Six crucial tasks for the left and progressive community

ILGWU 2

Since Ronald Reagan was elected president more than three decades ago, right-wing extremists gathered in the Republican Party have been attempting to restructure the role and functions of government to the advantage of the top layers of the capitalist class.

One of their main aims has been to dismantle the bundle of social programs and rights (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and voting, civil, disability, women's and labor rights, and much more) that were legislated over the past eight decades. These progressive breakthroughs are anathema to them. Instead of triumphs, the right wing sees them as sorry episodes in American history.

Looking back over the past 30 years it is fair to say that the right wing has been successful in redistributing income, by way of taxes, to the wealthiest corporations and families. It has been much less successful in dismantling social entitlements and rights.  

That speaks to the popularity of this social compact with the American people.

Nevertheless, the rightists keep trying to do away with it, including in the recent debt ceiling talks. And they will try again when the super-committee of 12 senators and representatives - half from each party and chamber - convenes this fall and deliberates on the future of these programs and rights.

So no one who benefits from them - and that means just about every American - should rest comfortable. No longer are a safety net for older people, a health care bottom line, and basic equality and democratic guarantees considered a part of the birthright of every American. Indeed their future is precarious.

What will it take to save these core components of our social compact? The same thing that it took to win them - sustained mass struggle of a broad-based labor-led multiracial movement. Without such a movement it is hard to see how these social protections will be maintained - not to mention improved upon.

Yes, in the White House and Congress there are supporters of social entitlements and rights (and that too is necessary for a winning struggle) but it's not sufficient. They don't have the social power to stand up to a right-wing-driven offensive that includes nearly every section of the capitalist class. That social power resides with the masses of people who put elected officials into office.

In these circumstances, the left and progressive community has a crucial role. Here's what it can, and must, do:

1) Bring to light the linkages between capitalism's inner dynamics, the capitalist economic crisis and the current onslaught on people's living standards and rights. In particular, remind everyone that unregulated "free enterprise" that got us into this mess won't get us out, and that's where the need for a proactive, pro-people government comes into the picture.

2)  Make the case that job creation is the nation's immediate and overarching priority. In fact, austerity measures at this moment are harmful for working people, for the economy and for our fiscal health in the long term. Indeed, chipping away core social programs would be a dagger to the heart of working people, especially people of color, and exactly the wrong medicine for an economy that limps along due to lack of consumer spending.

3) Put together a strategy that singles out the main obstacle to positive change - right-wing extremism - as well as the main social groups that have to be assembled to preserve America's social compact and expand it.

4) Elevate the struggle against racism - an ideological and social practice that feeds the corporate bottom line, interweaves with the political project of the far right, and gravely weakens the struggle to defend past gains and win future victories. Qualitative turns in a progressive and radical direction are organically bound up with growing anti-racist thinking and action on the part of white people, especially white workers.

5) Find the forms to unite the broadest possible movement in defense of these programs and rights. Narrow approaches that bypass allies, even temporary ones, set radical against more immediate demands, and minimize the danger from right-wing extremism, are of no help. The task is not to propose the most radical solutions to every problem, but, in the first place, to organize struggles around the demands that millions  are ready to fight on.

6) Connect every struggle against the right to the coming national elections.

Not for a long time has the left and progressive community been so badly needed to play its historic role. Let's do it.

Photo: America's social compact: In this undated photo, senior and retiree members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, predecessor of today's Unite-Here union, hold placards urging "fair play for the aged," "hands off Social Security," "don't mess with Medicare," "keep your promises Mr. President," and more. Kheel Center, Cornell University CC 2.0

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  • "...Here's what it can, and must, do...

    Dear Comrade Sam:

    I've never seen a "call to action" against the Right as sustinct as yours. It is clear and understandable to all Progressive peoples. Your attention to political and social details never fails to impress me. Additionally important has been your historical insight.

    Solidarity!

    Dr. Don Noyes-More Ph.D.
    Editor in Chief
    Downtown LA Life Magazine International

    Posted by Dr. Don Noyes-More Ph.D., 09/21/2011 6:23pm (3 years ago)

  • Connecting "every struggle against the right with the coming national elections" means, essentially, urging people of vote for the Democrats and that is going to be a hard sell. People remember how often they have been thrown under the bus by the Dems over the past 2 1/2 years, especially by the President who still talks about "reforming" Medicare and making it even more difficult to adjust Social Security payments for inflation. I wish that the Democrats would fight even half as hard in behalf of our interests as the Republicans fight against them.

    Posted by John Whiskey, 09/15/2011 9:38pm (3 years ago)

  • <...In particular, remind everyone that unregulated "free enterprise" that got us into this mess won't get us out....>
    If "their free enterprise" is harmful enough for the people and the planet, and hinders legitimate progress, let alone "unregulated"!

    Posted by José Eduardo Ribeiro Moretzsohn, 09/15/2011 1:20pm (3 years ago)

  • The first suggestion, about linking capitalism to the current crisis, is a good start. As stated, however, it might be read as implying that some judicious regulation of free enterprise is all that is needed.
    The rest of the "six crucial tasks" are all useful but short-term, mainstream activities.
    Those of us who have tried to learn from the Marxist analysis of history, and consider ourselves socialists, have the additional responsibility of keeping the ideas of Marxism-Leninism alive in any way we can.
    I would even argue that some of our time and energy needs to be spent on self-education, as well as theoretical discussion within our own ranks and with others. We need to support any among us who can further develop the ideas that have changed the world in the past and can again (but only if our revolutionary heritage is not completely forgotten).
    Getting out the vote has never been enough.

    Posted by Doris Grieser Marquit, 09/14/2011 7:01pm (3 years ago)

  • Racist Budgets, Lords, and Wars

    In the wake of the debt-ceiling compromise, we should note with sister Judith Le Blanc, that a trillion dollar budget will be settled in the battle to control nearly sixty per cent of discretionary spending done by the Pentagon for global war.
    This is the battle to transform bombs into ploughshares: environmental sustainability, nutrition, jobs, transportation, communication, health care, income and education.
    Of course, the main feature of right wing extremism is the war lords and war budgeteers, who in preparation for war-in a disastrously war bloated economy, full of racist overtones for the world's peoples, starve, drought
    and massacre all the world's peoples, including the people of the United States, with a sharp, national racist edge.
    All peace fighters would have no trouble fighting for the six points of Sam Webb, culminating in the coming national elections of 2012, with the real and present backdrop of the stark reality of the need for peace.
    The communists, would lead this peace fight.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 09/14/2011 3:05pm (3 years ago)

  • Sam:
    I am in complete agreement that we need to connect every struggle ... to the coming national elections. One glaring example relates to the campaign to liberate the Cuba Five with a pardon by President Obama for their immediate release to their homeland.
    In a speech, Sept. 12, 2011 in Havana, Ricardo Alarcon asserts that "the official U.S. attitude is essentially one of coverup. If (US) citizens know little or nothing about the subject, they will not ask essential questions."
    Now 13 years later, we are still asking "who are the Cuba Five?" when we should be asking, What is Washington afraid of? Instead of reflecting reality, we must point out the contradictions; then, people will follow. For more information, go to info@the cuban5.org

    Posted by Richard Grassl, 09/13/2011 6:08pm (3 years ago)

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