DRAFT OF AN EIGHT-POINT PLATFORM FOR MAKING A MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH ON ‘LEFT UNITY’

Posted by admin on February 3, 2015 under CCDS Today, Left Unity, Socialism, Solidarity | 21 Comments to Read

By Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry

Download as PDF HERE

Introduction: The following eight-point proposal is designed to initiate both a discussion and a process. The points can be further refined, and subtracted from or added to. Given the scope of the challenges ahead of us, there is a certain degree of urgency, but it is also wise to take to time to start off on a sound footing, uniting all who can be united. The main things it wants to bring into being at all levels—local, regional, national or in sectors—are common projects. Some of these already exist, such as the Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and other independent left trade unionists and activists. Over a few years work, it was able to build a far wider alliance bringing together the city’s labor organizations and allied social movements to bring out tens of thousands on May Day.

 

We know that many of us are already involved in a wide variety of projects. But is there any compelling reason we have to do this separately, behaving like a wheelbarrow full of frogs trying to win a common goal? A good case in point is Chuy Garcia’s mayoral campaign in Chicago. Wouldn’t this campaign be better served if we worked together in a planned way to draw in and skillfully deploy even more forces? Or take the labor-community alliance projects building solidarity for labor strikes or the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage? We can all make a long list here, but the core idea should be apparent, at least for starters, and we invite your responses and queries.

1. We need something new

    . The left is not likely to find critical mass through mergers of existing groups, although any such events would be positive. But a new formation to which all would be equally cooperative in a larger project—call it a Left Front or Left Alliance—would have a greater impact. Groups participating in it could retain whatever degree of autonomy they desire, such as keeping their own newspapers, national committees, local clubs meeting separately, and so on. Every group involved can exercise its own independence and initiative, to the degree it finds necessary. But all would be striving in common to help the overall project succeed. While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.

2. We need a ‘project based’ common front.

    At the grassroots level, it would be comprised of joint projects—electoral, union organizing, campaigns against the far right, for a living wage or reducing student debt, for opposing war, racism, sexism and police violence, and many others. The existing left groups in a factory, a neighborhood, a city or a campus, would be encouraged to advance the joint projects.

3. We need a ‘critical mass’ at the core that is both young, working class and diverse.

    While people from all demographics are welcome, the initial core has to be largely drawn from the Millennials, those born after 1980 or so. And the core also has to be a rainbow of nationalities with gender equity, and well-connected to union and working class insurgencies. If the initial core at the beginning is too ‘white’ or too ‘1968ers’, it will not be a pole with the best attractive power for a growing new generation of socialist and radical minded activists.

4. We need a common aspiration for socialism.

    That’s what makes us a ‘Left Front or Left Alliance’ rather than a broader popular front or people’s coalition. We are strongly supportive of these wider coalitions and building the left is not done in isolation from them. But we also see the wisdom in the concept: the stronger the core, the broader the front. Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.

5. We do not need full agreement on strategy.

    A few key concepts—the centrality of fighting white supremacy, the intersection of race, class and gender, the alliance and merger of the overall workers movement and the movements of the communities of the oppressed—will do. We can also agree on cross-class alliances focused on critical targets: new wars, the far right and the austerity schemes imposed by finance capital. Additional elements, perspectives, nuances and ‘shades of difference’ can be debated, discussed and adjusted in the context of ongoing struggle

6. We need a flexible but limited approach to elections.

    We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. We see the importance for social movements to have an electoral arm that presses and fights for their agenda within government bodies.

 

7. We need to be well embedded in grassroots organizations.

    Especially important are the organizations of the working class and in the communities of the oppressed—unions and worker centers, civil rights and women’s rights, youth and students, peace and justice, churches and communities of faith, cooperatives and other groups tied to the solidarity economy, and other community-based NGOs and nonprofits.

8. We need to be internationalists.

    But we do not have to require support for any particular countries or bloc of countries and national liberation movements, past or present. But we do oppose the wars of aggression, occupations and other illicit interventions of ‘our own’ ruling class, along with the hegemonism, ‘superpower mentality’ and Great Power chauvinism it promotes. That is the best way we can promote world peace and practice solidarity and assistance to forces beyond our borders.

 

[Carl Davidson and Pat Fry are national co-chairs of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a member of several socialist organizations and author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions’ Comments can be sent to carld717@gmail.com ]

  • Jim Skillman said,

    Climate change should be added to the items in the project based common front. It is an issue that must gain more prominence in our mass and socialist work.

  • Lare Clark said,

    Hello friends,

    Heard about this from Jay and the eight points look very good. Long overdue. .

  • Jay Jurie said,

    A fine document [insert applause here], but then, I’m biased since I’m a CCDS member. Upon first read, about all I’d change would be to add a mention of climate change as “a key concept” in item 5.

  • Zachary Hancock said,

    I am of the opinion that socialists of all forms need to reach out for broader base support that exists in the United States already but has been usurped by capital interest. For example, many of the demands of so-called ‘libertarian’ activists at the grassroots level in this country were opposed to the bailout of large corporations in 2009 because they did not see the same sort of bailout materializing for themselves. We need to be loud against established parties here in this country–Democrats and Republicans are both so entrenched in the capitalist system that they will never, NEVER, go against it. We need a popular revolt spearheaded not by political parties with political interest, but a populist movement against the corrupt oligarchy that is the United States government. Protests, grassroots movements, marches, strikes, whatever must be done, it must be done by the people. We don’t need political candidates–we need a People’s Revolution.

  • Rick Sklader said,

    This is exactly what’s needed right now. I agree completely with the thrust captured above however without this left front having its own organizational presence and built as an explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-racist, non sectarian and democratic from the bottom up than we’re just blowing smoke. Most people identifying themselves as being leftists presently sit outside existing organizations.
    While there’s much to do I’m very excited by the prospect of working on this project as I’ve been agitating that this is our political priority for some time whomever I talk to and where ever I go. Please contact me asap with any tasks. I have nothing but time.

  • Greg Gibbs said,

    …”Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization,”

    Not to rain a bit on the parade, but for the rest of the country we have been sitting here listening to the radical genuises in New York for years. That hasn’t gotten us anywhere. That fact that you cite a local coalition that excludes any Trotskyist groups seems somewhat odd.

    I am for a left front and I’ve been advocating it here in Minneapolis. But if it is a fake or partial ‘left front’ than it will quickly be exposed as something other than an honest attempt at left reunification.

  • admin said,

    Why don’t you try to use these guidelines, ir another set of your own, to pull together a left front in Minneapolis, around various projects important to your city? Keep us posted.

  • Bill Gallegos said,

    I appreciate the initiative in motivating this discussion of left unity. I have experience with a number of left unity efforts (as I am sure are many others) and and hope that we can learn from those experiences as we try once again to end the fragmentation that so severely limits the impact we are able to have on US political life. I will discuss this proposals with others that I know who share a common interest in this type of process, and see what we can come up with in terms of feedback and suggestions.

    Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

  • John Case said,

    Interesting program, but I think it needs more work.

