Dec 4, 2020 | OPINION | Illustration by Bibi Powers
As an alumnus, I was disheartened to read the article titled “Far Left Views Need to Take a Back Seat” published in the last issue of The Catalyst warning students not to ‘perpetuate a radical, leftist narrative,’ lest they alienate the average American voter and quickly lose the small gains the Democratic Party has managed to make in this year’s elections.
If the left fails to hold itself to the standards of a genuinely utopian impulse – if it capitulates and sacrifices its vision of a considerably better world for short-term advantages – the difference between the left and the right will appear less significant than the difference between those who play with the tactics of fleeting electoral politics and those who’ve been alienated from the game (most of us, it turns out). That would be a monumental loss for the left, the loss of something like its soul. Then it might win elections in places where, as the author of the article reminds us, ‘compromise is needed,’ but what would it be to win once we’ve given up much of what we’re fighting for?
The author worries about isolating voters by means of ‘far-left’ talk of (say) extending human rights, like the right to an education or to healthcare, to all humans (not even: start with citizens); but the problem isn’t that certain people in certain electorally significant locales aren’t being appropriately catered to by this talk. The problem is that they find this sort of talk too radical for their tastes. And the solution isn’t to stop talking about these things, to cool our rhetoric or bite our tongues. It’s to raise consciousness, as leftists have done and continue to do about all manner of issues that would otherwise be kept under the radar by moderates seeking to appease political opponents for short-term gains, issues including racial segregation and its continuing effects, institutionalized and personal homophobia and transphobia, and class discrimination.
We shouldn’t shut up about these things for the sake of an electoral win. If we get “fucking torn apart” in failing to reject radicalism, in Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s memorable phrase, so be it: to win in rejecting any systematic, liberatory, anti-capitalist vision of a better world is to win far too little anyway.
I graduated from Colorado College last year and don’t remember the campus being filled with much radicalism: plenty of rather moderate talk of much-needed reforms, but on the whole (and with several noteworthy exceptions), not so much action. It might be easiest, then, to follow this trend and restrain the radicals in our ranks: ‘Biden won and that’s something worth celebrating,’ we might tell ourselves. ‘We need to make sure Trumpism doesn’t reassert itself with a vengeance,’ we might add. And if Biden’s America is really your vision of the country you want to live in, that’s fine, be a moderate and try not to notice whom you’ve (tactically) decided not to fight for: ‘the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulatto, the half-breed, the half dead,’ as Gloria Anzaldúa wrote.
But for those of us for whom that’s not an option, who can’t stomach trying to close our eyes or look away, moderation won’t cut it. At CC and elsewhere, we should be striving to make ‘far-left, radical’ talk look like what it is: an expression of reasonable, decent care for those around us – all of them. Enough dreaming small.
Class of 2020