What can leftists, by which I mean those who are consciously anticapitalist and progressive, do in the fight against the MAGA movement? I pose this question because much of the Left and many progressives appear to be relatively paralyzed and/or perplexed. Let’s identify several tasks that leftists can immediately address.
Narrative: The Left needs a narrative that responds to the nature of the moment in which we find ourselves. Here are key elements:
The planet is burning! The pyromaniacs (the Right) are attacking the firefighters and pretending there is no inferno.
There is no future for the people of the USA in trying to dominate the world. This becomes a source of eternal war.
Although the economy is temporarily stable, it is not your imagination that conditions for working people are worsening. In fact, they have been worsening since the late 1970s, as wealth has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and jobs have declined, altered, or disappeared.
There is not now, nor ever has been, a “white replacement.” Racism is alive and well, demonstrated every day in differentials in treatment for peoples of color ranging from jobs to healthcare to education to housing to land ownership.
The far Right tries to suppress women—and overturn all their democratic victories—and annihilate trans, gender queer and nonbinary people. These are efforts not to restore morals and values but to suppress democracy.
There is a specter haunting planet Earth, and it is the specter of rightwing authoritarianism, which plays to the fears of billions that everything is unraveling and that the source of the problem is some other people, race, gender, etc., rather than capitalism.
Each of these points need not be contained in every speech. The Right rarely does that. But key elements need to be found in what we say and write. And these points need ultimately to be tied together as a “story.”
Counteroffensive/build the broad front opposing the Right: Appreciating the danger from the far Right is the necessary precondition and it is here where there are significant differences of opinion. Those who have advocated a third- or fourth-party candidate in the 2024 election, for instance, are not engaging in political thinking but, instead, are substituting an ideological predisposition for strategic politics. The danger from a Trump, DeSantis, et. al., administration is not imaginary. Look at the reality in Republican-dominated states! The laws slated to be introduced in Texas are a case in point, e.g., anti-LGBTQ; stripping cities of their ability to introduce progressive legislation (via state preemption); book-banning; gerrymandering; abortion restrictions.
The counteroffensive against the Right must begin with the practical realization of a broad front against the Right. Such a front is unlikely to be an incorporated organization, but rather a collective activity that brings organizations and movements together in sync against the corporate Right and the authoritarian Right. One chief point around which the broad front can be realized is the environmental catastrophe. An additional site is voting and voting rights. And a third could be the attack on women, specifically the attack on a woman’s right to choose. These are weak points for the Right, and the Left needs to lead the counterattack with a particular focus on these areas.
In all these areas, we on the Left must understand our own weaknesses and practice the politics of united-front building. The Left cannot carry out this fight alone. The Left needs to fight for leadership of mass struggles but cannot simply proclaim its right to lead. The masses of the people shall render that verdict.
Advance the alternative: The status quo is unacceptable. That fact can be read on the faces of millions. A defense of the status quo, therefore, is not the leading line for the Left. Yes, we must defend rights and victories won over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries, but these victories are not enough, though for many liberals they were the goal.
To defeat the Right, we must not only out-organize them in response to their current attacks, but we must advance a political practice and vision with the aim of winning what is called “governing power.” Governing power refers to a victory, within the context of constitutional democratic capitalism, for a progressive bloc. It is not the same thing as “state power,” which refers to a fundamental transference of power and an end to the capitalist state. At present, the Left must lead in the fight for governing power with the objective of introducing structural reforms that speak to the immediate needs of the people, reforms such as those addressing the environmental catastrophe, economic redevelopment, agriculture–and summarized by the general platform of consistent democracy.
Introducing alternative politics must not be seen as a sectarian venture. It constitutes the independent practice of the Left within the context of the broad front opposing the Right. We aim to consolidate our growing base around a platform of structural reforms while continuing to engage other allies in the broad front. Through the course of this work, if done in an antisectarian manner, we may break free segments of the liberal/centrist forces to embrace the structural reform project we are heralding.
I offer these thoughts if our aim is to win rather than go down to defeat gloriously proclaiming the validity of our cause.
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