By Harry Targ
During the twentieth century the dominant circumstances of political life were clear. As capitalism evolved from manufacturing to finance, the character of international relations changed. Crude militarism, while constant, was increasingly aided by covert operations, and most importantly by economic penetration.
The United States as the hegemonic actor on the world stage during most of the century was the clear target of anti-war activism and class struggle at home. National liberation movements rose up to resist the drive for imperial control. Since contradictions existed in international and intra-national affairs our task was clearly to struggle against imperialism, monopoly capitalism, racism and sexism.
Twenty-first century global political economy is also characterized by these key features. Perhaps the “grand narrative,” as post-modernists would call it, remains the same. But, and this is critical, the politics of daily life is far more complicated and it is these complications that give the appearance of chaos. The old narrative and the chaos we experience need to be understood together; particularly among those of us who are committed to the vision of a twenty-first century socialism.
First, the current violence in the Middle East/Persian Gulf is escalating and spreading to other regions. The vicious violence in Paris and Beirut by presumably ISIS followers leads to mass murder. ISIS seems to represent a new brutal form of anti-systemic violence that shows no mercy or humanity. It has its roots in French and British colonial rule in the Middle East, United States collaboration with the Saudi monarchy, western support for the creation of the state of Israel in contradiction to those living on the land, a US-led war on Iraq in 1991, and the US wars of the twenty-first century in Afghanistan and Iraq. Blood is on the hands of every western power in the region but, in terms of victims of violence everywhere, blood also is on the hands of ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Syrian government, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Russia, and Iran. Violence is about economic control, political hegemony, nationalism, resistance, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, religious sectarianism and fundamentalisms. The violence is also about arms transfers, racism, and hate.
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By Paul Krehbiel
Pat Fry has presented a very good document to begin our pre-convention discussion. Titled, "The Progressive Majority, Left Unity, and the Tasks of CCDS," she begins by explaining how and why CCDS was founded, the development of our main document (For a Democratic and Socialist Future), the development of the theory of the Progressive Majority as our basic organizing strategy (and proposals to change that strategy), efforts to build left unity, and the role of the left — especially CCDS. She talked about the key mass movements of our time, the links CCDS has to these movements, and efforts to build a more united and stronger left to win more victories for the people while laying the foundation for socialism. I agree with the general framework of our main political document and Pat’s presentation.
With this paper, I want to specifically add to Pat’s last paragraph. After addressing the major tasks before us (and the broader left), Pat states that "the tasks outstrip our capacity within CCDS as we face a declining membership in numbers and demographics, faltering finances, and weak local chapters." Given this, Pat recommends that we consider reorganizing the internal structure of CCDS, and focus on left unity and educational work.
I want to suggest that we add an organizing component to this, with more details and focus in our organizing plan and strategy to address how to best organize on the ground. Regarding the size of our membership, we have what we have and have to start here. More important is developing the best possible organizing plan and strategy. If that is done, we will gain new members. This is not a simple task. A number of efforts have been made to do this and I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to those efforts. Every effort has helped, and has added to our store of knowledge of how to develop an effective organizing strategy. Because this task is difficult, I want to recommend that we make a concerted effort to probe this topic during our pre-convention discussion period. In my view, this is the most important task before us, precisely because of Pat’s assessment of CCDS in her last paragraph. My goal is to begin the discussion of how we can recruit more members, build active and strong chapters, and improve our finances. In short, it requires a detailed organizing plan.
CCDS has played and continues to play an important and unique role within the left and progressive movements. To see CCDS decline and possibly cease to exist would be a significant loss to the left, the people’s movement’s, and to the larger society. I say this not to slight other left organizations and movements. Almost every organization on the left has a positive role to play. We recognize and welcome the contributions they make. Trying different strategies and tactics, and having different focuses of work, all add to the cumulative knowledge of the left and society and how to conduct our work. Life will reveal which strategies succeed and which need retooling.
When I urge a focus on building CCDS, this does not mean a shift away from mass work, nor theoretical and educational work. To the contrary, mass work, based on rich theoretical and educational work, must be at the center of what we do. The question is: how do we carry out mass work in a way that will best strengthen the mass movements, and CCDS.
