Four Articles Inviting Comments
CCDS members, along with the left and progressives generally, have been engaged in discussions about the recent presidential election and what it means for our political work for the next several years. The essays below are initial offerings in what should be an ongoing discussion. Please send us your writings about the election and how you see the future of the left and the progressive majority.
1. Sanders, Clinton and Trump – the Political Crisis of Neoliberalism
By Randy Shannon, National Coordinating Committee, CCDS,
Report to National Executive Committee of CCDS on the 2016 Election
November 16, 2106
(This report was fashioned to meet a ten minute spoken delivery limit.)
A New York Times analysis showed that the majority of voters whose income was less than $50k voted for Hillary Clinton. The majority of voters whose income was over $50K voted for Donald Trump. The electorate is defined as the body of persons entitled to vote in an election. 75% of the electorate gave up hope of changing the austerity regime of neoliberalism. They either did not vote for Clinton or refused to vote. Consent of the governed to the Wall Street leadership of the hegemonic bloc of capital – despite a $1 billion campaign war chest – has withered.
The Trump alternative was so repugnant that only 25% of the electorate voted for him. Thus there is an electoral mandate to reverse or reject the policy of neoliberal austerity; but there is not an electoral mandate to enact the far right policies identified with the racist obstructionist Republican Congress. This mandate was expressed in the Democratic primary vote for Sanders whose social democratic program and candidacy were nevertheless anathema to the hegemonic bloc of Wall Street banks.
The rejection of the austerity regime was also expressed in the success of all ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Some voter polls confirm this trend: 49% of voters cited “change” as the most important reason for their vote; of these, 85% voted for Trump. In MI and PA 50% said trade deals cost jobs; 60% of these voted for Trump.
The 2008 crash of the banks’ housing bubble accelerated the economy down the path of a deflationary crisis. Under Pres. Obama the central bank has managed the crisis for the oligarchs by using extraordinary monetary easing with zero interest and creation of money to prop up the Wall Street banks. Since 2008 the Fed Funds rate was slashed from 5.5% to 0% and the Fed’s balance sheet expanded from $870 billion in 2007 to over $4.5 trillion in 2014.
December 2015 saw the peak of the weak Fed induced economic recovery. For workers, most of whom never benefited from the recovery, the pace of economic decline has accelerated. On November 16th the NY Fed, in its monthly Empire Report, stated “employment counts and hours worked continued to decline.” A similar report of economic contraction was released by the Philadelphia Fed on November 17th. The current austerity regime offers low wage and unemployed workers no prospects, thus the Fight for $15 movement. More importantly those still employed are experiencing the slow motion economic implosion of the last 8 years.
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To say that the results of the U.S. election has set the progressive movement back, that we underestimated the strength and unity of the racist, misogynistic, homophobic movement in this country, is simply to state the obvious. There must be a period of reflection and analysis that has already begun. But there must also be action to unite the progressive forces and repudiate the triumphant forces of hate.
The Committees of Correspondence has three characteristics that put us in a position to work towards that unity: our educational work, our activism and involvement in the various movements for progressive change throughout the country and our efforts at left unity. We must strengthen and deepen our efforts in these areas and continue to ensure that each area of our work cross over and informs the others.
Our excellent educational work must continue. We will be offering study of right-wing populism not just in the U.S. but in the world. our educational work will also address the causes, consequences, and impacts of neoliberalism on workers of all races, genders, and ethnicities.
There are many young people standing out and taking leadership to the struggle. who are full of a passion for justice. We’re in an excellent position to provide that education and leadership that we have gained through many years of experience with their passion and activism. as we have many members who are lifelong, experienced activists. Those activists are involved in many different struggles. We must renew our efforts to project a movement that is greater than the sum of these parts.
This period provides opportunities for joint action that we can participate in and help to lead. This should include efforts to reform the current political and electoral structures of our government. If there is one thing that this election showed was that the left and right desired a government cleansed of undemocratic processes that benefit the rich few over the majority. We need to increase our activism and support of inspiring social movements such as Standing Rock, Black lives Matter, Fight for 15 and support for immigrant rights.
Now more than ever it’s necessary for the various organizations on the left and independent activists to come together. Perhaps this setback will give us all a new humility that affirms that we need each other, that we must be unified in the face of a united reactionary opposition.
We hope you will join us on November 28th for this discussion: https://www.facebook.com/events/1866694753564812/
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.
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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Black Power Meets the Solidarity Economy
By Michael Siegel
A new political and economic model is emerging, and it is not appearing where we might suspect it would. In the heart of the South, in a city named after one of the most racist presidents in United States history, in a landscape that resembles parts of Detroit and other decaying industrial centers, an impressive intergenerational collection of community organizers and activists have launched a bold program to empower a black working-class community that 21st -century capitalism has left behind.
In the last two months, I have traveled twice to Jackson, Miss., first for the memorial of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, and most recently, between May 2 and 4, for the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference held at Jackson State University. On both occasions, I have been struck by the amazing individuals and families who have dedicated themselves to developing economic democracy in Jackson.
