The state of the union for the Left after Trump’s first year in office

The first year of the Trump presidency witnessed a promotion of White nationalism within dominant governing circles and an acceleration in policies to further dispossess the poor and middle classes (the 99%) of resources to benefit bloated arms contractors and the already extravagantly rich (the 1%). Revealed in open view is a family & elite friends plundering the Treasury for personal gain through cutting taxes for the wealthy, slashing basic social services, and paying lip-service to infrastructure rebuilding while along the way denigrating Muslims and nearly every global population of color, all to the delight of Christian evangelicals and racial segregationists. Most immediately, the ascendency of an authoritarian regime represents a political backlash against the highly visible anti-racist Black Lives Matter movement (BLM, 2014-present), the anti-capitalist Occupy Movement (2011-12), and the now dormant anti-war/anti-militarism movements. Nevertheless, we are witnesses to both new and enduring social justice movements, such as BLM, #Resist, anti-fascist anarchists, Immigrant Rights, anti-patriarchy #MeToo/Women’s Marches, LGBTQ human rights activists, and Reverend Dr. William Barber II’s “Moral Mondays Marches.”

Barber’s Moral Marches offer a grassroots model to bring together seemingly disparate groups fighting elements of inequality and injustice—in what Barber calls fusion politics. Operating solely as separate movements is self-defeating in an age of hyper-White supremacy, xenophobia, and wealth appropriation by the Right. Capitalism’s guard will not hesitate to respond with characteristic violence to attack isolated leftists and their organizations in order to continue a transfer of public wealth for private gain—a pattern Marx recognized in how invasive capitalistic social relations “come dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” A radical fusion of resistance must recognize opportunities within these various movements to advance accessible principles of economic justice through democratic socialism. A way forward is to revitalize the stated aims of the Black Panthers “Ten-Point Program” and the Civil Rights “Freedom Budget,” both released in 1966, some of which were resurrected 50 years later in the Sanders campaign. Popular education at all levels can call for (a) significant tax increases on individuals who make more than $200,000 annually and on large corporations and (b) a corresponding redistribution of public funds to provide for:

  • full employment that is not exploitative and provides a living wage;
  • guaranteed income for all who are unable to attain a living wage;
  • housing for all;
  • universal healthcare through a single-payer healthcare system;
  • free higher education;
  • voting rights for all citizens, including felons;
  • abolition of the current penal system supported by a prison-industrial complex, and the release of all non-violent criminals, and shift to community-based supervision and education;
  • implement community-based policing to replace the impunity of militarized police brutality;
  • drastic reductions of the military-industrial complex budget as a step to stop the U.S. from waging terrorism globally and to reallocate funds to actual human needs; and
  • recognition of the basic humanity of all people regardless of identities that are politically based on race, ethnicity, national origins, gender, sexuality, and physical and mental ability.

A coherent and consistent program of popular education can move a troubled public looking for solutions to growing inequality and authoritarianism toward these goals.

Michael Vavrus is the author of the 2018 forthcoming chapter “Movement Toward a ‘Third Reconstruction’ and Educational Equity” in his co-edited book, “Intersectionality of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Teaching and Teacher Education: Movement Toward Equity in Education” (Brill Publishers, Netherlands).