Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ride the Elephant Or the Pony?

Will the Left Continue Business as Usual?

Over half a million protesters in D.C.  Hundreds of thousands in Chicago, LA & New York and many other U.S. cities.  On Friday, 6,000 protesters led by a coalition of leftist forces demonstrated in Minneapolis. In St. Paul between 50,000 and 90,000 came out on Saturday in a somewhat vague parade - the biggest demonstration in Minnesota history.  Many, especially women, have spoken.

What do they have to be afraid of?
Obviously something has changed, and it is not just another Republican administration coming into office.  The gloves are off.  The mask over capital has dropped. The facade of ‘reasonableness,’ compromise, bi-partisanship and process is done, even if this is not apparent to the majority of the Democratic Party bureaucrats and politicians or the corporate media.  These people now and in the past have been collaborators, and in a war, what happens to collaborators?

As they have done a dozens of times before, the corporate politicians will attempt to lead this struggle into their normal channels.  Democratic politicians tried to hop on these protests as if they were some kind of vanguard.  Vote for us!  Organize for 2020!  Don’t have a class view!  Let’s unite against Trump and think about nothing else!  When actually the Democrats 'foamed the runway' for the Trump Zeppelin to land.  The failures of Obama and Clinton in regard to the working class led to this.

What is the Left going to do in this new situation?  I mean the real Left, not the professional strata of middle-class progressives who are allies of capital.  Will the Left do the same old thing they have been doing for years?  Which has gotten us into a position of being a minor irritant on a national scale?  Probably, as the cynics like to say. 

Caligula Prepares to Rule
What is apparent to everyone is that unity is needed.  But a unity with the Democratic Party apparatus, the graveyard of progressives, is fatal. This has been proved in the past.  It is the role of the actual Left to create an alternative pole of attraction.  Can they do it?

From history, certain U.S. left groups ride high for a short while, but cannot make the turn to a mass organization.  They mostly exist as a 'kernel' of knowledge, skills and organization, but the seed never sprouts.  Some groups remain stuck on one tactic, like marches.  Nor am I talking about short-lived ‘united fronts’ for one event, such as happened on Friday, though these are a start.  A real united front lasts longer than a day.

Two attempts at ‘unity’ have been made in the recent past.  Sanders is the most obvious example of an attempt to create a ‘progressive’ faction “Tea” Party in the Democrats. (‘Occupy the Democrats’ is their fantasy.)  Riffing on this, smaller forces around the Communist Party and their periphery and their splits are calling for left ‘unity’ - including the Democrats as part of their strategy.   DSA is a prime mover in this as well, given they have had a 50+ year policy of deep entry into the Democrats.  This reflects outfits linked to the Working Families Party in New York, which endorses Democrats regularly but claims to be independent.  

However, as the re-election of Pelosi and Schumer and the coming defeat of Ellison have shown, this is not in the cards.  The reason is the capitalist controllers of the Democratic Party cannot afford to lose to some kind of ‘democratic socialist’ strain, which would be like mixing oil and water.  This is unlike the Tea-Party, which was a pro-small business strata in a large-business controlled Republican Party, essentially mixing thicker oil with thinner oil.  They are not equivalent struggles, class-wise.  No more than Trump or Pence are really enemies.

The other example was a meeting in Chicago last year of Socialist Alternative, the Green Party, the International Socialists, Black Agenda Report and others to form some kind of ‘left block’ independent of the Democrats.   The middle-class Green Party has recently adopted ‘eco-socialism’ according to reports, so this is a significant move to the left.  Something like this effort is what we need as far as unity, but now obviously on a far larger scale. 

I’m not exactly sure how a formation will come about – whether unity among left groups and publications can lead to unity among broader anti-capitalist forces, leading to unity with some unions, community groups and indigenous tribes to form a broad anti-capitalist class front.  But this coming together is the only thing that will create a pole of attraction.  Otherwise this movement will get co-opted again by the liberal corporate Democrats. (Again!). McGovern, Jesse Jackson, Obama … all paths to the graveyard of real change, and doorways to the ultra-right.

This process has to start with the most conscious forces and people on the left.

Anti-capitalist groups and socialist groups need to come together to develop a 10-15 point program that covers broad interests.  They need to block together in a permanent united front, still allowing for organizational freedom within the block.  They should embrace both legal and illegal tactics, electoral and non-electoral methods, allowing work in unions, workplaces, community organizations, cooperatives, the streets – anywhere possible.  They need to put aside certain personality conflicts, small group mentalities, cynicism and sectarianism – a tall order!  “Single issue” organizations need to re-evaluate how their issue is connected to every other left issue.   

A permanent block can become a pole of attraction drawing more and more organizations and members into a larger and larger force – something the left has not had since the 1930s and 1940s.  It can challenge the pro-capitalist attitudes of some community organizations.  It can suck working class voters out of identifying with the Democrats and Republicans and bring allegiance by unions.  A mass-based labor/populist party may come about as the result of these efforts, but at this time most unions are still in the camp of the Democrats.  Even in the 1960s and 1970s organizations could not unite to oppose the capitalist system.  Yet without nation-wide and even international weight, you cannot beat these people.  So the question is, do you want to beat these people?

Actually, capital is in worse shape now than it was in that period.  The planet is in worse shape.  “Democracy” is showing that it is not.  A ‘modern’ corporate state that takes off the mask in such a vicious way shows its own fragility.  The corporate overlords are actually weaker than they appear.  A world-wide endgame is even visible over the horizon – an endgame that can go one of two ways – to barbarism or to what some people call socialism, but not the kind of socialism that has been seen in the past. 

‘Workers of the world unite’ is not just a slogan for other people. If you think your group or single struggle is sufficient, look at history.  Until it is combined with millions of people, it won’t suffice, as most of us know.  It certainly hasn’t so far.  

P.S. - Counterpunch had an article on the large march in D.C. on Saturday by a European leftist feminist.  Not sure it's true but it certainly captures the culture of part of the event.  The truth will be in the organizational results of the event.  She said that:  "The pussy hat symbolises the desire to be political without actually engaging in anything political whatsoever."  

Red Frog
January 28, 2017

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