By Caleb Weaver
This is the first of a two-part series on foreign policy development in social movements. Part One lays out the case for social movements as the natural home for left foreign policymaking, and Part Two traces the history of foreign policy development in the American labor movement since the end of the Cold War.
For socialists, one of the most frustrating aspects of United States foreign policy is the ease with which think tanks influence the policy process despite their lack of popular support, grassroots presence, or even a particularly broad audience. Both the avowed right wing and the so-called center turn funding from capitalists into a steady stream of studies, reports, and white papers with conclusions that too often align with the material interests of their funders. As the need to develop and implement left-wing foreign policy becomes more apparent, a temptation has emerged to recreate this policy method by cultivating our own set of foreign policy think tanks to wage ideological battle against the “experts” and “fact-checkers.”
Zack Beauchamp’s 2017 piece in Vox (referring to progressives in general, rather than specifically the socialist left) encapsulates the argument that the lack of countervailing think tanks is to blame for the right wing’s domination of the foreign policy discourse. More recently, the thinking goes that “left wing foreign policy institutions” will improve foreign policy here and now by arming existing left-of-center politicians with actionable proposals while also incubating the foreign policy ideas that a future leftist movement will need to win support and wield power. The rush to establish institutions, however, overlooks the role that social forces must play in developing all aspects of a socialist program, foreign policy included. Formulating the left’s foreign policy at the elite level can only result (and has resulted before) in policies that are unacceptable for committed socialists. The need to root the left’s foreign policy in social movements stems from three observations.
Continue reading “Policy from the People, Part 1”