Earlier this week, on Democracy Now, host Amy Goodman reported that Michael Moore met Noam Chomsky for the first time at the 25th Anniversary Benefit for FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
I have a problem with that.
That Moore is meeting Chomsky for the first time is symptamtic of a problem of the US left. It tells us that the prime movers of the left in the United States are not part of an organized movement, not part of a new party, not part of a left that is working to form a movement for change.
Moore has made dramatic, humorous, and effective films critiquing the US capitalist system. Chomsky is one of the best, most scholarly and precise diagnosticians of the contradictions of US and European imperialism over the past century.
Yet, the logic of organization used by these powerful voices is weak, even non-existant. Along with others, such as Ariana Huffington, who named a newspaper site after herself that recently was valued at over $300 million, Greg Palast, who sells his books laden with brilliant acerbic investigative journalism, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West whose new alliance tells it like it is, and many others, the American Left is a balkanized sea of individuals and activists. The people who should be the leaders or working with the leaders of an organized left are, instead, each preaching from their own pulpits, earning a living, sometimes a lucrative one, yet not working in any unified way to form a movement.
Is it unrealistic to expect these pundits and analysts to somehow self-organize and be part of forming a movement? Perhaps. But, at least, they could each be pointing out that, effectively, we have no organized left in the United States. As de facto leaders, to whom audiences and fans flock, these speakers could do more than appear on CNN (in the case of Ariana) or go on yet another book tour at Universities or be heard on Pacific Radio preaching to the already-convinced. They could put each other into their address books and get together with other political organizers, including Latino and Black organizers, and could be part of an organized movement.
The Arab Awakening has shown that, initially, a spontaneous leaderless (or so it may seem) movement for change can indeed self-organize. That is a wonderful new phenomenon aided by modern communication tools. Does that apply to the US? In fact, will a leaderless movement even work in the Arab world, ultimately? Of course not. A next phase is necessary both in the Arab world and among the US left.