Two important essays on how caucuses can be destructive to DSA and to democracy. Recommended by a reader.
What Momentum caucus did to the Philadelphia chapter of DSA. Feel free to share widely and discuss.
Caucuses, Consequences, and Construction: Caucuses, Conflict, and Convention Reassessed
We are building something here. We will be building something for a long time. And a basic respect for that fact should be universal among members of the organization.
I want to write to you today about a document. It was a document written by someone who was very influential in my DSA chapter (Philly) until recently. It was initially a private document for the author’s caucus, but was unintentionally released by a separate caucus that viewed it as an essential training manual. The author’s caucus lost power in my chapter a few weeks ago after a years-long, incredibly bitter, and completely futile battle that destroyed many friendships, egos, and campaigns. It managed to produce not one, but two splinter organizations of Philly DSA. Many of the leading members of that caucus resigned from their positions in the organization in April, and it is unclear how many intend to return.
The document is many things. It is a perceptive analysis of the development of blocs in an unorganized assembly and the dynamics of competitive meetings. It is the articulation of a political strategy that had proved rather successful at the time of its writing and had two years of gas left in the tank afterward. It is (implicitly) a theory of what democracy is and how it should function in a socialist organization.
The document being examines.
Caucuses, Conflicts and Convention
The following are notes on the process of caucus formation, the expression of political conflict, the meaning of internal democracy and some suggestions for our convention. This memo does not cover the entire breadth of our work as a caucus but merely the functions of the caucus as a democratic tool, in other words the following memo does not discuss our outward organizing but instead how precisely we plan to win priorities around which we tend to organize. Much of what is below was informed by reading about intra-party caucuses in Latin America and Europe as well as some classic liberal democratic theory.
Resolution on the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees
Authors: Immigrants’ Rights Working Group Steering Committee
Whereas: Immigrants in the United States are living under apartheid conditions. Under the U.S. constitution, persons living in the U.S. are promised basic human rights; however, under the current legal framework migrants in the U.S. are disenfranchised from basic legal protections. The migrant working class constitutes at least 20 % of the working class. This working class population – residents of the U.S., must not be ignored by a socialist platform. Political projects that do not include a substantive and realistic analysis the migrant working class fail to understand both race and class in the U.S. and thus fail to address our fundamental political tasks.
Whereas: To achieve these ends we must first, promote the empowerment, self-determination and liberation of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, indigenous, and other oppressed nationalities and immigrants within DSA and within the nation. Our opposition must be of at a level sufficient enough to defeat these forces.
Be it resolved:
1)That the Democratic Socialists of America will make defense of immigrant and refugee rights a top national priority of the organization to be spear headed by the National Immigrants Rights Working Group in coordination with national staff.
2)That Democratic Socialists of America reaffirm our position that no human being is illegal and that all working people and oppressed people are welcome in our organization on an equal basis regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
3)That Democratic Socialists of America support the struggles of immigrant communities around immediate demands (such as restoring DACA) as well as the right of immigrants and their communities to lead in this struggle and to determine its tactics. We stand with Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers and community organizers who have worked tirelessly for legislative relief for migrant communities. We push further for broad and inclusive legislation and administrative actions that regularizes the status and ensures the full integration of all migrants and refugees
4)That Democratic Socialists of America demand:
●Abolition of ICE and the end to the persecution, jailing, and deportation of immigrants.
●Aid to those fleeing from violence, political and economic turmoil, imperialism, colonialism, as well a global warming induced climate change instead of barring refugees at our borders and jailing those who arrive.
●Full labor rights for all those who work within the country and the integration of the labor movement with those who struggle for immigrant rights.
6)The National Immigrants Rights Working Group will coordinate activities within DSA under this resolution and develop a program of education on the history and political economy of immigration.
One quarter time staff person and appropriate support personnel and resources.
We support the amendment.
Duane Campbell. Immigrant Rights Working Group.
By Max B. Sawicky
I'd like to underscore the importance of Leo's post. I've had a ringside seat on this and I've been yelling about it since April, so I'd like to add a few points, in the nature of friendly amendments.
The Right is whining that education on race introduces turmoil in schools and classrooms. Actually it is their own agitation that will do that. Rabid denunciations of teaching on elementary matters of race by adults will echo in classrooms. A race-blind pedagogy will render U.S. history more remote to POC and lead to the opposite result for which they clamor: less identification with U.S. citizenship.
But the campaign is not motivated by any of that. One of the original epicenters was in Loudoun County, Va., where I live. This has national strategic significance, in three ways. 1) it pressures teacher unions, one of the lynchpins of Democratic Party power nationwide; 2) it agitates Trump voters in Virginia, a key source of Democratic Party electoral votes; 3) it fuels the home-schooling movement.
On (2), the former head of the Loudoun County school board is using this issue as a springboard for his gubernatorial campaign. The state government went all-Democratic in recent years, and this issue, along with hype over gun control, has lead to frenzied public meetings of crazed voters. The gun control agitation was based in the rural counties. The CRT noise is focused in the biggest, wealthiest counties. Put them together, and you have the basis for Republican victory.
On (1) and (3), CRT hype promotes separation from public schools altogether, not unlike the formation of racist 'academies' in the South after Brown vs. Board of Ed. One can find talk locally by parents of hiring teachers to teach in their home to groups of five or so students. There are enough people here with the financial means to cause a non-trivial drain on public schools, leading to generalized lack of funding that will have disparate, negative impacts by class and race.
On ways to fight back, here are a couple of additional considerations.
This is a Trumpist movement, and Trumpists have substantially discredited themselves with their actions on Jan 6. Such antics would be likely to have their greatest negative response in precisely the middle-class localities where the CRT issue has been amped up. Jan 6 should be a millstone around the necks of the GOP everywhere.
In Loudoun Country, the school board is not up for election this year, so the Right is trying to set off a recall election. Here school board elections are formally non-partisan. Of course all electeds have some known party identification. Nevertheless, voters may resent being dragged into elections for those they have already approved at the ballot box, all the more so if the campaign is based on rubbish.
One added element locally has been protest over protocols on treatment of transgender students. The bathroom issue is rearing its head again. Parents of these students tend to be among the most energetic in response. There has also been flak over 'dirty books' being assigned for reading. (Actually they're not dirty and they have not been required reading.) Middle-class moderate parents are unlikely to be moved by these issues, so the campaign has the effect of energizing an excitable minority, but also isolating them.
Finally, I note that DSA in Virginia has been totally asleep at the switch on all of this. In my rudimentary understanding of organizing, politics entails talking about what others are talking about, not just what you want to talk about. Here the preferred issues are a pipeline that would run through the state, and the PRO act. If the R's retake power in the state, pipelines and labor rights will take their place alongside other, equally-critical problems.
It is time for educators to go on the offensive against the conservative campaign to ban critical race theory from schools.
Leo Casey ▪ July 14, 2021
The American right ‘s latest culture war offensive is an all-out assault on critical race theory (CRT). Like other right-wing campaigns, the attack on CRT is taking place on two fronts one battle to define the term negatively in popular discourse, and another to enact laws and executive orders that severely restrict how racism is addressed in public schools and post-secondary public institutions. The two fronts work in tandem, feeding off each other; consequently, they must be addressed together.
