Noam Chomsky recently described this period in America as having striking and disturbing similarities to the late Weimar Republic just before the Nazis took over. What was absent there was a coherent strategy from the Left to challenge the rise of the fascists. We cannot allow a similar incoherence to cripple us in the Obama years ahead.
The problem is obvious: we have a president who raised hopes very high that he would fight for significant change, then came into office and seemed more interested in pursuing the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial-intelligence complex than in serving the interests of middle income people and the poor. It would be a mistake to ignore the very good things that have also happened in the first year and a half of the Obama Administration, not to mention the significance of the cultural changes that happen when an African American leads our country. And of course The Nation audience doesn’t need to be reminded of the many ways in which Obama failed to live up to his explicit promises on health care (for everyone, remember?), human rights, environment, gay rights, and the list goes on.
But on the other hand, a racist and quasi-fascist Tea Party movement led by Sarah Palin and other know-nothings prefigures the possibility of a genuine fascist reactivity in this country, which, according to Chomsky, has never happened here during his lifetime. So the question is, how to protect the liberals whose very failures and commitment to the interests of America’s ruling elites and the wealthy have massively contributed to the emergence of this threat. When most people think that the Obama Administration is the Left, and hence are susceptible to the claim that the Left’s big government policies don’t really serve them, and there is an element of real truth in that last clause, then how do we both ally with liberals against the quasi fascist movement and yet critique the liberals for their failure to articulate a worldview and policies that would actually be pro-people and not pro-corporate?
That’s one reason why The Nation, Yes! Magazine, Common Cause, Peace Action, Code Pink, The Institute for Policy Studies, the Progressive Democrats of America, United Religions Initiative, The Washington Peace Center, and many others have responded to Tikkun magazine’s invitation to join with Tikkun’s interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives to begin a process of discussing strategy, and is inviting you to be part of that process. It begins at the Strategy Conference in Washington, D.C. June 11-14.
Speakers include Keith Ellison, Dennis Kucinich, Bill McKibben, Joan Chittister, Riane Eisler, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Rev. James Forbes, Medea Benjamin, Robert Thurman, David Korten, John Dear SJ, Robert McChesney, Jonathan Granoff, and many more.
One step we will be considering at this conference is to develop a unified vision for the Left that we call “The Caring Society” and counterpose it to the selfishness, materialism and me-firstism of the tax-cutters and the corporate elites. Another step is to argue for the Global Marshall Plan introduced as House Res. 1016 by Keith Ellison—not only as a way to end domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger and inadequate education and to repair the global environment, but also as the more effective way to create “homeland security” than the War in Afghanistan and the proposed sanctions against Iran and whatever new targets for war the militarists are dreaming up. And we will consider an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) which would not only overturn the Supreme Court’s “Peoples United” pro-corporate decision, but would require corporations with incomes over $100 million per year to get a new corporate charter every five years which they could only get if they could demonstrate a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. And of course, we want your ideas as well!
We’ll also be discussing immigration reform, health care, “empathy and the Supreme Court,” what a healthy legal system should look like, the problems with Obama’s approach to education, a vision of an alternative economy, healing Israel/Palestine and the current debate about boycotts and divestments, the role of spiritual consciousness in a progressive agenda, nuclear disarmament, a strategy for environmentalists, the disappointments about Obama’s promises to the LGBT community, and how to counter the racism that persists in shaping politics in the US.
So please register for the conference now before its space limitations force us to close registration.