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We Are The 99% event

USuncutMN supports #occupyWallStreet, #occupyDC, the XL Pipeline resistance Yes, We, the People, are going to put democracy in all its forms up front and center. Open mic, diversity, nonviolent tactics .. Social media, economic democracy, repeal Citizen's United, single-payer healthcare, State Bank, Operation Feed the Homeless, anti-racism, homophobia, sexISM, war budgetting, lack of transparency, et al. Once we identify who we are and what we've lost, We can move forward.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do It Now Dossier: Richard Kline: Progressively Losing

This is to my mind, the MOST important discussion true progressives could be having right now.

I suggest thoughtful people read this thoroughly, digest it with the comments and the POST your own observations and thoughts.  Don't let your feelings be a hindrance!  GO FOR IT! - Virginia

Richard Kline: Progressively Losing

By Richard Kline, a Seattle-based polymath and poet
Those anywhere to the liberal side of the Anglo-American political spectrum have been on a long losing streak. As of this summer of 2011, they are wholly in disarray. In my considered view, ‘progressives’ lose because they do not have it as a goal to win. Their principal concern is to criticize the moral failings of others in society, particularly the moral failings of those in power.
At best, progressives seek to convert. In the main, they name and shame—ineffectively. American ‘progressives’ distrust political power, period, are queasy about anyone having it, and suspicious toward anyone who actively seeks it, including other putative progressives. The contest as progressives conceive it is fundamentally a moral one: they believe they are right, and want their opposition to see the light and reform/conform. Thus, they don’t frame what they engage in as a fight but rather as a debate.
There has been another and more radical trend on the left-liberal end of the spectrum previously. That trend derived from radicalized, Continental European, immigrants, it sourced much of labor activism, and is largely extinct in America as of this date. It is the atrophy of this latter muscle in particular which has rendered progressive finger-wagging impotent.
One can’t fully analyze the state of specifically American left-liberals without evaluating the positions of the domestic economic oligarchy, which are primarily conservative, or left-radical activism internationally. What follows is necessarily truncated yet also the heart of the matter. I’ll start first by defining a few terms.
I would loosely divide the left side of the political spectrum in America into liberals, ‘progressives,’ and radicals. The first two have deep roots in the primary sociological communities of the country; the third did not. Progressives and radicals have largely been distinct communities of activism. I’ll discuss both in some detail below. (Actually, the range is not a spectrum but a three- or four-dimensional position space, but that is a separate issue. I happen to particularly dislike the term ‘progressive,’ but I’ll skip my reasons and use it for the sake of clarity.)
Liberals are great believers in ‘the law,’ and happy enough to live and let live until they are in a pinch or have to give up something for the greater good—at which point they scream for a cop or start in on how ‘we’ can’t afford X. Liberalism isn’t primarily a moral position but a practical attachment to personal liberty and property. If one abandons that allowance for others, one is soon threatened as well since power unchecked makes few fine distinctions, so it’s a ‘hang together and don’t rock the boat’ perspective rather than one of commitment. I’m not going to spend verbiage here discussing this community because they go with the flow rather than push any program. As such, they shape little in the way of policy. The principal asset to left activism provided by liberals is their inertia, since the American political tradition is a significantly liberal one, and American governmental institutions are substantially so on paper. Fascism and oligarchy are pushing on a mountain of lard in trying to shift liberal inertia, with limited success. The only way really to move the ‘liberal muddle’ is to set fire to its peripheries. The good news is that liberals don’t want to change what they have, and clutch for ‘the government and experts’ to save them if things go sour. (Although that’s also the bad news . . . .)
Secondly, let’s dispense with several basic misconceptions regarding why progressives are presently so unsuccessful.
