Five steps to get ready for 2012

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The 2012 elections are casting a long shadow over the nation's politics, economics and public discourse.

For the Republican right, electoral success next year is crucial in order to radically transform the country to the advantage of the most reactionary sections of monopoly capital and their mixed bag of dangerous allies.

No one on their side, including tea baggers, is going to stay home on Election Day 2012. They will all be expected to march to the polls and bring others with them.

For our side of the struggle, the 2012 elections are of paramount importance too. No other struggle has the same possibility to rearrange the political balance of forces in a progressive direction, to put the working class and people's counteroffensive onto a new forward trajectory.

Some on the left disagree, and advocate either staying home or making a "strategic break" with the two-party system. But there are three questions that must be asked:

* Would staying home or making a "strategic break" enhance the chances of beating the right?

* Are millions of people and their organizations ready to drop the Democratic Party and form a big, broad, labor/people-based political party in the near term?

* Are the differences between Republican and Democratic parties so insignificant that it doesn't matter who wins?

I believe the answer to each of these questions is an emphatic "No."

While millions understandably feel dissatisfied with the Democratic Party, it hasn't risen to the point where they are ready to bolt anytime soon. Nor are they ready to dismiss the real differences, say, between House Republican Paul Ryan's draconian, fatten-the-rich long-term budget plan and the plan that President Obama outlined, in which he defended Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other public programs.

The aggressive role of right-wing extremism in recent months has only reinforced these sentiments.

Politics is a complex and impure process. And as the Rolling Stones sang, "You can't always get what you want." In which case, you try to get what you need with what is available. That's not pragmatism, but political realism informed by the overriding necessity to decisively defeat the right in next year's elections.

Thus, for now, the only vehicle - as inconsistent as it is - that can take down the right in an electoral contest is the Democratic Party.

So what is to be done?

Here are five things that strike me as critical.

* The further building of the spirited, hopeful, visionary, labor-led people's coalition and counteroffensive in every neighborhood, city and state, and nationwide, is at the top of the agenda - especially in the context of the elections.

This movement is the power base of any progressive turn in our nation's politics. Take it out of the equation and only minor reforms are possible at best; at worst, the Republicans go on the offensive as they are currently doing, Democrats waver and give in, and politics shift to the right.

But neither our nation nor the world can afford another era of right-wing-dominated politics. The price is too steep. The future of humankind and the planet is too fragile.

* The next task is to deepen the unity of this movement. Only a movement that unites all races and nationalities, young and old, men and women, immigrant and native born, gay and straight, urban and rural, workers and small business people, and labor and its allies has the political capacity to push the country down a progressive path and safeguard the future.

* A requirement of any progressive and radical agenda is an elevated and sustained struggle for racial and gender equality. Both are of strategic importance. Anyone who devalues the struggle for racial and gender equality and against racism and male supremacy limits the sweep of any potential victory, and provides an opening to the Republican Party and the most backward sections of our ruling class to mobilize people along racist and male supremacist lines.

* There is a burning need for us to engage our adversaries on an ideological level. Our side fights with one hand behind its back when it doesn't bring persuasive arguments and compelling stories into the marketplace of public opinion. Though we don't own the mainstream media, we should still fight to be heard in it and also take full advantage of online media.

When the broader movement takes part in the battle of ideas, people respond positively. Some of the ideas that already resonate with millions include: tax the rich, racism chains working people of all colors, economic crises hit racially and nationally oppressed people harder, wealth comes from labor and nature, working people have no stake in wars of occupation, and the country is not broke.

The image of socialism as economically just, ecologically sustainable, democratic, peaceful, and part of the American experience can and does resonate as well.

* Finally, a bigger left and Communist Party is necessary for any sustained and far-reaching political advances. It is a fact that progressive and democratic breakthroughs in our nation's history have been bound up with popular uprisings in which a growing left played a critical role. There is no reason to think it will be any different going forward.

But here's the rub. Both the left and the Communist Party are too small given the scope of today's challenges.

Photo: Liz Henry // CC BY-ND

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  • I am an artist. For years I bought into the far left thinking, that is, until I began to open my eyes and ears.

