We’ve all seen the jokes. “No one sabotages leftists like other leftists.” We’ve seen the memes. We’ve seen the attacks. The claims that anarchists are “useless” or MLs “are just fascists.” In our weakest moments, we’ve made these attacks ourselves. But now more than ever, we can’t afford weak moments.
The left CAN stop infighting. More importantly, we NEED to stop infighting.
As police terrorize our most vulnerable communities, we need to stand together. As an eviction epidemic threatens to leave millions of Americans without roofs over their heads, we don’t have time for petty bullshit. As the climate crisis and an idiotic push for war with Russia or China looms, we have much bigger enemies than ourselves to focus on.
Let’s be clear. There’s nothing wrong with disagreements. There’s nothing wrong with debating which approach works best. The exchanging of ideas to different paths of creating a better, fairer world is valuable, and when done right, can strengthen left solidarity. The problem is when we use these disagreements to form factions and justify hatred or distrust of other leftists.
A lot of the areas where one group on the left is hesitant to work with another is based on historical precedent that, quite frankly, doesn’t matter. Yes, we should be aware of our history, but our history also isn’t our present. Back when some of the fights between reformists or revolutionaries, or communists and anarchists began, there was a strong leftist tide. These fights started before McCarthyism, before mass murder of leftists, before the decades of successful capitalist propaganda and American global hegemony. It sucks to admit, but we were strategically, and utterly, defeated. It’s nothing short of a miracle that people are finally able to criticize capitalism and talk somewhat openly about socialism, anarchism, and communism. Let’s not make the mistake of believing we’re secure. Capitalists still have all the power and they will go to extreme lengths to break up a resurgence of leftist thought and once again bury even the basic principles of our ideologies. We can’t afford to make that easier for them.
To put it simply, left infighting started when there was a left with political power. Right now, there isn’t one. Before we start worrying that the wrong approach to leftism could sabotage us, there needs to be an Us.
Maybe it’s America’s hyper-binary approach to discourse that makes us look at solidarity in black and white. Maybe it’s the history of leftist movements fighting with one another that makes us feel like we need to fight amongst ourselves. Maybe we’re all just frustrated and don’t want to risk betting on the wrong leaders or the wrong orgs. All of these possibilities are valid, and they won’t be easy to overcome. But overcoming division is not only possible, it’s vital.
Last week, those of us on left Twitter witnessed the best of the left. For several days straight, #NoComradesUnder1k trended in an unprecedented and heartwarming attempt to boost the platforms of every user on the hellsite who identifies as a leftist. Odds are we weren’t picking and choosing which leftists to follow. We weren’t only following the users with the same emojis as us in their bio, following roses or blue hats but leaving out black flags or hammer and sickle. We weren’t scrolling through people’s profiles to see if they’re more about the electoral approach or the direct-action approach.
We were giving people the benefit of the doubt that if they say they’re a leftist, and they say they want to boost other leftists, then that’s all that matters. That energy is possible to maintain. It’s the energy we can and must channel at all times if we want a successful movement.
Don’t agree that electing progressives is the way forward? Great! We need more leaders of direct action and it’s healthy to be skeptical. But let’s not diminish the hard work of leftists who prefer Jamaal Bowman over Elliot Engel or Cori Bush over Lacy Clay. Not ready for a full, take to the streets revolution? Cool, it’s not for everyone. Just make sure you’re not putting the more militant protesters down. Lean more libertarian left or more authoritarian left? We all have our preferences. But let’s make sure we’re not in bubbles. Let’s not direct our anger at anyone other than those in power who are killing us, regardless of what type of leftist we are.
There are only so many socialists. Only so many anarchists or communists. Only so many democratic socialists, Maoists, Leninists, mutualists. But there are millions of us who agree that capitalism is our doom and needs to be put in check. It’s damn time we unite on that common ground. Because once we achieve that, nothing can stop us.