Part of my PhD thesis revolves around the idea that a new Left has as urgent need, not for itself but for us all as a global community, to rethink not only its language but active positioning.
That is visible today especially with the American media machine regurgitating labels such as “ANTIFA” for profits sake.
ANTIFA first and foremost is not a club. It’s a unifying idea that Fascism is not a positive, progressive inclusive idea to make the world a better place, and that its physical implication requires an active resistance. Especially here if you grew up in Germany, the echoes of what our Fascist, Racist past and the subsequent World War and more poignantly, the Holocaust caused, ring loudly and with that an active, physical and intellectual resistance to any shape of Fascism is not a fringe idea, but something almost inherently installed in the majority us, or at least it had been in my generation and those growing out of the ’68 movement.
That has clearly changed, with, on a global scale, the most significant marker of societal change being the aftermath of 9/11. I have recently finished Naomi Kein’s “Shock Doctrine” that deals with the mechanism- political, psychological, economic and environmental, at play behind the rise of the new far right movement that is born out of the Neo-Liberal experiment that has gone so awfully wrong in the past 20 years.
The idea, that I wholly subscribe to, is that moments of shock on a large scale, such as a 9/11 that caused disorientation and fear among large parts of the populace are used to create a new narrative to advance neo-liberal concepts or in my opinion, neo-fascist and hyper aggressive de-regulation of any market, aka theft. An example of this ideology is what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Milton Friedman, the famed economist said,
“Most New Orleans schools are in ruins, as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.”
To further exemplify this agenda it is important to briefly look at Mike Pence, the current Vice President of the United States, during that time. Pence was chairman of the powerful and highly ideological Republican Study Committee (RSC). 15 days after the Hurricane had devastated the city, the RSC convened a fateful meeting at the offices of the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. Under Pence’s leadership, the group came up with a list of “Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices” – 32 pseudo-relief policies in all, each one straight out of the disaster capitalism playbook. Essentially, the list of ideas that was essentially taken up by then President Bush Jr. called for a radical destruction of labour standards and dissemination of public spaces, and most shockingly, make the entire affected area a free-enterprise zone; and “repeal or waive restrictive environmental regulations … that hamper rebuilding.
Right. This actually happened though, and it exemplifies what can and has been done when a community, country or the world is in shock.
As far as I am concerned, we as a tribe, have been in shock, real and manufactured since 9/11 and the steady erosion of privacy, civil rights ( ahem, Patriot Act anyone ), privatization of public industries, an economy that utterly favours the 1% and not the working forces, banking crisis with tax money bail out and no legal repercussions for the culprits, war for profit…and then the Left was surprised a Trump Victory.
A couple of very simple facts in regards to that one: “We” are as much to blame for his victory, the culmination of Fear-Based, Identity- not content based Politics, as “we” did not spend the last 20-30 years building a narrative that explains, leads and builds a better future. The “Right” has every right to build a narrative as they deem fit after all we live in a free world of ideas, hopes and dreams and no longer tangible products, but rather than screaming NO, The Left failed at consequently building an idea, relevant to the 21st Century, and with that strategically implementing a global narrative to convince people from the ground up that a positive, progressive, green, social, fair and inclusive society is worth a conversation at least.
Instead we have ended up in a world where the leader of the free world’s only qualification is inherited wealth. What he and his think tank of financiers is exceptionally good at though is selling the idea of control at a time during which we are all finding how that we have absolutely none, all the while our hard-fought for rights are being stripped away from us.
No is no Longer Enough.
But I am not here to point out the obvious. The hour, indeed calls for optimism. If Trump and the entire global right wing, neo-liberal movement can pull off what they have, so can we. Their network of corporations, media and politics do not have the monopoly of what constitutes a crisis. We also do and let’s be frank, we and our entire structure of existence, is a fast lane to total destruction should we allow the Status Quo to exist for any longer. Do not for one second believe that, with the current direction we are headed on, your job, livelihood, safety will exist in 20 years, not to mention the safety and prosperity of our children, our biggest responsibility of them all.
We are living in perpetual crisis and what is needed is a coherent, thought through strategy to implement a positive, progressive, humanistic and rational narrative of how we as humans can exist. Forget your dogma’s and ideologies of ghosts pasts, by all means, read them, learn from them but clinging on to your little red book and wishing ( key word here, stop smoking weed and get off your ass and do something ) for a benevolent left wing elite hasn’t worked and will not work. As far as the present tense and especially the future is concerned all thought and action needs to lead to a rational, humanistic progressive social ideal.
With that, and seeing that I am first and foremost a Historian, a few tips from the IWW’s 1912 congress: 1. Organize 2. Educate 3. Disrupt 4. Build.