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The fact that a teachers’ strike in Chicago made the front page of major newspapers, including the New York Times (September 12, 2012), is revealing. Strikes are so rare in the United States that they have become Chicago Teachers Go On Strike For First Time In 25 Yearsnewsworthy—like a man biting a dog. On the contrary, a corporation closing a factory, say, near Chicago, and moving its production overseas in order to exploit poorer workers and increase its own profits, such news would not make the news at all—like a dog biting a man. This is why culture is so important, even more than politics: because it decides what issues are on our agenda. Politics may then address these issues, but first people have to recognize them as relevant. Politics is mainly expressed by parties, culture by movements. The success of Republican extremism in the United States, from the Tea Party to Mitt Romney, is not political—they don’t have any real politics. Their success is cultural. The acrimonious utterances of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck are not meant to persuade and certainly not to propose solutions and ideas—they have none. The purpose of their talks is to set our priorities, the stuff we perceive as essential to our identity and sense of belonging. They suggest what we should be afraid of, offended by, good at, happy for. There is no future for the left until it takes up this challenge and becomes itself a movement, as they used to be in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, when they lost many elections but inspired such a strong culture of hope and change that it transformed this country. (Young Mitt, of course, did not care and did not understand, a rich boy fully satisfied with the state of the world—you can read an article about his carefree years at Stanford on the same issue of the New York Times that I quoted above). Strikes are not just the only effective tool that workers have against corporations to resist exploitation. They are an indispensable experience to create (re-create) a culture of resistance.

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