Now What is the Duty of the American Left?
Michael Walzer 16 January 2017

Nothing like the title “The Historical Task of the Left in the Present Period” has ever appeared in Dissent. It is a line frequently used by Joseph Stalin, and according to all the transcripts of his speeches, it was always followed by “Prolonged Applause.” But this seems the right historical moment to take it back. It originally was the beginning of the sentence that came in response to the question: “What ought to be done?”

So, in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory, when populist nationalism and brutal xenophobia threaten the liberal order in Europe, when democracy is on the defensive everywhere (and social democracy more so), when immigrants and minorities are at risk in every European country and now in the United States too, when neoliberal economics is dominant and the working class is pinched more severely than it has been since World War Two—what is the historical task of the left?

I have friends who are ready to put their bodies between the police and the first immigrant they try to arrest. All of us are planning to register as Muslims if there ever is a Muslim registry. One city after another is declaring itself a safe haven for the undocumented. Some liberals and leftists are wearing safety pins—and others are calling this much too small a gesture. But right now all this is gestural. It is important to imagine ways to resist the far-right momentum of a Trump government. But nothing that I have read about “resistance” points to a serious political strategy. Some good and not-so-good tactical suggestions have appeared online, but they don’t answer the “historical task” question.

I don’t think the question is easy; nor do I have an overall strategy to offer. But there are three historical tasks that we should be thinking about. To read the full article on Dissent Magazine