I have an uneasy relationship with the word ‘left’ as applied to politics.
The tactics and ideas in this newsletter aren't rooted in any political persuasion. They're for confronting power generally. But for nearly 15 years I've worked on advancing progressive causes. And my own politics have remained consistently left-wing.
But the left has changed so much recently, I hardly recognise it. The journalist Matt Taibbi expresses much of the problem:
I grew up in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. A [left-winger] was the person who was willing to talk about anything, had a sense of humor, was willing to entertain far-out ideas, didn’t get offended easily, and would’ve had a theoretical discussion about anything. Then all of a sudden, it feels like in the last five years this dynamic has just been turned on its head.
So while I usually try to be constructive in this newsletter, I hope you’ll allow me some therapy today. Below is a short piece I wrote about where I think many left activists are going wrong, in the spirit of the ironic, iconic speech from Trainspotting.
If anything, it articulates what not to do. Whatever your politics.