Prior to Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency and his calls for political revolution, many Americans were understandably put off by the term “socialism,” as it has been demonized by politicians since the beginning of the Cold War. Those who witnessed our alliance with the Soviet Union are dead, as are any who might remember Eugene Debs or Norman Thomas and the American Socialists who spearheaded women’s suffrage and labor reform. Many of their ideas were co-opted by FDR, or at least acknowledged. The end of World War II brought a political euphoria to the country that suffocated the voices of socialism. The beginning of the Cold War made socialists a pariah.
The New Left arose in the 1960s, rejecting the authoritarian Old Left of the Leninists.
Although still supportive of Marxist theory, the New Left dismissed the notion that workers of the world were a revolutionary force. They saw the Old Left as antiquated and out of touch with the real concerns of the world: ending war, achieving social and economic equality, rights for women and gays, protecting the environment. None of these were concerns of the Old Left, which had ignored women’s and gay rights, and placed industrialization above the environment.
The New Left was a peace movement. A socialist movement. An environmental movement. An equal rights movement.
But the New Left is gone.
It was largely co-opted by liberals here and in Europe. Most of the social issues it championed are now widely embraced by establishment liberals. With the exception of the goal of socialism, the goals of the New Left are now shared in varying degrees by US Democrats, UK Labour, German Greens, etc.
In many ways, the New Left won most of its battles.
Many in the New Left thought that students would be the revolutionary force that would topple capitalism, racism, and military adventurism. They were wrong, of course. Student involvement in the the New Left was primarily fueled by opposition to the Vietnam War.
Women, gays, African-Americans and, increasingly, Hispanics, have been able to make substantial gains within the system, dulling any potential revolutionary ardor that might otherwise have flourished.
The most important battles are still ahead: Defeating capitalism and defending the environment. And it may well be that that the revolutionary force necessary to finally end capitalism will not be a class or a demographic, but a loosely knit coalition of people who come to realize that capitalism is unsustainable, and that capitalism is the enemy of democracy, the environment, and consumers.
Just as the New Left arose to fill the void of the failed Old Left, the Future Left’s time has come: a coalition of progressives, socialists, environmentalists, universal rights advocates, consumer rights activists, anti-globalists, and occupiers who will take the struggle forward.
The banner could be Eco-socialism or some other appellation to distinguish it from the industrial socialism of the Old Left and the democratic socialism found in varying degrees in Europe.
Eco-socialism will rise in response to the continued destruction of the environment, the growing economic disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us, and the neo-fascist corporate government that is the result of unfettered business bribery of elected officials, and the appointments of industry lobbyists to federal regulatory agencies and the courts.
An Eco-socialist society will place the environment above all other considerations. And an environmental priority will lead inexorably in time to the end of animal agriculture, the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions, clearcutting of rainforests, and water and air pollution.
Turning exclusively to plant-based agriculture will markedly increase the number of people who can be fed per acre, create surpluses that will reduce world hunger, and substantially reduce environmental damage.
Eschewing the consumption of animals will allow for the growth of sentiment to eliminate the exploitation of animals.
And the eventual recognition of Animal Rights.
• I am unaware of any other blog with the Armory’s mission of radicalizing the animal movement. I certainly hope I am not alone, and that there are similar sentiments being expressed by comrades unknown to me.
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