This is a challenge to the left.
Not the left that’s out there already doing the hard work—the labor movement, the Occupiers, the immigrants rights’ organizers—but the left that’s like, well, me: the academics, the writers, the bloggers, the journalists, the think tankers, the kibbitzers. The people who talk too much.
My challenge is this: If you’re calling for the labor movement to be more radical—more adventurous, more willing to get out into the streets, to break laws, to challenge the social order (and let me be clear, that is an aim I share)—I want you to stop and ask yourself a question.
Have you ever organized a majority, even a plurality, of your co-workers—in an academic department, at a newspaper, in a think tank, at the little non-profit where you work—to confront the boss, whoever that might be, in such a way that all of your jobs were put into jeopardy?
If you haven’t, I ask you to imagine doing that. Not for the sake of you and your co-workers’ immediate well-being but for the sake of a larger collective good: a single-payer health care system, let’s say, or an end to adjunct labor, the elimination of capitalism, whatever.
And ask yourself whether you could do it — or if not you, whether and how you think it could be done. And not just for one day, but day after day, with no end in sight, and with no prospect for success.
What does that mean? Getting that untenured colleague in your department to stop teaching, that fellow reporter to stop reporting. Getting them out—and keeping them out.
If you think you can do it, I assure you probably can’t.
If you think you can’t do it, I assure you that you just might—and that it will take every last thing from you to make it happen.