Founded by a small group of socialists in 2001, Left Turn (LT) is an organization of self-proclaimed “anti-capitalists, radical feminists, anti-racists, queer and trans- liberationists, and anti-imperialists” who “organiz[e] collectively, democratically and without hierarchy” in an effort to “fight all forms of oppression,” particularly as embodied by “corporate power and empire.” Denouncing capitalism as a system wherein “corporate greed” causes immense “human misery” by putting “profit before people’s needs and the health of the planet,” LT uses its website and its in-house publication, Left Turn magazine, to promote “local and global struggles” to “reconstruct” and “radically transform” society by means of “revolutionary” action. LT seeks to achieve these goals by supporting grassroots movements rather than entrenched political figures, explaining that “skepticism of political vanguardism” is “part of [its] philosophical core.”
In its early years, Left Turn magazine focused heavily on what it called “the post-September 11 government roundups & detentions,” and aimed to “sho[w] the connections between the Bush Administration’s intensified anti-immigrant legislation and the general anti-Arab and Islamophobic hysteria in the media.” LT also took a strong stance against the Patriot Act and America’s military incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq. A member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, LT depicted the U.S. war on terror as little more than a pretext for authorizing “the U.S. war machine” to use “racism and fear as a way to continue to attack, occupy and exploit, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.”
Also during the early 2000s, LT supported Latin American social movements and “leftward electoral shifts” that it viewed as “a primary counter-force to U.S. imperialism.” For example, LT spoke in favor of “the popular uprisings that beat back the U.S.-backed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.” Another major focus of Left Turn magazine was its supportive coverage of the Marxist revolutionary Zapatista movement in Southern Mexico.
From 2001-2004, LT organized several major conferences that were attended by grassroots activists and academics from across the United States. Among the most noteworthy was a “Life After Capitalism” conference in the summer of 2004. Held in New York City, this gathering drew nearly 2,000 people who came to discuss strategy, political vision, and community organizing. Among those in attendance were Michael Hardt, Naomi Klein, and Lynne Stewart.
Left Turn magazine’s founding editor, Bilal El-Amine, resigned his post and left the United States in 2004. Over the years, El-Amine had cultivated ties with such entities as Al-Awda, an Islamist organization that advocates seven million Palestinians’ “right to return” to Israel; the Global Justice Intifada, a coalition of leftist groups that supported the Palestinians’ Al-Aqsa Intifada (launched in 2000) against Israel; the Palestine Activist Forum of New York, a group that invoked Hamas slogans at its rallies; and SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now), where El-Amine was a founding member. Upon El-Amine’s departure, Left Turn formed an eight-person “editorial collective” to manage the publication’s content thereafter.
LT continues to be highly critical of what it calls “the Israeli occupation of Palestine, supported and funded by the U.S.” As such, the organization supports the Palestine Solidarity Movement and “the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination.”
On the domestic front, LT denounces “the attacks on the social safety net” that, “over the past 25 years,” have caused a “rollback of many of the gains won by the social movements in previous decades.” The organization laments that “fear mongering and repression in the post-9/11 environment has been used by the state not only to come down on Arabs and Muslims, but on all people of color, immigrants, and radicals.” One manifestation of this repression, says LT, has been the “mass incarceration of black and brown activists and communities.”