    I work hard, I am a small business owner. Capitalism has made my life far more enjoyable and fulfilling then it would be otherwise.

    As an artist, I can paint 5 paintings and make a certain amount of money, or I can paint two paintings and make less- but have more "free time". But if I make a choice to work 12 hours a day, I shouldn't have to pay my neighbor, another artist, because he chose to work 4 hours a day.

    Capitalism is not evil- it is a system. Unfortunately, we live in a moral-deprived society that breeds too many people with character defects- one of those being greed.

    Those same greedy, defective people, would still gain riches and power over people within a system of socialism or communism. My relatives shared with me how living in an actual communist society was- bodies piled on the sides of roads as their villages were purposely starved by those in power- your heroes I might add.

    I am no longer a useful idiot. It is not by chance, that upon pulling the Marxist cobwebs off my eyes, I have gained so much more knowledge, personal finance, and freedom.

    Step out of the prison you are building up around you- you have the power within- not a government. (Since when has a large, powerful government, ever been a good thing?)

    Posted by Capitalist Artist, 07/08/2011 4:54pm (3 years ago)

  • Those who voted for Nader did NOT "usher in" anything of the kind mentioned in several comments here...
    They voted FOR Nader. Period.

    The Supreme Court of the United States stopped a recount which was under way in Florida (under the guidance of Bush consigliere Baker) which, had it continued, would have given the race to Gore. It is inaccurate and misleading, to say the least, to suggest that Nader voters (of which I was one) were in any way responsible for the execrable Bush presidency and its ultra-right, imperialist manifestations.

    Posted by mad poet, 06/14/2011 4:56pm (4 years ago)

  • I agree with the comment below by pinkjohn, 04/23/2011 2:42pm

    "Those who voted for Nader in 2000 may have felt "empowered" but they ushered in the a violently rightwing regime for 8 years that made Nixon and Reagan look moderate. This is not to say that we don't work for a day when a truly progressive, working class party can represent us. We can and must work toward that day, but while doing that, abstention from electoral politics for the sake of ideological purity is not a luxury we can afford."

    In fact, it's a worthless luxury we will never need.

    Somebody is going to win each election. On election day, if you can't find a winner to vote for then find one to vote against. If that means choosing the lessor of two evils then so be it.

    We have the rest of the election cycle to promote socialist and progressive democratic candidates.

    Posted by ChasR, 05/01/2011 5:53pm (4 years ago)

  • First, I need to correct something. My post, in the last paragraph, should've stated that; "in the ideological struggle, we fight for, not just the 'INDEPENDENT' role of the working class, but it's 'LEADING' role!

    It is an important distinction, because we are stuff in a ridiculous, 'straw man' argument in regard to this issue. If the issue is placed, as Sam has continually placed it; "should labor, left, break completely with the Democratic Party?" & "Are the Democrats better than the Republicans and is it important to defeat the GOP?" then the discussion is stopped, in a box, with ultra-left, divisive approaches on one side and conservative, impotent, follow the Democratic Party approaches on the other. NEITHER represents an application of a scientific, studied, working class approach.

    On the former, to accert that those are our only approaches denies the that the working class of our nation has any true leadership role in regard to the economic struggle. If the choices are only follow the D's or completely break, we have left the workers of our nation powerless to influence politics and we are forever at the mercy of so-called "neo-liberal" or "free-market" approaches, which guarantee that we can NEVER move forward. That approach denies the historic role of the CPUSA, the working class left in our nation. We did NOT gain Social Security, unemployment comp, the Wagner Act, Civil Rights laws, etc, etc, by standing on the sidelines and just following the "leadership" of the Democratic Party. History (as well as experience in the present struggle) shows us that ONLY when we combine independent mobilization and political action with an electoral policy that supports the wider coalition, but pushes it, do we attain successes!

    As well, because we're "angry," or "frustrated" to then draw the conclusion that "we've had it, we're taking oour ball & going home," that we, without support of org'd labor, minoority communities, women's mvmt, etc, we decide to abandon the wider coalition is infantial and short-sighted, a recipe for destruction of our movement.

