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Why This Series? Introduction by Alan Minsky

January 31, 2011

Informing this series is the sense that three years into the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the vast majority of Americans have no significant political movement that truly represents their interests.

Since I’ve been organizing the series, as you can imagine, many people have approached me and asked, “Why use the term ‘Left’ at all?  If you say ‘Left,’ then you’re setting up an opposition to something called ‘Right,’ and it’s really not a movement for all peoples.”  But “Left” is a meaningful term, both politically and economically, and I think it’s particularly poignant at the moment.

However else we look at the current political and social situation in the United States, it is certainly true that the gap between the wealthy and the vast majority of the society has been steadily increasing in recent years; and I think many people – probably the majority of people in this society – recognize it has reached crisis levels.  The political Left is the shorthand for the political movements and forces that represent that vast majority of people, versus the empowered few.  Also, in the realm of politics, money – and particularly the money of the wealthy and of powerful private institutions, mostly corporations – has so skewed the electoral system that once again, the vast majority of people need a voice.

So both economically and politically, it’s my sense that the moment cries out for a powerful Left.  And yet, where there should be a powerful Left, there is largely a void.  Hence, this series.

But as we all know, simply to wish something does not make it come true.  To build a powerful Left in this country, and a truly powerful political force is what’s needed, will take the participation of millions upon millions of people.

So what is it I hope to achieve in this series?

Well first, I think something is achieved simply by framing the question; just asking the question is very essential at this point.  And, as I just made reference, the question, once asked – it’s not easy to provide an adequate answer.

But on the other hand, there are some things that are clear as day.  This is a society with two million people imprisoned, by far the highest incarceration rate in the world; it’s a nation leaving the largest carbon footprint in the history of humanity at a time that the earth’s fragile ecosystems are under attack; where there is a poverty draft that provides the manpower for the maintenance of an empire imposing itself against the wills of people across the globe; where millions upon millions of people hold on to low-paying jobs they despise out of economic fear; and the numbers who fall into poverty has now reached a historic high – it is clear as day that this society could be better.  It is clear as day, to anyone who thinks of it, that the direction it needs to go is the direction broadly defined by the Left.

We all know we can all do tremendously better, and hopefully this series will contribute to helping us just get to it – to the hard, inspirational work of building a powerful Left in the United States.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeremy Drake permalink
    February 2, 2011 5:13 pm


    Kudos to you on this series! And thank you for organizing it. I’ve been catching a bit of it each afternoon this week and have felt that this is some of the strongest and broadly relevant programming I’ve heard on the station period. Fantastic guests and excellent, pointed questions. Please keep this dialog alive!

  2. Sirenita del mar permalink
    February 2, 2011 6:31 pm

    I am dismayed at KPFK’s schizophrenia.

    There has been constant coverage and celebration of the popular uprising of the valiant people of Egypt, describing it as a “leaderless” revolt by the oppressed youth of that country. At the same time, there is this series of “how to build a powerful left in the US,” implying that by the dialog and work of an “enlightened vanguard class” a powerful leftist movement could emerge. Who’s going to create it? KPFK? The male talking heads that are interviewed by male show hosts who still believe in electoral politics? Or others who still believe in the possibility of storming the winter palace and overthrowing the current regime? What about the agency of the people, like the ones in Egypt, who are staging a “leaderless” revolt that has the international media (and goverments) on its/ their heels?

    I heard the best coverage of the Egyptian revolt in Noticiero Pacífica, who had guests who had in mind the many Latin American popular revolts of the last decade. I never heard in the English speaking shows any associations of what is happening in the Middle East with those popular mobilizations that have pushed the continent towards the establishment of governments that espouse more socially conscious social agendas, but that have also co-opted most of the cutting-edge radical energy of the popular movements that put them in power. As an example, the people’s slogan in the Argentinian rebellion of December 19-20, 2001 was “que se vayan todos,” meaning, let all the politicians go. The same youth that stormed the streets of that nation during those two historic days, presenting scenes eerily similar to the ones that are coming from Egypt, were the ones who spent nine hours last year, waiting in line to pay respects to the dead Néstor Kirschner, the president who systematically co-opted the radical movement of 2001 when he came to power in 2003.

    The fact that “leftist” options are not visible in the mainstream (or even in more popular media) in the US is because most of those grassroots efforts are happening at the local level, and dont make too much noise. I personally live in the Eastside of LA, and I can say that there are numerous autonomous examples in our communities. I feel that the networking of these community projects has created a parallel texture in the social fabric, that necessarily, with time, dismembers the hegemony of mainstream values. The “creation of a powerful Leftist movement” poses the risk of replicating hierarchical, patriarchal, racist organizations that will basically replace one dead paradigm for another.

    I suggest KPFK seriously get out of the radio station and into the streets of LA to talk to the people who are doing the daily work of creating a new world.

    En solidaridad,
    Sirenita del mar

  3. February 18, 2011 11:35 am

    please keep me informed

  4. andy permalink
    March 7, 2011 5:16 pm

    Thank you for this series very informative. We need for of it.

  5. andy permalink
    March 7, 2011 5:17 pm

    Thank you for this series very informative. We need more of it.

  6. Sara Ross permalink
    March 18, 2011 6:06 pm

    Yes this could become a powerful movement, but I too have a problem with the term “”Left”, which may be off-putting to some possible allies. At any rate, as a long time observer and occasional participant in political goings on, I have often thought that it would be a forward move if all the little splinter parties we now have could somehow coalesce upon a common platform and unite thier forces and powers instead of remaining small and relatively irrelevant, especially now that the “powers that be” are rampaging through anything resembling our democracy and constitutional rights.

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