To begin this discussion, I want to offer several ideas. I am not presenting a fully developed organizing plan. But I’m hopeful that these ideas will stimulate a discussion that will lead to that goal.
We need a simple, clear and bold statement of who we are, what we believe, what we want, and how we propose to succeed. This should be printed in many copies for public consumption. It should be short enough that it can be read in a couple of minutes, and be easily understood by all. This would be the main introduction of CCDS to the people and to those we want to recruit. This would spell out simply what we believe and make it easy for people to say, "yes, I agree with that, and I know why I’m joining." What follows is a first draft of that proposed document; I welcome feedback, discussion, amendments, etc.
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For CCDS Pre-Convention Discussion
By Pat Fry, CCDS Co-Chair
This paper is offered for pre-convention discussion. The first section is a review of the history of CCDS and the “Progressive Majority” movement-building strategy. The second section reviews Left Unity efforts and its relationship to building the Progressive Majority. The final section is on the tasks of the left and CCDS as we approach our national convention in July 2016.
Section 1 “For a Democratic and Socialist Future”
“For a Democratic and Socialist Future” is the founding document of CCDS. It was the focus of discussions for two years beginning with a national conference, “Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 1990s,” held in 1992 in Berkeley, CA. The conference brought together over a thousand leftists from various political backgrounds. Many had recently resigned from the Communist Party USA in a struggle over democracy within the organization. Others had been members of various Socialist parties and many others were unaffiliated. Organizations sent representatives such as Solidarity, the National Committee for Independent Political Action, and the Crossroads magazine. There was an excitement about the possibility of launching a revitalized Left guided by principles of democracy and socialism, one that would “brush aside old barriers” and “develop constructive dialog on strategic issues and seek agreement on action.”
A committee elected at the Berkeley conference met to chart a course for what became the Committees of Correspondence, founded in Chicago in July 1994. The “For a Democratic and Socialist Future” document was the defining goals and principles of the new socialist organization. It presented an analysis of class forces in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet socialism, and the importance of rebuilding a democratic and socialist left in the face of capitalist triumphalism over the defeat of much of the socialist world.
When the CoC was founded, Bill Clinton had been in the White House for two and a half years. The founding document noted that while the Clinton administration was more responsive to popular pressure and his election was a defeat for the extreme anti-people policies of Reagan and Bush, the Clinton “New Democrats” represented a growing long-term influence of neo-conservatism. Clinton’s refusal to raise the minimum wage, the ending of Aid to Dependent Children, “workfare, not welfare,” and NAFTA were examples cited. The newly founded Committees of Correspondence called for a new political realignment in the country:
“We believe that what is needed is a comprehensive approach linking progressive currents into a broad, ongoing democratic force. We advocate a powerful, democratic political realignment, based on a new progressive social contract which empowers the masses of American working people.”
A vision of socialism was outlined:
“By socialism we do not mean a social system in which the state dominates everything, or in which authoritarian measures are used to restrict human rights. Socialism without democracy is not socialism at all.” Rather, socialism “is a political, cultural, economic and ethical project, a struggle to transform power relations within a class divided society for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of the people. Socialism is not a fixed entity, but the social product of the dynamics of class struggle. Socialism must and will be constantly redefined by oppressed people who are engaged in struggle, over a long period of time.”
The Committees envisioned itself as a bridge to a larger socialist organization:
“While we seek to facilitate strategic cooperation among existing left groups which share basic principles, we believe there is a need for a much larger progressive and socialist organization, one more reflective of the working class and oppressed communities and the radical democratic movements than any existing organization. “
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The long awaited nuclear deal between Iran, the US and other world powers is to be welcomed. in addition to limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, it also portends a historic change in Middle East regional politics. It’s a step towards a long-term reduction of tensions and the chances of a major war. It is a step towards normalizing a situation where the US has refused to recognize Iran, historically a major power in the region for 3000 years. And it’s a step that enables Iran to develop its economy in ways favorable to its people.