The right has been shrewd in selecting its target. Founded in the 1970s by legal scholars, CRT has its roots in efforts to explore the ways that racial biases in the law result from structural and systemic inequities. In subsequent decades, the approach spread to disciplines across the social sciences and humanities, as well as to professional fields such as medicine and education, with the goal of investigating and analyzing systemic racism in different cultures and institutions. Today, its influence can be found in dozens of fields of research, and in thousands of texts by hundreds of authors.
Previously known to few outside of academia, it has become a racial Rorschach test, a canvas readymade for the projection of white anxieties, fears, and resentments. That is exactly what the right is counting on. The leading strategist behind the current attacks, Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo, has explained that the â€œgoal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think â€˜critical race theory.â€™â€ Writing in the New York Post and City Journal, Rufo linked the theory to a long list of negatively perceived terms and events, including Marxism, Stalinâ€™s gulags, Maoâ€™s Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge, â€œBlack Communism,â€ â€œanti-Americanism,â€ â€œomnipotent bureaucratic authority,â€ and â€œre-education camp[s].â€ Alongside this gallery of horrors, Rufo included terms that are employed in actual efforts to address racism in educationâ€”equity, social justice, and diversityâ€”rendering them guilty by association.
It is essential to keep in mind whatâ€™s at stake here. Itâ€™s not the reputation of CRT among scholars, and not even how the general public perceives it. Itâ€™s a campaign to drastically limit teaching and learning about racism in public Kâ€“12 and higher education, while inflaming the Republican base.
So far, six states have enacted laws, four have taken other forms of action (executive orders issued by state boards of education or directives from attorney generals), and another eight states have bills pending in legislatures controlled by Republicans. Bills introduced in an additional eight states appear to have stalled or failed in legislative sessions that are ending, although many are sure to be reintroduced when state legislatures reconvene.
How should educators respond? Ignoring attacks from the right wonâ€™t do, and neither will politely seeking to correct the record. Rufo isnâ€™t participating in an academic colloquium. Heâ€™s writing propaganda, and propaganda doesnâ€™t have to be logical or true to be effective.
A defensive response is guaranteed to lose. But thereâ€™s still time to push back. An effective positive response will need to meet four criteria.
There is substantial overlap among the various state laws and orders. The Florida State Board of Educationâ€™s ban on the teaching of CRT characterizes it as the idea that â€œracism is not merely the product of prejudice but . . . is embedded in American society and its legal systems.â€ The Texas law requires that slavery and racism be taught as â€œdeviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.â€ A Republican bill in the Pennsylvania legislature would remove funding from any school district, college, or university where instructors â€œadopt, express or promoteâ€ a long list of prohibited ideas about race and sex in this same vein. In Congress, Republicans have introduced a bill to apply these provisions to Washington, D.C. public schools and charter schools, and a bill that would remove federal funding from schools that used the New York Timesâ€™ 1619 Project in instruction. A number of states have also prohibited the use of the 1619 Project.
How will this play out in classrooms? Take the ban on teaching that racism can be systemic and embedded in U.S. law and society and the requirement that slavery and racism be taught as contrary to the founding of the United States. How can the U.S. Constitution be properly taught without any consideration of the significant body of evidence that the entrenchment of racial slavery was not incidental, but part of its original design? How can a student understand the role of the Supreme Court in upholding systemic racism for much of its history, without an examination of how its Dred Scott rulingâ€”that African Americans were â€œso far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respectâ€â€”was expressly based on the original language of the Constitution?
The proscriptions written into these laws and executive orders may well extend beyond the history of racism toward African Americans. How can the campaigns of extermination against indigenous peoples and the Trail of Tears be properly taught, if their manifest racism canâ€™t be examined as central to the nationâ€™s founding? How can the Chinese American Exclusion Act of 1882, forced deportations of Latinos in the 1920s and 1930s, and the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War be properly taught without a discussion of systemic racism in society and law against Latinos and Asian Americans?
The problems with these measures extend well beyond the topics and ideas that may be taught. They could impede and inhibit efforts to make public schools, colleges, and universities into welcoming and nurturing places for students of all races by addressing the obstacles that students of color face. The campaign against CRT has targeted diversity and inclusion programs, as well as anti-bias training. It looks to undermine a culturally responsive pedagogy that allows students of color to see themselves, their experiences, and their heritage culture in their education, as white students already do.
Sweeping formulations of the sort found in these laws and executive orders invite legal challenges. Out of professional integrity, many educators will look for ways to continue to expose their students to a full and accurate account of U.S. history and society. Teacher unions will provide a vigorous defense for members who are disciplined or dismissed for teaching honest history. But none of the coming fight back should distract us from the political objectives of this mushrooming campaign: to enshrine in law and government policy an official mythologyâ€”an orthodoxy of who Americans are as a nation, how we came to be, and what we can aspire to become.
This campaign is producing what conservative commentator David French has described as â€œan extraordinary chilling effect on classroom speech.â€ The danger here lies not just in the broad and far-ranging language found in the laws and executive orders themselves, but in the climate of educational vigilantism they engender. School boards across the country have become the focus of an operation reminiscent of the early days of the Tea Party, with meetings consumed by fervid battles over the phantom use of CRT in Kâ€“12 classesâ€”clashes organized by right-wing organizations and financed with dark money. A number of school districts are being inundated with Freedom of Information requests on the details of classroom instruction, and the proposed Pennsylvania law would allow private citizens to trigger official investigations of schools, colleges, and universities for alleged uses of CRT. More U.S. school board officials have been recalled in the last six months than at any time since such records have been kept. Teachers are increasingly fearful of how these laws and executive orders will be used, with some resorting to self-censorship to try to protect themselves. Reports are now surfacing of college courses on race being canceled, and even of entire academic departments being closed down.
At stake is the ability of educators to provide honest and accurate instruction on racism in American history and contemporary society.
Who do most Americans trust? In public opinion polling on the most trusted professions, Kâ€“12 teachers continually rank at the top, alongside nurses and doctorsâ€”despite teachers having borne the brunt of many right-wing attacks, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. College faculty do not rank as high but still far outweigh groups at the bottomâ€”including politicians. This ranking reflects the fact that, like healthcare, education is seen as â€œcaringâ€ work that a person enters to help others.
Teachers can draw on this trust to fight back against the laws. We might ask: Who should have the greatest say about how public schools, colleges, and universities address racism? Would we rather leave it up to the people who have studied how to educate our children and are experienced in that work, who have the closest relationship with our children and care about them as individuals? Or would we rather hand it over to politicians trying to win elections and increase their power by stoking bigotry?
While there is little cause for worry when elected officials decide that high school students should be taught American history and civics, or that a post-secondary institution should have a department of political science, detailed government mandates on what should be taught and how are problematic, both educationally and politically. Designing a curriculum is a complex undertaking that relies upon the professional expertise of educators. It is a process best insulated from the passions of political battle and shielded from crude government interventions meant to compel students into following a particular party line.
Airing disagreements over such matters is how knowledge advances. By contrast, the crass politicization of history and social science, with the use of propaganda to distort scholarship and education, is what authoritarian movements do. And sweeping state mandates on which topics and schools of thought can and cannot be discussed in education are what authoritarian governments do.
