A Path to Power for the American Left

By ETHAN YOUNG
The Indypendent / NYC

Dec 22, 2017 – Living through this era of rotten feelings is like being trapped in an endless dystopian movie. We now live under an alliance of the old-guard conservatives and the far right (evangelicals, Tea Party and overt white supremacists), funded up the yin-yang by billionaire lunatics. This alliance includes theocrats like Vice President Mike Pence and open fascists, and their beliefs are surging into the mainstream.

The goal of this real-life hydra, which now dominates all three branches of government, has gone beyond the old conservative dream of dismantling the social benefits brought about by the New Deal. Now they are set on destroying what’s left of bourgeois democracy. A Hunger Games story is emerging in its place: a tightly controlled state, militarized police, unregulated monopolies, privatized services, a powerless and destitute working class and a culture pulsing with the venom of war and racial hatred.

The role of the electoral opposition largely falls to the corporate-friendly Democratic Party centrists, now decidedly in the minority in Congress despite the GOP’s low polling numbers. The centrists did not plan it that way. They play that role because no one else is in any position to put up a fight at that level of politics. But they’re lousy at it. They blew the election and they know it, but they don’t want to confront their mistakes.

Instead, they are praying for the cavalry, a fairy godmother, any superhero from the power centers of society to come to their rescue. Their appeal has always been to the moderate wing of capitalists: You need us, keep us funded and we’ll keep them dogies rollin’. To the public, their appeal is: We’ll protect you if you come through with the votes. Between the money guys’ indifference and being out-organized in key sectors of key states, those appeals fell flat. Yet they seem to know no other way to play politics.

The Democratic centrists’ main hope right now is that the Mueller investigation will bring Trump down with a crash, à la Watergate. They envision a scenario in which Trump’s Russian ties get him legally branded a traitor to America. This would get them off the hook for their bungling the election and tarnish the Republicans’ image enough to give them a path back to power. It would also enable them to win without offering a strong alternative that would draw on their base’s eagerness for change; for more, not less, social welfare and stability, for peace at home and abroad and for democratic rights.

This works out nicely under the tunnel-view formula the center-clingers have cultivated for decades. Follow the shift to the right halfway, keep the left at bay and eventually the public will get sick of the Republicans and return to Old Faithful. So in the face of an active attack on every principle they purport to be about, the centrists still insist on a half-assed response. They are afraid of their party’s base. They are afraid of losing favor and financial support from big business and Wall Street.

That’s their problem. Our problem is that the stakes are much more than just win or lose for the Democratic Party. The country and the world are at a critical tipping point. Government is being transformed amid widespread voter disenfranchisement, rampant privatization and monopolization, shrinking wages and the destruction of basic democratic and human rights. And, of course, all the money in the world can’t deal with the ravages of a wrecked environment.

We can’t afford the Democrats trying to fight the rightist siege with their usual tactics of “bipartisan” halfway tradeoffs. Their working assumption is that the more balls-out crazy Trump performs, the more power he’ll lose, as Republicans and more moderate supporters defect. Some see Roy Moore’s defeat in that light. But generally, without a strong progressive alternative, the crazy becomes normal.

Centrists will be centrists, dependent on support from corporate donors even when they use leftish-sounding rhetoric for votes or back some leftist goals.

When the media talk about “the resistance,” they are usually referring to Democrats in office. Secondarily, they mean the crowds of angry civilians confronting elected officials in town halls, on the heels of the massive women’s marches in January. Below the radar, there is widespread opposition, anger and revulsion. This is where the left should come in. Situations like this call for a solid, politically coherent left, but that’s what seems to be missing.

The left’s role is to move this unrest and opposition in the direction of politics — enabling working-class people to apply pressure where and when it can change the situation in their favor, building their (small-d) democratic strength. This is our mission inside and outside the Democratic Party, in social movements, in unions and in intellectual settings. Continue reading “A Path to Power for the American Left”

FIGHTING FOR BREATH BY A DYING SEA

By David Bacon
Sierra Magazine, January/February 2018


IMPERIAL VALLEY, CA – 18AUGUST17 – At the edge of the Salton Sea, in Salton City, the salts dissolved in the sea’s water leave a dry crust on the soil as the sea dries up and the edge recedes. On the hardpan are dead fish, left behind as the water recedes. Copyright David Bacon

Jacqueline is seven years old. “I feel really bad because I can’t do anything for her,” Maria Pozar says. “Even the doctor says he can’t do anything – that she’s suffering from the dust in the air. Most of the children in North Shore have this problem. He just says not to let them play outside.”

The children of North Shore are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, whose sudden illnesses warn of a greater, life-threatening disaster to come. That disaster is the rapidly receding waters of the Salton Sea. As more and more playa – the sea’s mud shoreline – emerges from the water and dries out, fine particles get swept up by the wind and coat everything in its path, including children’s noses.

Click for entire article

The Victory in Alabama

by Bill Fletcher Jr

Well, team, I must confess that i expected Moore to win Alabama’s special Senatorial race.  As a result, I was shocked this morning when I awakened and received a text from one of my best friends celebrating Moore’s defeat.  I immediately went to msn.com to read about the election results.

When I subsequently went to Facebook i saw a posting from an African American who was, in effect, treating the Jones victory as a victory for white people, i.e., that African Americans had placed no demands on the campaign and we gained little from the victory.

I disagree.

What struck me about the results–besides the fact that the election was so close–was that initial analyses indicated that African American turnout was comparable to 2008 and 2012,  In other words, Presidential years when Obama ran (and won).  African Americans in Alabama understood what was at stake in this election and this turnout demonstrates that, under the right circumstances, voters who normally don’t vote in non-Presidential elections can be mobilized.

Is Jones a revolutionary?  Certainly not.  But the election was not a choice between revolution and counter-revolution.  It was an election against misogynism, right-wing populism, irrationalism and racism.  It’s significance cannot be underestimated given Alabama’s history as a home of the former Confederacy and a state that voted for Trump by an overwhelming margin.

Yet the book is not closed, and not simply because there will inevitably be a recount.   What is so essential is the building and strengthening of progressive organizations in Alabama that can take advantage of the voter mobilization toward the achievement of longer term, progressive strategic objectives.  There are organizations popping up all over the country that are advancing progressive electoral work with an "inside/outside the Democratic Party" orientation that are making a difference.  My hope is that such organizations will proliferate in Alabama.

Congratulations to the people of Alabama who have rejected irrationalism!  The war, however, is far from won.