“Progressive goals are not popular.” Even with the systematically distorted polling data of the present, this is demonstrably untrue. Inexpensive health care, progressive taxation, educational scholarship funding, curtailment of foreign wars, environmental protection among others never fail to command majority support. It is difficult to think of a major progressive policy which commands less than a plurality. This situation is one reason for the lazy reliance upon electioneering by progressives, they know that their issues are popular, in principle at least. Rather childishly, they just want a show of hands then, as if that is what goes on really in elections.
“The ‘Right’ is too strong.” The oligarchy specifically and the Right in general are far less strong in American society apart from what their noise machines and bankroll flashing would make one think. The great bulk of the judiciary remains independent even if important higher appellate positions are tainted. Domestic policing is, by tradition and design, highly decentralized, with a good deal of local control, making overt police state actions difficult, visible, and highly unpopular (think TSA). While the military is a socially conservative society in itself, it is also an exceptionally depoliticized one, with civilian control an infrangible value. Popular voter commitment to the nominally more conservative political party has never been narrower or more fragile.
The rightist oligarchy does have a stranglehold on the major media, despite which accurate, uncensored, news is widely and readily available to anyone who wants to hear it. The other principle advantage of conservatives is that they are highly organized. Consider how the oligarchy effectively took over the ‘Tea Potter’ lunatic fringe in no time, and still presently stage manages it behind the curtain, or how they are paying some outfit(s) to constantly monitor and surreptitiously disrupt liberal to progressive blog-spaces. The powers of the Right are broad but thin and brittle, like a coat of lacquer on everything. Any organized citizen resistance would shatter that surface grip without great difficulty.
Part of the genius of the Right is that they presently operate through puppets, like Scott Walker or Chris Christie, or even Clarence Thomas, rather than attempt to assume direct power. Individual puppets can be kicked out, but they can always buy/indoctrinate another set of quislings because the supply of wannabes is endless. But that is a weakness, too, in that without such a puppet quisling in the right place at the right time (think Tim Geithner) the Right has no grip on key levers of power. The larger point here is that the mass of institutional governance in the US remains wholly separate from conservative control, and is not notably committed to conservative goals.
“America is a conservative society.” That is demonstrably untrue on any historical analysis. Like the other points here, it is a meme invented and spread by the right wing itself. There are three grains of truth in the contention, however.
More than some West European derived socio-cultures, there is an initial value placed in Christian profession; not faith, profession, and not an enduring one either. I won’t argue this in detail, as it takes a text, but the profession of a higher cause is the personal entry point to belonging in the society distinct from a more discrete paradigm of ethnicity. This makes the society seem from the outside more Christian, and hence ‘conservative,’ than it is in fact. This has for the majority become the ‘civil religion’ of Bellah, but is in effect a secularized form of Christian pilgrimism; one must profess to belong.
Second, there are specific communities in American culture which are deeply conservative, notably most rural whites. Their society is in fact distinct from the culture of the county as a whole, something they understand but that the majority chooses not to. (This concept is argued, if slightly differently, by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed, an analysis I endorse and would extend.) The point being that their society in America is conservative, but American society as a whole is liberal if one does a sociological analysis.
Third, American society is not radical because it is deeply suspicious of ‘combinations,’ cabals, cliques, or factions who combine to advance their own interests as distinct from the broader public interest. There are deep socio-historical roots for this antipathy to faction, but they are real. One consequence of this, though, is that American society as a whole has generally been hostile to organized labor as a ‘special interest.’ American society also has a bedrock attachment to personal property and personal liberty—essential liberal values, one might add, not conservative ones—which impede any advocacy of leveling or uniformitariansim; i.e. liberty always trumps equality. The flip side here, though, is that Americans are just as suspicious of ‘sections,’ ‘trusts,’ ‘banksters,’ and oligarchs if they see them as an organized, self-interested force. This distrust is not a conservative preference. These are further points I won’t develop, but the in aggregate they make society seem ‘more conservative’ since radical goals are shied away from.
Who’ll Carry the Can?
