Historian Mark Solomon looks at the prospects for a new socialist left
By Mark Solomon
Published by Portside March 6, 2013
On February 4, 2010 The Gallop Poll released its latest data on the public’s political attitudes. The headline read: “Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans.” While the poll did not attempt the daunting task of exploring what a diverse public understood socialism to mean, it nevertheless revealed an unmistakably sympathetic image of a system that had been pilloried for generations by all of capitalism’s dominant instruments of learning and information as well as by its power to suppress and slander socialist ideas and organization.
In sheer numbers, that means a population at the teen- age level and above of tens of millions with a favorable view of socialism.
Why then is the organized socialist movement in the United States so small and so clearly wanting in light of the potential for building its numbers and influence?
That is a crucial question. At every major juncture in the history of the country, radical individuals and organizations in advance of the mainstream have played essential roles in influencing, guiding and consolidating broad currents for social change. In the revolution that birthed this country, radical activists articulated demands from the grass roots for an uncompromising and transforming revolution to crush colonial oppression. Black and white abolitionists fought to make the erasure of slavery the core objective of the Civil War while also linking that struggle to women’s suffrage and trade unionism. A mass Socialist Party in the early 20th century fought for state intervention to combat the ravages of an increasingly exploitative economic system while advancing the vision of a socialist commonwealth. In the Great Depression, the Communist Party and its allies fought the devastations of the crisis – helping to build popular movements to expand democracy, grow industrial unions and defend protections for labor embodied in the historic New Deal.
Small left and socialist organizations in the sixties supported a range of progressive struggles from peace to civil rights to women’s liberation to gay rights and beyond. The limited resources of those groups were effective in galvanizing massive peace demonstrations and in campaigns against racist and sexist oppression. But the Cold War and McCarthyism had eviscerated any hope for a major influential socialist current. Consequently, no large and impacting force existed to extend to the peace movement a coherent anti-imperial analysis that might have contributed to its continuity and readiness to confront the wars of the nineties and the new century. Nor was there a strong socialist organization to contribute to the civil rights struggle by advocating for reform joined to a commitment to deeper social transformation. Had such a current existed, it might have contributed to building a broad protective barrier against the devastating FBI and local police violence against sectors of the movement like the Black Panthers.
There should be little debate today on the left over the need for a strong socialist voice and movement in light of festering economic stagnation, war on the working class, looming environmental catastrophe, a widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us, massive joblessness and incarceration savaging African Americans and other oppressed nationalities, crises in health care, housing and education. Such a strong socialist presence could offer a searching analysis of the present situation, help stimulate a broad public debate on short term solutions and formulate a vision of a socialist future that could begin to reach the minds and hearts of the 36 percent who claim to be sympathetic to that vision. Read more of this article »
The Die Linke (The Left) Party Congress,
Oct 21 – 23, 2011, Erfurt, Germany
Photo: Die Linke founding co-chair Gregor Gysi addresses the Congress, October 21, under the banner of Freedom – Dignity – Solidarity
By Pat Fry
CCDS National Co-Chair
Erfurt, Germany, October 2011 – Culminating nearly two years of discussion and debate, the 519 delegates of the Die Linke Party of Germany united overwhelmingly around a new program at its Congress in Erfurt, Germany, October 21 – 23. The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism was one of 43 Communist, Socialist, left parties and organizations making up the international delegation, and was the sole representative from the United States.
The 44 page draft program, issued in March 2010, was discussed at meetings of local and regional bodies, resulting in 1,300 amendments presented for Congress deliberations. The program was adopted nearly unanimously following 3 days of debate. It will provide the political platform for Die Linke candidates in the 2013 federal elections.
The Congress was held against the backdrop of momentous events in Europe. The Eurozone debt negotiations to save bank profits led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the general strike in Greece in opposition to the outcome of those negotiations dramatically framed the weekend’s deliberations. A representative of the Synaspismos Party (Coalition of the Left of Greece), Alexis Tsipras, delivered an impassioned greeting of solidarity bringing the Congress to its feet.
“The war in Greece is between capital and labor, not between Greece and Germany,” said Tsipras. “Greece is the guinea pig of the Eurozone. We are committed to defending democracy in Greece before it is too late for you,” he said.
The adoption of the Die Linke party program marks a milestone in the process of forging of a new left all-German party of democratic socialism. Founded in 2007, the party is a merger of east and west political parties and traditions – the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) founded in the ashes of the collapse of the GDR, and the west German WASG (Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice) founded by left wing social democrats in 2005 in a split from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) after its embrace of austerity policies under the Schröeder government.
