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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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-
On the matter of war with Iran, it seems so…Here’s a large ad in the March 5 Washington Post:
Debating Bill Fletcher’s
‘How Do We Respond to Obama?’
And Others Matters on the 2012 Election
The following article by Jonathan Nack, replying to Bill Fletcher on Black Commentator, inspired a thread of debate on the CCDS list server. It is between reposted here for further discussion. If you want to make a comment, just register on the site. Flectcher’s original article follows Nack’s below.
We Need Radicals Not Reformists
By Jonathan Nack
May 5, 2011 – It’s nice to see Bill Fletcher start to wake up (see below). Unfortunately, IMHO, he’s still has a long way to go. Maybe he’s still groggy.
Fletcher’s main problem is, IMHO, that he’s no longer a radical, but a reformist. He demonstrates this by his rejection of more radical strategies without even considering them – the true hallmark of all reformists.
As has often been said, insanity is continuing to do the same thing, while expecting different results. Put another way, if progressives don’t think outside of the box, we will stay trapped in the box.
Fletcher’s strategy requires remaining within the political orbit of the Democratic Party. He ignores the alternative left parties, such as the Green Party, Socialist Party, and the California Peace & Freedom Party. In my view, it’s a strategy that is akin to trying to walk a great distance on only one leg and with no crutch. You might hop around a while, you might make a little progress, then again you might not, and eventually you will fail to get to where you want to go.
My argument is not that all progressives should jump to a left third party. …
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The Crisis of Global Capitalism
and the Specter of 21st Century Fascism
By William I. Robinson
Solidarity Economy.net via Z-Net
(The following is a synopsis of several recent talks given by Robinson, a professor of sociology and global studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, on the global crisis, the immigrant rights movement, and 21st century fascism)
The crisis of global capitalism is unprecedented, given its magnitude, its global reach, the extent of ecological degradation and social deterioration, and the scale of the means of violence. We truly face a crisis of humanity. The stakes have never been higher; our very survival is at risk. We have entered into a period of great upheavals and uncertainties, of momentous changes, fraught with dangers if also opportunities. I want to discuss here the crisis of global capitalism and the notion of distinct political responses to the crisis, with a focus on the far-right response and the danger of what I refer to as 21st century fascism, particularly in the United States.
Facing the crisis calls for an analysis of the capitalist system, which has underwent restructuring and transformation in recent decades. The current moment involves a qualitatively new transnational or global phase of world capitalism that can be traced back to the 1970s, and is characterized by the rise of truly transnational capital and a transnational capitalist class, or TCC. Transnational capital has been able to break free of nation-state constraints to accumulation of the previous epoch, and with it, to shift the correlation of class and social forces worldwide sharply in its favor and to undercut the strength of popular and working classes around the world in the wake of the global rebellions of the 1960s and the 1970s.
Emergent transnational capital underwent a major expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, involving hyper-accumulation through new technologies such as computers and informatics, through neo-liberal policies, and through new modalities of mobilizing and exploiting the global labor force – including a massive new round of primitive accumulation, uprooting, and displacing hundreds of millions of people, especially in the third world countryside, who have become internal and transnational migrants.
We face a system that is now much more integrated, and dominant groups that have accumulated an extraordinary amount of transnational power and control over global resources and institutions.
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Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency
By Linda Burnham
The election of Obama, while enthusiastically embraced by most of the left, has also occasioned some disorientation and confusion.
Some have become so used to confronting the dismal electoral choice between the lesser of two evils that they couldn’t figure out how to relate to a political figure who held out the possibility of substantive change in a positive direction.
Others are so used to all-out, full-throated opposition to every administration that they wonder whether and how to alter their stance.
Still others sat out the election, for a variety of political and organizational reasons, and were taken by surprise at how wide and deep ran the current for change.
Now there’s an active conversation on the left about what can be expected of an Obama administration and what the orientation of the left should be towards it.
There are two conflicting views on this:
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January 10-11, 2009
Plenary Panel Remarks
By Carl Bloice
People look at me and roll their eyes when I offer the opinion that potential for international peace and cooperation would be greatly enhanced were it discovered that a large object was hurtling toward Earth and threatening great destruction to the planet. Science fiction would become science and possibly we would pull together to find a way to divert the menace from its path. As I said, people look at me like I’m a brother from another planet so I won’t go any further into it here. But still I think the scenario works as an analogy. So does the Economist magazine. Imagine my surprise when in its latest edition, it began its story on global warming with these words:
“Imagine that some huge rocky projectile, big enough to destroy most forms of life, was hurtling towards the earth, and it seemed that deep international co-operation offered the only hope of deflecting the lethal object. Presumably, the nations of the world would set aside all jealousies and ideological hangups, knowing that failure to act together meant doom for all. Read more of this article »
Discussion on Our Future:
What Next for Progressives for Obama?
An Organizing Proposal
for a Left-Progressive
National Network and Clearinghouse
by Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr.
How can the people brought together by the `Progressives for Obama’ project make a transition into a broader and ongoing post-election nationwide network? How can that network continue to serve as a left- progressive pole within the broader alliance of Obama activists and voters, while contributing to the organization of the instruments for popular political power? What follows is an outline of the organizing tasks and components of such an effort, with an invitation to wider discussion among our community of supporters and activists.
The most important node on the new network is the base community. This is a grassroots group of left- progressive voter-activists situated where people live, work or go to school. Read more of this article »
The Bumpy Road Ahead:
New Tasks of the
By Carl Davidson
CCDS National Committee
American progressives have won a major victory in helping to defeat John McCain and placing Barack Obama in the White House. The far right has been broadly rebuffed, the neoconservative war hawks displaced, and the diehard advocates of neoliberal political economy are in thorough disarray. Of great importance, one long-standing crown jewel of white supremacy, the whites-only sign on the Oval Office, has been tossed into the dustbin of history.
The depth of the historical victory was revealed in the jubilation of millions who spontaneously gathered in downtowns and public spaces across the country, as the media networks called Obama the winner. When President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama took the platform in Chicago to deliver his powerful but sobering victory speech, hundreds of millions-Black, Latino, Asian, Native-American and white, men and women, young and old, literally danced in the streets and wept with joy, celebrating an achievement of a dramatic milestone in a 400-year struggle, and anticipating a new period of hope and possibility.
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