At the core of this fight is the ability of educators to teach their students the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. A number of these laws include restrictions on civic education; the Texas law specifically requires that a current controversy can only be taught â€œwithout giving deference to any one perspective.â€ Teachers of civics have long recognized that democratic education includes exposing students to multiple perspectives, especially when teaching controversies. Indeed, what is pernicious about the campaign against CRT is precisely the attempt to preclude exposure to different perspectives on racism, starting with our nationâ€™s founding.
But in the current era, an equally important responsibility of teachers is providing students with accurate information and a factual basis for understanding controversies. These state laws and bills have been written to undermine that responsibilityâ€”to require educators who teach contemporary controversies such as who won the 2020 election and what happened in the January 6 insurrection to present truth and propaganda as equally plausible and acceptable perspectives, â€œwithout giving deferenceâ€ to either. On these points, the defense of American democracy becomes inseparable from the academic freedom to teach honest history.
The story of American democracy cannot be told without according a central role to the Black freedom struggle. When that struggle moved forwardâ€”with the end of slavery, the Civil War amendments and Reconstruction, and again with the civil rights movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Actâ€”so did American democracy. It was the Fourteenth Amendment that provided the constitutional basis for court cases expanding civil liberties and civil rights during the last century, and the civil rights movement that provided the template for subsequent movements to expand rights, including the womenâ€™s movement and LGBTQ movement. And when that Black freedom struggle suffered defeatsâ€”with the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow and de jure racial segregationâ€”so did American democracy. We riseâ€”and fallâ€”together. To realize the democratic promises of liberty and justice for all, the United States must embrace that Black freedom struggle. And educators must have the ability to teach the relationship between that struggle and American democracy.
Leo Casey has been a teacher of civics and history and a teacher unionist for four decades. He works at the American Federation of Teachers. And, a leader in North Star.
The rich and powerful use racism to protect their interests and scapegoat communities of color. But there is an effective way to talk about both race and class when organizing for multiracial democracy.
Anika Fassia and Tinselyn Simms ▪ Summer 2021
This article is one in a series of arguments on class and race in our summer issue.
We’re glad to be at a point in American political discourse where the question being posed is how to talk about race and class, rather than whether to do so. For too long, many on the left, especially white progressives, have shied away from talking directly about race and racism. Talking about race, they have argued, is divisive and costs us electoral victories. This approach centers the experiences of white voters, who don’t feel the direct impact of racism in our economy or democracy, and neglects the concerns of people of color, who make up a large portion of our base. It also ignores the fact that race is always being discussed by our opponents. By not responding to the racial sentiments of their narratives, we leave their potent messages unopposed. As a result, we lose persuadable voters and fail to mobilize our base.
Many of us who are doing the day-to-day organizing work to build a multiracial democracy struggle to find effective ways to talk about race and class. We often resort to tactics that either don’t connect with or alienate the people we are trying to move.
The Race Class Narrative (RCN), developed by Ian Haney López, Heather McGhee, and Anat Shenker-Osorio, is a rigorously researched framework that addresses these concerns. We can use it to fight back against the ways that strategic racism is weaponized by the rich and powerful to protect their interests, scapegoat communities of color, and leave us all fighting for scraps. It is a narrative structure that reveals the strategy of the right and builds cross-racial support for progressive policies.
This work is essential if we want to beat the right. As McGhee writes in her recent book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, if we
try to convince anyone but the most committed progressives (disproportionately people of color) about big public solutions without addressing race, most will agree . . . right up until they hear the counter-message that does talk, even implicitly, about race. Racial scapegoating about “illegals,” drugs, gangs, and riots undermines public support for working together. Our research showed that color-blind approaches that ignored racism didn’t beat the scapegoating zero-sum story; we had to be honest about racism’s role in dividing us in order to call people to their higher ideals.
The RCN tries to do just that. Rather than saying “all people” or “everyone,” the narrative advises those writing scripts for canvassing or for social media campaigns to use more specific language, such as “people of different races and from different places” or “white, Black, or brown.” Mentioning race like this helps to turn our vision of cross-racial solidarity into a reality.
To give an example, here is a message from the RCN research designed to build support for progressive issues and push back against divisiveness from our opposition:
America’s strength comes from our ability to work together—bringing together people from different places and of different races into a whole. For this to be a place where everyone can thrive, we cannot let the 1% and the politicians they pay for divide us against each other based on what someone looks like, where they come from, or how much money they have. We need to join together to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces, and civil rights in our past. Coming together, we can elect new leaders who will deliver better healthcare for our families, quality schools for our kids, and a fair return on our work.
Across the country, organizations have used the RCN to move voters on important issues. In 2018, activists in Minnesota used it in Greater Than Fear, a campaign designed to push back against anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric and actions. Partners used the RCN research to build a strong campaign brand that included messaging guides, trainings, rallies, ads, print materials, and a digital strategy. On election night in 2018, the Minnesota House of Representatives flipped, turning blue. Democrats also won the gubernatorial, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor races. Now, they are pushing an ambitious RCN-infused We Make Minnesota revenue campaign that could have long-lasting results for families across the state. They are not avoiding conversations about race and class but leaning into them to tell a story about how racism is deployed against all of us for the economic gains of a powerful few.
In the spring of 2019, People’s Action incorporated RCN into their deep canvassing program in Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, with the goal of increasing support for including immigrants in expanded healthcare coverage. These states were chosen because they had all seen an uptick in anti-immigrant sentiment and white nationalist organizing, and because they were important to the 2020 election. Deep canvassing goes beyond typical door-knocking. It involves longer, candid conversations where canvassers ask voters to share emotionally significant experiences. Even though the conversations did not explicitly mention the president, at the end of this program, researchers found a 3 percent decrease in support for Trump plus a 20 percent increase in support for expanded healthcare coverage that would include undocumented immigrants—a shift that was larger than the shift in vote share from Democrat to Republican between 2012 and 2016. More conversations like this could have huge effects on electoral politics.
The movements that have dared to use the RCN have shown how strategically naming race and calling for multiracial prosperity can lead to progressive victories. More recently, using RCN has proven successful in ballot measures and in get-out-the-vote efforts. It was used in mailers and scripts to successfully support expanding Medicaid to 230,000 Missourians and had a positive impact on returned ballots and early in-person voting in Wisconsin.
The RCN provides us with the beginnings of a roadmap to progressive victories, but more research is needed to create a strategy that can successfully conquer the right. We hope that the framework can provide a model for further research into the most effective ways to address strategic racism in its varied forms as we fight for a new democracy and economy.
Anika Fassia is the co-director of the new home for Race Class Narrative implementation, We Make the Future Action. Prior to this role, she served as Director of Outreach and Training at Race Class Narrative Action, where she led the outreach and partnerships of organizations spanning seven Midwestern states.
Tinselyn Simms is the co-director of We Make the Future Action. Prior to this role, she served as Assistant Director of Communications at the Service Employees International Union, where she led communications for the Racial Justice Center. She spearheaded the labor union’s involvement in Race Class Narrative research.
Two comrades in Sacramento have written a four part history of people of color work in DSA. We congratulate them on their work and recommend it.
by Duane Campbell
At the same time, we must insist that the story of people of color in DSA is not only the story of African American participation. While mentioned in part two of the series, after that the work of the Anti Racism Commission and the Latino Commissions in DSA disappear. There needs to be a part five and six at least. Below is a supplement to the four part series people of color history. The current history of DSA as presented by the Sacramento writers David Roddy and Alyssa De La Rosa misses this important work.
