Monday, March 14, 2011

What’s left of the American left?

There’s no denying its historic decline, but the left does not lack for issues. It needs only organisation

Richard Wolff, The Guardian, March 13, 2011

Wisconsin protest 26 February 2011 Governor Scott Walker
An estimated 100,000 people gathered at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday 26 February 2011 to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill that would remove collective bargaining rights from public employees. Photograph: AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart

“In contradiction” best describes the American left today. On the one hand, it is fragmented and dispirited, feeling itself distant from the tumble of daily US politics and acutely disgusted by its many-layered corruptions. It hardly knows itself as a part of society, so deep runs its alienation. After all, leftists, too, are affected by the mass media’s wishful pretence that the American left has simply disappeared and the extreme right’s paranoid caricatures that recycle 1950s McCarthyism.

And yet, the US left is actually quite strong and getting stronger by the minute. Very many young people find far more meaning in the left social criticisms of Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert than they do in the stale Republican or Democratic activities that those popular comedians mock. The devotees of much current popular music want and respond to lyrics rich with social criticism. The assaults of the right in the US on access to abortion, on civil rights and civil liberties, on the separation of church and state, and on immigrants, are less and less suffered in silent resentment and increasingly opposed by a revived left criticism and activism. From the mass mobilisations of immigrants to the outpouring of support for the embattled public employees in Wisconsin to the gatherings of support for Planned Parenthood, the US left’s size, depth and diversity are evident.

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