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 »
Nurses in Chicago NATO/G8 Protests Demanding ‘Robin Hood’ Tax
National Nurses United: Linking Global Struggle
With Successful Organizing in Difficult Places
By Sandy Eaton, RN
National Nurses United, the two-year-old national union of registered nurses, called on its members and all their allies to Come Together to Heal the World in Chicago on May 18th. This marks the latest phase in the union’s campaign for a Financial Transaction Tax, the “Robin Hood Tax,” which began outside the US Chamber of Commerce on Lafayette Park last June and quickly spread to Wall Street and beyond.
NNU’s annual Staff Nurse Assembly this year bypassed Capitol Hill, its usual venue, for Chicago, the original site of the G8-NATO summit. Having sent a strong delegation to Cannes last December to target the G20 while rallying in cities across the US at the same time, the nurses seized this opportunity to advance the fight for a 0.5% tax on stock trading and other transactions in order to garner up to $350 billion per year to create jobs and meet human needs. More than 100 organizations of community, environmental, labor and health groups from around the world endorsed the event.
Read more of this article »
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.
2010-2012: Deepening Contradictions of Capitalism,
New Challenges for the Progressive Majority
By Randy Shannon & Carl Davidson
Click here to download the pdf draft version with numbered lines
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.
Speech by SACP General Secretary Cde Blade Nzimande at the Launch of the Red October Campaign, October 2 2011:
Together Let Us Build Working
Class Power in our Communities:
The 2011 Launch of the
SACP Red October Campaign
We are in that time of the year when the SACP launches its popular Red October Campaign. Our Red October Campaign is inspired and seeks to take forward the spirit and the victories of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia – ushering in the first workers’ government in the 20th century.
The Red October campaign has been an important platform in building and strengthening the SACP over the last 11 years. Through our Red October Campaign we have built an SACP that is closer to the workers and the poor of our country. Through this campaign we say to the workers and the poor of our country, take up struggles to change your lives for the better and be the masters of your own destinies. It is only the workers and the poor themselves, in struggle and in solidarity with all other progressive forces that will consolidate and deepen our national democratic revolution, and advance the struggle for socialism in our country.
Through these campaigns we have also exposed the failures of the capitalist system to address the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, and particularly also the failures of the neo-liberal macro-economic policies pursued since 1996. Our Red October Campaign has also been an important organising tool to recruit more and more members to the SACP. The Red October Campaign has also been an important platform for the ideological development of SACP members, and generally to conscientise and mobilise the workers and the poor to be the makers of their own history.
Since its launch twelve years ago, the Red October Campaign has been an important campaigning platform led by the SACP, and has notched some important victories, including:
a. the roll out of banking services to the poor via Umzansi account
b. the transformation of the financial sector as a whole
c. The passage of the Co-operatives and Co-operative Banks legislation
Read more of this article »
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 email@example.com .
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.
Some Reports From CCDSers Attending The ‘Rebuild the Dream’ House Meetings on July 16-17 Initiated by Van Jones and MoveOn.org
Lincoln Park, Chicago: Ted Pearson.
The biggest problem was that it was almost all white and all senior citizens. I’m sure this does not reflect the racial and age composition of the MoveOn email list in my neighborhood, so I don’t know how to account for it. All of the people who were there except for me and one other person unaffiliated with any other group. All had worked for Obama in 2008.
There was great frustration but also a recognition that the right wing is the main enemy. The point on making Social Security solvent was debated a little – some (myself) do not accept the notion that it is insolvent, although I think we support the call for increasing or eliminating the cap on income subject to FICA.
There was also no discussion of the Dream conference Oct. 3-5 except that I raised it. Everyone agreed that it would be important but no one expressed interest in going.
I introduced myself as being from Lincoln Park Neighbors for Peace and Justice (there were two of us there), CAARPR, and CCDS. I brought copies of the Democracy Charter, only one of which was picked up. The format did not really allow for discussing it. I seemed to be the only “activist” at the meeting.
