Augmenting the Left: Challenging the Right, Reimagining Transformation

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2181 ... August 31, 2020

Augmenting the Left: Challenging the Right, Reimagining Transformation

Niko Block

The ongoing wave of action for the defunding and abolition of armed police has provoked a familiar yet unresolved series of questions for the left. Momentous though the movement may be in its scope and demands, it nonetheless now confronts a series of political obstacles, and will need to maintain an expansive coalition of activists and supporters to achieve its long-term goals. The danger, as we witnessed with other recent uprisings such as Idle No More or the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests, is that the movement will dissipate while its organizers are scrambling to simultaneously maintain its focus and expand its support base by broadening their political analysis.

Both of these tasks must be accomplished by any successful movement, and yet they can easily contradict each other. In the context of today’s defunding movement, the specific demand for the reduction of armed police must remain at the forefront of public discussion in order for concrete progress to occur; but at the... same time, the success of police defunding seems equally contingent upon its coupling with anti-poverty initiatives that will reduce the concrete drivers of violent crime in heavily policed communities. In the difficult moments when movement organizers begin explaining that a racially-oriented movement is not just about race or that a class-based movement is not just about class, centrist and right-wing actors are quick to ridicule the inevitably ambitious nature of the left’s demands.

Following a decade in which this cycle has occurred several times over, the new essay collection Challenging the Right, Augmenting the Left confronts the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues that movements for social justice face today. Initiated in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the volume -- edited by Robert Latham, A.T. Kingsmith, Julian von Bargen, and myself -- broadly examines the obstacles and opportunities for movement politics at the end of an extremely complicated decade.

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