Anglo-American ‘progressivism’ has its origins in Non-Conformist religious reform communities. These date to Lollard times in England c. 1400, before the US was settled, and always had a significant social reformist element beyond within a professed Christian carapace, as it were. Literacy, education, personal liberty, and economic liberalism are all embedded in this worldview, formed as it was between the contesting pressures of a rapacious, French-speaking aristocracy and a crypto-absolutist monarchy with scant regard for the rule of law, while a venal and irreligious church hierarchy provided no relief. England from c. 1350-1500 was a place of intense factions and irruptions of civil war, leaving a distaste for power-seekers and military rebellion. Few of them were rich; it was a proto-bourgeois and petite bourgeois community, but with religious congregants in the lesser nobility giving them communication with power. The suffered erratic but at times severe religious persecution prior to c. 1600, and political disenfranchisement even after that, which much shaped their negative view of state power. There is much more to this subject, which demands a text no one has yet written. This is a social tradition are both fairly well-defined and quite longstanding.
The first key point is that the tradition of progressive dissent is integrally a religious one. The goal isn’t usually power but ‘truth;’ that those in the right stand up for what is right, and those in the wrong repent. The City on the Hill and all that, but that is the intrinsic value. This is a tradition of ideas, many of them good, many of them implemented—by others, a point to which I’ll return. Coming forward to a recent and then present American context, consider these policies, all of which still hold for most who would define themselves as progressive:
Anti-colonialismAnti-militarismAbolitionUniversal, secular educationEnd to child laborUniversal suffrageFemale legal equalityConsumer protectionsCivil rights
Consider as well notable progressives who have held executive or even power positions in national governance. I struggle to name one. Progressives largely worked in voluntary organizations and reform societies outside of the notoriously corrupt political parties of America. (It is interesting and relevant to note that as a society we recapitulate that endemic historical venality once again c. 2011.)
A most relevant point is that these are value-driven policies. Notably absent are economic policies. I wouldn’t say that progressives are disinterested in economic well-being, but employment and money are never what has driven them. A right-living society, self-improvement, and justice: these are progressive goals. Recall again that many of them were already bourgeois; that most of historical notice had significant education; that their organizational backbone was women of such background. These conditions apply as much now as ever. Some progressives, many of them women, were radicalized by their experience of social work among the abused poor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Consider Beatrice Potter Webb or Upton Sinclair. Some progressives will fight if backed into a corner; many won’t even then, as there is a strong value placed on pacifism in this socio-community. Think John Woolman and Dorothy Day.
Reviewing the summary above, it will be evident that progressives are ill-equipped by objective and inclination both to succeed in bare-knuckle political strife. One could say unflatteringly that the goal of ‘progressives’ in activism is to raise their personal karma by standing up for what is right. “Sinners repent,” is the substance of their message, and their best dream would be to have those in the wrong do just that, to embrace progressive issues and implement them. More cynically, one wonders whether progressives would be entirely pleased if all of their reforms were implemented, leaving nothing to inveigh against.
Progressives are at their best educating, advocating, and validating those in need well apart from the fray. There are few cases that readily come to mind where progressives have implemented any contested policy on their own initiative without others of different goals involved. Somebody else has to carry the can for their water to get drawn. Without going into examples, that is my opinion, and a conclusion I’ll return to on a different vector below. What progressives do best is to deny and eventually withdraw community sanction for specific practices, so that those practices are eroded and then banned by governing authorities. Where communities are deeply divided and such practices have tenacious constituencies, progressives have few answers and no success.
The origins of Anglo-American radicalism are far less tidy to summarize. To me, it’s an open question whether a native tradition of radicalism even exists. I’ll posit a view, by itself debatable though to me accurate, that radicalism is a secularized derivative of millenarian religious revolt, but modify that contention in saying that ‘bread and justice’ were ever the drivers of such fervor. Religious ‘fairness and community’ were simply the only means long accessible for poor or oppressed communities to intellectually package their dissent and demands. ‘Poor or oppressed communities’: these are the fuel for radicalism, and one finds them far more in Continental Europe than in England. Serfdom was far more advanced there than it ever was in Medieval Britain or Scandinavia (for complex local reasons). Furthermore, social and economic radicalism often only catalyzed in the presence of communal cum national revolts against subjugation.