    Here is my point by point reaction.

    1. I agree we need something new.

    2. Not clear to me what this means.

    3. Working class is the key, but the working class of 2015 differs from 1935 in VERY important ways. The anti-monopoly concept, not socialism however, is the basis of unity — except that the “anti” expression must be discarded in favor of a positive expression that loses none of the class content. “anti” (anything — is not a governable, nor electoral winning strategy. And, despite the myriad temptations to focus on all the special grievances that people have, and are incurring daily, a class perspective, IMO, NOW, means focusing on MONEY, and taking it from the monopolists and billionaires — they are the only ones that have any.

    4. Common aspiration for socialism, IMO, will not work. Too narrow, no class unity there, since, the failures of 20th century socialism have clouded exactly what comes after we overthrow the monopolies. AND, if piketty is correct about the economic dynamics of inequality, we HAVE to overthrow the monopolies, and reverse the inequality trends, to address virtually any serious change. Indeed, we will have to overthrow them to avoid another, or worse, 1914-1945 bloodbath.

    At least, thats how I read the consequences of the determined ultra-right, billionaire assault on all workers, and on democracy itself. While I am not sure whether outright nationalization is the right move in all cases, the too big to fail corps must be stripped them of their current privileges, for example, personhood. THAT alone will require a revolutionary movement, IMO, never mind “socialism” — whatever that turns out to be.

    As an aside, I believe the failure to take the anti-monopoly strategy seriously enough to restructure Left organizations to BECOME an anti-monopoly party, will be revealed as the most serious sectarian error of the Left in the late 20th century. But its never too late. Everything comes next.

    5. Strategy — YES, WE DO need agreement on strategy to have the unity and discipline (this will be the toughest fight since the civil war) to win anything. The fight against the monopolies — especially for higher incomes — can unite across many of the questions that are currently dividing the working class. Conversely, If we do not focus on money, given the hard straits millions of families are in, we won’t even get to the conversation on many other matters, at least in a mass sense. I believe the most divisive issues around race, gender, nationality, and many other dimensions can mostly be exposed as fronts for straight out robbery, no matter how deep, or unique, their historical roots may be.

    For example, I spent a weekend at an ARA retirees meeting in Charleston with coal miners last month. All were opposed to O’s “war on coal”. Although none are really climate change deniers. I asked if each coal miner who lost a job got a check for a million dollars (I can prove that is about what has been stolen from them over the past 30 years) in exchange for conversion program, would they support it? All said — “YES!!. But when I talk to Sierra club types about jobs for lost mining or shale jobs — they are full of hot air and empty phrases about “clean jobs” that do not really exist.

    6. This is wrong. Out of touch with reality. We need to be placing campaigns for local power — and a “we need something new” in democratic governance attitude — at the top of EVERY list.

    7. I agree

    8. What is “internationalism” in the globalized world?

  • admin said,

    I think ‘monopoly vs ‘non-monopoly’ is the wrong first cut when it comes to strategy. Better to make it ‘finance capital vs productive capital,’ then within both of these, ‘high road vs low road’. That will give you a better picture of both strategic and tactical allies, direct or indirect, from business circles. In short, I’m for a popular front vs finance capital, war and the right. That’s pretty much what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are doing, although both would have to do better on the Middle East. If we get drawn into a new war there, both Warren and Clinton would be on the wrong side of it.

  • admin said,

    THREAD OF COMMENTS FROM THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST FACEBOOK DISCUSSION PAGE:

    Feb 3
    Jimmy Lappe (why are all the points #1?)
    February 3 at 2:35pm · Like · 1

    Carl Davidson Whoops! Thanks. Formatting error corrected
    February 3 at 2:45pm · Like · 2

    Carl Davidson …or I suppose you could argue they were are #1 so no one would feel bad. Like in Lake Woebegone, everyone is above average!
    February 3 at 2:56pm · Like · 2

    John Headley …I sort of feel like this sort of thing is trading on the vague sentiment that some kind of overcoming of perceived left fragmentation would be a positive development. What it actually does, though, is effectively nothing. It’s similar to what we in the law might call an “agreement to agree”:

    “An agreement to agree is an unenforceable agreement which implies to bind two parties in order to negotiate and enter into a contract, which is a proposed agreement negotiated with the intent that the final agreement will be embodied in a formal written document and that neither party will be bound until the final agreement is executed.”

    What makes agreements to agree bogus and unenforceable is that they don’t actually commit anyone to anything, and therefore when the chips are actually down, no one has to do anything other than what they arbitirarily want to do. And that basically means they can do the same thing as if there wasn’t this non-agreement in the first place. “Yes, we affirm some wholly nominalistic commitment to socialism, but whatever it really means when the rubber hits the road is still up to whatever anyone happens to think on their own.” It amounts to no more than a cockamamie symbolic gesture of some opaque existential commitment to one another without meaning a damn thing about what anyone is promising to actually get off their ass and do. That’s why this particular Millenial isn’t satisfied.
    February 3 at 4:15pm · Edited · Like

    Carl Davidson: Not quite. The proposal is project-based, and projects are formed precisely to do something together rather than separately or not at all.
    February 3 at 4:38pm · Like

    John Headley Carl, you’re still messing with me. It doesn’t say what the projects are. It only speaks in general terms about union organizing, living wage, opposing a series of malevolent -isms, etc. Again, accept the fact that what this does is make a proposal to propose things and that the actual things are left to another day. Please, for once, own what is deficient about this, learn from it, grow from it. Ass covering for its questionable virtues does no one any good.

    Look, I knew a guy that showed up once to a meeting of the Merton Center. He kept going off about North Dakota’s public bank and how Pennsylvania needed one. He tried to sit there and explain what it was about and how it worked, and no one gave a shit. They basically brushed him aside as some high-falutin nuisance. But the thing is, even if you don’t think the highest priority on the list of things to do is instituting a statewide public bank, at least that guy was talking about a concrete goal that has defined parameters for success or failure. The closest thing to this that you’re insinuating might be a minimum wage hike, but there’s even disagreement among many activists about how high to raise it. I don’t even know how to organize “ending racism”. I know what making the police more accountable could mean. I know what beefing up anti-discrimination statutes could mean. I know what reparations means. But at the level of a glittering generality like “ending racism” I still don’t know what you actually want to go out into society and do. Political action isn’t philosophical musing, even if the latter has its place.

    So this is why I tend not to be involved in most political groups at this point. If I’m going to take time and energy out of my life and dedicate to doing something to make society a better place, I’m not going to bullshit myself in the process that I did that just by standing on a street corner with a sign that talks smack on Glenn Beck or whatever else “campaigns against the far right” is supposed to mean. This is why in order to get me involved, I demand people to get their shit together enough to want to actually propose specific legislative action to be undertaken and then strategize around how to get to that clearly defined end point. I don’t know how much clearer to make this, and I really hope I don’t just get more blow-off defensiveness here.
    February 3 at 5:23pm · Like

    Carl Davidson It’s not just words. We give the example of the Left Labor Project in NYC as a case in point. Now the task is to do it and other things like elsewhere. I know John Leonard and his public bank proposal well. We support him here in Beaver County.
    February 3 at 5:55pm · Like · 1

    Eugene Barufkin PUBLIC FINANCING OF ALL ELECTIONS. No If’s, or But’s, or However’s etc……
    February 3 at 7:27pm · Edited · Like

    John Headley Sorry, Carl, but you’re still full of it here, whether you realize it or not. All you’re telling me by bringing up the Left Labor Project is “other people elsewhere have proposed to propose, therefore all of the things you have pointed out about what makes this a substantive blunder should be disregarded in favor of my bandwagon fallacy!”

