In 2007-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time. In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter. I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers party that fights for a workers government . More than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then does not a bad feel to it. Read on.
This commentary was edited and updated on October 1, 2013
A MODEST PROPOSAL-RECRUIT, RUN INDEPENDENT LABOR MILITANTS FOR THE 2008 ELECTIONS
IN THIS TIME OF THE ‘GREAT FEAR’ WE NEED CANDIDATES TO FIGHT FOR A WORKERS GOVERNMENT.
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY THAT FIGHTS FOR SOCIALISM!
I originally planned to repost the blog below in the summer of 2007. However, two trends have forced me to republish earlier than I planned. The first is the fact that the whole 2008 bourgeois electoral process has gone into warp speed. Yes, yes I know that thinking about electoral politics, or any politics, in the spring of 2007 is only for political junkies and other misbegotten types. I confess to that sin and someday I will turn myself into the appropriate twelve-step program. Nevertheless the campaign season goes full throttle. Thus if we are to have any effect on the 2008 campaign on behalf of our fight for socialism we better get in harness now.
The second trend revolves around the periodic publication of, and commentary on, the not so startling, by now, fact that the wealth distribution gap between the very, very rich here in America and the rest of us has over the last few years once again become wider, the widest since the 1920s. In response a number of political commentators, especially liberal commentators, have bemoaned this condition noting that part of the problem is the very real ‘class struggle’ by the rich and their minions. One of the better commentators on this subject the Boston Globe Op/Ed writer Robert Kuttner, who is almost always worth reading to gauge the pulse of the Eastern liberal part of the Democratic Party, recently placed the blame on the fight against unionization by the corporations and their political hangers-on. So far, no argument there.
Where we part company is over his exclusive and eternal strategy of relying on the political ‘goodwill’ of the ‘friends of labor’ in the Democratic Party to make capitalism fairer. He further argues that this is where labor has found its earlier successes. No, one thousand times no. Despite Kuttner’s obviously truncated reading of labor history (if at all) the way unions were organized, particularly in the 1930’s the heyday of militant action, usually meant hard-fought factory and street actions over and against those so-called ‘friends of labor’. This is the simple truth that we must get out and have labor militant candidates shout to the rooftops. LET OUR CAMPAIGN BEGIN.
MODEST PROPOSAL-RECRUIT, RUN INDEPENDENT LABOR MILITANTS IN FOR THE 2006 ELECTIONS.
Updated April 2007. In the summer of 2006 I wrote a commentary about writing in workers party candidates based on a program for the fall 2006 elections. With the hoopla already starting for the 2008 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftist to use the 2008 campaign to further our propaganda needs.
All “anti-parliamentarian”,“anti-state”,“non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, that your political ancestors in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois state and the bourgeois government. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you on the barricades.
As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2006 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Iraq, immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti- same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design’. And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and Greens have a monopoly on the public square.
I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives. You get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that that. In any case, this writer presents a five point program that labor militants can run on (you knew this was coming, right?). As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.
1. FIGHT FOR THE IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST NOW (OR BETTER YET, YESTERDAY)! U.S. HANDS OFF THE WORLD! VOTE NO ON THE WAR BUDGET!
The quagmire in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East (Palestine, Iran, Syria you name it is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.
But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the ‘popular front’ days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the war fight for this no funding position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yah, those progressive Democrats) who unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.
2. FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE AND WORKING CONDITIONS-UNIVERSAL FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL.
It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less families, can live on the minimum wage of $7/hr. (or proposed $10/hr). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s, go a long ay to turning the conditions of labor around.
3. FIGHT THE ATTACKS ON THE ENLIGHTENMENT.
Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with ant-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2013 over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But, so be it.
4. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS PARTY.
The Donkeys, Elephants and Greens have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans and Greens!
5. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS AND XYZ GOVERNMENT.
THIS IS THE DEMAND THAT SEPARATES THE MILITANTS FROM THE FAINT-HEARTED REFORMISTS.
We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.
Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Yah, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is you have got to fight for it.
Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good now. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES