The Political Coalition the Left Needs to Win

“The situation is, without question, daunting. But there are signs of possibility all around us—and the future is ours for the taking.”

Alex Han

Police arrest a "Stop cop city" protester in Atlanta, Georgia on January 21, 2023. Photo by Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Left in the United States is arguably at a point of greater political power today than at almost any time in the past century. More than 100 open socialists hold office across the country, from Tacoma, Wash., to St. Petersburg, Fla., from school boards to the halls of Congress.

But no advance comes without a counterattack, and the same context that has opened the space for a resurgent Left over the past decade also holds the conditions that could close that space for a generation.

We look back at the post-war era as the moment that created the modern world order, and the deep contradictions involved then are reasserting themselves as we travel into uncertain times — with new economies and politics buttressed by broken institutions on a crumbling foundation.

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As a new world struggles to be born, hope and danger exist in equal measure.

To usher in this new world and ensure its trajectory is pointed toward justice, we have two critical tasks. The first is to create a new common sense around our social movements, one in which our efforts for democracy in the workplace are interwoven with freedom in Palestine and an end to the carceral state, to name just a few examples. We cannot win if these struggles are separate struggles.

Our second task is to engage in a clear-eyed assessment of the political coalition the Left needs to assemble — which must be formed around these interdependent movements. That includes strategizing about how to ensure any lines drawn around us are elastic, because it’s in those borders that we are fragmented and pitted against each other. Political repression of the Left has been taking on a sharper character than our memories of the past 50 years, with the intent to exploit those divisions between and among us.

The situation is, without question, daunting. But there are signs of possibility all around us—and the future is ours for the taking.

We see that repression in its most condensed form in the attacks on cease-fire activists, but it’s happening in almost every space of progressive growth — and it’s all connected. In Georgia, for example, the forces repressing organizing work around Cop City—whether Democrat or Republican, private or public — have deep parallels to the bipartisan support for Georgia’s 2022 bill targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Also in Georgia, new this year: Businesses that voluntarily recognize a union are prevented from receiving state economic incentives.

President Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020 by just 12,000 votes. He is increasingly in danger of losing that slim margin because of his stance on Gaza.

We see in Georgia a bipartisan political coalition arrayed to defeat the Left. There is much to learn — not from its authoritarian and anti-democratic nature, but from its flexibility and constant construction and reconstruction. 

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. In our cover story for this issue, journalist Adam Federman explores these links and takes a deep dive into the repression in Georgia and across the country: Activists in Portland, Ore., snatched up by the FBI. Legislation drastically increasing the penalties for blocking traffic — and protecting drivers who hit protesters. Organizers working to stop pipeline construction classified as domestic terrorists. And so much else.

This war on protest is fundamentally a war against the political coalition we need to build. It seeks to criminalize our justice projects and our formations with such severity that we are immobilized. The outcome of this November’s election will decide the role that the loudest members of that political coalition will play in the repression of the Left — and our preparation and response are critical for the times to come.

The situation is, without question, daunting. But there are signs of possibility all around us — and the future is ours for the taking.

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In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

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Alex Han is Executive Director of In These Times. He has organized with unions, in the community, and in progressive politics for two decades. In addition to serving as Midwest Political Director for Bernie 2020, he’s worked to amplify the power of community and labor organizations at Bargaining for the Common Good, served as a Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana for over a decade, and helped to found United Working Families, an independent political organization in Illinois that has elected dozens of working-class leaders to city, state and federal office. Most recently he was executive editor of Convergence Magazine.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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