    A communist, working class approach is one, however, that learns from our history and fights to win.

    When unions are forced to strike or carry out job actions, one of the first things they must do to is to reach out to allies, many of which we only agree with on a couple things, are short-term, as well as long term. Without the wider coalition approach, on politics as well, we cannot hope to defeat the right wing, corporate coalition. That, however, does NOT mean that the working class abandons its independent political role, in fact, it is just the opposite! In order to be able to win, a working class approach is that unions and its allies have a UNIFYING and leading approach, one that puts forward policies that are in favor of not only workers, but the entire society (except for the corporate ruling class), and fights politically to win those positions as the policy of the entire coalition. As well, a working class approach is not static. It will fight hard for its position, but will ultimately work for the good, the unity, of the entire coalition.

    In today's tough struggles, one key to success, a key to whether working folks will be able to be mobilized to vote in 2012 to defeat our main enemies and create a political situation favorable to the working class and its allies is whether org'd labor can build an independent structure to fight for its positions within the wider coalition. Without that, we will be forced to try to sell policies of cutting the budget, privizatization of medicare/medicaid, ongoing imperialist wars, cutting corporate taxes, bailing out billionaires and must abandon any hope of real health care, jobs programs or any labor law reform, (all of which are policies embraced to one degree or another by the present Democratic administration). That is a true recipe for defeat, one that nearly guarantees a right wing victory next year.

    However, if org'd labor is able to build an independent political fighting force and win victories this year, then we can influence policies at the natl. level, creating the possibility of a truly progressive Obama administration. Put simply, if the issues are "protect social security or privatize it," and "tax the rich to pay for people's programs, or cut corporate taxes & cut people's programs to pay for them," then we win!

    Posted by bruce bostick, 04/27/2011 10:17am (4 years ago)

  • In fact the communist party is larger than its dues paying membership. It is the entire movement of progressive workers that make destoying pollution, and ending aggressive war its main contradiction, and sets the goals as liberation of the internationale woth scraping the war machine and its manufactury, with the restoration of the matriarchy, which is the doubling of democracy and the electing of woman equally.

    Gender parity is a legacy of U.S. communism, from the earliest days to the present time. In fact the Red Beothuks died for your anti-communist sins. Workers of the world, unite!! Thats not a compromise with the devil, but a need to work together, and build socialism.

    Posted by Union Jack, 04/27/2011 4:51am (4 years ago)

  • When it is asserted that nothing has ever been accomplished through the Democratic Party historically, has it been forgotten that the New Deal's right to unions, Social Security, et al and the Great Society/War on Poverty, as well as Civil Rights Acts were carry out by Democratic Party Presidents and Congresses ? The Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, etc programs so important to defend from attack by the tea-Republicans were won through the Democratic Party.

    Posted by charles, 04/26/2011 1:17pm (4 years ago)

  • I absolutely, yet reluctantly agree with Sam, we must support the Democratic Party in its electoral struggles against the far-right. I hate the Democrats, but I really hate the Republicans.

    However, while I think that we have to participate actively in the political process, I think that the primary arena of struggle needs to be on the ground in our mass-work... lobbying, demonstrating, informing, and indoctrinating the working class with radical Socialist Ideology. Our Support for the Democrats ought be no more than our opposition to the Republicans.

    I remember, after the 2008 elections, we proclaimed that we had entered into a "new phase of struggle," moving away from defeating the ultra-right. I wonder if that was premature. Perhaps, assuming we can win electoral struggles against the Republicans either in 2012 or in future elections, we ought not stop thinking about how to defeat the Ultra-Right, or prioritize electoral struggle away from defeating the ultra-right but rather, ask the question: how do we defeat the Ultra-Right within the Democratic Party itself?

    Most of my problems with President Obama stem not from his own Political Values as such, but rather in that he seems to have given the reins of his administration over to Right-Wing, anti-Populist Clintonians. How do we defeat this tendency within the Democratic Party? How do we keep the Democratic Party accountable to the progressive base that gets it elected in the first place? If anyone has posted an answer to this question on either the People's World, or Political Affairs please let me know.