The agreement is lauded by progressives and opposed by most Republicans, too many Democrats, the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, Netanyahu and other right wing forces. CCDS encourages all its members to support adopting the agreement by signing petitions, public education and lobbying Congress.
That doesn’t mean we agree with all its provisions or how it was obtained. Ostensibly about a possible nuclear weapons program in the future, the issue is really about the strategy of maintaining US dominance in the Middle East. The Neocons want to maintain hegemony through use of military force. Multilateral pragmatists in the foreign policy elite, however, understand that US interests in the long term must recognize the actual shift towards a multi-polar world. We are opposed to US dominance by any means, and peace in the region is not served by unquestioning support for Israel. But even from its own perspective, the US refusal to engage Iran ultimately drives that country into closer relations with US perceived rivals, Russia and China. In this way, US imperialism was forced to change its policy.
CCDS supports the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s call for a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, which would require Israel to dismantle its nuclear program. US sanctions against Iran must be ended as soon as possible, as they have hurt mostly the poor, sick and elderly. The US must end its program of covert aggression against Iran which has included cyber attacks, targeted assassinations, drone surveillance and JSOC operations. The US should move to full diplomatic relations with Iran. This would enable more effective actions to counter ISIS, enhance stability in the region, and create a better environment for the working class and democratic movements to organize and advance an agenda of prosperity, collective security and peaceful co-existence.
CCDS NEC, July 31, 2015
By Left Strategy Collective Members
May 30, 2015 – There is something bubbling beneath the surface in the US. Everyone can feel it. Everywhere there are mass actions – on issues ranging from fast food workers’ rights, to deportations, from the latest police killing, to community displacement, from defending collective bargaining, to getting clean water, from getting the water turned back on, to ending the occupation of Gaza.
There is something bubbling, but the question remains whether it will evaporate into steam or explode like a volcano. Capitalism confronts people all over the world, including the US, and its crises implicate the very survival of humankind. Yes, there are sprinkled victories, hopeful uprisings, and electoral surprises, but we know in our hearts it is not enough.
We go to sleep with the question, "When and how?" When and how will the tables turn? When and how will we become a force in US politics and win power? When and how are we going to be able to change the nature of the field we are forced to play on? In order to address these questions, we need a strategy for the left. We will refer to "the left" here as those forces that oppose the capitalist, white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal system and seek to build an alternative society.
In this paper, we will make the case for the importance of strategy, we will lay out our definition of strategy and the components we believe are necessary for the building a game- changing strategy for the left. We would like to see the development and implementation of a strategy for power –where the oppressed are able to determine their own livelihood and how society functions. This strategy would necessarily be aimed at an emancipatory transition from capitalism.
This paper will not be the strategy. It is a contribution to the many left voices that are calling for the need for strategy, and to begin to build a shared language of what strategy is. We are a small core of leftists from different sectors of the movement. We do not believe that we alone can build this strategy. However we have some thoughts about what is to be done and we have a commitment to building the space to develop this strategy with like-minded leftists. Our hope is that the process of engaging in this level of strategy development will promote a new movement culture of more intentional, collective, and focused movement development that will bring us to game-changing victories and power that will transform this country.
WHAT IS STRATEGY?
The act of developing strategy should result in more than a political line, a political program, or a new organization. It will not be enough to have a clever slogan. It will not be enough to focus on a single task, tactic, or campaign. The type of strategy that is necessary to build among leftists would: 1) imagine and formulate a vision of an alternative to capitalism; 2) analyze the current conditions both on our side (the working class, organized forces, and the left overall) as well as the opposition (the ruling class and the capitalist state); and 3) work toward that vision through devising a continually evolving program that would strengthen the forces for liberation and weaken the capitalist forces on an economic, political, and ideological scale to the point of "putting it out of business" all together.