    I’ve been to one or two things involving Fightback Pittsburgh too. I attended a meeting they had on tenant’s rights issues last year. I proposed targeting specific neighborhoods where there could be bona fide habitability problems and then utilizing the judically well-established doctrine of implied warranty of habitability to bring mass suits against landlords so that tenants could either get their housing improved or otherwise get rental discounts proportionate to the degree that the habitability of their accommodations had been compromised by unscrupulous slum lords. You know what everyone else there settled on? Trying to start a hotline to give tenants information about their rights. Not doing the hard work of seeking out plausible tenant-plaintiffs, not hustling to start a litigation fund, not lifting a finger to get real results. No. Starting a hotline where any Tom, Dick or Harry will call up with the most inane confusion about the most ephemeral concern and where some half-educated college kid on the other end will attempt to give some perfunctory non-professional advice about what to do about it. Does that contrast make enough sense to you, Carl? You see how my proposal was actually calculated to make some tangible dent in the social circumstances of the population at large, and the proposal that was actually accepted was to toy with the general topic of concern like a kitten with a ball of yarn?

    You see, what you’ve really been telling me is that you’re so near-sighted that you can only perceive that anything is happening if there’s some organizational corpus of people who refer to themselves as left, irrespective of any serious inquiry into how well that organization serves as a means to the ends of the ultimate object concerns of society at large. And the latter is what I’m actually talking about. You should be siding with me. You should take your own advice and be trying to organize with me. For all the shit I get for being a pessimist about movements, the one god damned thing I haven’t heard from anyone yet is “yea John, I think you really nailed that, we really need to start raising the bar here, what’s the best way we can get started? Count me in!”
    February 3 at 8:51pm · Edited · Like

    Carl Davidson So you lose a round and you give up? I’ve been outvoted and ignored a zillion times over 50 years. You win some, you lose some. and sometimes, organizations outlive their usefulness and need to be shut down. But I’d stick it out with this group a little longer.
    February 3 at 8:19pm · Like · 1

    John Headley Depends on what you mean by “give up”. I have every reason to avoid situations where I’m doing nothing but spinning my tires, and yes, I was already young enough once to have spent years with an organization thinking I’d make headway only to see all su…See More
    February 3 at 8:32pm · Like

    John Headley “Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned
    Have died in battle or in vain
    And you’re sick of all this repetition
    Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?”
    February 3 at 8:59pm · Like

    Eric Ebel It’s unfortunate that this is labeled a “platform,” as it’s not. It’s more a rough draft proposal for some sort of leadership conference, which might have value. We might set up regular procedures for bringing projects before a number of organizations, getting them discussed by relevant leaders and stakeholders within those organizations, and deciding to go forward as a united body — with the understanding that some member organizations might opt out.
    February 3 at 11:33pm · Unlike · 1

    Eric Ebel The elements in the outline that deal with who is to be targeted, as a practical matter, probably have to be left to individuals organizations, which will be doing their own outreach. Even though almost all of us agree that it’s highly desirable to bring in younger people and disempowered groups, I don’t see how that would be done by a central or collective effort.
    February 3 at 11:37pm · Like

    Carl Davidson Suppose the ‘younger’ groups took the lead in calling the ‘conferences’
    February 4 at 6:23am · Like
    Eric Ebel Great if it happens. However, I (and probably you as well) have a long experience with organizations resolving to recruit from some OTHER group. in my experience, it rarely works out well. So we have to decide whether to hold off developing the conferences until we have achieved the (currently still hypothetical) demographic shift.
    February 4 at 7:06pm · Like

    John Headley @Eric Indeed. This very thread, in fact, is a perfect example of a younger generation person trying to take charge with bold, new ideas and getting brushed off and discounted instead of being duly respected as the generative engine of future progress to which the entire “project”-based approach merely gestured in the abstract. If you can’t see it’s right in your face, you’d obviously have a much tougher time scouting it out.
    February 4 at 9:25pm · Like

    Eric Ebel @John I’m not sure what you’re saying, but I’d love to see something along these lines if it can be brought off. I’m just trying to point out pitfalls and to carry the discussion forward into more practical directions. If someone feels ready to go … go.
    February 4 at 10:05pm · Like

    John Headley @Eric Ok, so what’s a cop-out about what you just said is that I can’t “go” anywhere and engage in a coordinated campaign in favor of passing various social reforms unless I’m doing it as part of a group dedicated to the same basic commitments. That’s the whole point of sitting in these types of forums describing in detail what I’d like to try to get done: it’s an incitement for others (like you, like Carl, like Carl’s seemingly obsequious friend Gregory) to kick it into gear and help. When you sit there with an implicitly disinterested shrug and convey the false premise that what I’m talking about is entirely a matter of my personal individual capacity to act, you’re turning a blind eye to the very nature of how I’m attempting to engage you and thus creating yet another episode in which no action ever gets initiated, nothing ever gets done, and all my efforts to communicate the embryo of a plan of action are rendered vanity.
    February 4 at 10:30pm · Like

    Gregory N Blevins Are you referring to me, John? If so, you should know that I have never met Carl; however, I do happen to agree with him most of the time. As far as your situation, from what I’ve read, there seems to be entirely too much focus on what YOU are about and not enough on what the movement, such as it is, needs to be doing. None of us can see the whole picture by ourselves. Thus, we need consensus decision making.
    February 4 at 10:40pm · Edited · Like · 1

    John Headley @Gregory What the hell are you talking about? What do you think I’ve been sitting here talking about? Yea, no shit, these are MY perfectly good ideas for what “the movement” (whoever that includes) ought to be doing that YOU in no way make any less desirable by totally failing to engage the substance of it and going off with this ad hominem bullshit insinuating that you shouldn’t give a shit about what I’m talking about because somehow it’s supposedly coming from a place of idiosyncratic self-absorption. None of us can see the whole picture, but fuck if you couldn’t stand to open your own eyes to one more piece of it right now. Confronting me with an abstract gesture of our equal capacity to be fallible isn’t a substitute for sincere engagement.
    February 4 at 10:53pm · Like

    Gregory N Blevins And personal attacks work so well to engage people also, John.
    February 4 at 10:56pm · Like · 1

