January 2021
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Month January 2021

Postscript to “What Next

We probably should have expected events to move fast when we posted our invitation for contributions on “What Next?”

But we had not paid enough attention to the storm that was being stirred up in the far-right social media or the actual mass mobilizations that were taking place in an assortment of right-wing precincts. We need to address our failure. It is, of course, hard to know as much as we need to know and it is hard to keep many things in mind as we try to craft a coherent statement.

But our failure to see January 6 coming was a profound one—the advertising for the riot in Washington was all over the social media universe. But we weren’t looking. Truth be known, many very experienced watchers of the far-right scene saw what was there to see but did not seem to have sounded enough of an alarm. We don’t know why.

In any case, how do the events of the last week change what we wrote a week ago? We don’t think that they would cause us to delete anything but they would require us to add a few questions:

First, to what extent do the events of January 6 represent a foundational change in the American political landscape? Is it possible that the Republican Party could break apart? Is it possible that the Democratic Party could take bolder actions than it has become accustomed to? Separate and apart from the party questions, what might be done to break apart the odd coalition of individuals and forces that were on display in the Capitol riot?

Second, in spite of the profoundly dismal character of those events, do they illuminate any opportunities/necessities for new political action? For example, to the extent that “socialism” or “Marxism” or “anarchy” were identified as part of the reality that the rioters were objecting to, how should those who are advocates of socialism or Marxism or anarchy respond?

Third, in spite of the media rhetoric, there is evidently a great deal of scorn for the regular functioning of representative democracy among different sections of the American population. How might we begin to make a more consistent and more coherent argument for the value of replacing representation with direct democratic forms?

Fourth, many on the left have advocated for an overthrow of the state. Most of the time, it amounts to little more than a rhetorical flourish. We have just witnessed a, mostly clownish but also deadly serious, attempt to overthrow the functioning of the us government. If we were asked how we mean something different from what they did, how would we answer? Perhaps our answers might focus on the matter of replacing a state with a non-state rather than one rotten state with another perhaps even more rotten state.

Fifth, the chants of “usa!,” “usa!,” “usa!” were one of the defining features of the January 6 rebellion. It’s noteworthy that many of the mainstream commentators have been insisting that what happened is not who “we” are and so forth. Alternatives to that stultifying message have been making their way into the mainstream media but none have gone all the way to the heart of the matter. How might we say something new?

Sixth, this next period of time may well be a very dangerous one. It’s possible, if not likely, that some of the forces on the ground in Washington and at state capitals across the country will have been emboldened by the January 6 events and will seek to mount still more direct attacks against the government or, of more concern to us, those that they perceive as their fundamental political enemies—the left. How should we prepare for what might come our way?

Finally, it is very likely that new repressive measures will not be restricted to forces on the right and we therefore need to prepare for eventual attacks on the left. It would be helpful to have a theoretical/practical framework in place to shape our thinking. And we need to figure out how not to be our own worst enemies.

We invite contributions on these topics and on other relevant matters. If you have questions, please get in touch.