portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article questions united states

actions & protests | political theory

What Is The Purpose or OBJECTIVE of Leftism / Left Ideology In USA 2016?

this is a serious question. I expect serious answers.

Leftism, as seen from its 'old school' purpose back in the 20th century was to challenge the establiment, established orders.

(let's say, from just after World War II... I'm not discounting the history of labor / other left movements in the early 20th C, just leaving them out momentarily for illustrative purpose here)

At that time, late 1940s-1950s the purpose and organizing principles of left movements were fighting McCarthyism, and also racism. The latter gained more momentum in the 1960s with the freedom movement for African Americans across the country. In the later 1960s the anti Vietnam war movement eventually hooked up with its immediate predecessor the civil rights movement.

but today, we have a government that perpetrated 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act upon us all. Any of the left-leaning politicians seem to be only interested in bolstering government policies that increase surveillance and overreach in the exact same directions as seen clearly since 11 September 2001. Also the Wall Street bailouts of 2008 have done nothing to turn the tide of plutocratic control, across left-right "ideological" spectrum of U.S. government legislators. (Yes it's obvious that the 2-party system is corporate controlled, but we're talking ideology and 'movements for change' here whether or not inside that specific bifurcated Pepsi-Coke conundrum)

Why do leftists constantly ideologically make appeal to the major "left" aka Democrat-corporate politicians, when that party shows no challenge to the established order whatsoever? Further, why do party-unaffiliated "anarchists" and community activists continually endorse statist and oppressive policies enacted by Democrats?
Dr. Martin Luther King was under surveillance by the FBI and owned a handgun for self preservation.

yet Democrat politicians led by an icon of the 1960s civil rights movement (Rep. Lewis) were singing "We Shall Overcome" for enactment of draconian new gun control and government surveillance legislation a few weeks ago :



So I openly ask you, anyone reading this:

Is the purpose of leftism to challenge established order, anymore (if it ever was)?

From bad premises come bad conclusions 10.Jul.2016 08:41

Mike Novack

"Leftism, as seen from its 'old school' purpose back in the 20th century was to challenge the establiment, established orders."

Disagree. The goal/objective/purpose was (and presumably still is) to create a fair/just way of life.

OK, in order to achieve a goal (any goal) the PROCESS would entail dealing with (any) obstacles. Naturally if an existing unfair/unjust order stood in the way, that would have to be dealt with.

Say you are playing a computer game, and between your icon and the goal stands an obstacle who will try to stop you. Yes of course, ONE way of dealing might be to try to blast that obstacle. But successfully blasting obstacles not the goal, and maybe not in this case the best solution. Or even a solution at all. Remember, the context here a game that had a designer controlling which of the possible solutions will work and which not. maybe in THIS case blasting away won't work. You had to first find the "cloak of invisibility" so you could sneak by. Or maybe a really creative designer made the only solution to politely ask "please let me by".

At the moment you see many leftists trying to change the Democrats so that they would no longer be an obstacle. Maybe not likely to work. But that is NOT the same thing as abandoning the goal. Why are you SO sure that blasting away at them would work better? Are you not confusing goal with how to get there?

RE: "to create a fair/just way of life" 10.Jul.2016 09:53


Yes we agree because the past 20th century goals were 1) equality for black Americans, 2) labor justice, 3) stop the Vietnam war etc.

Novack wrote:
"blasting away at them would work better"

We need leadership _and_ a clearly defined goal.

How is the Democrat party providing that, and how is acceding to Democrats (even if only slightly / implicitly by mere suggestion of "leftist" ideology or leaning) "working better"?

"blasting away at [obstacles]"—

Which 'obstacles' are being "blasted away" Mike?

All I see, as for example by Rep. Lewis and his cohorts' childish "sit down" in Congress recently, is

(ironically also, in that instance, while the perpetrators — one of whom was a '60s civil rights leader — chanted "We Shall Overcome"...)

Novack wrote:
"NOT the same thing as abandoning the goal"

Who said / suggested "abandoning" until you did Mike?

