“You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry…. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism…. There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism”. ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Frogmore, South Carolina. November 14, 1966. Speech in front of his staff.
Experiencing the Republican strategy for 2012 is a bit like walking into a greed circus only to be jumped and pummeled repeatedly by a juice-head clown. The whole show seems so silly at first, absurd in its construct. The setting is almost laughable, and yet there are those very dolled up, violent, unremitting and somewhat surprising fists. Freakshow, or no freakshow, the beating is real and the clowns on the Right won’t stop til they’ve had their way.
The two-fisted right-wing war on the working and middle-class has arrived and only wave after wave of Broad Left coalitions can truly stem the tide of fully corporatized America.
And there are in fact, two distinct fists to the right-wing strategy of 2012: a strategic carbon copy of many previous divide and conquer strategies, only intensified and re-outfitted to fit the political age and the new profit cravings for the commons.
On the one hand, or fist more appropriately, boy oh boy is there a culture war this year. It’s not just coming. It’s here. If you’re a power-minority in America prepare to be demonized and dominated by the corporateers (corporate + bucaneers). Women, poor people, minorities, student, workers, immigrants, activists, the elderly. They’re beating protesters from New York to Oakland. They’re forcing wands into women who want to exercise choice over their body. They’re calling women who use the pill “sluts” and demanding they publicly post videos of themselves engaged in sexual activity. They’re trying to disenfranchise at least an estimated 5 million already disempowered American citizens. They seem real keen on justifying the murder of unarmed black males this year. They’re looking to cast the poor as drug abusers by mandating drug tests for receiving public aid (which in the case of Florida governor Rick Scott and lawmakers in Georgia, they themselves won’t take). So that’s the first fist, the divisiveness. The opening salvo: the one in the one-two combo.
The second fist these clowns are beating us down with is the full-frontal corporate siege on those human-need functions we currently operate through the government. A short list for 2012 Republican priorities includes: wanting to privatize the post office, which connects millions of Americans, wanting to privatize education, which again serves millions of Americans on a basic human level, and of course their multi-tiered battle to defend their privatization of health care, perhaps the most human of functions. This is the second fist: trapping essentially human functions and extorting profit out of them. After all, a “would-like” and “must-have” customer are two very different things. The power-punch, the two in the one-two combo, essentially looks to corporatize community functions.
Step one, fracture feelings of shared interest in communities, demonize them to each other and leave them stunned by direct attack on personal rights.
Step two, while the community is fractured and distracted, steal their community goodies.
If we can counter that first step, the fractioning, we might be surprised by how well we counter the second.
That first “counter,” in this author’s humble opinion, needs to be coalition after coalition of the Broad-Left.
Perhaps it’d be helpful for me to share my own, perhaps imperfect, view of the Broad-Left here. The Broad in Broad-Left is meant to indicate a habitual search for solidarity and permanent outreach to anyone who could be served by our politics. The Broad-Left is meant as engagement, not competition, between natural socio-economic and political allies within the 99%.
- The Left generally believes in economic and socio-political democracy. This fusion defines the modern left. Is there egalitarianism in the equations? Yes, as the result of both the struggle (the method, the process) and accomplishment of both democracies.
- Thus we leftists believe in things like unions. Through them, we have a say, finally, in how all of that labor we chip in gets used, and how the profits from it are divvied up. That’s a form of economic democracy. We also believe in worker run and owned co-operatives. In fact, thanks to a new deal (if you’ll excuse the choice words) between the worker run cooperatives of Mandragon and United Steel Workers, worker co-ops will be making a resurgence in America.
- Whether through the tax pool or community-raised capital, almost everyone on the left believe in improving the lives of people in a sustainable way, both for them and their environmental and human communities. This ensures economic democracy and in turn socio-political democracy. Starving, uneducated people react very different to politics than an educated active democracy.
- We Leftists also believe in social justice. This is elemental to both political democracy and economic democracy. Social Justice, sticking up for the rights of people who aren’t us, is at the heart of building the trust-bonds that stew up into powerful solidarity later on. Culturally they also connect the humanity of other people’s struggle to our own, building bonds towards a democratic, justice-based future. Social Justice is still deeper at the heart of political democracy because without equal protection of personal rights, ensuring power-minorities are not abused for attempting to improve their lot, the democracy loses out on the depth and creativity of input of the public debate.
