One of my favorite writers, the Depression-era labor theorist and literary organizer Mike Gold, called upon the young writers of his day to stand boldly against passivity, to dare to speak and make their voices known, to audaciously demand an audience and to demand that audience’s attention. Gold writes “the best and newest thing a young writer can now do in America, if he has the vigor and the guts, is to go leftward” (1929). He calls on these writers to voice the concerns of the unregarded, to articulate their experiences in their own vocabularies, to assert their perspectives as not only relevant and valuable, but as prized productions of American identity, working-class struggle, amid changing social systems and circumstances.
Gold’s words remain pertinent even now, when once again the young people, the energized, the empowered, the angry, are forced to lead the transition into a better democracy.
We’re witnessing a 3-4 year period that will be principally defined by the success and the sustainability of the era’s young writers and the anti–Trumpian rhetorics they generate and cultivate.
If young writers hope to see any sort of concrete social result in their lifetimes— I’m talking about election wins, bills passed, vocabularies written into law— they must forgo the feel-good “we’re content with slow social change” route the left has taken over the past thirty years. The progress we’ve made here is astounding— gay marriage, improvement in the lives of working women, lessening the racial gap (this one’s tenuous), etc. are true achievements. They haven’t however, addressed income inequality. The left has abandoned the working poor. The left has taken too much corporate money, and as Bernie Sanders and his surrogate Cornell West reminded us during last year’s primary, is just as dependent on it as conservatives ever were. The left has embraced neoliberalism, which simultaneously seems to be both dying and thriving.
So, here’s a call on young writers: document your experiences in airports, at rallies, in high-school bathrooms. Tell the world your story, whether it be through Instagram post, through editorial, through a Tweet, through live video, through newspaper writing, through writing letters. Assemble yourselves— organize. Summon the vigor. Summon the guts.
Ceaselessly draw attention to an administration that is morally bankrupt, an administration of false-consciousness that lies to its citizens at press briefings, that spins reality to its own PR interests, that calls attention every day to the sad fact that Americans were fooled last November, fooled decisively and irrevocably, and that the only course of action remaining if we hope to achieve a better society will be provided by the left. Just as we couldn’t keep living in the 1950’s socially, we cannot keep living in the 1980’s economically. Change is visible, but it’s up to the youth to make it tangible.
So, young writers, tackle the issues. Fight for minimum wage. March for your adjunct professors. Congratulate your regional representative when she pledges to not accept money from pharmaceuticals and fossil fuel corporations. Yell and scream and demand your voice be heard. Make America Great (like it never has been before).