When to say no is not enough: what should progressives do?
The far right and the conservatives who support them today are interested in the form of emergence of political change necessary to maintain the status quo essentially as it is: with themselves among the first beneficiaries.
The leadership style required includes adopting a fundamentally undemocratic stance against consultation, negotiation or debate and in favor of ‘getting things done’ – easily achievable when there is complete separation between what you are saying. and what you do because basically you have no intention of doing anything.
You have many powerful institutions by your side to help you defend power as it currently functions. None are more important than the media, especially what remains of the mass media. You tell the people you need support what they want to hear. This is what fake news is, that is, when it is not involved in damaging their reputation and crushing their careers.
As progressives, we have a whole different set of tasks ahead of us as we commit to real systemic change in the name and benefit of the “many.” Instead of the phantasmal identification with the “strong man” offered to humiliated individuals on the right, the left needs to persuade real people – an extremely diverse spectrum of people – that they can come together and act effectively in their best interests. common. We heard moving tales of how our grandmothers, the women of Greenham Common, discovered organizational effectiveness for themselves during the joyous 40th anniversary celebration last weekend. They never claim “the trip” was easy!
A first challenge for progressives is who we are. It is easy for the far right, such is their need to belong that it is immediately fulfilled by the phantasmic monolith of the monocultural National Us. Once in place, it is only a question of “winning” against the existential enemy, since “the winner wins everything”. So the only thing they need to know is “Who we are”. Compare the emergence of the Sardine movement. In the first months of 2020, people filled Italian squares to protest against Salvini’s lightning-speed construction of the real Italian people whose interests only he could defend against migrants, Roma and others. existential enemies. They were united only in their opposition to Salvini’s definition of True People – after all, weren’t they too real? So they shrugged their shoulders, called themselves “The Sardines” and started packing the squares.
Once the initial protest was over, however, it became evident how difficult it was to convert a horizontal movement into an organization capable of going beyond just saying no, drawing on the various constituencies and capturing the various institutions that must be won to advance in our complex political systems. For this, what is needed is a two-pronged exercise of extensive persuasion which happens to be the exact opposite in every way to the structuring of the monocultural National Us. And it is not a hazard.
Just think of the fantastic work being done by Theresa May’s oft-repeated slogan, ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Suddenly he united their people into a monolithic phalanx without any need for debate and with any future debate excluded. The fact that no one knows what the 2016 Brexit means to this day – as I write the UK is negotiating the unviable over Northern Ireland’s borders and peace treaties – is irrelevant . “Brexit means Brexit” told us “We know who we are and who our enemy is”.
Better yet, in response, a sharp enemy has closed ranks and refused to allow a single intelligent criticism of the EU – on its response to the financial crash, its treatment of Greece, its ruthless “migrant problem” or the rise of fascism in Hungary and other EU countries to which the EU has turned a blind eye – crossing their lips, immediately making themselves unconvincing to intelligent skeptics, let alone the skeptics they should have seek to persuade. Both teams played the same game – but only one took advantage of saying no.
All the Brexiters who UKIPized the Conservative Party and then took over the UK state had to do was polarize the country in the first place and make sure it stays polarized. An out-of-the-box binary referendum was a good start, and the UK became considerably more polarized and fragmented once the (mistakenly named) Liberal Democrats offered to revoke Article 50 that had paved the way for it , thus erasing it from history. The exits of course responded by telling opinion polls that they would happily part ways with Scotland and Northern Ireland to boot, if they could just get a No Deal that would see England turn their backs. to the EU and move away.
What should the progressives have done to avoid this impasse? Any institution with a large number of passionately engaged and articulate leavers and remnants, like the opposition Labor Party at the time, could have drawn inspiration from the excellent Brexit Citizens Assembly organized by academic democracy experts deliberative in Manchester in late 2017. They debated six key questions regarding the kind of relationship between Britain and Europe (in all its variety) that the British really wanted (in all their diversity). The sort was used to select people from both tribes reflecting the demographic makeup of the UK. The results have been impressive, but the process – the sense of reconciling citizenship resulting from thoughtful judgment – has been a game-changer. (It should be noted that in 2019, the threat that the Archbishop of Canterbury would organize a similar assembly of Brexit citizens caused panic among key Tory government leavers.)
Before being accused of reducing politics to gossip (a professional responsibility at openDemocracy) let me quickly add that this alchemy of deliberative democracy is not enough on its own. Enter the second pin.
Real change happens through the action of real activists, so what we also need is an empowering horizontal movement committed to open, democratic and pluralistic growth. It is a democratization movement that allows people to cross the barriers and borders erected by the proliferating enemy images of the right; skills in non-violent communication, empowering organization, deep democracy and mutual enjoyment. These qualities are especially important when it comes to persuading far-right supporters to give up their grandiose fantasies.
Only a real experience of empowerment and community can oust them. The leaders of Black Lives Matter must be immensely encouraged by the waves of sincere support they have received from white supporters around the world, not only for themselves, but because it gives them a better chance of reaching the millions of people. white supremacists among us. What progressive, American or otherwise, can turn their backs on the 73 million Trump supporters who still believe the presidential election was stolen from them, and simply say, “No! “? Fortunately, Anthony Barnett reports on the interesting progressive left coalition that helped Biden win. Will it become such a movement for real change?
My favorite example is the 15M movement (the indignant) and the role played by the PAH (anti-eviction platform), in particular in the rise of the great feminist municipalist and mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. A decade later, Carlos Delclos, an expert on the social movement living in Barcelona at the time, summed up its essential characteristics in my interview with him:
“ PAH are in many ways the best migrant rights organization in Spain, as they organize themselves around a common need – housing – and say, “I don’t care if you have papers. If they try to evict you, I will come to your place to block it, if you come to my place when they try to evict us!…
This is really the key to the success of the indignant and the situation in Spain right now, this ability to take despair and make it a vision! It is not the vision of the company that they propose “over there”, but the one that they put into practice that makes the difference.
The key to the outraged was how they organized themselves amid the desperation prevailing in Spain before they emerged, pushing developments in a virtuous, subversive, emancipatory direction, as opposed to this game of ‘How can we play with xenophobia without being xenophobic? That was happening in the rest of Europe. They said: “We have to be the protagonists of our own change. We need to break down boundaries in our own practice.
In conclusion, the iconoclasm on the left can be a wonderful thing. At best, however, this equates to the phase of awareness of feminism in which women realize that they share a legitimate interest and it is up to them to fight back. This is why when I come across progressives or leftists saying no to speakers, old or modern books or works of art, or even knocking over statues in the nearest river, I ask myself question: What are you going to do next? Because it’s the follow-up that really makes the difference, since that’s where persuasion begins.
If no one has a clue or really intends to determine who to persuade next, then I’m afraid I suspect you are confusing progressive action with the competitive sport of the winner of neoliberal identity politics, whose the forces bid against each other for jobs, departmental funding, or social recognition measured in the likes of Facebook and competing worship tribes. It does not lead to gradual change. He plays directly in the hands of the right and the far right.
See When saying no is not enough in Splinter Part.1 here and Splinter Part 2. here
This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy.
Photo (c) Supporters of the “Sardine di Roma”, February 2020. | usage worldwide Pacific Press Media Production Corp. / Alamy. All rights reserved.
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