Let us begin near the beginning.
In 1983, Dr. Marable was a professor of economics and history and the director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University. He went on to direct the Africana and Latin American Studies program at Colgate University, and then chaired the Department of Black Studies at Ohio State University. He was a prolific scholar and continued his career at Columbia University. 1
(Marable, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso, 2022. )
In the summer of 1983 Manning organized a conference of Third World Socialists (people of color ) at Fisk University, bringing together a diverse group of left academics and activists. At this conference DSA created new commissions each focused on self-determination :a Latino Commission, an African American Commission and an Anti-Racism Commission within DSA. These commissions went on to support the Jesse Jackson run for President in 1984, and then convinced the DSA itself to support the Jackson effort in 1988. The Anti Racism Commission also supported the election effort of Ron Daniels for President in 1992 as an independent.
Many socialists and activists in the 70’s, including this writer, were engaged as organizers with the United Farmworkers of America. Doing this work taught us the fundamental value of unions to working people in a period when middle class student activists have not learned the important role of labor unions in building a better future. Working along side great organizers we learned organizing skills and discipline. Dolores Huerta was a founding Vice President of the United Farmworkers. Later Eliseo Medina was a Vice President. Eliseo went on to become a Vice President of SEIU. Both were later Honorary Chairs of DSA until these positions were eliminated in 2017. They had been important emissaries to work in the Latino community, particularly in California.
Dolores Delgado Campbell became a chair of the Latino Commission at the founding of the Latino Commission at Fisk. (1983) She contributed to the 1983 publication Women of Color, by the DSA Feminist Commission. Over the years there were several co chairs of the Latino Commission including José La Luz . I,( the writer) Duane Campbell became co chair of DSA’s Anti Racism Commission and secretary to the Latino Commission at this 1983 meeting.
The Latino Commission worked for a number of years on immigrants’ rights efforts beginning in 1985, including the effort to defeat the Reagan “Amnesty” plan or IRCA of 1986, During the 1990’s, we were again intensely involved in trying to defeat the anti Immigration California Proposition 187. California Proposition 187 was a pivotal feature in redirecting the political trajectory of Latino politics in California, and the South West.
(Bert Corona, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso. 2022. )
(2. Meyerson, )
These efforts taught us the stark realities of globalism producing migration as well as the importance of internationalism. Immigrant rights works taught us to see capitalism from its harsh periphery.
The prior four part essay has a limited recognition of the Central American struggles, NAFTA ( 1994) , and the changes in the AFL-CIO. The Latino Commission had worked for over a decade on Central American solidarity efforts for both El Salvador and Nicaragua. The Latino Commission took leadership in bringing these struggles to DSA through campaigns, speakers, and representation by leaders from Central America. Participation in these movements taught us to look beyond the narrow perspectives of the U.S. media to recognize the deadly and imperialist nature of U.S. power. Along the way we learned that our government was willing to kill at least 30,000 Salvadorans and Nicaraguans to impose U.S. domination.
During the 80s, the organized left in the U.S. was small. Most organizations ranged from 50- 200 activists. DSA was the largest with some 10,000 members. Many activists in these small organizations decided to concentrate on building the structures of their own left organizations. These organizations have since disappeared . The organized left was only of marginal assistance to building the Central American solidarity movements and was too weak to contribute significantly to the Anti War movement of 2003. .
By 1994, the Latino Commission of DSA was only operating effectively in California. Elected leaders to DSA’s NPC included Al Rojas and Eric Vega. Al was a former UFW organizer, and became the Chair of North Americans for Democracy in Mexico. Together played an active role in seeking to defeat NAFTA including bring Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, candidate for President of Mexico, for a California tour. Eric Vega as an NPC member played an active role in bringing DSA resources and organizing to the important California Proposition 209 campaign in an effort to defend Affirmative Action (1996). He was a lead organizer for this campaign in Sacramento. Each of these efforts were integrated with labor organizing efforts.
There were efforts during these years to create left organizations, D.S.A. (Democratic Socialists of America) C.C. for D.S. (Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism ) along with the remnants of earlier left parties of the socialists and communists. Since DSA played no part in the important electoral campaigns, the organization did not grow.
None of the left efforts have achieved even a modest sized organization that could organize for issues, influence national, state, or local politics, or produce significant results. This decline of the organized left was directly proportional to the decline of organized labor as a political force.
Good people from several perspectives tried to build an ideological left, but they were unable to develop and sustain organizations which served as recruitment, training, preparation and conduits to effective political action. The nascent organizations, few of which last more than ten years, have been unable to create a multi racial left culture where activists could find meaning and importance in their lives by struggling to make a difference in our society.
DSA, as the largest of these organizations, did not overcome its isolation from the Latino community even though we had outstanding notables including Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina. Without capacity building organizations, the popular left activism continually recruited new people and burned out veterans rather than building a sustaining culture and organization. Notably, African American organizers created African American groups such as the Black Radical Congress, and Latino organizations created a series of Latino organizations both inside and outside of the Democratic Party,
Organizations usually exist to develop projects and carry out political work. DSA had locals and the commissions from 1983- 2004, in order to pursue political projects together. Activism organizes. Lack of activism leads to the decline of locals, the commissions and of the organization. ( for an alternative See Jose La Luz, An Organizing Model of Unionism, Labor Research Review. Midwest Center for Labor Research, 1992.
A result of the low level of political work and the meager level of organizational resources, participation by all groups , including Latinos , in DSA declined. At the same time Latino participation in labor unions and Latino organizations grew. In response to the declining state of affairs within DSA , the Latino commission decided in 2004 to operate as more as a network and less as a commission. With the development of electronic communications, there was no longer a significant need for a quarterly newsletter ( Our Struggle) Both the Latino Commission and the Anti Racism Commissions terminated their roles as commissions of DSA.
During its time of growth ( 1983-2000) the Latino Commission was able to recruit and organize several leading Chicanos from the Sacramento area into DSA leadership and YDS.
After a few years they each left. Interviews of the Latinos who left give reasons for leaving as follows.
1. Latinos were integrated into the organization, but Latino issues were not central.
2. DSA as an organization did little other than talk. These activists wanted to be part of an organization that advanced political work.
3. DSA did not have an action plan nor the ability to mobilize people, particularly people of color. Latino activists preferred to work effectively within the Latino community
Records and documents of the above are available from the author.
Details of much of this history can be found at www.antiracismdsa.blogspot.com. This was the forum of the Commissions. There is a link on the right of this page.
The Obama campaign
Like the 1984 Jackson campaign, DSA organizationally sat out the Obama campaign of 2008. The National Political Committee (NPC) speaking for DSA offered “critical support” for Obama campaign in late August. While some DSA members worked on the Obama campaign as individuals, DSA itself was at such a low level that there was no significant mobilization of DSA members nor resources for the election.
As a consequence, the size, strength, organizational abilities of DSA remained essentially what it was prior to the Obama campaign .
There was a notable lack of Latino participation in the Obama campaign in California of 2008. We brought this weakness up to the Obama campaign steering committee on three occasions.
There was no recognizable Latino outreach effort for the Obama campaign in Sacramento nor in California. This was surprising to us. A campaign viewpoint was that California was going to vote for Obama, so there was not a need for organizing outreach. Instead, there were efforts to get Sacramento volunteers to travel to Nevada for campaigning.
Latinos resoundingly rebuked this electoral abstention by voting for Obama by 66 % to 32,% a huge sixteen-point swing to the Democrats compared to 2004. Even a 58 percent majority of Cubans in Florida, traditionally solidly Republican, went for Obama.
Latinas led the way toward Obama, casting 68 percent of their votes for him and only 30 percent for McCain. Latino voters under 30 went for Obama by 76 to 24, indicating the direction of future Latino voting patterns.
Asians swung Democratic by fourteen points over 2004, voting for Obama 61 to 35. The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. In 1992, Bill Clinton received only 31 percent of the Asian vote. Since then Asians have steadily moved Democratic.
Obama’ success was both astonishing and history making. He won the southwestern states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and the former Confederate slave states of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, as well as former slave states Maryland and Delaware. The Latino vote was decisive for Obama in Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado in 2008.
2, Meyerson The Blue-ing of California. 2020.
3. Corona, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso, 2022.
'They're Not Going to F**King Succeed': Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt a Coup After Election,
'They're Not Going to F**King Succeed': Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt a Coup After Election, According to New Book.
For the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.
July 15, 2021 Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, Marshall Co
The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken that then-President Donald Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that Milley and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump, according to excerpts of an upcoming book obtained by CNN.
The book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to be illegal, dangerous or ill-advised.
"It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse," Leonnig and Rucker write.
The book, "I Alone Can Fix It," scheduled to be released next Tuesday, chronicles Trump's final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump's inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after losing the 2020 election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.
The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.
The authors explain Milley's growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.
Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be "on guard" for what might come.
"They may try, but they're not going to f**king succeed," Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."
In the days leading up to January 6, Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley was worried about Trump's call to action. "Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military."
Milley viewed Trump as "the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose," the authors write, and he saw parallels between Adolf Hitler's rhetoric as a victim and savior and Trump's false claims of election fraud.
"This is a Reichstag moment," Milley told aides, according to the book. "The gospel of the Führer."
Ahead of a November pro-Trump "Million MAGA March" to protest the election results, Milley told aides he feared it "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets,'" referring to the pro-Nazi militia that fueled Hitler's rise to power.
Milley will not publicly address the issues raised in the book, a defense official close to the general told CNN. The official did not dispute that Milley engaged in activities and communications that are not part of the traditional portfolio of a chairman in the final days of Trump's presidency.
"He's not going to sit in silence while people try to use the military against Americans," the official said. So while Milley "tried his hardest to actively stay out of politics," if the events that occurred brought him into that arena temporarily, "so be it," the official said.
The official added that the general was not calling Trump a Nazi but felt he had no choice but to respond given his concerns that the rhetoric used by the President and his supporters could lead to such an environment.
Trump on Thursday issued a lengthy statement attacking Milley.
"I never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government," Trump wrote in his statement, adding, "So ridiculous!"
"Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of 'coup,' and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley," Trump continued.
'This is all real, man'
Rucker and Leonnig interviewed more than 140 sources for the book, though most were given anonymity to speak candidly to reconstruct events and dialogue. Milley is quoted extensively and comes off in a positive light as someone who tried to keep democracy alive because he believed it was on the brink of collapse after receiving a warning one week after the election from an old friend.
"What they are trying to do here is overturn the government," said the friend, who is not named, according to the authors. "This is all real, man. You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff."
Milley's reputation took a major hit in June 2020, when he joined Trump during his controversial photo-op at St. John's Church, after federal forces violently dispersed a peaceful crowd of social justice protesters at Lafayette Square outside the White House. To make matters worse, Milley wore camouflage military fatigues throughout the incident. He later apologized, saying, "I should not have been there."
But behind the scenes, the book says Milley was on the frontlines of trying to protect the country, including an episode where he tried to stop Trump from firing FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Leonnig and Rucker recount a scene when Milley was with Trump and his top aides in a suite at the Army-Navy football game in December, and publicly confronted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
"What's going on? Are you guys getting rid of Wray or Gina?" Milley asked. "Come on chief. What the hell is going on here? What are you guys doing?"
"Don't worry about it," Meadows said. "Just some personnel moves."
"Just be careful," Milley responded, which Leonnig and Rucker write was said as a warning that he was watching.
'That doesn't make any sense'
The book also sheds new light on Trump's descent into a dark and isolated vacuum of conspiracy theories and self-serving delusions after he was declared the loser of the 2020 election.
After the January 6 insurrection, the book says Milley held a conference call each day with Meadows and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Leonnig and Rucker report the officials used the calls to compare notes and "collectively survey the horizon for trouble."
"The general theme of these calls was, come hell or high water, there will be a peaceful transfer of power on January twentieth," one senior official told the authors. "We've got an aircraft, our landing gear is stuck, we've got one engine, and we're out of fuel. We've got to land this bad boy."
Milley told aides he saw the calls as an opportunity to keep tabs on Trump, the authors write.
A second defense official told CNN that Milley and the Joint Chiefs met on both January 7 and 8, with some calling in virtually, to discuss not only what happened at the violent insurrection at the US Capitol but also to discuss their growing worry about the emerging "what if" scenarios.
On January 12, they signed a memo rejecting the violence and told troops to stand strong, reminding service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism.
The second defense official said the "what if" scenarios included everything from dealing with rumored unrest at every state capitol to the possibility Trump didn't leave office. "What happens if the crazies take over, what do we do?" was the focus of the discussion and essentially what became a mini-wargame to plan for possible scenarios.
There was concern in part about being "ready" because they had seen the slow National Guard response on the Hill on January 6.
If Trump didn't leave the White House, it was going to be up to Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service to deal with him and related domestic unrest. For the Joint Chiefs, the minute Democratic nominee Joe Biden was sworn in would be it -- he would be the commander in chief at that point and Trump would no longer hold power.
The official said that a realistic scenario is none of the chiefs would have resigned. They would have not carried out illegal orders, but they would have made Trump fire them.
Leonnig and Rucker also recount a scene where Pompeo visited Milley at home in the weeks before the election, and the two had a heart-to-heart conversation sitting at the general's table. Pompeo is quoted as saying, "You know the crazies are taking over," according to people familiar with the conversation.
The authors write that Pompeo, through a person close to him, denied making the comments attributed to him and said they were not reflective of his views.
In recent weeks Trump has attacked Milley, who is still the Joint Chiefs chairman in the Biden administration, after he testified to Congress about January 6.
'You f**king did this'
The book also contains several striking anecdotes about prominent women during the Trump presidency, including GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The book details a phone call the day after the January 6 insurrection between Milley and Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has close military ties. Cheney voted to impeach Trump and has been an outspoken critic of his election lies, leading to her ouster from House GOP leadership.
Milley asked Cheney how she was doing.
"That f**king guy Jim Jordan. That son of a b*tch," Cheney said, according to the book.
Cheney bluntly relayed to Milley what she experienced on the House floor on January 6 while pro-Trump rioters overran police and breached the Capitol building, including a run-in with Jordan, a staunch Trump ally in the House who feverishly tried to overturn the election.
Cheney described to Milley her exchange with Jordan: "While these maniacs are going through the place, I'm standing in the aisle and he said, 'We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.' I smacked his hand away and told him, 'Get away from me. You f**king did this.'"
