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Monday, December 2, 2013

Left worth its name opposes ruling class, capitalism

Ben Barker’s “Imagine a Left”
Excerpt, editing by 
Carolyn Bennett

“To ignore politics or revile it,” Barker begins, “is to do nothing more than sit on the sidelines as society unfolds.” But whether or not we participate, decisions will be made; and we have two choices:

We can concede power over our lives to the powerful; or

We can take that power back for our communities and landmasses.


“Politics is not the political system.”

From the most global to the most intimate, the real meaning of the political is that which shapes the world we live in; that which determines who has power and who doesn’t, who has wealth and who doesn’t, who eats and who doesn’t ─ this is the real meaning of the political.

From the Latin politicus, the term means “of, for, or relating to the citizen” [Merriam Webster defines it “the total complex of relations between people living in society”]. That means therefore that politics concerns all of us; it is and should be important to all of us.
The Left

Nonexistent in the United States of America, the Left is also more than what is seen and heard in the noise of contemporary leanings, thought and action. In its original and most honest meaning, Barker points out, “The Left is an opposition to the ruling class.

Not a loyalty to it. Not an indifference to it. Not even a hatred of it ─ [the Left] is an opposition. “And in our case, he says, “it means an opposition to capitalism. This is why there is no Left in America. This is why we so desperately need one.”

Present void

In the absence of any meaningful political opposition to join, potential activists diverge into the benign, the fringe, the bizarre; each heading in a unique direction but never one that leads to the society’s transformation.

Some remain at Center, wanting to take from the established Left and the established Right to find bipartisan solutions; “but bipartisanism is itself the problem: Democrats and Republicans are far more alike than different. The only real political party in the United States is the capitalist party” and those conspiring against us are not “‘the new world order’” but “multi-national corporations.”

Fill void

“The task before us, Barker says, “is to rebuild a home for [revolutionary] Leftists.” Make the Left the common-sense avenue for resistance. Be a reminder that the political is important; be a reminder that the world can be changed, that there is an organized opposition capable of making that happen.

Instead of being one end of a spectrum, one pillar of the status quo, what if the Left “could sink the spectrum, topple the pillars?

What if the real meaning of the Left is a culture of resistance: a fiery populist radicalism potent enough to shake the power elite with even the smallest dose?

“Our energy is diffuse but vast among pools of the disenfranchised and it is up to us to rescue our opposition from the status quo of the ruling class, where it became (in words of Chris Hedges) ‘fearful, timid, and ineffectual [creating] an ideological vacuum on the left and ceding the language of rebellion to the far right.’”

It is impossible to say exactly what an actual Left would look like in contemporary America and the project toward transformation won’t be easy. “We won’t always agree but our debates could be held behind the shared banner: our unwavering Leftist vision of opposition to the ruling class. There’s a chance it won’t work but right now that ruling class is driving [the] world to ruin.” Establishing the Left that is capable of arresting this erosion once and for all is a chance worth taking, Barker concludes.
A Left worth the name is less a sold-out party line and more a grassroots revolutionary force of the kind we’ve not seen for far too long.

No matter what we want to call that force, now is the time to build it again

Sources and notes

“Beautiful Justice: Imagine a Left” by Ben Barker, Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin, December 1, 2013, DGR News Services, http://dgrnewsservice.org/2013/12/01/beautiful-justice-imagine-a-left/

Ben Barker is a writer and community organizer from West Bend, Wisconsin, and a member of Deep Green Resistance, writing a monthly column “Beautiful Justice.” Barker is also writing a book “about toxic qualities of radical subcultures and the need to build a vibrant culture of resistance.” 


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