Saturday, July 21, 2007





This week, the week of July 16, 2007, we have seen the spectacle of Democratic presidential candidates former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards and Illinois Senator Barack Obama squaring off to see who is the ‘better’ advocate of ‘class war’ in defense of the downtrodden, or in the parlance of polite society, the “have-nots”. Of course, in response the leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has also chimed in on this theme. What is unusual about all of these doings is that the central electoral strategy of the Democrats for at least the past thirty years has been to deny that the class struggle, despite all the evident of relative decline in the standard of living of the working class to the contrary, even existed. The Democrats were content to struggle along with their version of “trickle down’ theory by arguing that a ‘robust’ economy would help float ‘all boats’. Well, we knew, and now know differently and there is no satisfaction in these quarters that these bourgeois politicians have taken up the issue, for the moment. Why?

Their ‘solutions’ are more of the same. Tinker a little with the system to ‘redistribute’ the wealth (a very little from what I have read of these plans) by tax schemes or public works but to keep the system fundamentally as is. Even with the best of intentions this is a plan for failure for working people, especially the marginal working poor. Not only is it necessary to throw much more money at the problem than any bourgeois candidate would dream of doing but the whole thrust is wrong. The culture of poverty, of being poor and without resources to compete in a ‘rich’ society, not only requires money to get out from under but a whole different way of looking at life. In short, to be empowered. This is not our society. We live in it yes but we do not control it. The way to get empowered is through a workers government. This, dear reader, is the hard reality.

That is the crux of the matter and something none of these well-educated, well fed parliamentary types have a clue about. Even the patently reformist Chicago social activist and community organizing guru Saul Alinsky, whom Hillary admiringly wrote her senior thesis on while at Wellesley and whom Obama admired, knew that much. Moreover what I do not hear about from these born-again ‘class-warriors’ is any talk about the necessary first step in raising the ‘boats’ of the poor-unionization. I have hammered away elsewhere on the importance of organizing the South and the desperate need to organize Wal-Mart. That, rather than 'make work' and easily evaded tax schemes would go a long way toward breaking this cycle of poverty.

One final point on John Edwards. Much has been made of the fact that Edwards is the son of a Southern mill worker. Also he more than other candidates has taken this ‘two Americas’ concept as his theme both in 2004 and now. Yes, John Edwards is a son of the working class. However, his career is a very good case study in why those of us who propagandize for a workers party have been stymied for so long. In the normal course of events if there had been in place even a small viable mass workers party Mr. Edwards in his youth might very well have been attracted to such a formation. In the absence of such a formation he saw his main chance as the Democratic Party. Such are the ways of politics. However, until we can break this vicious cycle our work will continue to be that of unceasing propaganda for a workers party and a workers government. Be assured though that in the end we will get our share of real class war fighters.





In the wake of his victory in the recent French presidential elections the conservative administration of President Sarkozy has successfully co-opted a number of opponent Socialist party functionaries onto his team. As a result they, for the most part, have been expelled. However their defections point to turmoil about the future of that party. Let us be clear- the modern post World II rabidly anti-communist French Socialist party has been an almost purely electoral operation somewhat akin to the Democratic Party in the United States. Its connection to the working class as a leftist organization has been centered on the white collar professional workers, students, teachers and the French version of the American AFL-CIO labor bureaucracy. As such it has been solely committed, at best, to a parliamentary perspective of taking the rough edges off the administration of the capitalist system. The recent election campaign of the Socialist candidate Royal exemplified that approach.

Historically the industrial working class was, and to a very minor extent still is, loyal to the Stalinist Communist party. With the demise of the Soviet Union, and even before that with its Euro-communist strategy, that party has fallen on hard times. Nevertheless both parties have lived and died by their dependence on the ‘popular front’ concept of parliamentary political struggle. For those unfamiliar with the concept the popular front is an explicit and conscious agreement presented by working class parties to bourgeois formations under a minimum program. Almost universally it is a parliamentary tactic and almost universally as well it has acted as a break on class struggle, if not worse as Chile in the 1970’s graphically demonstrated. Today, as if to symbolize the inadequacy of that strategy both ostensibly socialist organizations are now in decline. Yet the working class of France, including its somewhat strategic immigrant sector, is in dire need of a party that represents its historic interests and fights the class struggle on its behalf.

This, it seems to me, represents an excellent time to regroup the militant forces of the left in France around a class struggle program. Historically the far-left, the so-called ‘ultras’ (essentially the various ostensibly Trotskyist tendencies, the dissident left Stalinists, anarchists and at one time the Maoists) have played around the fringes of parliamentary politics. In the end, however, these groups have bought into the popular front strategy of the major left wing parties. Nowhere was this more evident that in the second round of the 2002 presidential elections where the choice was between the conservative reactionary Chirac and the virulently reactionary LePen. The ‘far left’ fell all over itself in calling for a vote for Chirac under the assumption that LePen represented an incipient fascist takeover of the democratic republic. The ‘popular front’ proved then to be very broad indeed. Now, with the situation in France very fluid as leftists wait for the Sarkozy government to drop the other shoe, is the time to break out of this never-ending parliamentary cycle and create, at first, a propaganda group or small mass party, committed explicitly to the fight for an alternative socialist system. The first step, but only the first step, is to place in mothballs that old ‘popular front’ strategy that has been central to French leftist politics since the French Revolution. As I have pointed out elsewhere in review of a history of the French Revolution by Georges LeFebvre the popular front between the bourgeois elements like Robespierre and the sans-culottes in that revolution at that time made sense. Today, no. More on this latter as I get a better grip on what is happening specifically with French far left groupings. Remember this though- in the end if the Socialist party is not politically defeated by the left it will rear its ugly head again. And as under the Socialists Mitterrand and Josplin in the recent past it will not be pretty.
Enough said.