    Jimmy Lappe If we are going to build a durable left, we have to be open to different ways of thinking and acting (which I think the piece submitted tries to do), and I’d be hesitant to endorse any conference or call that had too clear a group of ‘leaders,’. None of the groups rooted primarily in younger activists speak for me (or most young people) any more than any of the ‘veteran’ (for lack of a better word) groups do.(…John also doesn’t speak for younger people as a group , just to be very clear)
    February 4 at 11:12pm · Edited · Like · 1

    John Headley Gregory, two observations on that point: 1) I’d love it if this conversation *had* been about public banks or medicare for all, or a universal basic income. Unfortunately, you didn’t decide to join it until you were ready to start making personal observations about me, and now that’s what we’ve been left to talk about. If you want to help set a different agenda here, the power’s in your hands as much as it is mine. 2) At the end of the day, I do ultimately contend that one of the major reasons the left has not been as successful as it could be is due to a series of maladaptive strategies that have become so enculturated in even much of the left’s very self-identity that it’s nigh impossible to intervene to make a course correction without contesting a great many ingrained habits that have been reified to a matter of personal identity. That stuff with Eric just now where I essentially got told “oh, yea, sure, you think you’re ready to do something? be my guest” isn’t the first time I’ve experienced that basic inertial discursive trope. I admit I’m not good at pussyfooting around about telling someone they’re running a self-defeating script that they should stop.
    February 4 at 11:13pm · Like

    John Headley @Jimmy Forgive me, but in what sense? Do I personally have signed petitions of 100,000 or more Millenials endorsing every last thing I’ve been talking about? Of course, I don’t.

    Jimmy Lappe Lmao, pots calling kettles ‘black’ much?
    February 4 at 11:48pm · Like

    Eric Ebel OK, that’s not what I meant, and I think, frankly, that you’re being unnecessarily defensive. When I first read the proposal and the discussion, it appeared that people were starting to talk about issues when the proposal wasn’t about issues but about a mode of cooperation between left groups. I like that. I tried to offer something about the structure or mechanism for developing cooperation — a consultative process between leaderships. I also expressed skepticism, based on long experience, with proposals to change the demographics of our groups — desirable but not easy to pull off. The bottom line is that we should focus the discussion on how such a “conference” or consultative process could be structured. Please stop personalizing this.
    February 4 at 11:54pm · Like · 1

    John Headley @Jimmy If that’s the way you see it, that explains much of the problem. Am I just not supposed to engage you about creating new organizations because you’ll try to recriminate me if I point out that you’re not being cooperative about it?
    February 4 at 11:56pm · Like

    John Headley @Eric Part of my problem here (and I’ve hinted at this previously) is that what I ultimately care about isn’t building the ideal left-wing political organization, it’s bringing about progressive policies and reforms in society as a whole. The “mode of cooperation between left groups” only matters insofar as its serving that ultimate goal, and I hope you’ll agree with that proposition. Now, look, the fact is that it’s not some entirely hypothetical unknown what many of those reform goals ought to be. To varying degrees, support for many reforms is already dispersed throughout the population. The left doesn’t need to get together under the banner of some grand organizational innovation to know that there’s a base of support for many quintessentially left-wing policies already latent in the population at large. If we’re at the point where we still think we’ve inadequately formulated a consensus among even just the community of leftists to enact, say, medicare for all, we have problems indeed. So I don’t view this effort as having a terrible amount of practical significance, and in the mean time it seems like just another way the left can focus inwardly on itself and its own internal mores and cultures instead of going for the jugular on any ultimate issues, which should have always been the point of any organization to start with.

  • admin said,

    THREAD OF COMMENTS FROM THE PHILLY SOCIALIST FACEBOOK DISCUSSION PAGE:

    Zachary Flaugher I have no problem with anything in here except for the flexibility when it comes to supporting Democrats. I don’t see how people who want to work within that party could effectively coexist with those of us who want to build an entirely separate power base.February 3 at 2:40pm · Like · 4

    Carl Davidson We do both. At least those of us who build PDA as an independent PAC that cherry-picks a few candidates and works to expand the Congressional Progressive Caucus. (PDA has no official connection to the Dems and has its own platform) Here in Beaver County, for example, PDA is a power base apart from the regular Dems. Sometimes we support their candidates and sometime we don’t, but we work on growing our strength. If we had the strength, at least of the muni level, we’d like to elect some socialists, like Mujica for Alderman in Chicago. But we would also back Chuy Garcia to bring down Rahm Emanuel, the Third Way finance capital Dem. The point here is not to make a general rule, but argue the pros and cons case by case. In Chicago, it would be foolish of anyone on the left not to back Chuy and build their strength in the process.February 3 at 2:54pm · Edited · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob “While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.”

    None of these parties came out of a simple amalgamation of the left in any of those countries, contrary to popular perception. They all either have their roots in the mass traditional parties of the working class in their respective countries or, in the case of PODEMOS, in a mass proto-revolutionary struggle. The Front de Gauche is a coalition of the Communist Party and a left split from the Socialist Party, Die Linke is based on the old East German Communist Party, and, importantly, Syriza emerged from a right-wing split from the Greek Communist Party. We can’t artificially manufacture a party of this type, only mass forces under the pressure of great events can. The organized labor movement is the only force in American society today that is capable of leading the way on such an effort. Socialists interested in building a left alternative should concentrate their efforts on winning over a decisive section of the unions.

    “Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.”

    Though differences in theoretical matters are permissible for collaboration, that doesn’t mean that theoretical clarity is unimportant. If anything, it’s more important now than ever to understand the direction of world and national events and to formulate what alternatives socialists can present to this capitalist nightmare. This requires rigorous discussion and debate on matters of theory, which should not be seen as secondary or able to be swept under the rug.

    “We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. ”

    Yes, this is a tactical issue, not one of principle. But our tactics must be guided by a strategy. Our goal is to fundamentally change society, and the working class is the only force on the planet capable of carrying this goal out. Therefore, that which is progressive is that which increases the working class’s class consciousness, strength, and belief in its ability to change society. We have to ask ourselves, then, whether supporting a candidate from a bourgeois party like the Democrats accomplishes any of these things. The answer is a categorical “NO!” We must never lead the workers to believe that the election of a bourgeois politician from a bourgeois party, even one who hails from a working class background, can solve any of their problems. When push comes to shove, on matters of decisive importance to the capitalist class, the Democrats will always bow to their big corporate financial backers (or in local situations, the dictates of local businesses and corporations) before they carry out pro-worker policies. When they do buck the trend and pass “progressive” legislation, it’s due to the fact that working people organized and struggled for it (and the bosses were eager to find a safety valve to derail the workers’ struggle), not out of the kindness of their hearts or their own subjective values.February 3 at 3:14pm · Edited · Like · 2

    M Harlan Hoke I’m with Zach. Most of what is mentioned in this draft has already begun to be accomplished through united fronts. What has not been accomplished is an electoral break from capital.
    February 3 at 3:14pm · Like · 2

    M Harlan Hoke I do like the part that says we need to affirm socialism while not 100% agreeing on what it is. I think this is very helpful for party-building.
    February 3 at 3:27pm · Like · 4

    Will Emmons I would have been less harsh than Brandon Slattery in my assessment of organized labor but I basically agree. I think the SAlt campaigns have shown that the Left can lead union officialdom to break with Dems. (And the Lorrain County example, while posi…See More
    February 3 at 3:42pm · Like · 2
    A
    ndrew Islookingforajob Organized labor is, in fact, the only force capable of building a mass workers’ party in this country. If we’re expecting the American left to do so on it’s own, we’ll be waiting quite a while, and frankly that’s time that we don’t have.

