Monday, April 21, 2008

Christopher Hedges article: "The Left Has Lost Its Nerve and Its Direction"

(title link)

"The failure of the American left is a failure of nerve. It has been neutralized and rendered ineffectual as a political force because of its refusal to hold fast on core issues, from universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans, to the steadfast protection of workers’ rights, to an immediate withdrawal from the failed occupation of Iraq to a fight against a militarized economy that is hollowing the country out from the inside.

Let the politicians compromise. This is their job. It is not ours. If the left wants to regain influence in the nation’s political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the nominee, and back progressive, third-party candidates until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.

Political and social change, as the radical Christian right and the array of corporate-funded neocon think tanks have demonstrated, are created by the building of movements. This is a lesson American progressives have forgotten. The object of a movement is not to achieve political power at any price. It is to create pressure and mobilize citizens around core issues of justice. It is to force politicians and parties to respond to our demands. It is about rewarding, through support and votes, those who champion progressive ideals and punishing those who refuse. And the current Democratic Party, as any worker in a former manufacturing town in Pennsylvania can tell you, has betrayed us.

“The mistake of the former left-wingers, from Tom Hayden to Todd Gitlin, is that they want to be players in the Democratic Party and academia,” said John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s magazine, speaking of two prominent 1960s activists. “This is not what the left is supposed to be. The left is supposed to be outside the system. The attempt by the left to take control of the Democratic Party failed with [Eugene] McCarthy and George McGovern. The left, at that point, should have gone back to organizing, street protests, building labor unions, and the mobilization of grassroots activists. Instead, it went for respectability.”

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