“How we’re going to do it is through a mass mobilization of working class people at the ballot box. It’s the only way that we’re going to win, defeat the system of which Trump is a symptom. We need to organize a fundamentally positive and welcoming movement, one that is mindful of the ugly histories that led to our present reality, the inequalities, racism, sexism, the imperialist and colonialist histories that contribute to endless wars and the immigration crisis. We need to recognize the principles that will drive us forward. The logic that got us into this mess is not going to get us out of it. We need to build a mass movement centered on working class, poor, middle class people, that is actively anti-racist, rooted in principles of universality, everyone has a right to health care and education, on principles of cooperation, that is participatory. We need to actively center those principles, combat misogyny, anti-queer discrimination. To drive us forward we need a USA that is operated and owned and decided by working and all people, our future is in publicly-owned systems. I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg making decisions over my life. We need to be multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-generational and multi-geographic. We need to come together listening to each other, to our differences, prioritizing understanding them.”
-Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, October 18, 2019, Queens, NY rally announcing her endorsement of Bernie Sanders (beginning at minute 94)
A “welcoming movement.” I like that. And I like the rest of what AOC said at the huge, 25,000 person rally last Saturday in Queens as she explained why she had decided to publicly endorse Bernie Sanders for President.
It is so important that young leaders like AOC are giving leadership not just on the big issues like climate, health care, economic inequality, mass incarceration, immigrant rights and more but are also being very explicit about the necessity of a qualitatively superior movement, a principled mass movement, as compared to what the Left has too often produced in the past.
“Positive.” “Welcoming.” “Participatory.” “Listening.” “Universal.” “Understanding Differences.” From my experience going back to the Vietnam war, the Left’s record on these principles has been decidedly mixed.
One of my favorite quotes is from Rosa Luxemburg, a leader of the European socialist movement in the late 1800’s and first two decades of the 20th century. It is undoubtedly a statement made as a result of many difficult personal experiences with socialist men who had difficulty matching their noble socialist sentiments with the way they lived their lives. Luxemburg wrote: “Unrelenting revolutionary activity, coupled with a boundless humanity—that alone is the real life-giving force of socialism. A world must be overturned, but every tear that has flowed and might have been wiped away is an indictment, and a man hurrying to perform a great deed who steps on even a worm out of unfeeling carelessness commits a crime.”
When Bernie spoke after AOC introduced him, he actually used the word “love” at one point to describe how we should be as we are making social change. He spoke movingly about how all of us need to be committed to change not just for ourselves but for others who are suffering. It was as if he was trying to put into different language Jesus of Nazareth’s words about how we should “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”
There are an awful lot of reasons for hope these days: Trump in big political trouble, Bernie and Elizabeth right up there at the top of the polling for the Democratic nomination, our movement of movements staying active on issues and winning some victories despite all against us. To know that AOC has internalized and is speaking articulately about the qualitatively different mass movement we need to build, and Bernie is picking up on some of that, is so, so hopeful.
I believe that we can win!
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.