Since I first started getting a little attention, as a blogger, I have had a reputation as a dissident leftist, that is, as someone who self-identifies with the left but who disagrees with a great deal of left practice. And this is fair.
One of the consequences of that has been that I have always attracted people who would like to complain about certain left practices or developments. And that too is fair. But it frequently leaves me in the position of being expected to reject certain aspects of the left that I just don’t. And lately this has been the BlackLivesMatter protests. Many of my regular correspondents want me to explain why these are actually bad for the left. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
We have a spontaneous outbreak of popular militancy dedicated to erasing the horrors of institutional racism, one that questions the authority of existing institutions and seeks to create new grassroots alternatives to the institutions of violent in establishment government. This movement has avoided the pitfalls of online organizing and expressed itself through real world, on-the-ground street protest, with thousands putting their bodies on the line to express their rejection of the state and its oppression of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And when I talk with people who I know believe in the left-wing cause sincerely but who are looking for reasons to dismiss this movement, all I can think is… what more are you looking for?
Are there reasons to worry? Of course. Some people feel a reactionary backlash brewing, and I am worried about that. And there is the possibility of internal divisions that result in mutual recrimination, in factional war, in self-destruction, and I’m even more worried about that. The revolution eats its children, after all. Will this movement ultimately be a force for real positive change? Will it collapse into self-interest and professionalization? I have no idea. I can only look at the reality on the ground and recognize that if this moment is not good enough, I can’t imagine what moment could be.
I have marched with protesters five times since this all began, in part because nothing good has happened in my life in some time and I crave the feeling of being inspired. I recognize the confusion and hypocrisy of someone like me doing so. But I feel compelled by the passion of the movement, its righteousness, and the odiousness of its opponents. If it fails, fine. We will deal with that when it happens. In the meantime, I ask my fellow leftists: take yes for an answer. These are the moments you said you wanted. So try embracing them, at least as hard as you try to find fault. This doesn’t happen every day.