'Crazy,' 'dangerous,' 'maniac'
The book reveals Pelosi's private conversations with Milley during this tenuous period. When Trump fired Esper in November, Pelosi was one of several lawmakers who called Milley. "We are all trusting you," she said. "Remember your oath."
After the January 6 insurrection, Pelosi told the general she was deeply concerned that a "crazy," "dangerous" and "maniac" Trump might use nuclear weapons during his final days in office.
"Ma'am, I guarantee you these processes are very good," Milley reassured her. "There's not going to be an accidental firing of nuclear weapons."
"How can you guarantee me?" Pelosi asked.
"Ma'am, there's a process," he said. "We will only follow legal orders. We'll only do things that are legal, ethical, and moral."
A week after the insurrection, Pelosi led House Democrats' second impeachment of Trump for inciting the insurrection. In an interview with the authors, Pelosi said she fears another president could try to pick up where Trump left off.
"We might get somebody of his ilk who's sane, and that would really be dangerous, because it could be somebody who's smart, who's strategic, and the rest," Pelosi said. "This is a slob. He doesn't believe in science. He doesn't believe in governance. He's a snake-oil salesman. And he's shrewd. Give him credit for his shrewdness."
The book quotes Trump, who had a strained relationship with Merkel, as telling his advisers during an Oval Office meeting about NATO and the US relationship with Germany, "That b*tch Merkel."
"'I know the f**king krauts,' the president added, using a derogatory term for German soldiers from World War I and World War II," Leonnig and Rucker write. "Trump then pointed to a framed photograph of his father, Fred Trump, displayed on the table behind the Resolute Desk and said, 'I was raised by the biggest kraut of them all.'"
Trump, through a spokesman, denied to the authors making these comments.
'No one has a bigger smile'
After January 6, Milley participated in a drill with military and law enforcement leaders to prepare for the January 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Washington was on lockdown over fears that far-right groups like the Proud Boys might try to violently disrupt the transfer of power.
Milley told a group of senior leaders, "Here's the deal, guys: These guys are Nazis, they're boogaloo boys, they're Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. We're going to put a ring of steel around this city and the Nazis aren't getting in."
Trump did not attend the inauguration, in a notable break with tradition, and the event went off without incident.
As the inauguration ceremony ended, Kamala Harris, who had just been sworn in as vice president, paused to thank Milley. "We all know what you and some others did," she said, according to the authors. "Thank you."
The book ends with Milley describing his relief that there had not been a coup, thinking to himself, "Thank God Almighty, we landed the ship safely."
Milley expressed his relief in the moments after Biden was sworn in, speaking to the Obamas sitting on the inauguration stage. Michelle Obama asked Milley how he was feeling.
"No one has a bigger smile today than I do," Milley said, according to Leonnig and Rucker. "You can't see it under my mask, but I do."
CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.
CNN, via Portside.
Thanks to Carl Davidson for locating and reposting this piece.
A select few in North Star prepared and planned for how to respond in case such a coup had taken place. This time, such preparation was not needed. But, we will conti
Essays from In These Times.
By activists in the Movement for Black Lives.
Voter Suppression Is White Supremacy. It Must Be Stopped
To: G20 Finance Ministers on the occasion of their meeting on 9/10 July 2021
Urging the immediate introduction of Financial Transactions Taxes to improve economic stability and support public investment, particularly in developing countries, to pay for healthcare,
jobs and the costs of climate impacts
We, the undersigned, economists and finance experts, in light of the severe, unprecedented repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, are writing to you to make the case for the immediate introduction of Financial Transactions Taxes (FTTs), both as a means to make economies more resilient and to generate urgently needed public investment, both overseas and domestically, to save lives by strengthening health systems and to help pay the costs of the devastating impacts to populations due to the heating of our climate.
FTTs encourage longer-term investments in the real economy, providing a more solid foundation for economic renewal. This is particularly important as countries rebuild following the pandemic. FTTs dis-incentivise excessive speculative activity, particularly high-frequency trading, which have led to flash crashes in the past. As well, they give tax authorities greater oversight over financial activities, helping them to collect tax receipts and battle corruption.
Although richer countries have experienced great hardship at the hands of the COVID-19 crisis, poorer countries, many of whom were in serious debt distress before the health crisis struck, are now in a perilous economic situation often forced to make life and death choices between servicing their debt and the provision of healthcare for their citizens.
It is in response to this situation of acute need that we strongly urge you to look to the world’s wealthiest sector and raise extra revenue through comprehensive levies on, to-date, seriously under-taxed financial transactions in shares, bonds, derivatives and foreign exchange. Limited FTTs already exist in 9 of the G-20 countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, South Africa, UK and US), predominantly levied at very low rates on equity trading. We propose that countries without FTTs introduce them immediately and those with FTTs both increase tax rates and extend the scope of the tax base to other assets. In so doing, additional revenue of the order of $100 billion could be generated on an annual basis, at least 50% of which should be devoted to developing countries to support health, education and to strengthen preparedness for future pandemics, with the other 50% spent to assist those most in need at home, particularly in the protection and provision of employment. With regard to solidarity funding to poorest countries, we urge that revenue from FTTs is over and above Official Development Assistance and ring-fenced to pay for public goods, not returned in the form of debt repayments.
Introducing FTTs in this manner complements and builds upon recent agreements to implement a minimum corporate tax rate. Both measures are long overdue and timely, as well as popular. The finance sector has continued to fare strongly and even to thrive despite the pandemic and can afford this extra tax burden. FTTs can be designed to fall on intermediaries rather than pension funds and small investors to ensure constituencies, such as older age groups, are not disadvantaged. Importantly, good tax design prevents tax avoidance by making the location of trading irrelevant to the capture of the tax receipt. As the precedents from current FTTs demonstrate, tax collection is quick and simple due to the automation of financial markets.
The existence of FTTs in numerous countries around the world is testament to their feasibility and desirability. What is required at this juncture is your political will to implement FTTs comprehensively without delay to create greater economic stability and generate income at scale for the benefit of millions in both developed and, particularly, developing countries. Surely this is the time for the world’s richest market to make a far greater contribution to those most in need both domestically and across the globe.
Signed by hundreds
The Modern Tecumseh and the Future of the U.S. Left
Posted Jun 17, 2021 by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
On Monthly Review.
This essay is inspired by Gramsci’s thinking on matters of history, strategy, and organization. This essay does not, however, attempt to mirror Gramsci’s works but rather borrows from the spirit of his thinking to grapple with the challenges facing the socialist left in the twenty-first-century United States. Though I believe that some of what I write here has broader applicability, my target audience are leftists within the United States. In part for this reason, I will be using a different historical allegory in order to make a series of points concerning those challenges.
The Contemporary U.S. Left and the Tecumseh Challenge
To a great extent, strategy—or perhaps better said, the absence of strategy—haunts the U.S. left. What generally passes for strategy are usually a set of slogans, such as “United Front Against Imperialism” and “Unite the 99%,” rather than anything that approaches a plan. The reasons for this are numerous, but they seem to come down to two principal features: (1) an absence of appreciation of the actual history of the United States and (2) a failure to grapple with the nature of the “moment” or conjuncture in which we live. As a result, the left finds itself responding to events, much like a ship without either radar or a rudder, caught in a storm.
