A look at the far-left in 2020

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The Symbionese Liberation Army was one of many leftist radical organizations that appeared in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many scholars argue that the SLA was the “last gasp” of the era of far-left organizations, with its members captured in 1975 (and several others forced underground).

But movements don’t just disappear; they wax and wane. Are there echoes of the SLA and other leftist organizations reverberating today? For sure.

I look at the Redneck Revolt’s principles, and many of them would be shared by the SLA — I’d say all of them, with the exception of #3 (their main goal was revolution, not protection of communities) and #5 (they were underground).

Camilla Hall, c. 1972

I have a narrative nonfiction manuscript about Camilla Hall completed. Hall was a member of the SLA and was one of six SLA members killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17, 1974. One might be tempted to look at Camilla and see her as unique to that place and time. But I argue that shadows of Camilla can be seen in today’s leftist organizations. I’d imagine that a member of the Redneck Revolt and Camilla would have a lot in common.

Though there are only an estimated 50 far-left groups right now in the U.S. (compared to an estimated 380 far-right groups), I think we’re in a time where we will see that grow. I think the political chaos of the last four years, plus this summer’s massive wave of racial justice protests, have inspired a new generation of left-wing activists.

According to Redneck Revolt: “Many people nationwide have become politicized for the first time over the last several years, and are now seeking ways to get involved and protect vulnerable members of their community and keep them safe, while also finding direct ways to dismantle the systemic forms of race and class oppression which have kept us subjugated.”

Understanding the motives of someone like Camilla can help us understand the motives of similar people today.