    Posted by Andrew Miller, 04/26/2011 12:57am (4 years ago)

  • Thanks Sam, your article contains many useful points. I think it is erroneous, however to expend much resources trying to influence the Democratic party, or work through the Democratic Party at all. It's a "Bet the Bank" strategy that has never succeeded in U.S. history, as far as I know. You're asking us to bid for a Ferrari by putting all our donations and time into a contest, while not knowing the ultimate outcome, and of course, it fails every time. Business does not work like this. Business looks for concrete, achievable projects,and it conserves its resources, and minimizes risk. Engineers do the math, before pouring concrete, erecting bridges, building airplanes, etc. The idea of working with the Democratic Party is unscientific and unbusinesslike. It is risky and it is emotional, not rational.

    The level of political and economic knowledge and awareness of the electorate is insufficient for any electoral or legislative success whatsoever, at this time. Another problem is the insufficient rational capabilities to make good judgments about very complex things. Another, is the infantilism and narcissism, the avoidance of even simple things that are easily understood, just because they are emotionally unpleasant. The fact that the Democratic Party is outside our reach, is one such fact.

    Basically we need to build a better human being before we're going to get better politics or economics. A classic example is the lack of enthusiasm by Labor to stop wars, and for other left causes, due to the fact that labor is a cross section of society still full of antediluvian, racist etc. tendencies.

    Basically, we need *everybody* to go to college, and then continue lifelong education. To my mind, this would be a worthwhile campaign- convincing more people to turn off the Entertainment/Propaganda, and engage in lifelong learning. To my mind, our time is better spent working within the education system, the churches and the media in various roles, than in Party politics. Incidentally--until the Democrats and the Left develop a balanced budget and stop borrowing from loan sharks, they remain vulnerable to both the loan sharks and the Tea Party.
    Kind regards
    Todd

    Posted by Todd Boyle, 04/25/2011 5:52pm (4 years ago)

  • This piece is OK, for as far as it goes. However, I'd submit that it is far short of what is needed. It really appears to me that we are failing to draw the extremely important lessons that the past years have presented to us.

    Yes, we need to widen the labor-led people's movement. That should be a given, what we need are (1) concrete proposals to help bring this about, and (2) real discussion of how this great upsurging people's struggle can actually have concrete political influence. As well, we certainly do need to take on our corporate enemies ideologically, but the piece does not say, (& it most certainly should), that the ideological point that we need to be pounding on is the class struggle, the need for labor/people to fight to curtain the power of the corporations.

    While it certainly is correct that the D's are far better than the R's, that the GOP is leading an open corporate/ultra right assault on the people. It is also correct that the mass of people are not ready to openly break with the Democratic party. However, stopping there has proven to be a swamp where the people's fight for change has gone to die!

    The rising worker's/people's movement needs to begin to have a real independent political base. The job of the left must be to help the rising people's movement build a organizational base for working class politics, while at the same time not breaking politically with wider forces in the coalition against the right. Without that political base, we've seen on issue after issue, that we are completely impotent in influencing policy at the national level.

    We have had some success, however, on some retiree issues, for example, but ONLY when ARA & allies mounted very strong grassroots mobilization to push Obama. That strong push did gain very tough, positive public positions to defend Social Security, Medicare & tax the rich. Our only positives are when we take strong independent positions.

    A very important, key part of the ideological struggle is the fight for, not just the leading role of the working class politically, but also the LEADING role of that class! History will be cruel to us if we do not help our class & people find their independence from the corporate politics dominating life today!

    Posted by bruce bostick, 04/24/2011 10:45pm (4 years ago)

  • William Taylor suggests that in order to bring down Capitalism... "For that to happen we need to step down, get out of the way and let it happen." I have never heard such a dumb suggestion. The Capitalists would just love it if we on the left quit fighting back and wait for them to commit suicide.

    To be seen as a "viable alternative", the left needs to be seen as fighting tooth and nail against every attack by the Capitalist Class against the working people. To sit out the elections is for the Working Class to commit suicide.

    ALL OUT to defeat the Right Wingers in 2012!!!!

    Posted by Armando Ramirez, 04/24/2011 5:03pm (4 years ago)

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