As with Tecumseh, one needs to aim to develop a set of strategic objectives that will guide the actual strategy or plan necessary to succeed. The objectives cannot pop out of the air but must be grounded, as noted above, historically and conjuncturally.
The starting point is to clarify what one means by strategy, when discussed in a left context.
Strategy is, in its fundamentals, a plan for the disposition of forces to achieve an objective or set of objectives within a given period. A strategy, in political or military contexts, assumes an understanding, to borrow from Sun Tzu, of oneself and one’s opponent. But it also necessitates an identification of one’s real and potential allies, as well as real and potential opponents. A strategy must identify, to borrow from V. I. Lenin, the key link in order to undermine an opponent and achieve victory.
It is not possible to speak about a general left strategy, but it is possible to speak of a strategy to which one wishes to win a critical mass of the left to adopt. There is no general left strategy because the left is not monolithic and is far from unified. Given the multiple tendencies, from anarchists to social democrats to democratic socialists to variants of communists, there are not necessarily common assumptions about strategy. Thus, the battle for strategy is the battle to win agreement or a consensus within a critical mass of the left and through which to influence the broader mass movements.
Who Are “We”? Part OneEvery progressive movement of resistance (to oppression) or progressive—if not revolutionary—movement for social transformation must establish who, meaning what sectors, are at the core of the movement, and what social movements and social sectors are at varying distances from the core. In this sense, the “we” must be constantly clarified and, in fact, changes in different periods of struggle depending on the nature of the opponent, a point reiterated by Mao Zedong throughout the Chinese Revolution.
Tecumseh understood this and set as his mission the clarification of the “we” in the context of the first decade of the nineteenth century. The “we” were the Indigenous peoples. This was based on a recognition that despite contradictions that had historically existed between various Indigenous nations, the situation facing them represented the principal contradiction between themselves and the invading white settlers from the newly formed United States.
A Marxist understanding of intersectionality places an emphasis on overdetermination and the intersection of different systems of oppressions and social movements (that oppose them), which, at various moments, result in multilayered social struggles. Whether an individual perceives one’s self to be principally gay or lesbian, Black or mixed, Latinx or Afro-Latinx, is secondary to the manner in which oppressions come together and affect the consciousness and social practice of different groups of people. This is also critically important in understanding that, in every social movement, the multiple contradictions are acting out and cannot be put on “hold” pending the resolution of the principal contradiction. They must be both acknowledged and addressed in the way the principal contradiction is tackled. The failure to do so, as has been seen in myriad social movements, such as anticolonial struggles, ultimately results in major setbacks, indeed retrogression.
Who Are “We”? Part Two
I say: Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.17
As a left, and particularly as the socialist left, who is our constituency? Or, to put it in terms analogous to those of both Tecumseh and Mao, who are “the people”?
The socialist left (and the subset of the communist left) in the United States have largely seen the working class as “the people.” The working class is our base and other sectors are extraneous, a summary of an approach frequently taken. During the Third Period (1928–35) of the Communist International, this approach was framed as a “class-against-class” analysis, that is, the working class against the capitalists.
Over time, a broader sense of “the people” has been tossed around, but one of the difficulties is that it sometimes is done in a way that deemphasizes particular struggles or social movements. This is especially the case with regard to racist and national oppression. Thus, struggles seem to be a laundry list.
There have been some interesting exceptions or attempts at an alternative framing. The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement ingeniously articulated the “99 percent” against the “1 percent” as a means of giving “the people” a designation with which so many could identify. Though the percentages do not accurately capture the social base within which the so-called 1 percent or the plutocrats operate, it did emphasize the majoritarian nature of the movement that Occupy was attempting to build.18Certainly, there were limitations, including the tendency to avoid the subdivisions—for lack of a better term—that exist among the so-called 99 percent, such as race, nationality, and gender. That said, it succeeded in becoming a mass identification and one can convincingly argue that it ultimately had an impact on the 2012 presidential elections.
From the standpoint of the socialist left, one must ask: Which segments of society have a revolutionary interest in opposing capitalism? This question is not as easily answered as it may first appear. We are not asking which segments have an interest in profound structural reforms.
What does one mean by a “revolutionary interest”? Simply put, it means that the major challenges this sector faces cannot be successfully resolved within the framework of capitalism. It does not mean, however, that reforms and improvements under capitalism are impossible.
Looking at it in these terms, the workers’ movement, women’s movement, social movements of color, movements under the rubric of gender justice and the environmental movement each represent constituencies whose interests cannot be resolved by capitalism.
As you will notice, this referred to movements as opposed to straight demographics.19The reason is that within each demographic group there are segments whose interests can be “resolved” within the framework of capitalism. Marx, Engels, and Lenin each recognized that there were segments of the working class that had a material interest in supporting capitalism and imperialism, resulting ultimately in the notion of a labor aristocracy. This term must be understood politically rather than sociologically. Even some workers in the so-called labor aristocracy are exploited and produce surplus value, in the manner that Marx and Engels described theoretically. Yet, that exploitation did not necessarily result in promoting internationalism or a revolutionary spirit on the part of workers in this sector. There were other factors that intervened.
National Left Political OrganizationIn A World to Build: New Paths Toward Twenty-First-Century Socialism, the late theorist Marta Harnecker makes a strong and convincing argument for the need for leftist political organization.25 She speaks of a “political instrument,” by which she is speaking of a leftist organization or party. I will not repeat her arguments.
Tecumseh and his work are relevant here. What we can learn from Tecumseh, paralleling Harnecker’s arguments, is the need for a core to move the political project. The political project is much larger than the core and more diffuse. Our political project is ultimately the construction of a bloc (to be discussed later) that advances socialism as an alternative to a patriarchal, racist settler state at the heart of a global capitalist empire.
Prophetstown can be misunderstood as something akin to a utopian commune. It was more of a base area or liberated zone where new practices were introduced in the construction of an Indigenous identity, while at the same time laying the foundation for a major confrontation with the encroaching settler state—the United States. Prophetstown, then, despite the spirituality that surrounded “the Prophet,” was not a home to a closed-off millenarianism awaiting the end of the world. In some respects, one can argue that it existed to prove that it could exist; that another world, in the here and now, was possible.
A national leftist organization cannot be all things to all left wingers. Fundamentally, it must be revolutionary, Marxist, and democratic in its goals as well as practice. Its revolutionary politics need to be not only the politics of social transformation, but the politics of individual transformation. The creation of a new identity that can infuse the popular democratic bloc that needs to be created on the scale of millions of people. It does this in the material (ideological, political, economic) context of imperialism, so it cannot create “socialist relations” through force of will. And it must be a fighting organization—which is part of what a base area does: nurtures the will, ability, and security to fight.
The identity that the national leftist organization seeks for its members is that of comrade, and it seeks to build a counter-state—a “popular democracy”—to the patriarchal, settler capitalist state.
To build and operate as a core, one must review the historical experience of various left projects from the mid–nineteenth century forward. To a great extent, in both the Global North and South, left projects have tended to oscillate between, on the one hand, stage-driven reformism, and, on the other, voluntarism. In both cases, organized left projects have made assumptions about themselves and their own role in the greater process of social transformation. Rather than as a catalyst and educator, even reformist projects have tended to see themselves through a quasi-military lens, for example, as the “general staff.” While such a self-conception makes perfect sense in a military situation (like a civil war), in a non-war situation or in a moment after having won governing power or state power, such a view is laden with landmines.26
The national left organization or party is not the source of all wisdom. A source of education, training, coordination, organizing, and reflection—yes. The national left organization is not infallible. Its leadership of struggles and movements must be won and rewon, as the Communist Party of China demonstrated during their period of renovation in Yenan, and is actualized through self-criticism and rectification.