Tactics are different from strategy. Tactics are the specific types of actions we take to execute our strategy. The series of actions may make up a particular program, but they are not the entirety of our strategy. The strategy will determine plans, to be put into action, evaluated and summed-up. It will not be based on what worked in one city and then applied to a different city with completely different conditions. It will not be based on our personal moods, whims, or the flavor of the month. It will not be a mere goal with no way to achieve it. Goals are the aims that our strategy is built around. It will be a comprehensive approach that includes our analysis of conditions, our hypothesis of how we will build power and win. This strategy becomes a living course of action that is implemented, tested, summed-up, evaluated, and reworked. (Continued)
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From left: Janet Tucker, Anne Mitchell, Pat Fry
By Pat Fry
Photos by Ted Reich
A CCDS panel May 30th at the Left Forum, “Transforming Community and Labor Organizing into Electoral Victory,” was attended by a filled-to-capacity classroom of 40 people at John Jay College in NYC. This was no small feat – as 56 other panel workshops were held at the same time. The Left Forum is an annual 3-day conference attracting more than 4,000 activists and academics, youth, students, socialists, communists and progressives of many stripes. Hundreds of organizations sell books and distribute literature, CCDS among them.
The CCDS panel opened with remarks by Pat Fry, CCDS national co-chair, speaking of the importance of building grass roots campaigns to elect progressives to local, state and national government. Citing the example of Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Vermont Progressive Party, Fry said that Sanders’ many campaigns over four decades were successful because they were firmly rooted in community and labor struggles. Vermont through its Progressive Party leads the nation in the number of 3rd party state
legislators, said Fry.
From left: Andrea Miller, Paul Krehbiel, Ethan Young, Rosie Mendez
The Working Families Party successes in New York City and State are another example of organizing independent of the Democratic Party through local coalitions on issues. The WFP recently won a NY State Assembly seat solely on the WFP line in a campaign in Brooklyn, NY that targeted big money developers. Working Families has been successful in organizing election campaigns for the Ferguson, MO City Council and Philadelphia’s mayoral campaign for Jim Kenney with a union-led multi-sector coalition.
There are many lessons to learn from the Chokwe Lumumba mayoral campaign in Jackson, MS running as a Democrat as well as Ras Baraka’s campaign for Mayor of Newark, said Fry. Also important are the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s experience winning races for mayor and a majority of city council seats in CA, and Kshama Sawant’s election victory in a non-partisan election in Seattle, she said. (Continued)
These are examples of how coalition building of labor and community in the electoral arena can win against the rightwing and Wall Street interests, said Fry. “With this panel, we hope to share experiences and lessons of on-the-ground organizing to elect progressives on the inside to be the voice of movements on the outside – in our neighborhoods, precincts, workplaces, unions, peace and justice organizations,” said Fry.
New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez described how she was elected through the efforts of the Coalition for a District Alternative (CODA), the community based activist organization that has elected progressives to the City Council for the last two decades. Members of CCDS have been activists of CODA since its founding in the early 1990s. Mendez is co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino, Asian caucus and one of 6 members of the LGBT caucus. CODA asked Mendez to run for the Council seat 10 years ago when she was a tenant organizer and involved in the many housing struggles that CODA helped to build. On City Council, Mendez has been a staunch supporter of public and affordable housing as well as fighting against the police “stop and frisk” policies, racial profiling and an advocate for an independent Inspector General within the NYPD to review police practices.
“I have been in office for 9 ½ years,” said Mendez, “and we have worked to build coalitions to save public housing, to rezone for new affordable housing. It all started with a group of people who decided to embrace democratic politics and push it as far left as we can. To be successful, we need organizations that are politically independent like CODA and that can work to keep elected officials true to the cause,” said Mendez.
Mendez was not able to stay for the entire panel due to the mobilization in the streets calling for the release of Puerto Rican independence fighter and political prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, which unfortunately conflicted with the panel discussion. Mendez talked about the importance of the mobilization to win his freedom after 34 years in U.S. prisons. (The march and rally drew 5,000. See
Ethan Young, Portside moderator, journalist and member of the Left Labor Project, talked about lessons of the Jesus “Chuy” Garcia campaign for mayor of Chicago in April, a campaign that stunned the political establishment with a near-win against theneo-liberal Democrat Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Teachers Union and a coalition of labor, community, African Americans and Latinos were the base of the campaign that began late and with meager finances.
Though Garcia did not win, said Young, he garnered a significant 45% of the vote. Important also were the election of 7 new City Council members supported by labor and community forces which has strengthened the Progressive Reform Caucus in opposition to Emanuel’s Democratic Party machine. “They won in working class neighborhoods running against the strongest mayor that the city has ever seen,” said Young. He also acknowledged weaknesses in the Garcia campaign. “He was not as hard on neo-liberal policies and the police as he could have been and this played a role in his inability to shore up a big enough base to win,” said Young. Nevertheless, Chicago politics have been significantly impacted with an unprecedented challenge to the power of the neo-liberal Democratic Party machine in Chicago, he said.
Paul Krehbiel, a CCDS member in Los Angeles, has spent most of his political life on the outside of electoral politics through his union, organizing to put pressure on elected officials. The rise in right wing candidates throughout the Bush years, the Iraq war and the voter response that put Barack Obama in office showed the importance of working in the electoral arena to defeat the right, said Krehbiel. He drew attention to the Republican Gerrymandering project that moved the political landscape to the right in 2012 electorally even though voters in their majority moved to the left. As an example, he cited Michigan’s votes in 2012 where Democrats won 240,000 more votes than Republicans but elected only 6 Democrats of Michigan’s 15 Congressional seats. He urged reading the 2012 Red Map Summary Report that details how the Republican Party did it – even boasting about it, said Krehbiel.
As an antidote to the Republican Redmap strategy, Krehbiel drew from the lessons of the mid 1990s in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles. Krehbiel was part of a labor-community coalition to register Latino voters, a campaign led by the Southwest Voter Registration Project and Hermandad Mexicana that included student groups, unions, and the Catholic Church. In 1996 these efforts led to the election of the first Latin American from Orange County to Congress, Loretta Sánchez, who defeated a 6-term incumbent an extreme rightwinger Rep. Bob Dornan. Sánchez’ win galvanized a number of other successful campaigns electing Latinos to office.
Andrea Miller, who is the Executive Director of People Demanding Action, the civic arm of the Progressive Democrats of America and the former PDA Co-Executive Director, talked about how she was urged to run as the Democratic Party nominee in Virginia’s 4th CD in 2008. She ran on a program of jobs, Medicare for All and clean energy. An African American woman from Chicago, Miller won 40% of the vote in a predominantly white and rural “Bible Belt” district. Prior to her bid for Congress, Miller was MoveOn.org’s regional coordinator and then statewide coordinator of the Dennis Kucinich presidential campaign.
Miller spoke about the importance of the left running for political office. Though she did not win in 2008, a Democratic candidate now runs in every race in the 4th CD which had been ceded to the Republicans without a challenge. Addressing the question of why she agreed to run in the Democratic Party even though she identifies herself as a democratic socialist, Miller said “one big reason is that African Americans who were 33% of the voter population will not vote for anyone that is not running as a Democrat – no matter who or what.”
Miller came to know PDA because of the organization’s support for her 2008 campaign. She concluded her remarks talking about the importance of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign. She credited PDA as instrumental in convincing Sanders to run in the Democratic Party rather than as an independent. Miller urged the left to get involved in electoral politics and one good place to start is to run progressives for district leadership seats of the Democratic Party at the local level. Earlier in the panel, Councilmember Mendez described the same strategy used by CODA in NYC’s Lower East Side.
In discussion, a question was raised about why work in the Democratic Party instead of the Green Party and supporting Howie Hawkins for President. “Don’t the Democrats seize back power at the end of the day?” asked an audience participant.
Miller responded with “Political parties require structure and money. If you can raise the money to purchase voter files and build a campaign that can win very good. But if you can’t, take over someone else’s voter file,” she said.
For a video of the workshop GO HERE
By Jim Skillman
Among the various socialist organizations and unaffiliated independent socialists, there are two distinct camps regarding Bernie Sanders’ candidacy: those who will try to support it, and those who won’t. As a socialist who sees the value of his campaign on many different levels, I intend to play an active role in raising money, turning out support and urging people to vote for him. At the same time, I realize there is nothing I could write or say that would change anyone’s mind in the other camp, so I will avoid the pointless arguments and discussions around this topic, and leave it to others who wish to pursue those engagements.