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Photo: Huge OWS Event at Washington Square Park in NYC
From Wall Street to Fort Benning:
The Growing Wave of Resistance
and the Left Perspective
An open discussion on the occasion of the
22nd School of the America’s Watch
Protest at Ft. Benning, GA
November 18, 2011 6pm – 9pm
Country Inn & Suites Hotel
1720 Fountain Court
Columbus, GA 31904
Sponsored by Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism (CCDS)
Welcome by Carl Davidson, National Co-Chair of CCDS
1. The growing mass struggle for human rights
2. The changing dialectics of political action
3. The responsibilities of the left
This was unanimously voted on by all members of Occupy Wall Street last night, around 8pm, Sept 29. It is our first official document for release. We have three more underway, that will likely be released in the upcoming days: 1) A declaration of demands. 2) Principles of Solidarity 3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group. This is a living document. you can receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one?s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers? healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people?s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
*These grievances are not all-inclusive.
By Clay Claiborne
By The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism
March 27, 2011: In war, the first casualty is truth. Nowhere is this maxim more relevant than the current air and naval bombing campaign against Libya initiated by the U.S., France and Great Britain, and involving other NATO countries.
IMHO this is already taking a position that equates the Qaddafi regime with "Libya." NATO would argue that their military activities are against the forces of the Qaddafi regime not Libya, and frankly the revolutionaries would agree. As a matter of fact there is very little evidence that NATO has attacked Libyan population centers or infrastructure in the way they did in Iraq. [see my How Many Libyans has NATO Killed? for details and background]
Furthermore, the statement "the current air and naval bombing campaign against Libya initiated by the U.S…." reinforces the view that Qaddafi=Libya. The Libyan opposition would say that the "current air and naval bombing campaign against Libya" was initialed by Qaddafi with his naval bombardment of the people of Misrata and his aerial bombing of the people of Benghazi and Tripoli, which preceded the NATO intervention and which was stopped by that intervention.
What is more important, behind all the anti-imperialist rhetoric, the practical application of CCDS’s basic demand under the concrete conditions currently existing is that Qaddafi would be allowed to continue his naval and aerial bombardment of any population centers in Libya where the people have forced him out on the ground.
So far I don’t see anything in the CCDS statement that Qaddafi would object to.
The air and missile strikes on Libya are acts of war.
No argument there. Of course I would also argue that Qaddafi’s air and missile strikes on Libya are also acts of war, and contrary to the wishful thinking of pacifists, sometimes violence must be put down with violence. Sometimes you can only put an end to "acts of war" is by countering them with "acts of war" to stop the initial perpetrator of the violence.
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From the CCDS National Executive Committee, July 1 2011
CCDS expresses its solidarity and support for the international freedom flotilla to Gaza, including the US vessel Audacity of Hope. The purpose of the flotilla is to publicize and dramatize the horrific suffering of the people of Gaza resulting from the illegal Israeli blockade. The blockade has caused grievous shortages in basic necessities such as food and medical supplies, and has prevented the Palestinians in Gaza from rebuilding their homes and infrastructure destroyed in the brutal Israeli invasion of Jan. 2009. The Palestinian economy has been largely wrecked and unemployment stands at 45.2% according to UN statistics. The brave internationals on the flotilla affirm their commitment to nonviolence and humanitarian aid regardless of the Israeli assault on the first flotilla one year ago, which killed nine people including one American.
CCDS calls upon the US State Department to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of the US citizens who are peacefully sailing in international waters. We applaud the six members of the US House of representatives who have written the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for such protection but the response has been that the activists on the flotilla are entering dangerous waters on their own volition and their safety cannot be guaranteed. This is part of the US policy of supporting Israel’s occupation and repression of the Palestinian people; the US goal is to maintain its strategic interests in the Middle East including access to oil and it finds Israel a useful partner to that end. AIPAC, the military armaments industry and Christian Zionists combine for massive lobbying and pressure of Congress to continue to billions of aid sent to Israel every year, money desperately needed for urgent US domestic needs.
Israel should accept the new reality of Arab Spring and changing political conditions in the Middle East, and move towards a just settlement based on equality and mutual respect. CCDS calls for an end to US aid to Israel and an immediate end to the siege of Gaza.