The Next Left


Jake Blumgart interviews Bhaskar Sunkara, in Boston Review:

Jake Blumgart: Who is Jacobin’s intended audience? You don’t really seem to be trying to engage with conservatives.

Bhaskar Sunkara: The intended audience is connected to the two distinct goals ofJacobin. The first is an intra-left goal to reassert the importance of class and Marxist analysis in the context of an increasingly anarchist-inflected left. We aren’t dogmatic and orthodox, we don’t think the old ways of organizing and thinking are the way forward, but we’re committed to adapting those ways of thinking to new material realities.

But there is another goal, which is more directed to the general public and—I don’t think I’ve put it this crassly before—to liberals: articulating radical left ideas and doing so in a way that is clear and accessible. The pieces are meant to be uncompromising in content but informed, accessible, and in good faith. Over the course of the project, this attempt has been wildly successful. We may get furious cries from the left for getting attention from people such as Christopher Hayes, Reihan Salam, Andrew Sullivan, and whatnot. But that’s part of our intended purpose. We don’t want a world where Hayes and Katrina vanden Heuvel are the de facto left in this country. That’s not saying anything against them; they are principled social democrats. That’s a lot for the American context. But by existing and getting the amount of mass media attention we get — fromRolling Stone to the New York Times —we’re visible reminders of a long-forgotten, and uncompromisingly socialist, political tradition. We are also trying to bring a radical perspective on politics and economics to our predominately young audience, while other publications from our generation are focused more on culture. It’s very much in the tradition of the Second International radicals—Kautsky, Lenin, Luxemburg, and their contemporaries weren’t academics.

That’s not saying that those frameworks don’t have their place, and I love publications like n+1 and the like, but I’m talking about poverty critiques that feel like they have to start with a hook from The Wire. I think that’s bullshit. I think we can just write the essay on poverty and include a few line graphs in it. I think the left can do with a dose of empiricism and that our ideas can stand-up next to others by virtue of their seriousness.