More and more, people are looking at socialism as that “better world” that’s possible and necessary. But there’s no direct path, no express train, to get there. At every new stage of struggle, the question is asked: what is to be done?  Everybody has his or her opinion and, not surprisingly, I do too.

The main task in my view is to further build and unite the working class based, multi-racial coalition that came together to elect President Obama.

Only this coalition – this many-layered, multi-class and multi-racial people’s coalition in which the labor movement plays a growing role – has the political strength to complete and consolidate the victory against right-wing extremism.

If another path exists to a consistently anti-corporate government and ultimately a socialist future, I have yet to hear it.

A defeat of the right – signified by larger Democratic majorities, the growth of the progressive wing in Congress, a higher degree of trade union organization and struggle, a decline in the influence of right-wing ideology, a higher degree of multi-racial unity and anti-racist consciousness, greater unity and vision of the all people’s coalition – will profoundly alter the political landscape, including weakening the capitalist class as a whole, not simply its most reactionary sections.

Imagine what the past year would have looked like if the right had been fully dethroned from its positions of power in the last election! No, it wouldn’t have meant fair skies and clear sailing for the people’s coalition, but it is realistic to think that the health care bill would have been stronger, the stimulus bigger, unemployment lower, resistance to military spending and escalating the Afghanistan war greater, relations with Cuba and the rest of Latin America better, and financial reform tougher.

In other words, a decisive victory over the right will set the stage for a period of sustained, deep-going anti-corporate democratization and reform. Far from hiding the class struggle, the defeat of right-wing extremism will bring to the surface, clear the ground, and create a more favorable terrain for a more open struggle against finance capital, corporate power, neo-liberalism, and imperial rule.

We don’t pick the ground of struggle on which we fight. It depends on the balance of class forces and the level of political consciousness, organization and unity of millions.

It is incumbent on us, therefore, to make a concrete and sober analysis of what the main obstacle to social progress is and what social groups have to be assembled in order to move to the next stage of struggle.

Subjective wishes, no matter how strongly felt and no matter how righteous, are a poor guide for political strategy.

I would argue that much of the confusion, impatience, finger-pointing, narrow tactics, and  insistence that the process of change be hurried along faster than conditions allow since Obama’s victory stems from a lack of such an analysis.

Granted the injustices of everyday life are obvious and outrageous. Case in point: at this moment I am participating in the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit – a city that is not only the epicenter of a protracted economic crisis (the present crisis is on a crisis continuum that goes back to the early 1980s), but also filled with countless stories of human tragedy that cry out for immediate solution.

And yet, moral outrage and impatience, as necessary as they are, are no substitute for a sober and clear-headed analysis of where we are and what has to be done to move the democratic and class struggle forward at this moment.

Which brings me back to the further building of a broad popular labor-led multi-racial coalition against a weakened right. In completing that task the ground will be laid for a more far-reaching and radical struggle against corporate and military power. It may seem roundabout, but there is no other way to get there.




Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.