Introduction (Jan. 10) What follows is an article of mine from Dec. 26. While it may be macabre to say, the left now has a new cause célèbre in Gabrielle Giffords. But basic questions remain. Chiefly, what’s the goal? What does the left wish to accomplish? Yes, you’re highlighting a tragedy, atrocity, act of right-wing terrorism — whatever you wish to call it — and all of those terms accurately apply. But what’s the left’s goal?
Is it just raising awareness? That’s a rather weak goal. But if it is the goal, then once awareness has reached critical mass, what’s the next goal? Is it the implementation of a real mental health system? Increased gun regulation? Making sure Sarah Palin never becomes President?
I think the goal is raising money (and this goal is not consciously known). As I say in the article that follows, raising money partially makes sense as a goal. If people or organizations have no money, they both cease to exist. But building organizations that survive financially by flitting from one cause to the next will cause no change in society; such a strategy is no threat to elites.
Commonly in life, we honestly think we have one goal when we really have another. (The easiest place to see this is in relationships, but it’s true elsewhere as well.) The left really believes it wants to free Bradley Manning. It really believes it wants to do … something … vis-a-vis Giffords. It really believes it wants to stop global warming, or win single payer, or end the ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It really believes these things, but it’s not close to winning any of them.
Winners always pay attention to things they can control. The amount of attention winners pay to a thing is directly proportional to the degree to which they can control it. With the left, the reverse is true. The left has no control over what the right does, so naturally it spends all its time dealing with this.
What the left can control is its own internal organization. So let’s go back to the original question: What’s the goal? I think the goal has to be the complete annihilation of capitalism as a means of conducting economic activity. (I do not wish to suggest sexism or racism are not important, but to me the big fight that needs to happen right now is an economic one.)
The only things stopping the left from remaking itself along pareconish lines today are (1) desire to do so, and (2) where will it get its money from? Parecon is a truly radical economic theory, representing the ultimate threat to the U.S. ruling class. You want to move mountains? You want to win single payer and stop wars? Put the fear of God almighty into capitalists.
How do you put the fear of God into elites? Parecon.
There’s no other way, folks.
However, the places the left currently gets its money from aren’t going to be very hot to fund real radical social change — truly revolutionary social change — of the kind parecon represents. So while the left is wrestling with the desire question, it’s also going to have to grapple with the money question.
However, to quote Margaret Thatcher (albeit from a very different context), “There is no alternative.” If you want to see Bradley Manning out of jail, or global warming seriously addressed — or even just fewer Giffords and Christina Taylor Greens getting shot, you don’t actually have a choice.
But, at the end of the day, it’s all predicated on what do you want? What’s your GOAL?
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The victorious army wins first, and then goes to war, while the defeated army goes to war first, and then seeks to win. – Sun Tzu
Successful coaches tell their teams to worry about themselves and not their opponents. Teams that win pay no attention to things they can’t control. They have goals that they don’t waver from, and they formulate strategies to achieve those goals. If strategy A fails, winning coaches and teams examine the strategy, modify it, and move on to strategy A-1. Repeat as necessary.
This is how the right operates. Consider Social Security. The right has literally wanted to destroy SS since its inception. That goal hasn’t changed. But any substantive attack on it has remained largely beyond their reach – until now. “Temporarily” cutting the payroll tax is just the first salvo in a new offensive against the hated program – as most people on the left correctly recognize.
Do you think that the right worried about how the left was going to react to this new attack? Perhaps a little, but very little. Why does Rahm call the left retards and recommend to his advisees that they ignore it? Because winners largely ignore their opponents.
The left, on the other hand, obsesses about what the right does. That’s all the left ever thinks about. This is because, while the left does have goals, it doesn’t have the goals it thinks it does.
Consider Bradley Manning. The left’s current strategy to free him will not be successful. Oh, it will likely win Manning soft blankets and the right to do push-ups in his cell, and this is not completely insignificant (certainly not to Manning, anyway) – but it is largely insignificant as part of the overall “good” war the left likes to imagine it’s fighting.
If the left hasn’t figured out how to free Mumia, Peltier, or Lynne Stewart, why should anyone believe it will free Manning? The left will fail to free Manning, and then it will flit on to its next cause célèbre.
The right doesn’t operate this way. And actually, neither does the left. The right knows what it wants. The left only thinks it knows what it wants. What the left really wants is to be able to solicit donations, raise money, and get paid.
If you hook the left up to a polygraph, it really does believe it wants to free Manning. But actually, its main priority is to raise money. Partially, this makes sense. If people have no money (even people on the left), they starve and go homeless. And if organizations have no money, they go out of existence. So yes, money is important.
But the left doesn’t see this, and that’s the problem. The first step in battling addiction (or any problem) is seeing the problem. The left, however, doesn’t see that’s its operating model isn’t about freeing Manning (or whatever), it’s about raising money. Seeing the problem might lead to a solution. Not seeing it will simply leave Manning – as Mumia et. al. – in jail.