Be the Change!
In the United States, we’ve been told since infancy that capitalism is the most remarkable economic system ever created. In reality, it’s a complete fallacy. In the U.S, at least every ten to eight years, there’s an economic downturn that ranges from a mild recession to Great Depression.
In the United States, the source of the U.S. economy’s original ‘capital’ came from human slaves from Africa and stolen lands from Native Americans. Both those genocidal policies helped shape U.S. history. This was accomplished by the symbiotic relationship between corporations and the United States government. If we were honest about the U.S., corporate influence has had a chokehold on our political system since day one. Just read Howard Zinn’s seminal work “A People’s History of the United States.”
Please don’t worry. Throughout history, there have always been people who fought against unchecked capitalism in the United States. Some of the things that countless Americans enjoy today can be thanks to an untold number of brave anti-capitalists who stood up against the powers that be.
Liberals and conservatives often joined hands during ‘democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders’s presidential run in 2016 and 2020. They claimed, what have leftists, socialists, or radicals ever done for America? This discourse dominated the Twitter and Facebook feed during the 2016 and 2020 presidential election cycles. It was always to harshly critique those who are part of the U.S. political left by telling them they’re petulant children who wanted everything to be, and I quote, “PERFECT.” I’ve had people in my personal life tell me this same nonsense. These were intelligent and well-read people too. Or even worse is the insidious argument by the mainstream media about those on the far right or far left both being too extreme. First off, the far right wants Christain fascism in the United States. The far left in the United States wants everyone to have healthcare, food to eat, a safe place to live, and a habitable planet. There’s a huge difference.
Leftists wanting people to live with human dignity and have their basic needs met isn’t striving for perfection or extreme. It’s the humane thing to do. Fighting for a livable planet and ecosystems to be sustained for all the creatures we share the earth with isn’t perfection or extreme. It’s the right thing to do if we want a future for humanity. Countless leftists have fought, and many have bled and died to make the United States live up to its promise of being a more perfect union. We still have a long way to go.
The truth is leftists have been here fighting for a better world since day one in the United States. So I bring you five significant ways anti-capitalist have influenced the U.S:
The Labor Movement
If you enjoy 8-hour work days, not having your five-year-old child working in the coal mine, weekends off, workman’s compensation, and a minimum wage. You can thank a leftist. The history of the labor movement is filled with radicals, socialists, and communists who fought corporate power to ensure that all Americans could benefit from the fruits of their labor. Check out folk heroes like Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Eugene Debs, and Mother Jones; they are just a few of the labor activists and leftists who significantly impacted labor in the United States.
If brave folks never fought back, collective bargaining, and built strong unions. People would still work 12-hour days, work for zero benefits, and three-year-olds would work in factories for pennies on the dollar. It’s a reason we all celebrate May Day and Labor Day! To all the conservatives out there, damn skippy, Labor Day is a socialist holiday! The Workers of the World Unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains!
The Native American genocide and slavery are the original sins of the United States empire. The fight against white supremacy and racism has always been at the vanguard of leftist movements in the United States. From abolitionist Fredrick Douglass advocating to end slavery to legendary academic W.E.B. DuBois and journalist Ida B. Wells speaking out against the injustices of the racists Jim Crow system to Malcolm X meeting with Fidel Castro in 1959 Harlem shortly after the Cuba Revolution. Racial solidarity has been at the forefront of the leftist movements in the United States throughout its history.
Every January, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, perhaps one of history’s most well-known and well-respected American democratic socialists. Let freedom ring!
Helen Keller was a famous socialist and women’s suffrage advocate during the last century. Women’s equality has been part of leftist movements since the abolition movement in the United States. From women gaining the right to vote, access to contraception, sexual liberation, and abortion rights. Leftist women have been the backbone of social movements in the United States, including the labor and civil rights movements.
Black women and women of color activists ensured that the fight for women’s rights included understanding intersectionality. That meant that race and class intersected with sex and gender, thus leading to the creation of womanism. Legendary abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth was the first proponent of womanism. The fight for justice has always included women and girls.
The Stonewall riots in New York were the spark that led to the Queer Liberation movement. Radical, socialist, and progressive LGBTQ activists have always been at the forefront of LGBTQ liberation. Writer and activist James Baldwin was an unapologetic gay black man who dared to critique the U.S. power structure and its treatment of racial and sexual minorities in the uber-conservative 1950s and 60s. Bayard Rustin was a crucial figure in the Civil Rights movement.
Trans activist and New York queer icon Marsha P. Johnson and her friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). They became fixtures in the community, helping homeless transgender youth. STAR provided services, including shelter, to homeless LGBTQ people in New York City, Chicago, California, and England for a few years in the early 1970s but eventually disbanded.
The Environmental Justice Movement
Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the keywords in the environmental movement. But the environmental justice movement was started by black and red people who faced environmental racism and injustice in their communities. Government and corporate interest placed toxic dumping sites, coal power plants, and landfills next to poor black and brown neighborhoods. Those communities have always fought back!
The Hippie movement made vegetarianism, veganism, and the green movement mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s. The fight against climate change and ecological collapse are ongoing to this day. Leftists have been at the forefront of environmental justice since day one.
So the next time some smug liberal or crappy conservative tells you that leftists have accomplished nothing in the United States. Tell them they’re fucking wrong. I guess they definitely don’t read history books. What have leftists ever done for America? Well, quite a lot!