Read more of this article »
Talking Points on Building the CCDS Locally
By Carl Davidson
Organization is the way you turn words into deeds–Chou En-Lai
- Meet. If member don’t meet, there is no organization. This is a point Charlene Mitchell often makes. Naturally, regular meeting with clear agendas are best. But if needed, use different ways, Have key people get together for lunch. Have coffee before or after mass meetings, set up conference calls using Skype, talk on picket lines. Some chapters meet with other groups as well, such as DSA. We even have dual and triple members.
- Take Inventory. Use the questionnaire sent out by the NCC to assess your local political resources, political context and situation, strengths and weaknesses, demographics, diversity, organizational connections and allies.
- Report. Information flow across our network, to the center and back, is critical. Tell the rest of us what you’re doing. Don’t worry too much about getting approval or detailed direction for the work of individuals–but all individuals should report on what they are doing, meetings attended, mass actions, debates and so on. Without regular reporting, there can be no collective evaluation and learning, which helps us grow.
- Lists. Lists are living things than need tending. Every organization needs constantly updated lists—members, sustainers, contacts and prospects. Without lists, there’s no way for systematic follow-up. Get emails for CCDSLinks at every event that’s appropriate.
- Educate. This is the core of our socialist work. Both our mass work and our internal meetings are classrooms for revolutionary education. Carry it out, even on a small scale, like discussing the news or an article, but aim at broader discussion groups and classes with non-members.
- Communicate. Talk to each other in your city regularly. Keep in touch via phone and email. Make a local listserv. If you just use group email, be sure to use BCC, ‘Blind Carbon Copy’, so you’re not giving away your list. Call me or Janet, your field organizer and your national coordinator.
- Allies. After making a ‘we,’ understand we can’t do it alone. Join activist groups designed to unite a progressive majority—unions, PDA, Greens, or other left-center formations. Building them will bring you into regular contact with the more left minority within them, as well as a broad array who don’t agree. Avoid just hanging with a small circle of friends.
- Publicize. Toot you own horn, don’t wait for someone else to do it. Give your local mass work a regular public face. Start a blog for one of the groups you work in. Set up tables at fairs and public events. Report on the experiences to our national sites. Make friends with a few local reporters in the mass media.
- Money. Think of it as blood in our veins; without it, we die. Asking people to give is not root canal work; it’s giving them an opportunity to make their values explicit. Ask for it. Integrate it into everything, make it natural and expected. What would happen to a factory with a sales team that never asked for and obtained purchase orders from their contacts? Without orders, it shuts down and fails, and the same applies to us in the political realm.
Statement on Events in Wisconsin
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)
February 27, 2011
The CCDS supports the Wisconsin public workers, now locked in battle to defend their right to collective bargaining against a legislative effort led by Governor Walker to deny those rights. We also support the workers in Indiana and Ohio who are battling similar attacks.
Though it may seem too obvious for comment after the last two weeks of electrifying news reports, the events at the Madison statehouse demonstrate the tremendous power of organized workers to attract popular solidarity and to shake up the world of government. Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators continue their boycott of the legislative session in an effort to block Walker’s union-busting “Budget Repair Bill.”
The grassroots wave passed to Indiana, leading Democratic state representatives to successfully kill a “right-to-work” bill by boycotting the legislative session in their state. On February 23rd, ten thousand Indiana workers and their allies packed the Indiana Statehouse, filling the ground floor and all three floors of the atrium. Thousands have picketed the Ohio Capitol.
The following day, teachers at the LaCrosse campus of the University of Wisconsin, galvanized by the actions of their co-workers, voted in overwhelming numbers to form a union. Even if today’s battles are defensive, given this show of power, it is an opportunity for labor to commence a concerted and unified effort to organize the unorganized among both public and private sector workers. Forward ever, backward never!
