This weekend, on the Pace University campus on lower Manhattan, American leftists will gather for the Left Forum, a conference that is this year focused on the theme of environmental and economic transformation. The initial session of lectures on Friday will include topics such as Social Movements and Left Transformative Organizing and Mass Murder An All American Phenomenon. Featured speakers this year will be Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and Oliver Stone.
I consider myself to be a leftist, ideologically, and so I want to be ethusiastic about Left Forum. However, I have to register a note of skepticism centered around the featuring of Noam Chomsky: Noam Chomsky has been a leading voice of the American Left for two generations. During that time, the American Left has had progressively diminishing influence. To me, this suggests that Noam Chomsky has not been an effective leader for the American Left. Why do American leftists, then, continue to celebrate Noam Chomsky, and follow his vision?
The Left Forum has been going on, in one form or another, since the 1960s. In the 1960s, perhaps, there was reason to believe that the meeting, then known as the Socialist Scholars Conference, might have some influence. But since that time, it’s become plain that the conference is not setting an agenda that is having an sizable impact on the democratic government or civic culture of our nation.
When the Left Forum meets and talks about transformative organizing, I know that the transformation it refers to will be theoretical. No actual transformation will take place as a result of the conference. So, what’s the point?
If the Left Forum had some sessions on how to end the political irrelevance of the Left Forum, I might attend. As it is, I can dream about imaginary political projects from the comfort of my own home.