Manifesto for a Left Turn - American Sociological Association
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 04:04PM
Dr. Harriet Fraad

Co authored October 2008. Full Manifesto For A Left Turn PDF article available online.

Manifesto for a Left Turn

It is time for a left turn. The current capitalist disaster gives us the chance to reverse the forty year decline of an organized and socially influential American left. The ascendancy of the political and ideological right keeps generating disasters. It has caused our current severe economic meltdown causing ever widening social inequalities and widespread personal pain. The Democratic Party, trade unions, remaining leftists, and recent social movements all seem unwilling or unable to take needed action separately or together, to end those disasters. A new left turn is now necessary to re chart a political course toward genuine social equality, sustainability, and peace. Building such a left is our project.

Ever widening cracks in the edifice of Capital create new possibilities for transformation. This manifesto calls for a new radical project at a critical juncture in history.  We call upon progressives to forgo mobilizing exclusively around their own particular issue, and to perceive and refocus their struggles as part of a larger movement for social transformation.

Illusions about the Democratic Party as a potential vehicle for significant social change need to be discarded. A left turn can build on the history of the American left in the twentieth century, embracing the militancy of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s and the commitment to participatory democracy of the black freedom movement, the women’s movement and the New Left of the 1960s. Yet that Left turn must also be rooted in the analysis of the specific conditions of the current epoch.

This manifesto aims to contribute to that left turn by:

Facing the crisis of the left in the US today and building a unified, diverse and class conscious left movement.
By engaging people where and how they live in our nation of dwindling opportunities and isolated lives.
Politically, coming to terms with the fact that even as liberals and leftists cling to the possibility of changing America through incremental change, the reform era which emerged at the turn of the 20th century and dominated political struggles and political discourse for three quarters of the 20th century has come to an end. Its demise has proven to be that of a broad based mass left movement as well. We will change that.

Creating principles for a new left turn.  It is time to revisit the unfulfilled emancipatory project of the enlightenment and its commitment to the radical imagination.  The anti-capitalist project can rethink the system of production at its base and analyze the new mechanisms of ever greater exploitation in the workplace and in the culture at large. We will experiment with new ideas of collective ownership, and collective responsibility for decisions on production and distribution at each workplace.

We can create new cultural and social spaces that  facilitate the  power to implement a genuine radical democracy. A parallel principle would be to rethink the relationship between Nature and production- We will then find creative ways to proceed that respect the ecological effects of our decisions.

Alongside these demands, we can rethink personal relationships within the framework of class transformation and innovative and creative  psychic economies whether those relationships are intimate, family relationships or connections at the workplace or in government. As vital as questions of principle are those of organization.

We do not propose to organize a new political formation out of whole cloth. We are mindful of two dangers: premature declarations of “parties” before the conditions for their emergence have matured, and starting an organization before many of the historical and contemporary issues outlined in this statement are discussed among a wide range of thoughtful people.

This is a working document now, as it will be in all the fazes of its development. We begin with the deep conviction that we can create a powerful positive non-capitalist mass movement- a movement that can transform America.

We can create a system in which the people whose labor creates wealth make the decisions about what to do with the wealth they create.

We can advocate and experiment with all sorts of collective controls over natural and productive resources.
We can have democratic organization of our workplaces, community organizations, homes and families.
We can decommodify essential services such as socialized medicine on the model of France, which includes quality mental as well as physical health care and subsidized expert quality mass transit based on models from France, Germany and others, We can follow the examples of Argentine and Brazilian workers who have reopened plants shuttered by employers and overturned Capital’s prerogatives.

Yes we can create workers, consumers and farmers cooperatives to take back the control of production and consumption Yes we can take back our cities Yes we can provide free quality childcare, education and afterschool and summer care for all US children from birth through higher education. Yes we can end all artificial barriers between people whether racial, sexual, Ethnic or religious. Many of these goals are already achieved in other Western nations. We can do it here too.

We invite your engagement with the basic project.

Article originally appeared on harrietfraad (
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