What’s a Left Wing to Do?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

There’s a country in the western hemisphere where election laws are being made more restrictive and the loser of the last presidential election(and previous ruler) is openly conspiring to overthrow the man he lost to. That same individual is under investigation for numerous crimes and hundreds of his supporters have been charged for their actions during a violent attempt to take over the legislative building and steal the election certifications. The former ruler continues to deny his loss, claiming a ballot theft of millions of votes. More surprisingly, he has yet to be charged for any single crime. His supporters, which include a major media outlet, repeat his attacks on the prosecutors and others working to indict him and his cronies.

This same country has never sustained a very large Left movement. That movement has been effective on occasion, but those historical moments are rare. This has become even truer in the last thirty-forty years as the more liberal-leaning political party moved further and further right. In large part, this move to the right is the result of economic changes popularly known as neoliberalism. A more accurate description of these economics would be neoliberal capitalism. Its essence is the commodification and privatization of everything, even drinking water. The hoarding of wealth is accompanied by a hatred of those who work for a living and an even greater hatred of those without work or money. Selfishness has been redefined as freedom and the most selfish reject any sense of obligation to the rest of humanity. False consciousness among many of those exploited by this economy is the order of the day—all too many working people support the very humans who spit on their lives. The aforementioned Left shakes their fists and rants on corporate-owned internet platforms designed to cull data and sell it to other corporate entities.

Even on those occasions when the Left moves beyond its frustrated hand-wringing and brings protesters into the streets, the lack of coherent organization combined with a brutal police state means the protesters demands usually dissipate into the air. In response, the right pushes through harsher laws against protest while the liberals mouth platitudes that change nothing. Left-leaning politicians are ignored or shuffled off to speak for the liberal parties, re-directing their supporters to another ineffective attempt at change.

When it comes to other nations, however, there are many in the US Left all too willing to criticize. The authoritarianism of the Chinese government? There are volumes of words from various Left individuals and groups calling out Xi JinPing and his policies. The repression of individuals opposed to the government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua? There are letters all over the internet criticizing those oversteps. The attempts by President Maduro of Venezuela to keep his country free from US-funded and facilitated subversion? That too is a favorite whipping boy of many on the US Left. The harsh repression of Syrian protests and the subsequent rebellion and civil war? Many on the US Left are quick to go after Syria’s President Assad while simultaneously downplaying any connection between the decades-long US intervention (including the present occupation of parts of Syria by US forces and its support of socially reactionary forces tied to even more reactionary kingdoms in the Middle East) and the situation in that country.

It is not my intention to downplay the importance of any of the aforementioned situations. However, I cannot in good conscience pretend that they exist in a vacuum particular to their own land mass and people. Nor am I willing to jump on a bandwagon ultimately powered by the US propaganda machine whose goal is Washington’s total domination. While I understand that we on the Left are internationalists, it seems that attacking the same governments that Washington is attacking is more than just accepting Washington’s perception of the world. It is unintentionally assisting Washington in its endeavor to achieve what it calls full spectrum dominance.

Let me state this more clearly. There are no “humanitarian” interventions by the US military or its proxies that the US Left should support. In fact, any such interventions should be loudly opposed. History has proven too many times to count that US military forces are not a humanitarian agency. Nor should the US Left support sanctions against nations it may have issues with. The effect of sanctions on the populations of countries where they are enforced is devastating. They are an act of war. Nations like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba that have been in the cross-hairs of Washington for years, if not decades, deserve our critical support. It is questionable whether re-purposing the critiques of the US State Department regarding corruption and human rights in those nations serves the socialist intentions of those nations or the imperial intentions of Washington. This is especially true when one acknowledges the past and current subversion of those governments by various US agencies.

First and foremost, the US left must recognize that its home—the United States—is the number one enemy of the bulk of the world’s population. It is the only nation that has military forces in hundreds of nations around the globe. It is the only nation who’s military has killed hundreds of thousands of people since the century began. Its economic power—although threatened on occasion—remains one of, if not the, dominant economies in the world. It is the sole super-imperialist nation. That statement does not deny the current reality that other nations are extending their economic tentacles into other parts of the world; it does remind us that US imperialist power is exponentially greater than all other potential imperialist powers. The potential of imperial rivalry does loom in the distance. However, it is US imperialism’s determination to allow no challenge to its supremacy no matter how minor that is raising the threat of war, not the export of Chinese goods and technicians to countries in Africa or the presence of Russian forces in Syria. Washington’s bipartisan rejection of economic and political cooperation in favor of increasing competition is our greatest threat.

The task of the US Left is here at home. If we can build a broad and popular movement that understands the US as the dominant imperial power without equivalent and that our job is to defeat Washington’s imperial drive for world domination, the world would breathe easier. Without sanctions, people in Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and other nations under sanctions could live their lives. Those in power could not use US meddling as a reason to consolidate their power so easily. Without US troops based around the world, the US military budget could be greatly decreased and US residents could see their infrastructure rebuilt and enjoy universal and inexpensive health care. If Washington’s imperial drive was defeated, China would be less likely to see Washington as a rival it must prepare to fight.

This is not an easy task, but it is the only way the majority of the people on this planet might survive.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com