Can the broad left grow together? Can we create ways to meet the monumental challenges that the American left faces today?
October 23, 2012
The far left is continuing to grow in North America and around the world. From the conversations we’ve been having with lifetime leftists and activists around this country that much is clear. People like leftist economist Richard Wolff and Baltimore community leader & Black Panther Reverend Annie Chambers are telling us that the left in America & around the world is growing at a rate they’ve never seen before. Things are possible now that haven’t ever been possible before in their lifetimes. You’d have to go back to the Depression-era left to find a time in North America with a left as swelling as ours is today, they say. That’s inspiring.
With capitalism in crisis and an empire stretched to capacity, high unemployment and low prospects for a future for the indebted youth, we have unprecedented opportunities and unprecedented challenges on the left today.
One of those challenges is the tendency of the left to fracture, disagree and eventually self-destruct. There are many factors that influence a sectarian left; any group of people who desperately want to create a new, better kind of world but genuinely disagree about the means by which we might get there are going to have passionate quarrels. The differences between progressives, anarchists, communists and socialists are many but so are the similarities. And it’s in that similar space - the desire to destroy corporate (and for many, capitalist) influence - that we can work together and grow together.
Another pressing challenge for the left is the need for spaces in an alternative society - the need for leftist organizations, collectives, co-operatives, and Workers Self Directed Enterprises to prepare room for growing numbers of people newly disenfranchised with the system of capitalism, who need a place to plug into that doesn’t just suck energy from them, but spaces that also nourish, empower and encourage them in the fight against capitalism. We need welcoming institutions that comfort and educate those who are broken from the horrors of capitalism and institutions that simultaneously channel energy into attacking the system that is at the root of the world’s most horrific problems.
One such institution working on just that is Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse in Baltimore. It consciously aims to meet both of the above needs through collective decision-making, left-infrastructure building, and by building spaces that are inclusive to and encourage dialogues among the broad left. Red Emma’s isn’t your typical bookstore/café; it welcomes the homeless, provides free computer use for the community, provides anti-capitalist education and hosts leftist readings & conferences.
But it isn’t your typical anarchist bookstore either. Red Emma’s expressly aims to bridge the gap between Marxist-socialists and anarchists, and all others among the fractured left. When asked what concerned her most about the left, collective founding member Kate Khatib said the fear of sectarianism was what kept her up at night. It was important to her and to many members of the collective, to focus on projects like Red Emma’s and the Baltimore Free School (one of the divergent projects of Red Emma’s) that aim to appeal to the broad left.
And Red Emma’s is growing, allowing those getting involved to plug into a community of leftists, to stay educated and to make a small amount of money in order to live to fight another day. Creating sustainable infrastructure on the left is at the core of what Red Emma’s hopes to accomplish.
What Red Emma’s is building, in the same vein as the movement Democracy at Work is building, answers some of the biggest problems on the left today.
The People’s Record also hopes to play a part in building infrastructure for disenfranchised citizens and aims to aid the fight for a new united left through a few different projects we’ve been working on. Please take a look at what we’re doing and contact us if you have any interest in getting involved with any of our projects.