The country will take a moment of silence at 8:46 this morning. And rightly so. It was awful day. But as we mourn the thousands of lives tragically lost when passenger jets crashed into the twin towers in NYC, we should also remember the disastrous response that followed with all of its intended and unintended consequences. It’s wasn’t the country’s first foreign policy disaster, but it ranks up their as one of the worst. We — and the world — are still feeling its baneful effects. I’m reminded that in a moment of crisis, one has to be mindful of which political bloc is positioned to exploit that crisis for good or ill.
The ways in which Second Wave feminism left its imprint on our politics, economics, and culture over the past half century have been greatly underestimated in many quarters. I still hear people dismiss it as a “middle class” movement that was preoccupied with “individualist” preoccupations. And yet this multi-centered, many layered movement changed our society in countless ways and on so many levels in the face of stiff resistance. And not only from the right, although its opposition to women’s equality was and is fierce and sustained. In its camp now is the brazen misogynist and reckless authoritarian in the White House.
Below is a moving appreciation and obit of Leon Wofsy. The authors knew him well. I only met Leon, and regretfully so, late in his (and my) life, but I will greatly miss him. On my last visit to the West Coast I sat down with him for a chat. In that conversation, we discussed Trump and what it will take next year to beat him, the status of the left and the much broader democratic movement, and, not least, our experiences in the Communist Party. He left the party more than a half century before I did, but for many of the same reasons. His life was noble and purposeful.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” may sound like a cool turn of phrase, but it doesn’t fit this moment. Yes, great challenges exist. And none more important than the elections next year. But they aren’t insurmountable. A revitalized Democratic Party, an expansive, loosely knit, heterogeneous, and democratic minded coalition of millions, a revitalizing left, and favorable public opinion polls should give us more than a dollop of hope (and confidence) that we can, albeit with a lot of sweated labor, meet these challenges.
Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist leader, popularized this turn of phrase, but remember he did it, while sitting in a fascist prison and well aware of surging fascist governments in Italy and Germany. Both were beating down, to say the least, the opposition in their path.
I’m not sure what the value is of articles on bottom up organizing in the community or labor movement that are filled with lots of prescriptive advice — do this and that, we need this and that — and the latest organizing terminology, but are also notable in their failure to mention, let alone stress, the strategic imperative of defeating Trump and the Republican right next year. They lack, what I call, political embeddedness. Without the latter, such articles and analyses are problematic. And maybe that is putting it too nicely. The anti-electoralist, anti-Democratic Party strain of thinking on the left no longer packs the same wallop as it once did, but it still surfaces — sometimes reflexively — in people’s thinking.