Howsoever, it is difficult to argue for a radical activist community in the US before extensive non-Anglo immigration. Radicalism certainly hasn’t been limited to industrial or even urban contexts, but then neither has immigration. American mining drew heavily upon experience European mining communities, many of whom who brought radical ideas with them, for instance. Even if one considers civil rights agitation intrinsically radical, the same conclusion holds, for blacks, Catholics, and Jews were by definition non-indigenous to a Protestant British colonial community. I’ve been all through Foner’s work on the growth of American labor, and read a deal else, and while I wouldn’t say it is his conclusion I’m struck by how late and how separate labor demands were in their inception in American left-liberal activism.
The key point is that the tradition of radical activism is integrally an economic one, and secondarily one of social justice. It was pursued by those both poor and ‘out castes,’ who often had communal solidarity as their only asset. It was resisted by force, and thus pursued by those inured to force who understood that power was necessary to victory, and that defeat entailed destitution, imprisonment, and being cut down by live fire from those acting under color of authority with impunity. This was a tradition of demands, many of them quite pragmatic. Few were wholly implemented, but the struggle to gain them forced the door open for narrower reforms, often implemented by the powers that be to de-fuse as much as diffuse radical agitation. Consider these policies, all of which still hold for most who would define themselves as radical:
Call off the cops (and thugs)Eight hour day and work place safetyRight to organizeAnti-discrimination in housing and hiringUnemployment dolePublic pensionsPublic educational scholarshipsTax the richAnti-trust and anti-corporate
While few radicals have made it into public executive positions either, they are numerous in politics, especially at the local level where communal ties can predominate. Radicals have always worked in organized groups—‘societies,’ unions, and parties—which have been a multiplier for their demands.
Critically, these are grievance-driven policies. One could say that the goal of radicals is to force an end to exploitation, particularly economic exploitation since most radicals come from those on the bitter end of such equations. As such, many of them have specific remedies or end states. Notably absent are ‘moral uplift,’ better society objectives other than in the abstract sense. Further, since so much of radicalism is communally based it has often been difficult for radicals to form inter-communal alliances.
Secondarily, since the goals are highly specific to individual groups, factionalism is endemic. Radicals have disproportionately been drawn from the poor, and from minority communities; groups who have had little to lose, and for whom even small gains loom large, especially economic ones. These have been disproportionately non-Anglo American, many of whom brought their radicalism with them from prior experiences in Europe, though occasionally their message has radicalized contemporary indigenĂ©s, for example ‘Big Bill’ Haywood or John Reed (or Chris Hedges). Radicals have always had to ‘struggle,’ not least since they have consistently been assaulted by other factions and the state: militancy was their real party card. If this wasn’t necessarily violent, it was confrontational, as in boycotts and occupations (sit-downs). While radical women have always been visible, the backbone of radicals always was minority community men. Think Joe Hill and Sam Gompers.
Many earlier immigrant communities experienced considerable oppression, and not only came to America as an escape but brought radical elements with them. That was true amongst German, Polish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants, and was relevant amongst the small West Indian population as well. Their third and fourth generation descendants are, at best, little involved with radical organizing. Present immigrant communities to the US are substantially from Central America and its surrounds, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. These communities have not brought radical elements with them: those have tended to stay home or go elsewhere. They have largely come here for the opportunity to better themselves, and shaking the social order is the last thing on their agenda. The exception to that are Muslim immigrants to the US, of diverse background though substantially Arab in origin. Presently, they lack indigenous American allies, and are heavily policed by the state; they are no way placed to take a vanguard position supposing that they were so inclined.