Those who may be misled into thinking that unionized public workers are overpaid need to think about the South. They need to be reminded of the 1968 struggle by African-American sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee to lift themselves from poverty by forming a union. They need to be reminded of the Charleston, South Carolina hospital workers who, in 1969, braved mass arrests and virtual martial law in a 100-day strike. They need to know that in North Carolina, where public employee collective bargaining has been prohibited by law since 1959, the annual wages of a significant number of full-time public workers are low enough to qualify for poverty programs – in the year 2011. It is a situation shared by masses of unorganized private sector workers in the fields, packing houses, and factories throughout the right-to-work South. If collective bargaining really were the problem, the Southern states would not be facing the same budgetary crisis faced by other states.
That Southern reality is the essence of Martin Luther King’s proposed Poor People’s Campaign, and the meaning of his statement to the 1961 Fourth Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO,
“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community….The duality of interests of labor and Negroes makes any crisis which lacerates you a crisis from which we bleed. As we stand on the threshold of the second half of the twentieth century, a crisis confronts us both.”
Dr. King’s message was reiterated by Julian Bond, then chair of the NAACP, to the 25th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO in 2005.
On February 12, 2011, for the fifth year in a row, thousands marched on the North Carolina General Assembly building on Jones Street in Raleigh. The Historic Thousands on Jones Street coalition brings together the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the NC Council of Churches and others behind a 14-point agenda, from workers rights, immigrant rights and ending the re-segregation of schools, to bringing the troops home. Ending the war in Afghanistan would save Wisconsin taxpayers alone $1.7 billion this year, ten times more than the measures proposed by Governor Walker.
We not only have a goal and allies in this struggle for democracy, but we also have an enemy, and it must be named: finance capital, that segment of the capitalist class which controls the nation’s brokerage houses, investment banks, insurance firms and hedge funds. A September 3, 2010 report by PBS estimates that since 2008, the total cost to the U.S. public for bailing out the deregulated financial institutions which caused the present economic crisis is $12.8 trillion in outlays and guarantees. This sum was never re-invested in creating decent jobs. And ordinary folk are asked to bear the pain.
Today, the set of public policies that define the crisis of which Dr. King spoke goes by the name “neo-liberalism,” which can be understood, simply, as the program of finance capital to achieve dominance by turning back popular reforms won, not only in the New Deal era, but during the Reconstruction era as well. Neo-liberalism is a program of deregulation, privatization, austerity and war.
Indeed, a careful reading of Governor Walker’s complex, 144 page long “Budget Repair Bill” reveals it to be a prime example of the neo-liberal agenda of austerity and war. It is certainly an attack on collective bargaining, but its negative significance goes well beyond. It is an attack on public services: Kaiser Health News reported that the bill “would also allow the Walker administration to make potentially drastic changes in health programs with little legislative oversight.” The story cited Wisconsin Senator Vinehout’s prediction that “large numbers of people will lose BadgerCare," a component of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program. By assaulting retirement benefits, health benefits, and public services, the bill is the cutting edge of an assault on all workers’ social wages. And it is an attack on publicly-owned enterprises: Section 44 of the bill contains a provision to “sell any state-owned heating, cooling and power plant or [to] contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.” And the clincher: the bill contains a provision to refinance $165 million in state bonds. Governor Walker’s warning to legislators is to pass the bill now or face the wrath of the bankers as payments come due.
What we face in February’s battle over state budgets we will face in a battle over the federal budget in March, with Republicans threatening a government shutdown if they do not get $4 billion in cuts to non-military government spending. Our answer is: cut wars, not people, revitalize the progressive income tax structure that has been gutted by 30 years of neo-liberalism, enact a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, create jobs by passing the Full Employment bill soon to be reintroduced by Rep. John Conyers, defend public services upon which we all depend, fight to save collective bargaining and all our hard-won human rights.
State-level movements need national coordination for this nation-wide battle. Reactivate the One Nation Working Together coalition!
And to the workers of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio: our heartfelt thanks – may your occupation of the statehouses foretell the day when you become the governors.
PBS report on “The true cost of the bank bailout:”
Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill:”
Julian Bond’s 2005 speech to the AFL-CIO:
Kaiser Health News article:
Bringing home 150 Troops From Afghanistan Would Fix Wisconsin’s Budget "Crisis"
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
firstname.lastname@example.org www.cc-ds.org 212-868-3733