Sunday, September 12, 2004

The American Left


Last Friday I went to an event in Glendale Public Library, organized by KPFK and Union of Progressive Iranians. It was titled "1953 US Military Coup in Iran and US Empire Strategy in the Region," and promised to show a documentary. Documentaries on this subject are rare to find, so I went there to watch it.

The event was a disaster. Nothing was organized and every thing began late. We were packed in a small amphitheater, way behind its capacity (despite the fire safty regulations,) and we had to wait for the speaker an hour later than what was announced. During this one hour a bunch of people -mostly old people from the '60 and '70s generation- came to the podium, rased their fist in the air and shouted leftist slogans. The microphone was disconnected several times, and the speakers were intruppted repeatedly for technical problems. Worst of all, no documentary was shown and the subject of the speech was not the Coup but the US forign policy. It contained no deep insight into the subject, and we heard nothing but slogans, slogans, and slogans. Seeing all these I thought there is no wonder the Republicans and the Right are so popular in this country. The Palestinian flags and Hugo Chavez poters were not forgotten on the walls, but the microphone and the documentary were forgotten.

I left the place in the middle of the speech. There were so many people attending the event. It was a pity to see how the event was wasted like that. I wish the American left could grow up and do something that makes sense, instead of wasting its energy for selling books from dinousors like Mao or Lenin (yes, Lenin is a dinousur too) on the doorway, and wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and Red Star beret.
The extreme Left in the US reminds me of a 10 years old child, still playing with songs, raising fists, and slogans. To be Leftist here is the US is following a fashion more than a way of thinking that tries to critisize and analyse the subjects. To be a leftist here is having tatoos, shop organic and fair trade stuff in Trader Joe's, sign online pettitions, praise the dictator of Cuba (yes, I mean the dictator known as Fidel Castro,) and every now and then participate an event like what I saw on Friday. That is it. "Being a Leftist" is defined before being one. Like everything else here, it is a ready-made package to buy as it is. Despite all the criticism against the chains like McDonald and Berger King, to be a leftist in America is very much like going to a Mc Donald and choosing between Combo 1, 2, or 3. The Green Party, Anarchists, and a few other oprtions are your choices, and for being one of them you have to follow a certain pre-defined set of rules. Everything about them is so predictable. They don't do any action, but just reactions to what is set for them by the Republicans... and it is always in ways set up in a Combo 1-2-3 fashion: Don't drink Starbucks, don't shop from Gap, listen to certain bands and singers (mostly with psudo-revolutionary lyrics with no real "revolution" in the way they play their music,) and criticize the big corporations (but follow the fashion they set up for you.) Doing these all helps your conscience and makes you a 'leftist.'

All these shows why the American Left is such a loser. It has completely seperated itself from the reality. In Iran, the reality of the 1978 revolution and the massacre of the leftists in 1980-87 was like a slap in the face that waked up the leftists. The American Left lacks that experience, and I hope the experience never comes to America the way it came to the Iranians. But I think the American Left needs to find a way to touch what is going on in the world instead of palying with Che t-shirts and 19th century anarchist books. Praising a human disaster like Cuba, or selling Mao's books shows nothing but lack of ability to think, and being out of touch with the world.

Isaac Deutscher once said "The Right is evil, the left is idiot." (I translated it from Persian the way I read it in an article. It says "Raast-haa palidand va chap-haa ahmagh.") The Friday event reminded me of Isaac Deutscher, and how right he was when he talked about the left.
* For Elvis T-shirts click here, for Che click here.
* For seeing the comercials for "revolutionary Taco" click here


  1. dear blogger, don't know who you are, but we were in the same event! on Friday night and were greatly disappointed...

  2. Ouch. Insightful, harsh, and appropriate. Your status of "The Other" makes your observations even more valid, I would think.

    I wonder, though, what options you would recommend? Thinking back to Roy's piece on the prevalence of the media and its fixation with violence--how should the Left (or any activists, for that matter) try to shirk this system?

    I buy organic, sign online petitions (and follow up with letters to my congressman), read the NY Times and Adbusters, listen to Rage Against the Machine, usually avoid Starbucks, go to independent booksellers....

    and with each action, I recognize its smallness and shrug my shoulders, thinking that it is the collection of individual acts...


    Oh, and I hope you can find some better events--there are some out here in St. Louis, I would think as well in LA.