Reviewing the summary above, it will be evident that the supply of aggrieved militants has thinned out. One could say, uncharitably, they their residual objective has been a piece of the pie, and to be left alone to eat it in dignity. “Share the wealth,” is the substance of their message. Once they have any, the tendency is to sing another song. On a darker note, some were later sedentarized by acquiring apparatuses, which easily rancidify into patronage and rent-seeking gatekeepers.
What radicals do best is bunch up and shove, that is organize and agitate. Those now don’t bunch, and have little inclination to shove as opposed to fit in. But for blatant discrimination, present immigrants would be a reliable, conservative voter base not inclined to pursue economic grievances through activism. Without that muscle, labor has no strength. What labor has are mortgages, debt, and a lot to lose, not a matrix congruent with agitation.
From the perspective here, progressive and radical vectors and their policies overlap directly only in a few areas. Moreover, these vectors have tended to be pursued by discrete demographic and ethnic communities, though of course values and polices have been swapped and shared at times and in places. The success of one vector has tended to advance the success of the other Said another way, they have been more powerful in combination than either would be alone. If radicals might have achieved some of their goals without progressive support, though, the reverse is not true. Progressive advocacy particularly lacks any traction at present absent effective radical agitation to make the progressives seem like ‘the reasonable ones.’
A further conclusion from this analysis is that the assault of the right has been focused disproportionately upon the prior policy and institutional gains of the radical vector. From one perspective, one could hypothesize that the broader socio-culture has focused its response upon the ‘most foreign’ or perhaps ‘least native’ contentions. I’m far from sure that I believe that myself. For one thing, the oligarchy and the right are most hostile to economic claims. With the exception of environmental activism, which has huge economic implications, most advocacy for economic justice has lain primarily with the radical rather than progressive community. Radical agitation has been the most militant, provided the most physical muscle, and is historically sourced amongst the poor, all reasons why radical successes should be expected to draw the larger reactionary attack. Then too, economic reforms are easier to attack since they are far less embedded in law than social reforms. And further, one should not assume a reactionary program will stop if and when the institutional bulwark of economic justice and organization is crushed, since there will be little to bar the marginalization or ban of existing progressive successes after such a point.
Still, any progressive or radical revival has to take into account that the assault of reaction has been principally aimed at economic justice and its supporting legal and institutional bases in the US and the UK.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity . . . .”
If it all seems black, consider: Social justice never seemed deader than 1957, but enormous reforms were enacted by 1974. Progressivism was never more prostrate than c. 1900, but a broad reformist agenda was emplaced by 1916.
The downside to those comparisons, though, is that radicalism did much of the agitation to impel reform in both cases, and it is just that engaged radicalism which we most lack now. To go back a further iteration to the 1849s, progressives sans radicals were far less successful until slaver states were stupid enough to revolt. The American socio-political context is more divided and radicalism weaker today than at any time since the 1840s.
As of 2011, I would say that progressivism is broader and better known than at any time in American history, not least because of the validation and presence of past success. We can rely on the oligarchy to push to egregious excess. What we cannot rely upon is public agitation to be the thin end of the wedge.
Can we, then, expect oligarchical corruption and economic losses to push liberals and the haute bourgeois toward a reformist program? I wouldn’t count on that, and in particular, no one should expect that to happen quickly if it occurs at all. Take as an example Dylan Ratigan’s recent rant against elite corruption (to unfairly single out one prominent instance). His solution? “Let’s all get together on a Big Capitalist Spend-a-thon.” Because we’re ‘too divided,’ so we need something like a ‘Moon Program that brought us together.’ Now, I don’t know where Ratigan was in 1962, but that was the height of Civil Rights agitation, concurrent with mass agitation against atomic weapons testing, and also the start of the anti-poverty campaigns. His image of the country pulling together is something seen through the dollar signs on white tinted glasses, frankly.