    “I find this formulation to be based more on dogma than a sober assessment of political forces. Organized labor only constitutes a small portion of the working class in the U.S.”

    A “sober assessment of political forces” first and foremost shows that we on the American “organized” left are pitifully small and essentially inconsequential. The same method of analysis reveals that 14 million American workers belong to the unions, that the unions have many millions of dollars to spend on actually getting a party off of the ground, and are capable of mobilizing millions of workers to support it. I’ve already demonstrated how the parties of the European left which are in vogue today emerged from mass forces and traditions on that continent; the only such mass tradition that exists in the United States is organized labor. Barring the outbreak of a mass movement similar to that which gave rise to PODEMOS (a movement which would toss the American left around like a rowboat in a hurricane), the unions are the only hope we have of building a mass working class party in this country. Furthermore, history shows that workers parties around the world came out of the labor movements of their respective countries, not from tiny grouplets, no matter how determined they have been.

    “The unions are undemocratic by design, and the well-off union leaders have more of a stake in perpetually supporting the Democratic Party than the rank-and-file do.”

    Yes, there are big problems with the undemocratic nature of many American unions, but that doesn’t mean that these organizations will be able to avoid the pressure caused by the crisis of capitalism. We cannot afford to view the unions as a static, unchanging phenomenon. The rank-and-file will reflect the crisis as it continues to unfold and will begin to push to the left. We’ve already seen rumblings of this with the CTU, in Ohio, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. The labor leadership will either need to adjust its own course accordingly or be swept away by a rank-and-file tide. An examination of history shows this to be the case across the world, including the United States.

    “I think the SAlt campaigns have shown that the Left can lead union officialdom to break with Dems.”

    This example doesn’t conflict with my position at all. I think the best thing that the left can do is orient itself towards the unions and seek their support when we decide to run candidates or take up campaigns, electoral or otherwise. But we must have a sense of proportion. The left lacks the support and apparatus necessary to launch a nationally competitive party, and without support from the unions, it will never have either.

    “If it happens, I think the leadership for union officialdom to move left will come from without rather than within.”

    Again, I’d point to the example of CORE in Chicago. Yes, the ISO was involved and the comrades took the correct position in regards to the CTU. This is in fact a shining example of what the left can do with a correct orientation towards the unions. But it was still an example of a leftward surge coming from within, through the rank-and-file of the union itself. We can expect more of the same going forward.
    February 3 at 5:12pm · Like · 2

    Carl Davidson Read it more closely. It doesn’t give undue weight to unions, but also stresses wider working-class insurgencies and other forms of worker organization. And for myself, I’m one who argues that the Democrats must be replaced, But I don’t think you’ll see them implode working only on the outside of their tent. To stretch their inner conflicts and tensions to the breaking point, you need an organized force to do it WITH. Declarations won’t do. You need a plan rooted in current conditions, but with the goal of getting to new conditions. If you want to strike an opening blow against the core of the Dems, help Chuy Garcia defeat Emanuel in Chicago, while electing the socialist, Mujica, to the City Council at the same time.
    February 3 at 5:46pm · Like

    Brandon Slattery My comment about organized labor was in response to Andrew, not the platform itself.
    February 3 at 6:07pm · Like

    Brandon Slattery No one working inside of the Democratic Party is doing anything to make it implode. Entryists in the Democratic Party seem to be practicing democratic centralism. Do you do whatever it takes to preserve the unity within the Democratic Party, they do not intensify it’s contradictions.
    February 3 at 6:10pm · Like

    Carl Davidson PDA and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are only 70-80 votes, ie, not strong enough yet. But they still advance bills into the arena, like the anti-austerity ‘Better Off’ Budget, that stands against finance capital with things like the Financial Transaction Tax. If we could double its size, you would see some serious tension, especially when aligned with street heat.
    February 3 at 6:17pm · Edited · Like

    Zachary Flaugher Even if hypothetically that were an effective strategy, which I doubt, you’re not going to have any success selling millennials on working within the Democratic Party.
    February 3 at 7:23pm · Edited · Like · 1

    Zachary Flaugher So the question is really do you consider it more important to operate inside the Big Tent or to establish closer ties with younger leftists and new formations? It’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to do both simultaneously.
    February 3 at 7:51pm · Edited · Like · 1

    Carl Davidson I’m not asking anyone to ‘work within the Democratic Party.’ But I think working to build Progressive Democrats of America, an independent PAC, while electing people like Barbara Lee, John Lewis or Chuy Garcia is a different matter. Or don’t you think those things matter? If it’s a ‘principle’ with you, regardless f the situation, then yes, you’ve counted yourself out on this point. What I think we need to break from are two cul-de-sacs. The first is that for most of the time, we’re ‘street syndicalists’ demanding that the state do the right thing, a kind of militant liberalism. The second is, every election, we don’t really organize anything, but just tail a Dem, and the next day, go back to street syndicalism. That’s the REAL TRAP we’re in.
    February 3 at 7:40pm · Edited · Like

    M Harlan Hoke There may be 14 million unionized workers, but that’s not remotely the same thing as 14 million class-conscious workers. Many of them are in public sector unions by compulsion and really don’t give a fuck. Most of them think unionism means hoping their bureaucrat does a magic trick to get them a better contract, and zero activity beyond that.

    The unions that exist are the leftovers from dead unionization waves of the past. They are not the beginning of anything. If anything, the next wave of unionization will come from low-income workers near the $15 movement etc.

    Meanwhile, there are FAR greater numbers than 14 million, of workers and people in general OUTSIDE of unions expressing class consciousness, and who are not willing to wait on union locals to be their vehicle of struggle.
    February 3 at 7:37pm · Like · 3

    Carl Davidson Among trade unions, there’s a left, a center and a right. My union, the USW, on this scale, is on the left, and fairly progressive. My USW local 3657, Fightback Pittsburgh, a grouping of young community organizers that came out of Occupy, is even more left and progressive. You have to investigate each union and labor council concretely. They vary widely. Though our Left Labor Project in NYC, we got the entire union movement in the city to ally with immigrants an other social movements to pull out tens of thousands on May Day. That’s something new. But it would not have hlikely happened without the left unity effort among four groups that created the LLP. This is the kind of practice we want to spread around.
    February 3 at 7:48pm · Edited · Like · 3

    Zachary Flaugher Carl, I think you and I are talking about two entirely different things. You’re telling me what you think is important. That’s fine. I’m telling you how I think that agenda will play with millennials, which this statement identified as the key demographic to organize. There’s a lot of evidence (look at the decline in self-identification as a Democrat among 18-30 year olds) that my generation isn’t going to be won over by the idea of working to strengthen the progressive caucus. You may think that’s mistake. Perhaps it is, but it’s a reality that any unity effort that aims to organize 18-30 year olds is going to have to confront.
    February 3 at 8:00pm · Like