A Black Revolutionary Mayor in the Heart of the South
Jackson Rising is the brainchild of a coalition of local and national political forces, including the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), the Jackson People’s Assembly and Lumumba’s office. Part of the initial vision was for the conference to catalyze some of the mayor’s economic initiatives, including the goal of helping local workers win government contracts. Unfortunately Lumumba, who won election by an overwhelming majority in June, held office for only a brief period before dying Feb. 25 of unexplained causes.
That Lumumba won the election at all is a testament to his sustained radical human rights work and to the group of community organizers he worked with over many years. Even during his campaign for mayor, Lumumba made no apologies for his revolutionary background, including his commitment to the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO) and its claim to a homeland in the predominantly black regions of the South (described as the “Kush”), including broad swaths of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Lumumba’s history also included decades of experience as a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, with past clients including freedom fighters and political prisoners such as Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt and Assata Shakur.
Despite his radical background, Lumumba was embraced by the people of Jackson, where he had long been an active community advocate and youth mentor. Lumumba and MXGM also utilized innovative organizing tactics to activate the local population. They went door to door to recruit participants for the Jackson People’s Assembly, an independent formation that began as a response to Hurricane Katrina. The Assembly now meets quarterly to discuss community concerns and debate issues including participation in the U.S. Census and the curriculum in the Jackson Public Schools. Hundreds of residents have participated in the Assembly, and locals who are unaffiliated with Lumumba or MXGM lead working committees on topics such as economic development, education and public safety.
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Goldman Turns Tables on Obama Campaign
By LIZ RAPPAPORT and BRODY MULLINS
Wall Street Journal
Oct 9, 2012 – When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, no major U.S. corporation did more to finance his campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
This election, none has done more to help defeat him.
Prompted by what they call regulatory attacks on their business and personal attacks on their character, executives and employees of Goldman Sachs have largely abandoned Mr. Obama and are now the top sources of money to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
In the four decades since Congress created the campaign-finance system, no company’s employees have switched sides so abruptly, moving from top supporters of one camp to the top of its rival, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign-finance data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Employees at Goldman donated more than $1 million to Mr. Obama when he first ran for president. This election, they have given the president’s campaign $136,000—less than Mr. Obama has collected from employees of the State Department. The employees have contributed nothing to the leading Democratic super PAC supporting his re-election.
By contrast, Goldman employees have given Mr. Romney’s campaign $900,000, plus another $900,000 to the super PAC founded to help him.
Underscoring the magnitude of the reversal, Goldman has been the No. 1 source of campaign cash to Democrats among companies during the 23 years the Center for Responsive Politics has been collecting such data.
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By Ethan Young
Left Labor Project
More than 100 NYC-area trade union activists and supporters heard Bill Fletcher, Jr’s analysis of the election on September 24. The event was organized by Left Labor Project, a local socialist group focused on moving the labor movement in a more consciously progressive direction.
Fletcher’s speech and q&a discussion were chaired by Muata Green, a DC 37 retiree and member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO/OSCL). Anne Mitchell of CCDS kept time to ensure broad participation. The crowd was a healthy mix – multiracial, old, young and in-between. Sisters and brothers from at least a dozen unions took part.
Fletcher recently co-authored a widely circulated op-ed, “The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama’s Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him” (http://www.progressivesforobama.net/?p=263). He came prepared to respond to the criticism it prompted from left opponents of the Obama campaign. In his speech he raised strong points of opposition to Obama’s moderate response to the insurgent right, which he compared to the Allies at Anzio in World War II. “They could have taken Rome,” he said, “but they stayed put, playing it by the book until they were surrounded.” Obama, he stressed, “is not us. He’s the President of an empire. We have to remember that.” But Fletcher spoke to the need to unite with the President’s supporters to head off the challenge of the Far Right, which he described as revanchist (“As in revenge”) and irrational (“Government hands off Medicare”). He noted the changing racial demographic of the country, and the xenophobic panic that is driving the Romney campaign.
Moving to long range strategy, Fletcher said the Left today needs “a modern Tecumseh.” He recalled Gramsci’s work The Modern Prince, which updated Machiavelli’s views on political leadership for the 20th century. In Gramsci’s words:
“The modern prince … cannot be a real person, a concrete individual. It can only be an organism, a complex element of society in which a collective will which has already been recognised and has to some extent asserted itself in action, begins to take concrete form. History has already provided this organism, and it is the political party – the first cell in which there come together germs of a collective will tending to become universal and total.”
In contrast to Machiavelli, for the US Left Fletcher pointed to the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, who built a confederation of tribes to resist European settler encroachment and genocide starting in the 1780s. Tecumseh, Fletcher noted, counseled unity, solidarity and shared sacrifice, and warned against uncoordinated, poorly considered action. The experience of unifying Indian tribes has lessons for today – in particular, the need for broad political organization to meet present-day challenges.
Fletcher spoke of neoliberal, pro-austerity policies likely to continue after the election. In response, he advocated bringing social movements together in January 2013 at the Presidential inauguration. He declared that, unlike 2008, this time there should be a strong stand in Washington, demanding jobs. “We gave our all to get him elected, but then we gave him a pass,” he said. “That can’t happen again.”
