or fiction with a left bent or left themes and get any attention? Lots of luck in the age of the Internet and giants like Amazon!
The problem is that outside of a few people, left writing does not rise to the level of anything mainline, and if a person is not seen in the cacophony that is the Internet, then he/she doesn’t exist for all intents and purposes. Left sites on the Internet struggle to survive because of the same forces that disempower individual writers.
I recently completed a substantial revision of a work of fiction about a romantic relationship during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s (A Sixties’ Love Story, 2018). It’s two major characters represent the themes of emerging love, the Vietnam War, the draft, protest, deceit, and how the characters express and react to the tectonic changes in social relationships, romantic relationships, and the reality of war in the decade of the 1960s.
But, as a writer, I can almost guarantee that that writing will go nowhere. Years of work will go nowhere! Try to deal with established publishing houses and the vast, vast majority of writers won’t see the proverbial light of day. And with the constant buzz of information and misinformation on the Internet, both nonfiction and fiction about critical issues will die a premature death.
I have experienced the same anonymity with my work of nonfiction about my resistance to the Vietnam War, Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2018). Several years ago I appealed to a host of the popular program Democracy Now to interview me about the issues of war and peace and war resistance. I never had the dignity of a reply. Even on the left, those who make decisions about what is heard and what is not would rather have those who have been to war and resisted rather than those who said no at the beginning of the many wars the US fights. When I was a member of the group Veterans for Peace (a group that does nuch excellent antiwar work), the group appealed to its members through what they call an email blitz to try to get some interest to read and review my book at no cost: I did not receive a single offer to read that work. Perhaps it’s similar to what an old friend and neighbor, who also resisted the Vietnam War, said at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001: “Not many will agree with you about resisting this war.” How true!
Despite a blip in antiwar protest in the run-up to the war in Iraq in 2003, most disembarked from the peace train immediately following that resurgence in protest. With Obama, despite an expansion of the war in Afghanistan, most adhered to the rubric of, in neoliberals we trust.
The recent publishing debacle at Truthdig is instructive (“Truthdig staff laid off amid work stoppage,“ Salon, March 28, 2020).
I’m considered a writer on the political left, but that doesn’t matter much as the far right and neoliberalism have been in ascendency since Reagan. Both the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic collapse may change the latter reality in some minor ways, but business as usual will be the way the system operates even if there is a temporary reprieve, with the same old social relationships, and the inability to be heard will continue. Except for the few celebrities on the left, most remain invisible in this society.
It’s similar to protest. Without organizing on a large scale and coordination between groups centered on different issues, the effects of protest will ultimately by nil. The forces of reaction and power in this society shut down The Occupy Wall Street movement because it countered the economic, political, and social predatory capitalist system with a real challenge. Will wealth and power do the same with the worldwide movement against racism and police brutality? By ignoring most writers on the left, the system of top-down relationships of wealth, privilege, and power will dominate all facets of life, including the expression of ideas and calls to action.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.