The problems on the Left

antiwar protest. White House

From Zmag, talking about how the major presidential candidates represent pro-war positions.

Where does this leave those of us who still see the occupation of Iraq as empire’s most vulnerable point—a key part in the puzzle to build a more just and sustainable world for future generations?

While I understand what they mean, that a collapse of the US war effort could mean an end to the occupation and maybe even US imperialism, it also implies that a) something seriously bad needs to happen before the Left can become ascendant and b) it cedes initiative and waits for the Bad Event to happen. You see this attitude in the global warming movement too, waiting for calamity to strike, so then people will understand and act.

When the US war effort falls apart in Iraq (and it will), the result rather than being a Glorious Victory for the people is more likely to be a bloodbath followed by lawlessness that will destabilize the area. The Left needs a coherent strategy and position for when the war ends. Right now it doesn’t have one, except for saying that it is morally correct.

Part of this phenomenon is that certain segments within the left are still convinced that, as Mao famously said, “the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.”

Mao couldn’t have been more wrong, but that’s what you get when true believers become convinced of their inerrancy. But people will not magically convert to your cause simply because you believe it to be true.

Another problem, especially in the antiwar movement, is looking back to the 60’s and expecting the same tactics to work again. If the populace is increasingly antiwar yet antiwar protests are getting smaller, then new tactics are needed. 60’s antiwar organizers pulled off protests that were at least as large as any during the Iraq War, and did so without the Internet and cell phones. So, given modern technology, the protests should be bigger now. But they aren’t. So maybe mass protests simply aren’t as effective now, given a 21st century where information flows effortlessly across the planet and counter-attacks happen almost instantaneously.

On the far left there’s what I call WWLD. When confronted with a quandry, some leftists will retreat into Marxist texts to determine What Would Lenin Do. This can result in deeply exciting and ferocious arguments (How many Marxists can dance on the head of a pin) but too often not much real action outside of the little group of squabbling comrades.

The Right packages their story well, stick with us, they say, and you’ll prosper. It matters not if it’s true, only that many believe it. The Left needs a story like that too. Something optimistic, something that will convince people to join because they want to, because they like the message.