    M Harlan Hoke Carl my contention was more with Andrew in this case. There is definitely good union work to be done; I just don’t think this is the main place where a new party will come from.
    February 3 at 8:01pm · Like · 2

    Carl Davidson I’m well aware that most Millennials are adverse to electoral politics. I was too when I was young. (There’s an old picture of a 20-something me in front of a blackboard in 1967 where I had chalked the slogan, ‘Vote NO for President!’) They think the arena is corrupt, and they are correct. Truth be told, I don’t even like elections now, but I know one thing: We won’t get socialism in this country by elections, but we will surely have to proceed THROUGH them, until they are exhausted, not in the eyes of you and me, but in the eyes of millions, But I’m also aware that there are Millennials frustrated because they know they need a political instrument to gain power, even in a corrupt area. Hell, EVERY area we work in is corrupt in some way or another. They also know the Democratic Party needs to be broken up, but the also know that the country’s most consistent and progressive bloc, the Black community, works with the Dems in a big way, despite obstacles and generational differences. I worked with thousand of them in the first Obama campaign, where they got their feet wet. Now they’ve been disappointed and are more realistic, but they know they have to deal with this problem in some way, even if they are not yet sure what it is.
    February 3 at 8:20pm · Edited · Like · 1

    M Harlan Hoke “Vote NO for President” haha yeah I held a sign that said “They’re all corrupt” in 2012, sry Jill Stein
    February 3 at 8:17pm · Like

    Brandon Slattery You didn’t support Pigasus?
    February 3 at 8:46pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob “There may be 14 million unionized workers, but that’s not remotely the same thing as 14 million class-conscious workers. Many of them are in public sector unions by compulsion and really don’t give a fuck. Most of them think unionism means hoping thei…See More
    February 4 at 5:42pm · Like · 1

    Anthony Shull Andrew, what % of WIL’s members are in a union?
    February 4 at 9:23pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob My best guess, 10%.
    February 4 at 9:25pm · Like

    Anthony Shull So 10 out of 100?
    February 4 at 9:26pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob I could be off by a few. I don’t have the figures in front of me.
    February 4 at 9:27pm · Like
    Andrew Islookingforajob Thinking about it, 10 seems about right.
    February 4 at 9:29pm · Like
    Anthony Shull And how many union staffers?
    February 4 at 9:34pm · Like
    Andrew Islookingforajob 0
    February 4 at 9:35pm · Like
    Anthony Shull So, the point of the organization is to build a mass party of labor and in 15 years you’ve organized 10 union members and 0 staffers? I mean, I’m still counting on my fingers and toes here. Seems like it might be time to re-think the strategy.
    February 4 at 9:46pm · Like
    Julia Russ Andrew, reading this I’d have to say that I agree with a lot of your organization’s platforms but it doesn’t seem to go with your current tactics. How can you expect to be able to lead the working class trade unions when you spend most of your time organizing at colleges?
    February 4 at 9:53pm · Like
    Julia Russ For example, i’ve been to your meetings (in the Twin cities) and have watched your cadre self-critique your own newspapers. Do you ever have workers comment on your newspapers in order to re-assess your style and content?
    February 4 at 10:01pm · Like
    Andrew Islookingforajob “So, the point of the organization is to build a mass party of labor and in 15 years you’ve organized 10 union members and 0 staffers? I mean, I’m still counting on my fingers and toes here. Seems like it might be time to re-think the strategy.”

    That’…See More
    February 4 at 10:01pm · Like
    Anthony Shull So, my conception of strategy is that you’re more likely to hit a target you’re aiming at. If you’re consistently off the mark, but insist you’re on the mark, you must be aiming at a different target.

    Religion is grounded in the fact that it can’t be falsified. The same applies here, “We’re not actually trying to build a mass party of labor, we’re just saying that there should be one.”
    February 4 at 10:14pm · Like
    Andrew Islookingforajob “Andrew, reading this I’d have to say that I agree with a lot of your organization’s platforms but it doesn’t seem to go with your current tactics. How can you expect to be able to lead the working class trade unions when you spend most of your time organizing at colleges?”

    Our tactics are dictated by our size and the state of the movement today. The youth are, generally speaking, drawing the most advanced conclusions of any other section of the working class and are most open to socialist ideas, so we are concentrating our efforts on recruiting young people at this stage (which isn’t to say that we’re averse to recruiting older workers, it’s just not our focus).

    I have had direct experience with trying to work with unions, and the fact is that we are too small to be taken seriously by them at this stage. The WIL organized a solidarity campaign with the ATU in Pittsburgh a few years back in the midst of major cuts to the public transit service there, which the union was getting the blame for in the press. It was a successful campaign (we even managed to get the cuts reduced by a substantial amount and saved lots of workers’ jobs). In fact the organization that the campaign spawned, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, still exists and is doing good work. Despite working very closely with the union and having direct contact with its rank and file in the course of the campaign, we were unable to recruit a single union member to the WIL (though we got many very involved in our Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor). We had to ask ourselves why that was.

    We were only a handful of people at the time. The workers we were dealing with, while they were supportive of what we were trying to do, had very busy lives. They had families, their jobs, and what little time and energy they had left for any sort of political activity they channeled into their union (understandably). The union was /their/ organization, it’s what they already knew and trusted; the WIL simply wasn’t a big enough pole of attraction at the time to pull these kind of folks into its orbit. Workers aren’t generally interested in small organizations when they have mass organizations which they already belong to which they can work in. This experience meshed with that of comrades across the country, and in fact across the entire international. We needed to grow. So our tactics shifted towards more youth work, with the strategic goal of building an organization large enough to provide that pole of attraction to unionized workers in the future. When the struggle heats up, we hopefully be in a better position with a bigger organization to win over unionized workers to our program and organization.

    “For example, i’ve been to your meetings (in the Twin cities) and have watched your cadre self-critique your own newspapers. Do you ever have workers comment on your newspapers in order to re-assess your style and content?”

    We’re certainly open to critique and criticism when someone has something to offer in that regard. We also often invite people around the organization to write articles or letters to the paper.
    February 4 at 10:22pm · Like
    Julia Russ I mean critiques from workers you sell the papers to who aren’t already committed socialists/communists. When I give communists newspapers to my working class friends and parents I often get remarks like “this is too Marxist, this is for you guys.” Since this is a main tool that you use, it seems like you should look for honest and open remarks from more unbiased people, and write according to those remarks.
    February 4 at 10:28pm · Like
    M Harlan Hoke I find most socialist organizations too demanding for most workers to even consider being a part of.

    If you’re orienting towards students, it’s often because your party line is too narrow; this is an inherently self-limiting factor which pretty much limits you to the academic milieu.

    In fact, the “being too demanding” and the narrow party line go hand in hand. Having a narrow party line makes an organization almost completely impossible to build, and they compensate by dedicating extraordinary amounts of time to building it.

