In an essay originally published at Truthout and just re-published by the Moyers & Company blog, Henry Giroux argues that American society is now facing "the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy," and that this reality calls for a new way of doing politics among American progressives — "an expansive understanding of politics, not fixating singularly on elections or any other issue but rather emphasizing the connections among diverse social movements."
What is imperative in rethinking the space of the political is the need to reach across specific identities and stop mobilizing exclusively around single-issue movements and their specific agendas. As the Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group expressed in its 2008 piece, "Left Turn: An Open Letter to US Radicals," many groups on the left would grow stronger if they were to "perceive and refocus their struggles as part of a larger movement for social transformation." Our political agenda must merge the pedagogical and the political by employing a language and mode of analysis that resonates with people's needs while making social change a crucial element of the political and public imagination. At the same time, any politics that is going to take real change seriously must be highly critical of any reformist politics that does not include both a change of consciousness and structural change.
If progressives are to join in the fight against authoritarianism in the United States, we all need to connect issues, bring together diverse social movements and produce long-term organizations that can provide a view of the future that does not simply mimic the present. This requires connecting private issues to broader structural and systemic problems both at home and abroad. This is where matters of translation become crucial in developing broader ideological struggles and in fashioning a more comprehensive notion of politics.
Those of us hoping to keep participatory democracy alive in the United States in the face of massive attacks funded by obscenely wealthy elites would be well advised to pay attention to this analysis — and to start connecting the dots and making solidarity across lines that divide us and serve the interest of our oppressors.
The photo of Henry Giroux is a screenshot, by way of Truthdig, from a video conversation between Giroux and Bill Moyers as the Moyers & Company site.