- In terms of economic say, a bullied and powerless minority soon becomes an exploited one. If the power-minority cannot be represented fairly then there is no actual democracy. So the Left believe democracy itself must be a democracy of function, serving all of the demos (the people) that lend both lucre and legitimacy to its existence.
Now it’s absolutely true we can have big drawn out discussions about the many ways the above is an imperfect description of Broad Leftist ideals. We can also get into very important and productive discussions about strategy and tactics for achieving these goals in the future. More importantly, though, we should note that those two elements (economic and socio-political democracy bonded together in the habitual, never-ending struggle for a fairer world, social justice) are at the heart of the Left.
Seeing these elements in each others’ struggle will show us how much both our oppression and eventual liberation are connected to the amount of solidarity we can muster up for our fellow human being. If you want other people to stand up for you when you’re being bullied, and you will be the power-minority at some point, you need to stand up for other people who are being bullied.
For intra-Leftist politics this means criticizing through engagement, not through dialogue-bullying. This means habitually seeking areas for solidarity, not just waiting for them to happen by accident. Democracy, after all, is far more than just voting.
For intra-Leftist politics this means pulling our elbows out of each others’ ribs in the smaller fights. Whatever the “pinko-traitor third-party voting socialists” and the “over-idealistic anarchists” think of the “party-toting Obama-bots” and vice versa, in a less angry moment it might be helpful to find those essentially Leftist shared beliefs where we can work together. It’s going to be a long hard slog to educating and helping each other towards fairer, more democratic, more humane ways of living. Perhaps we could benefit a great deal from each others’ experience and strength if we can pull out some of the venom from intra-Leftist conversation. There’s generations and generations of fight ahead of us before we build that fairer world together. We should give each other a little more elbow room in the struggle while remembering it’s quite a long trench we’re sharing–and we’re in it together.
Broad-Left coalitions have happened before. They’re happening now, sparking beautifully in powerful moments–and by lord is it inspiring. What if we made this intra-struggle solidarity a habit–a democratic muscle memory? Remember when the Trayvon Martin march that stopped traffic in three different parts of New York City for hours was joined by many elements of both Occupy Wall Street and New York-based peace movements? See the power of our protest when it’s not just women standing up against Rush Limbaugh or Komen? Remember when they were going to evict Occupy Wall Street but the unions (as well as several grandmother solidarity groups) showed up in solidarity to prevent it? Remember when the union workers and the college students shut-down parts of Wisconsin–just last year–only to be joined by a line of farmers arriving in a “Tractorcade”? Remember when New York social-justice clergy and anarchists got cop-tackled side by side for using public land for public assembly during Re-occupy? These are immensely powerful sparks.
This solidarity, sticking by each other in the toughest of times, reveals our fellow freedom-fighters for what they are: quintessentially human. You’re suffering is my suffering. My suffering is yours. It is indeed all one big struggle.
This philosophy, turned to habit, is a powerful human force that tends to liberate vast swathes of modern populations. This is why, despite the clown show of ridiculous politics on the front, the right persists in its two-fisted war. The first shot is the divisiveness, repeated jabs to break us apart. The second punch is colonizing those areas all those groups share together, the commons. Put inversely, to colonize our commons, they must first make sure we don’t notice how much we have in common.
In a participatory democracy where we stand up for others habitually we’ll find that we’ll have many strong allies on our side when the corporateers and the power-goons come looking to exploit or dominate us. The corporateers recognize our strength-in-solidarity. They are threatened by it. We should recognize this potential strength as well.
It is all one struggle.
One big human struggle. The more we see unity of our various struggles, the more likely we are to resist when they attack our shared resources. Whether that’s our post office, our school, our highways or, more abstractly, our future. Leftists have a democratic duty to themselves and their communities to serve others. The defense-of-others is often at the heart of the action towards those democracies we seek. When we protect and serve each other, and encourage such communities, we find that we’re never alone when it comes time to defend our own selves. And when they come for those things we all share… well, we might find we can do some pretty amazing things without the drain of the 1% after all.
But since we’ve walked this far, let’s walk one more leftist hypothetical with me. Let’s say I’m the kind of leftist that believes that in many ways this “bully-and-money empire” is in fact dependent and propped up on the very bigotry and social abuses it wantonly disperses on the bottom sectors of society. For the sake of this hypothetical, let’s imagine it does actually help the 1% to abuse the 99% in a repetitive, fractional fashion? If those divisions are the actual stabilizing anchor the empire needs to keep itself from over-turning, what would happen to that empire if we took away its divisive strength?