Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Bhaskar Sunkara on divisions on the Left - Stop talking to yourselves -- Jacobin Video

Our main goal is to organize working class people around a broadly economic platform that ties in social issues into core economic issues... we want candidates that focus on class.... willing to take on the establishment power structure ---- roughly 17 minute mark of video - Bhaskar Sunkara, Jacobin, interviewed by Jen Pan


I ran across this enlightening interview on Jacobin you tube where Jen Pan talked to Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara who talks about class and race on the left and then on dysfunction on the left. He talks about the cultural divides where some want to focus on bread and butter issues and others want to talk about race as race as a free standing system. He also points to a cleavage on how some liberal-left people want to talk about economic policy in a certain way - say Elizabeth Warren - vs a Bernie type analysis. 

I've actually lived though some of the divisions in groups where there's a race vs class divide in terms of analysis -- every socialist doesn't avoid class and economics - but the roots of continuing racism is often at issue. 
The mostly united pro-Bernie front on the left seems to have come apart.
So I've been following discussions on divisions on the left -- I'm a fan of Krystal Ball and Sam Seder and they often seem to be coming at things from different places. The Young Turks and Jimmy Dore wars. Many of my colleagues in UFT oppo politics are Jimmy Dore, Glen Greenwald, Useful Idiots - Aaron Mate fans - skeptical of the support fot Ukraine and often taking a Putin point of view.  Sam Seder calls these people essentially right wing. 

One of the most intersting parts of the interview come at the 21 minute mark where Jen Pan raises the issue of the class composition of the left, which is far from the working class - and I mean the black and white working class. The old left of the 30s was very working class. Now not at all. (Even Starbucks union movement is pushed by college educated). She says since the 60s the left has become more professional nanagerial class and lost its working class base. She asks what is the biggest obstacle to the left getting back to its working class roots - is it the cultural, rhetorical, linguistic ticks? 
And I have to say, I get very turned off when I hear rhetoric with no analysis. Like if you are a a socialist who believes capitalism must end where is the analysis of what exactly takes its place? Or the process of destruction and mayhem in dismantling capitalism. I asked this wuestion of two hard core socialists -- can you have democracy and your vision of socialism where you cannot have a two party system that can reverse say nationalization of certain industries every 4 years. One said maybe a multiparty system of only socialist parties. Have you seen socialists of differing opinions in action?
Baskar's answer seems to agree about rhetoric on the left being wrong but he attributes that to the many defeats the left has faced. He calls it the ghetto of the left -- like when do leftists get to talk to non-leftists, especially working class? I remember one early leader of a caucus I was in tell me he has no non-leftist people he talks to. Baskar talks about being in small socialist groups or caucuses where you hear only one real voice --- where if you disagree with anything you get slammed as being discordant - I've actually seen people claim to feel unsafe when a loud disagreement over a political issue breaks out. A few of us looked at each other and wondered how snow flakes intend to take on the power structure of the UFT.

Baskar mocks some of the disagreements on the left as to what year the Soviet state changed into Stalinism. Working class voters prefer candidates who focus primarily on economic issues. Their not against talking about racism but want these issues framed in univeral terms. Bernie tried to do that and got slammed by the left cultural warriors. 
Health care is good because it helps everyone - not just framed as a racial justice issue for one segment of the population. Right now John Fetterman seems to me the only candidate I've seen who has the ability to do this.

I love this: 
"even if we are reliant on an activist base to begin with, we are not just stuck with this space forever."
Apply this point to organizing in the UFT -- the hopeful realization by the activist left base that they will never win even a segment of power in the UFT without broadening that base -- maybe the emergence of United for Change was a sign but those who know the left from experience are always prepared to see things slip back for the interests of sectarian politics.

Stop talking to each other but reach out to people not only on the fence but on the other side of the fence. 

He asks people to look around whatever groups people are in and ask if that group is equipped to have an influx of 5 thousand working class people. We should be building the shells of organizations that can be truly mass.

I remember once at a joint rally over the 2005 conract talking to someone from another caucus and saying wouldn't it be wonderful if we had even 50 hard core activists in the UFT and the response was: If they are the right kind -- that was a warning sign to me of the kind of exclusivity some gtoups try to enforce internally.

Here's where he nails it:
We shouldn't be building groups that are so sensitive that a few interpersonal things or a few controversies gets it destroyed or they spend so long inwardly debating with each other and then deciding when the next meeting is - a kind of inaction group --

Boy have I seen this - groups that talk to and at themselves and often morph into a small oligarchy of control by a few and even their own mass begins to lose interest and becomes perfectly content to let them run things.  talk talk talk - make up some action event to simulate organizing - but keep the rhetorical and procedural gates up to keep the "wrong" kind of people out...
Trust me -- I've been guilty of this idea of we want to be in a "comfortable" space with like-minded people. ICE was a more open group but talk talk talk was certainly frustratign to people who wanted action. I was very comfortable talking and debating. ICE could never be an major organizing force alone in the UFT - though some people seemed to think so. In fact the founding of GEM in 2009 was a reaction to ICE inaction -- but I also think ICE is the only group that offered a relaxed space over rice pudding to just talk, dispute, argue over issues etc and work for consensus and no matter how hard you fought you walk out colleagues.  I think that is also really needed.

Bhaskar points to DSA which is more action oriented and seems to be a clearing house of sorts for various points of view but there is also an avoidance of taking on such divisive issues. -- ie - witness the cancellation of Black scholar with a heavy class analysis Adolph Reed, Jr. 
I'll leave you with these links so you can see the dysfunction of the left in action.

DSA Cancels Adolph Reed - YouTube

https://www.youtube.com › watch
Jun 1, 2020Ben Burgis tells the story of the DSA cancellation of Adolph Reed and critiques the concept of class reductionism and a category that ...
Missing: read ‎| Must include: read
Aug 16, 2020Amid murmurs that opponents might crash his Zoom talk, Professor Reed and D.S.A. leaders agreed to cancel it, a striking moment as perhaps ...

A Black Marxist Scholar Wanted to Talk About Race. It Ignited ...

https://www.nytimes.com › adolph-reed-controversy
Aug 17, 2020His article concluded: “Amid murmurs that opponents might crash his Zoom talk, Professor Reed and D.S.A. leaders agreed to cancel it, a striking ...


Anonymous said...

I’ve been thinking a lot about not only the divisions within the country but the divisions within the left. I read over 2 million people have switched from Democrats to Republicans! The Supreme Court decisions have further infuriated the ‘radical’ left and I see them eventually pushing what the Republicans have tried to do for many years – they will push for a decentralized and weakened federal government in which states will have considerably more power. One state may have virtually laws while another will ban everything. I agree with them about the Ukraine and Putin, there are real problems with the narratives that we’re getting from the media.

Anonymous said...

Don’t you give yourself away by saying radical left is infuriated when the level of infuriation goes way beyond. My wife who is far from rad left is infuriated as are all her friends. 70% of this country is infuriated. Apparently you are not.

Anonymous said...

No, I’m not at all. There’s a level of irrationality from the far left and the far right that’s supersedes common sense. and what is missing is the bigger picture. The bigger picture includes what’s going to happen in the future here, which looks fractured, factional and disastrous. Additionally, future wars are really being planted now. There seems to be a force that wants us to annihilate each other. Peace and love to you and your wife.

Anonymous said...

Some irrationality in segments of left but this video is rational. But to talk about irrational left without any ref to bat shit crazy right deforms any rational discussion. 70% of the people oppose Supreme Court decision. But I do agree about the cultural left with no economic analysis.