Why is the left so comatose here?

Sherlock in the comments to our post On the protests in Europe and the lack of them here

You don’t get why there are no leftist movements in the U.S.? It’s because ever since Reagan poisoned the American working-class, rugged individualism, not revolution, has been the tune everyone sings. Students represent the best chance at organization, but have a long history of apoliticism and apathy, at least in the U.S. The fact is that there can’t be a real working-class movement as long as the rural poor continue to side with Republicans.

The far-left will continue to be ostracized by moderate liberals and the political right until we break through the rhetoric which has convinced the lower class that capitalism will be their salvation, not bring about their destruction.

Oh, I get it just fine.

Read Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant. He talks about precisely that. The rural poor were solidly Democratic until the Democratic Party deliberately ignored them starting in about the 70’s. Now the Dems virtually spit in their faces – then wonder why the rural poor is hostile. The Republicans weren’t so stupid, they made friends with them. Hell, some of the grandfathers of coal miners today fought pitched battles against management goons during strikes. But the Dems in their ceaseless ‘move to the center’ have destroyed much of that base and are now rudderless with no core beliefs.

The far left shares plenty of blame too. Too often they insist on couching everything in Marxist terms which a) takes way too long to explain in the States and b) is generally greeted almost universally with suspicion. They do a fine job of marginalizing themselves. Also, much of the time, they are primarily interested in recruiting for their little micro-cult and don’t really care much about the broader issues their front group is supposedly about. And yes, I have been there.

I agree with Alinsky, the best way to win is by organizing the middle class. The working class here doesn’t have the power, the middle class does. Saying the fightback must come from the working class is just bedraggled, irrelevant Marxism, trying to force the facts to fit a preconceived hypothesis. But then, ideologues rarely let reality intrude into their dogmatic view of the world. Also, the almost complete failure of the Marxist left in the US to do anything coherent about the current economic crisis (when they mobilized just fine against the Iraq War) makes me wonder if they’ve just been play-acting all along and also if they’ve been infiltrated and compromised so severely that they’ve been rendered useless. The CP-US in the 50’s and the anti-war movement of the 60’s had large numbers of informers in it, so this is hardly just paranoia or speculation.

But, whatever the cause, the far Left in the US has showed themselves to be almost completely useless in the current economic bad times. The fightback instead is coming from populist-inspired protests like Karl Denninger’s faction of the Tea Party (he started it in opposition to bailing out the banksters) and from libertarians.

The task for 2011 is bringing the left alive again, and this can only happen when the left makes itself relevant again. Because now it mostly isn’t.


  • “The rural poor were solidly Democratic until the Democratic Party deliberately ignored them starting in about the 70′s.”

    It’s a bit oversimplified. What else happened around that time? The SOUTHERN STRATEGY.

    • True enough, but the Democrats didn’t exactly distinguish themselves by fighting back against it. Maybe that was the beginning of their capitulation

  • DJ

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. So long as the answer is centralized, the answer is the problem. Concentration of power is counterproductive, regardless of what the system is or who wields it.

    In contrast, when you look at the systems that actually do empower each individual, as Marx envisioned as the intended outcome, they start at the community level not the national level. Buildings are built from the foundation up, not from the roof down.

    Rugged individualism is one half of the equation that makes us Americans who we are. The other half is interdependence– the barn raising, public education, the volunteer fire department. If those ideals are outdated where you live, I am sorry. That is the true foundation of our strength. Yet both Democrats and Republicans, each in their own way, have chipped away at that ideal either in favor of federal intervention or selfish greed. Hmm, is there any benefit to the central government weakening our communities? There is for them.

    While movements in the rest of the world are reemphasizing community values, we’re still trying to figure out who the proletariat is so it can overthrow — um, what again?

    Out here where the other half lives, it’s different. When my home flooded, it was my neighbors who sandbagged, not the feds. When I need an ambulance, it’s my neighbor (a volunteer) driving it, and if my house catches fire it’s my neighbors who will come to put the fire out. Or not. There is no life here without community. And that empowers each and every one of us, who get to live in rugged individualism if and only if we support and are supported by our community.

    Funny how all those supposed rugged individualists in Washington rely on federally-funded health insurance, bank insurance, bailouts, tax breaks, credits, refunds– all paid for with our money. THEY are the royalty. WE are the serfs. Concentration of power is the enemy. Community is the answer. Or vice versa if you happen to be one of “them.”

    • But at some point the communities need to morph into real political power if we want to change things.

      • DJ

        Given a serious community movement, they DO morph into real political power. The 2002 Cease-Fire in Sri Lanka would not have been possible without the political will of the communities– both political parties opposed it.

        Which explains why it’s no accident that neither U.S. party wants our communities empowered. We might interfere with their agenda!

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