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I write this urgent note during a time of multiple and cascading crises: COVID, climate change and broader ecological devastation, the threat of nuclear war, systemic racism, the ongoing rise of violent white supremacist movements, a capitalist economy hellbent on draining every last drop of sweat and blood out of poor and working-class people, and a state apparatus incapable of providing even the most basic needs.
The situation is dire. You know that. I know that. We all know that.
Right now, we don’t have time for bullshit. We don’t have time for narcissists. And we don’t have time for personality or ideologically-driven inter-left battles. We don’t have time for careerists or egos. This isn’t a game. It’s a life or death battle over the future of the planet and our species.
To the degree that any of us have a platform, we should use it to build solidarity, collectivity, and to promote collaboration between various existing left organizations or movements.
As we speak, many different and interesting movements exist in the U.S. In Mississippi, there’s Cooperation Jackson. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) now has over 80,000 dues-paying members. Indigenous activists continue to lead the way in the battle against the fossil fuel extractivism. Black Lives Matter (BLM) energized millions of Americans over the summer in unprecedented fashion. And labor unions, led by teachers and nurses, continue to fight, strike and organize across the country.
Without question, a wide variety of left activism and organizing is taking place in real-time. However, much of our existing efforts remain disorganized, lack coordination, often siloed, and ineffective (insofar as we’re not achieving our stated goals).
I would argue that one of the primary reasons why our movements, organizations, and campaigns remain incapable of “delivering the goods” is due to the vicious nature of inter-left squabbling. As my friend Johnny once put it, “Watching the left is like watching a snake eat its tail.” Wise words from someone who’s attended maybe a dozen left political events in his entire life.
Of course, like any self-identified leftist, I too have been guilty of engaging in various forms of horizontal hostility. After fifteen years of devoting my life to numerous left movements and causes, losing many job opportunities and lovers along the way, I too have allowed my emotions to get the best of me. It’s only natural.
If you’re reading this and you identify as a leftist, you’re probably used to getting your ass kicked. That’s sorta how it goes when you’re fighting the most powerful and violent institutions on the planet. I understand.
But the gravity of our collective challenges offers no excuse for individual transgressions, especially those directed at our comrades on the left. And at this point, under such dire circumstances, it seems clear to me that everyone on the left should adhere to a sort of cease-fire or temporary truce.
You’re an anarchist? Great! Oh, you’re a socialist? Even better! My best friend is a communist. My brother, a liberal. I prefer my ideological margarita made with a little bit of anarchism, mixed with a heavy dose of socialism, a communist ice cube, an indigenous umbrella, an existential lime, and a pinch of liberal salt.
While I genuinely enjoy reading and talking about political ideology/ideologies, I’ve never cared much for dogmatic ideologues, especially the types who parrot dead philosophers in the hopes of sounding intelligent. How boring…
For me, what people do in the real world is all that matters. In other words, when someone tells me they’re a socialist, I usually ask, “What do your socialist politics look like on the ground, for instance, where you live or work?” If they answer with, “Well, I’m not really involved with any groups,” or “I’m a member of a local (fill in the blank sectarian organization) with four other people,” I’m not impressed.
I am, however, quite inspired by those who take action, accomplish stated objectives, and make a significant difference in the material world, in poor and working-class peoples’ day-to-day lives. I’m moved by those who protect pieces of land no one else cares about or species long forgotten by a culture that finds Netflix more interesting than the fate of the planet. Those are the people who motivate me. Many of them don’t identify with any particular ideology. I couldn’t care less. I’m impressed with actions, not words.
In my experience, the least ideological people are often the best activists and organizers. Effective organizers don’t fight for ideas. They fight for living beings, human or otherwise. Most ordinary people (non-self-identified leftists) are much more impressed with the latter, as they should be.
The challenges and enemies we face: climate change, militarism, racism, oligarchy, empire, patriarchy, and the politicians, bureaucrats, corporate elites, religious reactionaries, and white supremacists who uphold those institutions and systems of oppression — will only be defeated if we can muster our collective will, energy, resources, and humility, band together, and mount a fight the likes of which no one has ever seen.
Victory is possible, but not probable if we maintain our current, often hostile, posture toward our friends and comrades on the left. To the degree that I’ve contributed to such behavior, I offer my sincerest apologies. No one has time for personal disputes or petty political battles. None of that matters at this stage in the game. We’re in for the fight of our lives.
In the end, I believe we can win. Frankly, winning is our only option. Either poor and working-class Americans will democratically transform or replace the existing institutions in this country, or the ruling class will cook the planet (or launch a nuclear war) and kill us all. It’s that simple.
For me, solidarity is a no-brainer. Leftists serious about defeating the right-wing elements that remain firmly entrenched in American culture and society should put aside our differences, no matter how long-standing, and commit to the collective struggle against racism, militarism, oligarchy, and climate catastrophe.
Now is the time for unity, not Joe Biden’s faux unity with the very right-wing elements who seek to destroy our movements, but inter-left unity. If radicals can’t band together under current circumstances, to be honest, there’s not much hope for left politics in the United States.
I, however, believe we’re capable of (even momentarily) putting aside our minor differences and focusing on common enemies: namely, the institutions and people who are destroying our lives and the planet. Every ounce of our frustration, anger, resentment, sadness, and pain should be directed at them, not our comrades.
So, no more YouTube fights. No more social media call-outs. No more op-eds trashing each other. Enough is enough. Let bygones be bygones. Grow up. Toughen up. Apologize. Turn the other cheek. Do whatever you gotta do because we need all hands on deck. Survival is all that matters. And to survive, we must win. And to win, we must act in solidarity. The clock is ticking.