That said, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way for socialists to take on this work, and I’d like to warn against us falling into either of these traps. As I see it, there are two dangers we should avoid.
First danger: campaigning in a way that does not build an independent group or grassroots network that will survive the primaries or the election. We saw this happen here around the Obama campaign even as early as 2008. Many of us did canvassing, raised and contributed money along with all the other activities. After the election was over, no real organization survived, and even the local official Democratic Party organizations were left in a weakened state. Even the Obama for America groups, which were controlled from the top down, petered out after a few weeks, and we were left with nothing. Let’s not miss this opportunity in 2016!
This mistake can be avoided if we make creating a grassroots network and/or organization, one that is completely independent of the Democratic Party hierarchy, the driver of the “Sanders for President” work we undertake here. This is why in many places CCDS people will be supporting the Sanders campaign though our work in Progressive Democrats of America, a federal PAC that is not controlled by the Democratic Party establishment. We could do the same here, but even if we don’t work through PDA, we should endeavor to set up an independent group that will survive into the future.
Second danger: campaigning in a narrow way, one that equates Sanders’ platform with democratic socialism. Although Sanders has previously described himself as a democratic socialist, we must keep in mind that he is not running as a socialist in this campaign, and his platform, as great as it is, isn’t socialist, democratic or otherwise. Sanders is NOT running a socialist campaign, and to conflate his platform with socialism is wrong on two counts: 1) it distorts what socialism actually is, and 2) it will alienate many who otherwise would find much to support in his platform but have negative ideas about socialism. Nowhere on his website or in any of his material will you even find the word “socialism”.
Of course, as the campaign gathers steam, there will be plenty of opportunities to educate and recruit people to our various socialist organizations (DSA, CPUSA, CCDS). But this can’t be the only or even the main focus. If we truly leverage our resources to carry out this work and avoid the traps mentioned, we will end up with both a stronger united front and a growing socialist movement.
By Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry
Download as PDF HERE
Introduction: The following eight-point proposal is designed to initiate both a discussion and a process. The points can be further refined, and subtracted from or added to. Given the scope of the challenges ahead of us, there is a certain degree of urgency, but it is also wise to take to time to start off on a sound footing, uniting all who can be united. The main things it wants to bring into being at all levels—local, regional, national or in sectors—are common projects. Some of these already exist, such as the Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and other independent left trade unionists and activists. Over a few years work, it was able to build a far wider alliance bringing together the city’s labor organizations and allied social movements to bring out tens of thousands on May Day.
We know that many of us are already involved in a wide variety of projects. But is there any compelling reason we have to do this separately, behaving like a wheelbarrow full of frogs trying to win a common goal? A good case in point is Chuy Garcia’s mayoral campaign in Chicago. Wouldn’t this campaign be better served if we worked together in a planned way to draw in and skillfully deploy even more forces? Or take the labor-community alliance projects building solidarity for labor strikes or the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage? We can all make a long list here, but the core idea should be apparent, at least for starters, and we invite your responses and queries.
1. We need something new
. The left is not likely to find critical mass through mergers of existing groups, although any such events would be positive. But a new formation to which all would be equally cooperative in a larger project—call it a Left Front or Left Alliance—would have a greater impact. Groups participating in it could retain whatever degree of autonomy they desire, such as keeping their own newspapers, national committees, local clubs meeting separately, and so on. Every group involved can exercise its own independence and initiative, to the degree it finds necessary. But all would be striving in common to help the overall project succeed. While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.
2. We need a ‘project based’ common front.
At the grassroots level, it would be comprised of joint projects—electoral, union organizing, campaigns against the far right, for a living wage or reducing student debt, for opposing war, racism, sexism and police violence, and many others. The existing left groups in a factory, a neighborhood, a city or a campus, would be encouraged to advance the joint projects.