All I have asked in this post, is to define what appears to be a lost heading, for the left movement(s) as of the present. As I (and many others) observe it, Leftism in America has become ineffectual and irrelevant

It's not a question of "abandoning"... They have merely been co-opted by the corporate capitalist plutocracy (e.g. watch Sanders exhort his former supporters to cast their vote for Clinton). It's pretty simple, Mike.

Do you have a "Better" suggestion Mike, of how to "create a fair/just way of life" ?

Certainly, acceding to Democrat 'leftism' isn't working or furthering the "movement to create a fair/just way of life". Democrats today, only oppress further and entrench the plutocracy further. As clearly demonstrated by 8-year record of the Obama administration et al.

I want _you_, Mike Novack to DEFINE the goals and principles of Leftism _TODAY_ in the 21st century / 2016.

THAT is how you achieve change, and "create a fair/just way of life". Take leadership into your own hands.

addendum / further etc. 10.Jul.2016 11:51


Mike Novack brought up "to create a fair/just way of life".

This sounds a lot like the (ideological, not on-ground political campaign so much...) goals of, for example the Sanders campaign.

But again: the original question asked here is about the ideological firmament of Leftism, in the United States in the 21st century.

sure, to take an example, the Democrat Party Sanders campaign has attempted to articulate this to some degree. And also has gained support from a far younger generation of activists and voters, many of whom were aware of and 'grew up with' the brief Occupy movement.

yet it will take far more, than merely remains-of-Occupy-who-somewhat-later-glommed-on-with-Bernie to constitute an actual ideological basis and direction for modern-future Leftism at the national level.

at present, much of the Sanders campaign platform simply sounds like the 1930s New Deal rehashed for the post-Occupy crowd.

This is woefully insufficient to tackle the established order, and moreover incapable of accomplishing meaningful or even measureable change within that order.

And especially, when the Democrats / so-called "leftists" in national office actually use a 1960s civil rights anthem to plead their call for more stringent civil rights violations and regulations (and said action is ludicrously hailed/portrayed as "protest").

Shall I make it clearer? 10.Jul.2016 15:09

Mike Novack

There is always a danger of confusing an immediate objective (step toward a goal) with the goal itself. Yes of course, it is necessary to plan steps. But we must never lose sight that what we really want is to get to the goal. Simply always trying harder on the immediate step in front of us means we can forget to consider that perhaps the way to the goal lies on another path. Not saying that it does, but always consider that it might be.

PLEASE -- I am NOT saying that I agree with them. But with what we have going on in the Democratic Party it doesn't make a lot of sense to harp on what the Democratic Party currently IS, because it is a fight to capture/take over the Democratic Party. Or split off a goodly chunk of it.

I was trying to answer the "what is the goal" question in GENERAL terms leaving aside, for example, what is fair/just (would that be EQUAL? according to need? etc.) I had to be broad because you said "of the left" which is a very brad movement. At least it is to me. For some on the left, only their miniscule splinter group represents "true left" and all others who deviate from this party line in the smallest detail aren't on the left at all.

" fight to capture/take over/split off the Democratic Party " 10.Jul.2016 16:11


Is that truly what it is Mike?

are you that deluded?

You aren't qualified to comment on this topic, sorry. That is if you are truly so naive as to think that the corporate capitalist politically-elite entrenched Democrat Party can be so influenced, at this late date. After the 11 September 2001. After the 2008 Wall Street bailouts. etc.

With each new post you further diminish your own credibility (whatever that had consisted of prior...) as well as our view of your intellectual and political perspicacity.

(btw the supposed 'right wing' is in the exact same boat with the GOP. as many have been suggesting and thinking particularly this 2016 campaign season... )

Yes indeed Leftism is broad. (I don't define it rhetorically as "the left", as you seem to)

If you carefully read the original post, I am speaking even more broadly of _all_ the social movements, and political initiatives / policies — as well as key political figures and groups — within government itself, which might loosely consist of 'leftism' or a Left overall movement.

Do you not comprehend that, such a thing NO LONGER EXISTS in the 21st century?