But there are two deeper points to take from his appeal. First, he, as many, evidently believes that capitalism will really save him and us, it’s just that ‘a few’ have hijacked it. He doesn’t want to change any system, only to get back to some non-existent past in the imagination when it worked, or rather when it worked ‘for people like me . . er, us.’ Many think like this, and it is a huge load of sand in the crankcase on any drive for change. What these folks want never worked for many in this society, but too many believe in retrospect that it did because that belief validates a lot of comfortable lies. That embrace of plasticine phantasies is a dead weight against change.
Second, Ratigan inveighed against ‘factionalism’ even more than against corrupt oligarchs. Like many, he sees himself as in a reasonable center between ‘the left’ and ‘the right,’ and in firm American tradition mentioned above he is suspicious of special interests advocating ‘their position.’ So he wants us to come together around a common position. Now, the political naivety of this is stunning given the overt, anti-social, anti-citizen program of the right through a generation, pushed in private by many whom he doubtless respects in public.
But even accepting the false analysis, what stands out is the extent to which progressives have let themselves become seen as ‘special interests’ advocating ‘for the few.’ Ratigan isn’t alone; many ‘liberals’ and ‘centrists’ and ‘independent voters’ share this view of progressives, explicitly or implicitly. This is where progressives are in the public mind, and not simply through propaganda from the right.
Progressives have successfully become tarred as ‘factional’ in significant part due to their involvement with identity politics, i.e. ‘X rights.’ The Democratic Party has correctly identified this imprimatur as an electoral loser, and for that reason amongst others have abandoned progressivism in the most cowardly way. However, we cannot expect ‘reasonable centrists,’ delusional or not, to embrace the reform program of ‘those X favorers;’ this will not happen. And not necessarily because ‘centrists’ hate ‘those Xers,’ but because the societal disposition is to shun advocates of minority advantage.
One could list numerous conceptual failures amongst liberal and radical activists in this way. I’m going to limit myself to a few, with similarly few remedies to follow. Progressives have a childish fondness for a show of hands, i.e. elections, and a present obsession with the current reactionary ‘hypocrite’ coughed up by the oligarchy and the latter’s media. Both are pointless and self-defeating. Winning elections doesn’t matter; passing laws and regulations, and winning court decisions on their basis is what matters. The former may lead to the latter, but it hasn’t for twenty years at least. And the oligarchy can always recruit another quisling, the supply is endless; their personalities are irrelevant.
Moreover, the ideological ultra-right doesn’t care if they are in the minority: they’re delusionally convinced of their own validity, and will continue in their ways whether they get 10% or 70% of the vote. What matters isn’t what they’re after but simply beating them.
Progressives have become far too obsessed with ‘the agenda of the right’ to the point that they themselves presently have no positive agenda, certainly none that can draw in the uncommitted. Progressive actions are wholly defensive rather than offensive, and this maximizes the oligarchy’s huge advantage in money and organization. In an endless search for ‘equality,’ progressive activists have handcuffed themselves to the contemporary equivalent of campaigning for temperance (banning alcohol so as to ‘force’ uplift). These activisms and other, broader forms of identity politics aren’t something I would call for abandoning. They cannot, however, recruit a wider reform movement, and indeed actively repel those of limited political education because they focus inherently on ‘some, not all.’
On the radical side, employer based privileges (i.e. ‘contracts’) will continue to be broad-base losers for left liberals, exactly because they inherently favor ‘some, not all.’ The workplace organizing model was always compromised; in the US, it has failed. Narrow unions are dead, not least because corporations can move jobs, sites, and countries far too readily. Something much in evidence now amongst anti-union working class and petit bourgeois folks who should, in principle, support unions to enhance ‘prevailing standards’ gains is, explicitly, spite that some have good jobs and protections while these others don’t. If rightist propaganda has exploited this, the situation is nonetheless a huge bar to extending a radical reform program even amongst existing union members, to say nothing of those on the outside. Issue- and instance-specific campaigns such as opposition to fracking run into the same problems. If you are directly effected, it’s a crisis; if you live 100 miles away, it’s not your problem (seemingly).
