On Contact: The Failings of the American Left (VIDEO)


CHRIS HEDGES discusses with sociologist Charles Derber why a genuine, mass-based American left cannot begin to exist until it begins facing up to the issue of capitalism itself. 


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Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found

In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all. Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report

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4 thoughts on “On Contact: The Failings of the American Left (VIDEO)

  1. An interesting discussion which shows the redundancy of the terms capitalism, leftism and identity politics. Being left nowadays means a propulsion of one’s personal malaise into the social dysfunction, not an idealist desire to drastically change human interactions. That is what technological materialism has brought us and the isolation of the individual in our mechanized environment. Identity politics is what Freud called Civilization and its Discontents, in other words the personal discomfort with what civilizational rules have brought into human relationships. And capitalism, a rather dysfunctional term of what is simply feudalism under a synonym is being used as a determinant of generalized exploitation and bandied about as a radicalizing unifier.

    In fact, fracturing feudalism in its present form is possible by the various identity politics because they undermine the totalitarian character of present-day society. The deliberate chaos and the resulting dysfunction are entirely artificial to keep the status quo intact. However, it only can be fought from a more chaotic and disparate movement which shatters all boundaries of polite and oppressive thought. The greatest problem that mechanization has imposed on Western society in the last century is that of conventional serialization of human endeavor and purpose, as if that would solve any disparity in the grading of power. Humans may be able to solve inequality in status, but they are unable to loosen the bonds of a pyramidal societal structure. Due to the division of labor hierarchies appear spontaneously.

    It is very problematic if the present form of human societies can be adapted to a more egalitarian kind of co-habitation as till now no blueprint has ever been proven to be workable. The schematic plan for socialism will undoubtedly as it has done in Russia result in power differentiations. It is thought that control from above, from an indifferent and fair-minded center would prevent shattering of egalitarian bonds. That is obviously a pipe-dream as centralized power corrupts and slowly an elite would appear. The breaking up of large human conglomerations into smaller self-controlling units in a tribal pattern could be solution, but then the first command would be the reduction of the number of living humans. To salvage nature and provide an un-alienated citizenry the large nation states need to be broken into smaller entities of self-governing communities and capitalism as it is understood will wither away by itself. No large armies of revolutionaries can then impose their will nor regulate a renewed feudalism.

  2. (Are there still really some people who imagine a Putin/Trump partnership, in spite of all we’ve seen?)

    Americans reject the concept of egalitarianism. From the the Great Depression to the Reagan/Clinton era, the country took some measures toward an egalitarian society, implementing a system of just enough aid — along with access to opportunities — that enabled millions to get out of poverty. Restraints — regulations — were put on corporate and financial powers to prevent another Great Depression. Our former welfare programs had achieved (by the 1970s) a success rate of over 80%, providing just enough to enable millions to get a foothold on the proverbial ladder out of poverty. This played a key role in bringing the US to it’s height of wealth and productivity during that brief period from FDR to Reagan. Political/media powers then reframed “opportunities” as “special advantages,” resulting in a mainstream backlash.

    Since the 1990s, in a country that has shut down/shipped out millions of jobs, liberals have called for an “egalitarianism” of the better off alone, shrinking the extreme inequality between the workers and the owners, while essentially just disappearing (what has become) our poverty crisis.

  3. Great discussion by Charles Derber and Chris Hedges of what happened to the left and what the left’s prospects are as we face a dystopian society governed by smiling and grimacing fascists of various stripes.

    Derber’s analysis is very accurate. As a political movement, we, for all intents and purposes, disbanded after the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War and and some splintered into identity politics that often lead nowhere. Hedges and Derber are right: If a person fights against discrimination of one kind or another simply to become a successful part of the larger society then that person is not throwing himself or herself on the gears (Free Speech Movement in Berkeley-Mario Savio) that move the society, but rather is acting as a lubricant for the system that allows for further discrimination, war- making, sexism, etc.

    I’ve gone out again and again to the streets to protest wars from Vietnam to Iraq, to Nicaragua and El Salvador, to Afghanistan… fought against nuclear proliferation and militarism… and the society continues to move farther and farther to the right, ending today with Trump’s ugly right-wing populism.

    The insane level of individualism and greed that are now predominant in this society function against the greatest level of economic and social inequality since the Great Depression. Students who came out in droves for Bernie Sanders are now largely silent… it seems that when the discussion of free college education and student debt went away (to an extent) after the 2016 campaign, that many went home much as what happened following the Vietnam War, although many students took great personal risks against war during the Vietnam era. People also have to lead their lives, and leading a life in this society often means making many compromises that become constricting.

    I’m a writer on the left, and as an aside, even among writers on the left, there’s precious little communication and camaraderie.

    Next Saturday I go out again with the women’s march to protest gender discrimination in all of its many forms, but I don’t think that much will change because we are atomized in this society… “siloed” as Derber says, and the fascism that surrounds us, and has taken up a place around the world somewhat like the 1930s, will continue to grow.

  4. And all of this because the political left has not fulfilled Marx’s requirement that “the proletariat finds its intellectual and spiritual weapons in philosophy.” Maybe that is the unfulfilled precondition. The whole idea that Marx was opening up was that by fulfilling that requirement the political left would then be able to seize the high ground in culture and capture the imagination of the masses. In the absence of this development the way is left for the bourgeoisie to play “god.” It works well for them.

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