Sure there's of course the anarchists. Small local neighborhood collectives. Some of those may even connect up and organize, have minor influence (politically / otherwise) on a regional or national level. Various social justice activists.

But these, in the 21st century have absolutely ZERO influence on overall policy or where the leadership of the USA is headed. It remains a corporate capitalist plutocracy, even worse/more so since the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and the Obama administration ACA (which effectively is a blank cheque / 'gravy train' bailout for the multinational insurance corporations also based in Wall Street, who deeply funded the Obama campaigns all along).

Less, and less influence for citizens of average means is concomitant with all the trends ^ just mentioned.

The most recent 'left' movement to have impacted or influenced the United States nationally, was Occupy in 2011. And as I observe it, their lasting influence in 2016 was as a partial ideological spark / influence to the Sanders campaign and a certain cadre of his supporters.

but that's it. Leftism has had absolutely zero direct or indirect impact on the United States since the Battle In Seattle.

( no, I do not consider the narrowly-focused and diffuse 'Black Lives Matter' and-or its related offshoots of the past 3 years to be 'leftism', sorry ..... No it is ABSOLUTELY NOT nearly comparable or similar in breadth, vision, applicable task or energy to the 1960s MLK / civil rights struggles.... )

So therefore Mike the question remains:

What is the leadership goal or purpose of Leftism (whatever remains of it)?

Identity politics and the 'politics of morality' (gay marriage, black-people-being-unjustly-gunned-down-by-police etc.) are not nearly enough to bring about true liberation of US citizens from the corporate capitalist plutocrat chains that commonly enslave us.

Who / what is going to articulate that?

fwiw Mike, read (and-or address) this — 10.Jul.2016 17:49


a piece by Stephen D'Arcy (linked at end) was referenced in the cross-post here on PDX IMC of Douglas / The South Lawn's analysis of it  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2016/07/432730.shtml

anyway one of the last items he addressed was what does victory/"winning" consist of for leftist movement efforts, here is a germane excerpt from Douglas' article. It's time for praxis :


[...] I would actually go even farther than D'Arcy does: I think that the current dialectic on the left does deny the prospect for ultimate victory over the systems that continue to oppress us in ways big and small. So we reach for whatever crumbs from the pie we have available. We treat the ardent defense of millionaire celebrities as a form of radicalism. We engage in endless repetition of grievances without engaging in a discussion of better practices. We treat every ancillary skirmish like the defining battle of a war that seemingly has no end game. We circle the wagons around our friends and come up with endless justifications as to why their actions were not as bad as this other thing that someone else did a month, year, decade, or generation ago. We form alliances based around cults of personality rather than a common goals for a different kind of world. Or as Dr. Adolph Reed, Jr. put it, "The left careens from this oppressed group or crisis moment to that one, from one magical or morally pristine constituency or source of political agency... .to another. It lacks focus and stability; its mιtier is bearing witness, demonstrating solidarity, and the event or the gesture. Its reflex is to 'send messages' to those in power, to make statements, and to stand with or for the oppressed." At what point do we decide that we have sent enough messages and start building power? Actual power, not the power that comes from perfecting a clubhouse or meeting structure, but rather from the articulation of a vision and a plan to execute said vision? When do we start looking at the moving parts, looking out 5-10-20 years, and start piecing together a strategy to fight the forces of reaction, revanchism, and repression? It is no longer enough to simply act as a town crier, monotonously signposting every problem and grievance facing our world; we must actually engage in praxis.

and I'll make it clear again Mike — 10.Jul.2016 18:18


although indirectly, I'm asking what the (physical?/material-manifested) 'goals', tactical achievements or measurable results of leftism might someday be,

as you and all clearly see from the title, I'm centrally and primarily asking the question about Left Ideology.

as in: what is the _ideological_ goal of leftism (presuming such a thing still exists...), where is it trending and-or headed. What are its "gospel" truths?

in the same sense that, for example Marx and Engels had an end ideological goal of the state 'withering away'. Talking purely ideological basis here. Not 'hopes' or "evolve a fair way of life"... but an actual 'gospel' or agenda of stated goals, no matter how far from the present they might exist.