    It’s not a doable model.
    February 4 at 10:32pm · Like · 1

    Julia Russ How well do you retain your student membership after the graduate? i’ve heard rumor that student organizing tends to lead to high turnover rates, especially in the ISO.
    February 4 at 10:32pm · Like · 1

    Julia Russ M Harlan Hoke, you would know about this from being in the ISO
    February 4 at 10:33pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob “So, my conception of strategy is that you’re more likely to hit a target you’re aiming at. If you’re consistently off the mark, but insist you’re on the mark, you must be aiming at a different target.”

    I’m very happy with where we’ve come from and the direction we’re headed. I think we’re hitting our targets perfectly well, so our strategy must be working. If our strategy was to build a mass party of labor on our own, then yes we’d be failing; but as I’ve state repeatedly, it’s not the job of tiny left groups in the United States to build a mass party at this stage. This is because it’s not even possible for us to do it in these conditions with the forces we have (to say nothing about differences in theory and tactics).

    “Religion is grounded in the fact that it can’t be falsified. The same applies here, “We’re not actually trying to build a mass party of labor, we’re just saying that there should be one.””

    If you have any ideas about how a group of 100 can quickly transform itself into a mass party, please let me know. In the meantime, we’ll address ourselves to the people who can actually make that happen in today’s environment.

    Trotsky once wrote “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” This is truer now than when he wrote it. The leadership of the labor movement and the mass organizations of the working class around the world is decrepit and rotten. This is why we place demands on them such as “you should break with the democrats and use your vast resources to launch a workers party,” in order to expose them before the workers when they refuse to do it.
    February 4 at 10:34pm · Like

    M Harlan Hoke I like the Philly Socialists approach of organizing Millennials but not primarily students. It lets you hit that radical milieu without living in the college bubble and having graduation turnover.
    February 4 at 10:36pm · Like · 2

    Julia Russ M Harlan Hoke, I agree with that assessment. I’ve even heard from the DSA that it is difficult to get students to care about campaigns like the debt crises, until right after they graduate when it’s the most important thing in their lives.
    February 4 at 10:39pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob “I mean critiques from workers you sell the papers to who aren’t already committed socialists/communists. When I give communists newspapers to my working class friends and parents I often get remarks like “this is too Marxist, this is for you guys.” Si…See More
    February 4 at 10:39pm · Like

    Julia Russ The IWW is actually pretty good at hitting that age group .
    February 4 at 10:40pm · Like

    Anthony Shull Demands are backed up by people. If you think you can make demands on labor leaders without having members in the labor movement, you’re fantasizing about the role of ideas. Especially, canned, antiquated ones.

    If you have five members your strategy is to get 10. If you have 10, your strategy is to get 20, etc.

    Everything else is Monday morning quarterbacking.
    February 4 at 10:43pm · Like

    M Harlan Hoke If your strategy is to get 10, then you’re probably going to need a strategy for getting 10, too.
    February 4 at 10:49pm · Like

    Andrew Islookingforajob “Demands are backed up by people. If you think you can make demands on labor leaders without having members in the labor movement, you’re fantasizing about the role of ideas. Especially, canned, antiquated ones.”

    We’re under no illusions that the labor leaders will actually listen to us. Nor are we under any illusions that we have the forces to bring to bear to force them to listen. I think you’re misinterpreting what I mean by “demand.” I mean it in the sense of transitional demands, which stem from a transitional program. These are ideas that we organize people around, and they are effective in attracting people to our organization.

    And I happen to think our ideas are very modern and very relevant

    “If you have five members your strategy is to get 10. If you have 10, your strategy is to get 20, etc.

    Everything else is Monday morning quarterbacking.”

    We agree. Hence the other thread of discussion on this post about working among the younger layers of the working class.
    February 4 at 10:49pm · Like
    Andrew Islookingforajob “I find most socialist organizations too demanding for most workers to even consider being a part of.”

    We won’t get anywhere without sacrifice. This is why we build cadre organizations….See More
    February 4 at 11:00pm · Like

    Keith Joseph I think it is a pretty good platform. The things that are being debated above would/could be debating within that broader formation. No one is committed to working for Dems,

    I would only add one more point, the one I learned from Baraka:

    we need to be fighting to take power.
    we need to take power now, immediately, wherever we can actually put our hands on it: school boards, public libraries, city council seats, university governments, high school president, tenant association etc etc.
    February 5 at 1:36pm · Like · 3

    Aaron Kreider Philly Socialists have no official position (that I know of) on whether to work within the Democratic party or not (though I also side with the don’t work with the Dems position – we do embrace diversity on this). This whole “40 years to build a party” thing is not in our constitution or anywhere else that I know of. It is a position (or idealistic goal) held by who knows how many members.
    February 7 at 2:30am · Like

    M Harlan Hoke It’s pretty fundamental to me, since it poses the question of whether you are building a socialist party.

    If you are working outside the dems, you are building a party.

    If you are working within them, you are building a socialist faction of a different party.
    February 7 at 4:24pm · Like
    Tim Horras I’m glad that Carl and others are broaching this conversation. I agree with a lot of what’s written here, but obviously electoral work is not something we can expect unity around, and IMHO it’s best to drop it as a prerequisite to unity.

    I’m not really interested in platform or programme. I’m more interested in what concretely we are discussing. Facilitating in-person meetings between cadre from LeftRoots, Philly Socialists and any relevant national formations would probably be a good first step. But let’s get to our second date before we start talking about picking names for the kids.
    February 7 at 9:36pm · Unlike · 3

    Aaron Kreider Oops, I’m wrong. The Philly Socialists do have an official position on this from our original Congress (that was before my time). 40 years to a party. Though as it is a strategy, not a constitutional value, I think there might be room to disagree with it. It also doesn’t state anything about working within the Democrats (or any other party) as a short-term tactic. It emphasizes organizing the unorganized (which some people might see as possible via the Democrats and others might not).
    February 7 at 11:52pm · Edited · Like

    Carl Davidson Again, my view is to replace the Dems, but I don’t think you can break them up only from without, their hegemonic grip on sections of the working class and the communities of the oppressed also has to be challenged from within, by a strong left pole with an independent platform vs those who own and control it at the top. It’s what Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus is beginning to do. You can disagree with this in favor of another position, but at least deal with this one for what it is, rather than a straw man.

  • Ruth Needleman said,

    This is a a needed initiative right now. Given what is happening around the country, don’t we need to include a statement explicitly on race and white supremacy? We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do need principles. While unions certainly have many problems, the attacks on unions are attacks on working-class organizations, and we need to speak to this issue as well.

  • Libby Frank said,

    I started out with some enthusiasm to read and comment, but lost my enthusiasm when I read/scanned all the male responses. Somehow, we many women activists in CCDS haven’t responded. I think there were two.

    Is there something in the approach that keeps us away?

    Women aren’t interested in organization? In strategy and tactics? In planning? No, No and No.

    I have no answers, just questions.