3. We need a ‘critical mass’ at the core that is both young, working class and diverse.
While people from all demographics are welcome, the initial core has to be largely drawn from the Millennials, those born after 1980 or so. And the core also has to be a rainbow of nationalities with gender equity, and well-connected to union and working class insurgencies. If the initial core at the beginning is too ‘white’ or too ‘1968ers’, it will not be a pole with the best attractive power for a growing new generation of socialist and radical minded activists.
4. We need a common aspiration for socialism.
That’s what makes us a ‘Left Front or Left Alliance’ rather than a broader popular front or people’s coalition. We are strongly supportive of these wider coalitions and building the left is not done in isolation from them. But we also see the wisdom in the concept: the stronger the core, the broader the front. Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.
5. We do not need full agreement on strategy.
A few key concepts—the centrality of fighting white supremacy, the intersection of race, class and gender, the alliance and merger of the overall workers movement and the movements of the communities of the oppressed—will do. We can also agree on cross-class alliances focused on critical targets: new wars, the far right and the austerity schemes imposed by finance capital. Additional elements, perspectives, nuances and ‘shades of difference’ can be debated, discussed and adjusted in the context of ongoing struggle
6. We need a flexible but limited approach to elections.
We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. We see the importance for social movements to have an electoral arm that presses and fights for their agenda within government bodies.
7. We need to be well embedded in grassroots organizations.
Especially important are the organizations of the working class and in the communities of the oppressed—unions and worker centers, civil rights and women’s rights, youth and students, peace and justice, churches and communities of faith, cooperatives and other groups tied to the solidarity economy, and other community-based NGOs and nonprofits.
8. We need to be internationalists.
But we do not have to require support for any particular countries or bloc of countries and national liberation movements, past or present. But we do oppose the wars of aggression, occupations and other illicit interventions of ‘our own’ ruling class, along with the hegemonism, ‘superpower mentality’ and Great Power chauvinism it promotes. That is the best way we can promote world peace and practice solidarity and assistance to forces beyond our borders.
[Carl Davidson and Pat Fry are national co-chairs of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a member of several socialist organizations and author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions’ Comments can be sent to email@example.com ]
The following two articles are an example of class debate in the left over how to relate to working class voters and the Democratic Party. One is by Jeremy Wells, and the other is by CCDSer Paul Krehbiel. They both appear in a Los Angles community newspaper
The AFL-CIO must now break all ties with the Democratic Party!
By Jeremy Wells
The historic low voter turnout in November dramatically confirmed what the low popularity poll numbers for Obama and Congressional politicians of both parties, have indicated. Neither corporate corrupted Democratic nor reactionary Republican parties, Democratic and Republican millionaire politicians, never represent or fight for the economic interests of the working class majority of voters.
The AFL-CIO supported Democratic Party candidate for the Governor of Michigan, Mark Schauer, was defeated in his attempt to unseat incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Schauer’s campaign slogans ignored the working class. Schauer said not a word about hundreds of destitute families living in Detroit, unable to pay their utility bills, were having their water shutoff.
Instead, Mark Shauer’s slogans advocated, among other things, “cutting middle-class taxes” and that Rick Synder “doesn’t understand middle-class values”. This “Middle Class” rhetoric, never mentioning the dire needs of the working class majority, is often used by AFL-CIO President Trumka as well as President Obama.
The AFL-CIO today must realize that trade union labor contracts, by themselves, have failed to secure and maintain the economic justice of their members. Collective bargaining agreements only deal with wages and benefits with one employer. Labor contracts do not cover other essential economic needs required by working people. These economic needs are secured and maintained by laws passed by pro-labor law-makers, not by trade union contracts.
New laws are now desperately needed to maintain public (not privatized) tuition-free education, establish universal “single-payer” (not “Obama-care”) health care, maintain (not cut) Social Security, create millions of “living wage” public sector jobs (which the private sector cannot provide), to promote worker owned co-operative enterprises, etc.
A new Solidarity political party, to break with the corporate-corrupted Democratic Party, to powerfully unite all trade union and unorganized workers, which refuses all corporate money and agendas, will elect pro-labor law-makers as soon as possible in every local, state, and Federal election. The long-term goal of The Solidarity Party would be to build a new economy that provides a universal minimum “standard of living” for all working people. Pro-worker mass media economic education for the public and all working people. The AFL-CIO must help sponsor, produce, and broadcast on a nightly PBS television, a news and commentary program promoting the economic betterment of working people.