( as noted in the ^preceding above comment post / links, it seems that leftism has no such overarching, large-scale goals or visions at present. )

Try to READ what I wrote 11.Jul.2016 06:26

Mike Novack

You persist in associating ME with:

1) An attempt to take over the Democratic party AND
2) A belief that this attempt might be successful

When I say "that is what I see going on" does NOT mean that I believe it would work (as intended). I do NOT believe the current attempt by some elements of the left to fight for control of the Democratic Party will succeed.

Whether or not such a fight is NECESSARY before moving to other paths is another matter entirely. I might believe THAT to be true. This has to do with my understanding of the history of parties in American politics. That it is ONLY when clear that the parties cannot/will not shift to absorb unrepresented interests that much ca be done outside them. The reason that only once in our history was a major party displaced is that USUALLY they manage to shift/readjust to absorb outside interests when those become a threat.

And I will again repeat, you asked "of the LEFT" (as opposed to some segment of it). THAT is why I could only use very general terms/values, ones I thought might be shared by ALL segments of the left. Yes of course, if you mean JUST the Marxists, I could have given a narrower one. Especially if allowed to cnsider just one of the Marxist factions to be "the Left".

But sorry, Marx-Engles not that much help with something like "state withering away". That is NOT the same thing as trying to give a vision of "the values of a stateless society". Please note that a strict* historical determinists they would not consider trying to present a "vision" useful.

* As opposed to loose. I, for example do not believe that "material conditions" will sharply define what WILL be as opposed to defining what will NOT be. In other words, I believe that material condiitons will set the limits/boundaries but between those lots of possibilities remain. Keep in mind that in the days of Marx-Engles DETERMINISM in general was popular. The PHYSICAL SCIENCES were deterministic back then too. Not now.

" persist in associating " — YOU brought up "fixing" the Dems! 11.Jul.2016 09:59


"ONLY when clear that the parties cannot/will not shift to absorb unrepresented interests that much ca be done outside them"

Mike, I really don't care what you think about the Democrats in particular. The fact is, as hinted in previous discussion is that the 2016 presidential campaign has indeed brought out much dissatisfaction from left and right about the 2-party system, and it also appears that the existing GOP has been shaken to its core (nomination of Trump).

so it is a quite ripe time for "unrepresented interests" to assert themselves; in what way we are presently unsure, but certainly November 2016 results will give a hint.

Mike Novack wrote:
"At the moment you see many leftists trying to change the Democrats so that they would no longer be an obstacle. Maybe not likely to work. But that is NOT the same thing as abandoning the goal."

From bad premises come bad conclusions. Such as Lewis et al.'s "sit down" in order to provide draconian surveillance legislation which even the ACLU had rejected

Mike Novack wrote:
"The PHYSICAL SCIENCES were deterministic back then too. Not now."

And how "deterministic" were the Wall Street bank bailouts of 2008? Did you "determine" that US taxpayers were _not_ in fact stolen from to provide that?

don't bullshit us Mike. This isn't some intellectual exercise in the epistemology of activism.
(furthermore you dodged the Marx / Engles[sic] example; it was merely an analogy and Marxism remains an ideology, which is what this discussion is primary about)

Leftism is on the rocks. It has no rudder.

Corporate plutocratic capitalism rules the day. (Its political guise in the legislative/executive branches of federal government is the '2-party' system) Whenever the activists not only recognize and decide, but also mobilize to tackle this heirarchy and actually wrest control from it then they'll have a 'movement'... brands, hashtags and rudderless rabble holding up iPhones in the street are not nearly enough.


RE: adjusting / absorbtion of 'outside interests' you neglected the excerpt from article posted above —

another angry narcissist 27.Jul.2016 18:22

shouty shouty

If you are going to insult anybody who answers your questions, then why should anybody bother to answer your questions?

"why should anybody bother to answer your questions?" 10.Oct.2016 22:26


sounds like you haven't the guts to do so, to begin with so no —
_you_ needn't bother.

this discussion is for persons who actually care about the issues / digging into them, have something fresh to offer regarding them, and are passionate about their own case in advocacy of them.