Similarly, “Free my spliff” doesn’t have much currency for non-tokers. The problem is that instance- and job-specific injustices have always been and remain primary, organizational drawing cards. These are what radicalize many individuals, and get them involved with activism to solve them.
To me, the only way out of these dead ends lies in committing to a defined agenda of institutionalized, economic justice because this affects all. Social justice cannot be secured absent economic justice. Any such agenda is going to be anti-corporate, anti-poverty, pro-education (and job re-education), and pro-regulation. It has to be citizen-based outside of existing political parties. This kind of program can be articulated as pro-community rather than pro-faction if the organizing is done. This has to be pursued from a defined agenda, unapologetically, and from a pro-citizen(ship) position regardless of other more discrete goals.
Will Anglo-American progressives articulate any such program and organize around it? I can’t say that I’m optimistic. Yates said it best in the fewest words in a comparable social moment heading on for four generations ago. To extend upon that thought, the contemporaneous Fabian Society had a fine, progressive program. Almost anything they could have aimed for within reason was ultimately put in place too—from 1944-50 when the British Empire was derelict, the state effectively bankrupt, and the ruling class irretrievably discredited by their knee-jerk nationalism and societal niggardlyness. Between the wars, Fabian successors were unable to accomplish anything meaningful on their own.
And yes, we too now can rely upon the oligarchy to fail. They have nothing to offer 90% of the citizenry, economically or socially. They have been serial catastrophists in their grossly speculative market manipulation, and only grasp after ever more gassy phantasms following each failure. Their ‘bombsight hegemony’ pursued abroad gets no peace, no silence, and no net profit. Both on an historical basis and on present scrutiny, we can rely upon the extractive class to drive themselves right into the bridge abutment of ruin.
What we can’t rely upon is for them to impact that moment quickly. From an historical and cyclical perspective, ‘just waiting it out’ might take until 2035, even 2045. Now a generation of squalor and iniquity in the US is nothing to remark on scaled against world-historical standards; it would fit with the rule of things rather than the exceptions. Americans think that they are exceptional, and that that isn’t how they do things. Well, they’ll have to live up to that, because what is certain is that we won’t have reform without struggle. Government-buying oligarchs; sold-out liberals clutching their meal tickets; loose cannon fascist minority; deeply divided society: that’s too many logs to leap on a single, lucky bound, or to be rolled by Some Sainted Prez (of which we’ll have none). If we want change sooner than a generation of rot from now, it will have to be worked for, and worked for not with wagging fingers and dabs of money thrown at issues but with organization.
Progressives will continue to lose as long as they continue to act with strategic irresolution and tactical incompetence. They no longer have a political party to carry their banner: the Democrats have completely shut them out. Waverers and the Great Huddled Middle won’t respect, and so won’t support, natterers who won’t fight.
We are not in a time for converting but one for confronting; not a time for compromise but a time for direct action. Holding actions are a way to lose slowly, an offensive program is needed. Naming and shaming, and electing the Next Great Saviour have both failed, and progressives need to get off those donkeys and articulate a real activist agenda. Spectacle gatherings which the media ignore and where everyone goes home Monday morning are presently ineffective because there is no organized base to make use of them. Money is not the main problem; feet on the ground moving forward are the real problem. A discrete agenda pursued full-time by experienced organizers is the solution. Less talk, and more walk.
Progressives have successfully stamped Big Capital as ‘anti-us’ historically, and they need to return to this. Those active for social reform have to forget about the electoral cycle. They have to forget about what the lunatic Right is doing as much as possible and concentrate on what they themselves are in process of accomplishing. They need a compact reform agenda (yes, bullet points and not more than ten of them). They need a defined activist strategy, no matter how large the difficulties or time horizon appear. They need to build genuinely activist organizations with specific plans to achieve a core set of goals. And they have to reclaim militancy as a word, and deed, of pride. If they do those things, they will make real progress, and moreover they will be ready when the moment comes for breakthrough amongst the wider society.

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