21st Century Challenges for a 21st Century Global Left

In a recent interview, Angela Davis stated:

Feminism, radical feminism, radical anti-racist and anti-capitalist feminism helps us to do the reconceptualisation that is necessary in order to produce a left that is more in line with the vast changes that have occurred in the era of global capitalism, recognising the feminisation of the working class, the structural shifts in the global economy, of the fact that some industries are largely populated by women, industries that rely on reproductive labour, of care industries, domestic service, health care, etc. It seems to me that in many ways, unions around the world are not willing to recognise those changes. To organise the unorganised, at this moment, is to organise women.

I couldn’t agree more with Professor Davis’ analysis. All too often too many of us of the so-called “Global Left,” even while recognizing the three-stranded braid of colonialism-racism-capitalism in the very essence of the modern worldview, we tend to forget or dismiss the fact that each of those strands are, in turn, embedded in anthropocentered patriarchy (not to mention Christian fundamentalism and its extremist terrorist methods). Undoubtedly, as we seek to address the material and structural consequences of these persistent ideologies today, we must simultaneously seek to decolonize our many anti-oppression and liberation movements from the limiting culturally shared systems of thought and behavior psychosocially embedded within.

At the same time, the exponential acceleration of technological change [the rate at which change occurs is, itself, speeding up exponentially] that this modern era has set in motion raises for us yet increasingly urgent questions:

  • What is the future we collectively desire?
  • What does equity, justice and peace, or the integral well-being of all peoples and our sustainable development, really mean to us of the Global Left? 
  • And what does all of that really look like, specifically, in the midst of now unstoppable technological advancements, including, by the way, those that have helped our movements interconnect and extend their reach?

The Global Left, then, while correcting our collective failure to deal with the intersections of oppressions that so effectively undermine our struggles, we must simultaneously begin to articulate our visions of the desired future.

For instance, are we still envisioning a future of workers united as owners of the means of production … though, now, in highly robotized manufacturing plants, or in service industries, hospitals and schools where AI (articficial intelligence) have replaced skilled workers —from welders, cooks, cashiers and clerks to teachers, pilots, surgeons and lawyers?

What, then, is the work that human workers will be doing in our liberated future? Or should we be, instead, asking ourselves: Will we even really need to work, as we now conceive of work (or, perhaps, as capitalism itself has made us conceive ourselves as “productive workers”)?

The whole notion of work or of envisioning a future the workforce gets even more complicated when considering the likely impacts of medical research that is already beginning to result in curing once terminal diseases, and will soon enhance cognition and physical health, and extend our lives well into our 90s and 100s years of age.

Clearly, given the game-changing transformations already in motion, as liberation workers we will need to reconceptualize work itself, the notion of being paid for labor, the idea of needing to “earn a living” or, perhaps even the human right to a quality life. We need to begin to envision the possibility of the emergence of a post-capitalist society, and begin to consider ideas such as:

  • A guaranteed or Universal Basic Income (UBI).
  • Re-think our consumption and minimalize our lifestyles. Learning to share, recycle and repair things we now discard.
  • Locally produce or generate food, energy and water

Increasingly, leaders of Big Capital, including the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk, are coming to realize its economic system, in its current form, is unsustainable and must be fundamentally transformed within the next 20-30 years, if not sooner. And you can be sure Big Capital is working tirelessly to figure out how to redesign capitalism, while keeping white supremacy, patriarchy and imperialism essentially intact.

So, then, the question remains: From our critical liberation perspectives, what are the economic, political, cultural and ethical implications of these emergent technologies? 

Or more importantly: What will be our roles —as members or leaders of radical feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, decolonial movement— in the seemingly inevitable 21st Century reconfiguration of human society, be?