    Libby

  • Steve Schnapp said,

    Greatly encouraged to see this thoughtful proposal. Dialogue about movement building strategy is a tiny percentage left/progressive media and this needs to change if a democratic,intersectional, sustainable, and powerful movement is going to be built. Kudos to Carl, Bill, and Pat!

    One thing I would add is the necessity for the development of a counter-narrative to challenge the dominant neoliberal story based on many of the historic myths of American exceptionalism. As Naomi Klein says about the struggle for the future of the planet, “we need to wage an ideological battle.” Part of this battle of the story is a vision of world that is structured differently. I consider myself a socialist (although I continue to struggle with the meaning of that concept) and don’t hind from discussions about socialism in the work I do at United for a Fair Economy and in other arenas of activism. However, we have found a way to engage people in dialogue about what we want to replace neoliberalism that is more productive than saying “socialism.” We lift up a set of principles (equity, democracy, cooperation, sustainability, accountability, interdependence, pluralism, solidarity, etc.) and ask folks to explore the implementation of these principles in their workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, etc. Our vision must be inspirational and the many grassroots efforts to put these principles into practice as so many New Economy endeavors are doing are beacons of hope and possibility.

    Thank you for this initiative.

  • jubilee shine said,

    it is necessary to consolidate a “left bloc.” but it is likewise necessary to build a mass based alternative, electoral-style political party to represent the broad interests of the people and unite and mobilize vast sectors who do not align as socialist, a Peoples’ Democratic Workers’ Party.

  • admin said,

    From Victor Grossman:

    Dear Carl, Bill and Pat (who seems to have changed her Email address since mail to her is returned),
    Hurrah and congratulations! What you (and some others) suggest warms the aging heart of this old ex-pat, living in Berlin. It seems to me exactly what is needed, desperately needed!

    Two comments: I think you are quite right about electoral politics. No possibilities should be ruled out, even supporting candidates of the two main parties when they act in a progressive way, like those courageous ones who will stay away from the Netanyahu speech or who vote against war credits (in the great tradition of Karl Liebknecht in 1914). But the main direction would be to support every sensible effort to break out of two party strictures and move toward an alternative, new party, or more correctly, a movement with a party. I took part in the attempts to do this in 1948 with Wallace and the Progressive Party. It was a giant, wonderful effort and then a heart-breaking failure. But it was at a very difficult time, all the odds were against it. No time is easy, and any such road is rocky – but so what!

    The only other change I would agree with is that there should indeed be rather more stress on environment – but always tying it in with the other problems!

    As for whether to call for socialism or not; I think that should depend on the situation and the sentiments of the people. It involves the old but ever present question of not making demands which are much too radical for large numbers of working people to digest – but also not to lag behind and perhaps have the courage to point out new ways – not with slogans (and especially not with wild and woolly revolutionary slogans) but with down-to-earth explanations and demands which move things and people forward.
    (I hope to publish as soon as I can a book based on my experience with socialism in the GDR – not ignoring or prettifying the bad sides, which have been publicized all too superficially and distortedly at great length but also to point out the major, even wonderful benefits won by working people when profits were ruled out!)

    To sum up; I am grateful for your proposals and wish you lots of luck with them – as quickly as possible!
    Victor Grossman

    PS. On March 18th the “Blockupy” movement here (the name derived of course from Occupy) will be holding a big day of demonstrations and meetings in Frankfurt/Main in connection with the opening of the new European Bank skyscraper on that day. Last year the police clobbered it in that city in an extremely nasty and violent way – and went too far , as it turned out. Now it plans to involve not only people from all over the country, including a strong contingent from the LINKE party as well as many other movements but also delegations from many other countries. This, it seems to me, is in much the same spirit as what you are calling for. Of course I’ll report on it.

  • Draft of an Eight-Point Platform for Making a Major Breakthrough on ‘Left Unity’ | US Social Forum 2015-San Jose said,

    […] March 8, 2015 / shamakodnoble Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry February 3, 2015 CCDS-Discussion – Organizing for a Progressive Majority […]

  • Ethan Young said,

    About Greg Gibbs on Left Labor Project (see above), he writes:
    “Not to rain a bit on the parade, but for the rest of the country we have been sitting here listening to the radical genuises in New York for years. That hasn’t gotten us anywhere. That fact that you cite a local coalition that excludes any Trotskyist groups seems somewhat odd.”

    LLP is an NYC project, but we are not proposing ourselves as a model for any other city. We are radical geniuses of course, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to us, especially when we aren’t talking to you. But for the record, we don’t exclude Trotskyist groups, though we would be leery if any group approached us enmasse. Our members include members of socialist groups including CCDS, DSA, FRSO (Freedom Road), and the CP. In the past we had some members from Solidarity, but they don’t come round no more, mainly because most (not all) of our members share the view that supporting some Democratic candidates is not only acceptable, but in some cases, necessary for the good of unions and working class communities. But we never told anyone to get lost, though we might if they weren’t serious about the project.

  • Jonathan Nack said,

    There’s little new in the “eight point” draft platform. The strategy outlined hasn’t led to a coming together of socialists in a way which forms a mass base of support among the U.S. public. There is little reason to think this latest articulation of it will work now.

    I welcome the “eight point” document which returns us to the discussion about building left and socialist unity. These comments will focus on the later, building socialist unity, which is not to say the former, left unity is unimportant.

    The CCDS was founded by a socialist unity orientation and I’d be very glad to see it return to it.

    Over the years the focus of the CCDS, IMO, has drifted under the direction of the NCC and NEC of the from building socialist unity to trying to carve out a niche for the CCDS among the U.S. socialists. A niche defined by its support for Democrats in most elections, support for the current leadership of organized labor while offering some mild criticism of it, and at the same time, supporting the social movements domestically and internationally. The political orientation of the CCDS became pretty indistinguishable from that of the CPUSA or DSA.

    During its founding process in the early 1990s, the CCDS attracted almost 2000 members (if memory serves) by calling together socialists and Marxists of all stripes and tendencies who wanted to overcome sectarianism and work together. Since abandoning the socialist unity focus, the CCDS has hemorrhaged members over the past two decades and is now down to about 400 or less. It is an aging membership that is quite literally dying off.

    A return to a socialist unity orientation is the only hope of organizationally preserving the hard lessons won, experience, and knowledge embodied in the CCDS. This will require the building of a new organization in collaboration with other socialists whom are currently independent, along with as many socialist and Marxist organizations and publications as can be drawn together.

    The socialist unity orientation succeeded in bringing together a modest number of socialists to form the CCDS. It did not, of course, lead to the development of a mass base of support for socialism in this country. That nut has yet to be cracked. However, it is not unreasonable to think that U.S. socialists must stand and walk together before they can run. Building greater socialist unity may well be a necessary precursor to building a mass following for a socialist movement in the U.S.

  • Exploiting Blacks: The Roots of Black Lives Matter said,

    […] Fry, co-chairs of CCDS, exploited the revolutionary atmosphere of the Ferguson riots to create an eight-point plan for “Left Unity” demanding “a common aspiration for […]

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