Letter from a Young Radical

photo_74175
Bhaskar Sunkara

Bhaskar Sunkara, the young editor of Jacobin magazine, has an article in The Nation entitled Letter to ‘The Nation’ From a Young Radical. He begins by making a critique of liberalism that is both non-dogmatic and non-sectarian. He writes:

    Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power. Much of its discourse is still fixated on an eighteenth-century Enlightenment fantasy of the “Republic of Letters,” which paints politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. The best program, when well argued by the wise and well-intentioned, is assumed to prevail in the end. Political action is disconnected, in this worldview, from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.

Liberals see politics as a conflict of ideas, when it is actually a conflict of class interests. This misapprehension leads liberals to view the Democratic Party as their party, when it is actually a party representing corporate interests. Most of them have lined up behind President Obama, who is not a liberal, not even on social issues. (Consider the frantic efforts of Obama’s justice department to prevent the Morning After Pill from being sold over the counter.) In effect, liberals are in an impossible position politically.

Sunkara is more optimistic about the situation of radicals, despite the defeat of the Occupy movement, citing the emergence of new radical thinkers and journals, but he believes that radicals need to reach out beyond their narrow circles. He writes:

    Which is to say that the left needs a plan—a plan that must incorporate more moderate allies. American radicalism has had a complex and at times contradictory association with liberalism. At the peak of the socialist movement, leftists fed off liberal victories. Radicals, in turn, have added coherence and punch to every key liberal struggle and advance of the past century. Such a mutually beneficial alliance could be in the works again. The first step is to smash the existing liberal coalition and rebuild it on a radically different basis.

Sunkara cites the recent struggles against school closures in Chicago and in Philadelphia as an example of an issue on which radicals and liberals can work together.

I think that Sunkara’s arguments are worth consideration and discussion. It certainly doesn’t appear that anyone else on the Left has any better ideas at the moment. The “red-brown” strategy favored by websites such as Counterpunch and Dissident Voice is obviously a dead end. Kasama Project is trying to revive Maoism – as if a peasant rebellion were a real possibility in this country. And the ISO’s particular brand of Trotskyism appears to have only limited appeal. We need to find a way for the Left to move forward.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: