There have been three major periods of radicalization in the U.S. since 1900. During all of them the Left made huge gains. Yes, these periods were followed by reaction and rightwing repression. In fact we’ve just emerged from such a noxious era. The pendulum is starting to move leftward again. The populace increasingly does not support the policies of the neocons or of their elected representatives in D.C. In other words, people are getting radicalized. Good. Let’s be organized and ready as the mainstream comes round to our views.
The first period of radicalization was 1900-1920. The Wobblies organized hundreds of thousands in factories, mines, and lumber camps. Socialism became a serious political force. Eugene Debs opposed the entry of the US into WWI, was jailed for this on bogus charges – then ran for president as a socialist from his prison cell, receiving 5% of the vote.
The 20’s were a capitalistic right wing reaction to this, and when it blew up in their faces causing the Depression, the Left again was in the ascendant. The union strikes and battles of that era led directly to the the 40 hour work week, health and safety regulations, and other such protections for workers. These rights were not freely granted, they were forced by the actions of courageous workers who sometimes risked everything by going on strike. The organizers of these strikes were often communists and socialists, without them we might be working 60-hour weeks instead.
Then there was WWII, followed by the seriously scary repression of McCarthyism. Yet during that era, in 1955, a NAACP organizer named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and the Montgomery bus strike began. That launched the Civil Rights movement, and the Left was on the move again. During the 60’s was the Vietnam War, and the atrocities of that war, the lies and coverups (sounds familiar, eh?) led to huge mobilizations and protests across the country.
I came of age in the 60’s, and was political then too. Having lived through that period of radicalization, it’s clear to me that we are entering another such era. This is not the time for moaning about how the Right is ascendant. They may have been for the past twenty years. But they are no more. Their lies are now apparent to all. The populace opposes their wars, and their support is disintegrating.
The Left is just now coming into ascendance again. Let’s seize the moment.