The expected debate in the q&a session didn’t happen – questions were serious, but generally coming from a supportive point of view. Fletcher sold out his supply of his newly released book, “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions, which he signed for the attendees.
Fletcher was introduced by Arthur Cheliotes, President of Communication Workers of America Local 1180. The meeting room was donated by 1180, which represents a range of public and private sector workers in NYC. -30-
The Mass Movement in 2012
CCDS members are and should continue to be involved in the mass democratic activity to defeat the far right that will likely grow over the coming months. Elections and electoral campaigns will largely frame the national discourse at the national, state and local level in the following ways:
Labor-community-religious coalitions will be key forms for the electoral struggle at the working class base. United Wisconsin and other state based coalitions in defense of collective bargaining, PDA, WFP and similar organizations or parties will play significant roles in independent electoral and progressive activity.
Struggles for democracy and equality and against racism injected by the far right into the election campaign are at a new and virulent level. “Poor” is the new code word for Black and immigrant, even though most poor people are white. Coded in racism also are Republican attacks on food stamps and social benefits, their campaign for draconian laws against immigrants and glorification of executions and the death penalty.
Struggles against restrictive voting laws that disenfranchise the poor and people of color. Struggle for a new movement against the death penalty, the mass incarceration of Black, Latino and low income people, and the prison-industrial complex, which is the main instrument of the ruling class today in re-imposing Jim Crow racism and segregation on our society and splitting the working class.
Single issue organizations and coalitions of trade unions, peace, health care, civil rights, living wage coalitions, women’s rights, seniors, civil liberties, immigrant rights and others will organize to bring pressure on candidates and work in get-out-the-vote activity. The Rebuild the Dream, National People’s Action, the Occupy movement and many other local and state based efforts will rally to bring pressure to bear on issues and candidates.
Building new grass roots electoral forms and social movements based on a peace and economic justice agenda, opposing militarism and wars of intervention including in Afghanistan and sanctions against Iran, moving the money from military to programs for living wage jobs, a sustainable environment, Medicare for all health care, education without debt, affordable housing, and strengthening state budgets to preserve public services.
Role of CCDS
Work to unite sectors and movements through the above electoral and mass democratic forms. Consciously work to build unity of movements of African American, white, Latinos, Caribbean, Asians/Pacific Islander and Native Americans, youth and seniors, men and women, lesbian and gay, and immigrant peoples
Work to promote a peace and economic justice agenda as stated above
Issue a CCDS statement on importance of the Elections and the stake for working people and progressive, democratic forces
Work to promote ideological work and educational forms of CCDS to bring activists from the mass movement to CCDS through local study groups, discussion groups and forums utilizing the DVD “Fundamental Topics in Democracy and Socialism”, material from the “Long March for Democracy” material of the Democracy Charter committee, the On Line University of the Left, CCDS Links, Portside, etc.
In building left unity, CCDS should take concrete measures for common and coordinated efforts in the mass movement continuing efforts that began with the July 2009 symposium in San Francisco in conjunction with the CCDS 6th national convention. Local areas should reach out to socialist and communist parties/organizations that share a common perspective on the electoral struggle to discuss areas of common work in the mass movement for more effective organizing.
Resolution of the CCDS NCC Meeting, Sept 30, 2011
In discussing the urgency of the political moment and the economic crisis facing the working class and its allies, the NCC urges CCDS members to undertake all possible ways to help build broad coalition efforts in the fight for jobs, peace and against austerity and war. Particularly, we urge CCDS to:
1. Become fully engaged with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ direct actions and mass mobilizations expanding through hundreds of cities across the country. In addition to working directly with the young people initiating these events, we should work to bring wider allies, such as trade unions and grassroots organizations from communities of color, to add their voices and their strength to this common front aimed at finance capital.
2. Build support for the American Jobs Act put forward by President Obama as a first step to breaking the GOP’s resistance to any progressive change, as well as continuing support for other jobs legislation under considerations, such as then Schakowsky bill, and fuller measures such as the Conyers bill;
3. Build support and participate in the Rebuild the Dream coalition and its ongoing efforts, which has potential for building the left-center coalition of the progressive majority. In particular, we need to emphasize cutting the military budget and move the money to the needs of the country, and taxing the rich along with opposing any efforts to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
4. Prepare for working in labor-community coalitions and other grass roots efforts in the 2012 electoral campaigns
The NCC discussed a number of issues of the progressive movement in motion, including abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, mass mobilizations against home foreclosures and targeting the banks, the organizing in defense of justice for immigrants and the DREAM Act, opposition to the trade agreements coming before Congress, the organizing in support of Peace Action and UFPJ efforts to end the wars and mobilize opposition next May at the NATO/G8 Summit in Chicago, trade union organizing campaigns, and efforts to oppose right wing efforts to eliminate Black majority congressional districts and other discriminatory measures to restrict the right to vote. We urge attention to these as well.