Worker funded, not corporate corrupted! Millions of new Solidarity Party voters, paying a minimal monthly dues, would easily fund the organizational needs. Fund-drives would provide on-going financial support of a pro-labor PBS program from viewers.
The Solidarity Party will not be simply a “trade union party”, but fight for economic justice for all workers..
A new 21st Century understanding is needed by the labor movement, the AFL-CIO, to develop new organizational and political strategies to fight back Capitalist Globalization which has permanently lost millions of U.S. jobs and impoverished U.S. workers.
New ways of economic production and job creation, that break with the failed 19th century system of wage-slavery capitalist exploitation, are not only possible but now necessary for economic justice in the 21st century. For more information : Dr. Richard D. Wolff, Marxist economics educator, www.rdwolff.com Link to Democracy at Work, Capitalism Hits the Fan, Economic Update, books, video and audio presentations. World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org published 6 days a week. Critical Marxist analysis of current events unavailable in corporate or “progressive” media. *Jeremy Wells, retired worker, socialist, humanist at: www.infowells.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stop the Right with a Democratic-Labor-Left Alliance
By Paul Krehbiel
The November 2014 election put Republicans in the majority in the US Senate, and a larger majority in the US House. They will promote an agenda of more cuts to social services including education, health care, and Social Security, tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, attacks on the rights of working people and unions, people of color, women, youth, seniors, immigrants, the LGBT community, voting rights, and the environment. They will diminish democratic rights, give more power to the wealthy, increase domestic police repression, and threaten more wars, and move our country further to the right. Their goal is to elect a right-wing Republican president in 2016 so they control all three branches of government. Watch out if that happens. (Continued)
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Voters lining up in Long Beach, NY
By Joseph M. Schwartz
Democratic Socialists of America
Throughout modern history, the property-less, women, people of color, and undocumented immigrants have fought and died for the right to vote. People understand that those who hold state power shape everyone’s lives through legislation and the administration of the law.
Democratic social movements, however, have never solely relied upon their electoral numbers to bring about social reform; they have also protested against and disrupted the dominant rules of the game in order to redistribute power and resources. Social change has come most rapidly when people believed the state may be responsive to their needs; the militancy of the 1930s and 1960s arose when, first, trade unionists and, later, civil rights militants protested because the nominally liberal governments they helped elect were not fully responsive.
A 40-year corporate offensive against the gains of the 1960s has rolled back some of these gains, particularly in regards to reproductive justice – such as abortion access — and income support for single mothers with infants. But even this offensive needed democratic numbers; the corporate-funded, think-tank propaganda of Tea Party politicians worked to deflect the anger of white middle and working-class voters away from the oligarchs and towards people of color, feminists, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and the poor.
On the other hand, the gains in human rights experienced by the LGBTQ community illustrates how social mobilization can lead to democratic change even in a conservative era. Thus, the complex interaction between social movements and electoral politics is a permanent fixture of capitalist democracies.
Why State and Local Electoral Politics Matters
The provision of public goods (from roads to schools to Medicaid, to welfare–now called TANF–and unemployment benefits) are differentially determined by 50 separate state governments and thousands of county and municipal governments. The outcome of the 2014 state and congressional elections will, in part, determine who gets or does not get food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, or increased funding for public education. Thus, non-presidential “off year” elections impact the lives of working and poor people as profoundly as do more visible presidential races. If progressives could turn out their base in off-year elections as well as they do in presidential years, local and state legislatures and Congress would be far more progressive.
The failure of the Obama administration to challenge Republican control of Congress over the past two years means it has few progressive themes to deploy to mobilize its black, Latino, and trade union base, although unyielding Republican attacks on reproductive rights may energize the Democrats’ strong base among single women. On the other hand, Democrats may have particular problems mobilizing the Latino community, as the administration recently postponed executive action to expand the rights of “Dreamers” (undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors) out of fear of alienating swing white voters.
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