A national left organization must be rooted within the oppressed and dispossessed, particularly but not exclusively the working class. In the absence of such rooting, a national left organization exists as an advocacy group or support group for the struggles of the oppressed and dispossessed, rather than functioning as an integral component of such struggles. When people have historically utilized the term sectarian, it has meant not simply a factional attitude toward others, but equally an organizational existence lacking a mass base (regardless of intentions).
The project of the national left organization must be something far greater than building itself. This is where the U.S. left frequently stumbles. It tends to think too small about a task that necessitates a level of organization that cannot be counted in the dozens or even hundreds. But it, equally, cannot be a project that is undertaken by a loose assortment of activists.
The Popular Democratic BlocIn one sense, Tecumseh, Gramsci, and Mao similarly perceived the need for a broader configuration of forces capable of bringing about revolutionary change. They each had terminology to describe this configuration, and it related, ultimately, to the matter of collective identity.27
For Tecumseh, the Indigenous confederacy may have been a step toward a nation-state. What is clear, however, is that Prophetstown served as a model for what Tecumseh believed to be the necessary configuration and identity of a new Indigenous alignment.
Gramsci emphasized the need for a “national-popular bloc” as the necessary element in the transformation of Italy, with the Modern Prince playing a key role in materializing this bloc. The national-popular bloc refers to a strategic configuration of the key essential forces for whom there is an interest in revolutionary transformation. Noteworthy here is that Gramsci did not restrict the process of social transformation to the working class alone. Though the working class would be essential, Gramsci recognized the need for the Italian peasantry and, quite explicitly, the bridging of the north/south divide in Italy.
….The historical challenge for the left in the United States is the conducting of a revolutionary struggle in the context of a racial settler state, one which became a subcontinental geographic empire and, eventually, the hub of a global empire. The construction of the United States as a settler state involved the near extermination of the Indigenous nations; enslavement of Africans; the seizure of northern Mexico; the seizure of territories formerly controlled by Spain, such as Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam; the racialization of certain immigrant populations from what we now know as the Global South; and the imposition of racist and national oppression successfully implemented through a system of white privilege.28
The social transformation of the United States, while certainly necessitating the vigorous prosecution of reform struggle, will demand both a reconfiguration of the United States itself, as well as the construction of a strategic bloc invested in social transformation.30 For the purposes of this essay, I refer to this as the popular democratic bloc, not a term I originated but one that accurately describes the alignment.
Tecumseh appreciated that the multiple tribes willing to sign onto his proposed confederacy had various—and often times contradictory—demands and objectives. They also had histories of lengthy hostility with other tribes/nations. The confederacy was a means and instrument toward addressing those contradictions as well as focusing the collective fury of the Indigenous nations on the encroaching settler state.
The popular democratic bloc to be constructed needs an identity, and it is the role of the national left organization to help construct that identity as a way of making the bloc self-aware. Ironically, by the estimates of noted right-wing commentator Bill O’Reilly several years ago, approximately three in ten people in the United States were open to an alternative to capitalism. Factoring out people under the age of 18, one may be discussing more than seventy million people. The problem is that most forces on the U.S. left do not think in those terms, but the reality is that seventy million is the initial pool for the building of a historic bloc.
Though the popular democratic bloc must think in majoritarian terms, it cannot assume that it is the majority. Put another way, the popular democratic bloc is a critical mass of the population that ultimately moves in favor of social transformation. It must win over or significantly influence more center and middle forces to defeat the right. But waiting for any majority to materialize in opinion polls will be an eternal challenge.
In the U.S. War of Independence, for instance, the colonial population—contrary to myth—broke down roughly one-third in favor of independence, one-third opposed, and one-third in the middle. Thus, the key task ended up being the influencing of the middle through the construction of a strong and energized pro-independence constituency.
Contemporary leftist politics necessitates a similar outlook. The securing of a popular democratic bloc, however, is not a numerical or even demographic task—in the main—but rather a coalescing of social movements that see in the materialization of the popular democratic bloc the means to achieve success for their respective social movements. Additionally, the bloc must have the “face” and “spirit” of these social movements at its core, rather than treating these social movements as guests on a high-speed train over which they have no control.
The popular democratic bloc begins to materialize in the context of actual struggles and a growing awareness of the mutual necessity of various social movements. This is not something that one can expect will happen on its own. This cannot be overemphasized. The sense that many people on the U.S. left have of the 1930s as a relatively progressive decade was not, mainly, about the reforms introduced, but rather about the social movements that converged and saw a level of commonality in their struggles, thus forcing elements of the ruling class to undertake reforms.
It is the task of the national left organization to help unite the struggles and social movements through a combination of education, coordination, and joint action. Expecting that the popular democratic bloc will emerge on its own, become self-aware, and achieve strategic direction is delusional. There is no historic basis for believing such a thing can or will happen. One can see examples of this challenge in the Black Lives Matter movement, which reemerged in the aftermath of the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd by the police. The protests and rebellions proved to be multiracial and global, but they also inspired other racialized populations in the United States to articulate their own struggles against racism, national oppression, and repression. The Black Lives Matter struggle became not only a struggle of U.S. African Americans, but also a catalyst for a broader movement.31 What has been missing are organizational forms that materialize this broader unity, and organizational forms that practice a type of revolutionary, emancipatory politics that helps bring such a unity into existence.
It then becomes the task of the “Modern Tecumseh”—the national left organization—to lead in the building of this popular democratic bloc. To borrow from Gramsci’s commentary on Machiavelli, the Modern Tecumseh is not and cannot be a person. It must be an organization that is driven by the recognition that winning—defeating capitalism and all forms of oppression—necessitates the building of the popular democratic bloc. Thus, diplomacy, education, coordination, joint action, and so on, initiated or joined by the national left organization with the purpose of creating a self-aware and massive force that advances the process of social transformation, are key.
…Returning to Matters of StrategyThe principal contradiction we face in the United States is between the forces of the “New Confederacy” and the forces of democracy. To be clear, the forces of the oppressed have two main enemies: neoliberal authoritarianism and the New Confederacy. The New Confederacy or Neo-Confederacy refers to an alliance between ultraconservative corporate capitalists and a right-wing populist mass movement (a core of neofascists can be found within the latter). Their efforts include rolling back the victories of the twentieth century and establishing a twenty-first century version of the Confederate States of America or a neo-apartheid scenario. Neoliberal authoritarians seek a preemptive strike against the popular movements that they anticipate will grow in strength in response to the crisis of converging economic and environmental catastrophe.
The neo-Confederate wing of capital represents the most immediate threat.37
Framing the principal contradiction in this way indicates that, regardless of the powerful rhetoric about “socialism versus barbarism,” in the United States we are not at the point of an immediate fight for socialism. This is largely due to a combination of a fragmented working class (and popular movements), a weak and divided left (operating within the context of the continuing crisis of socialism), and the horrific threat of right-wing authoritarianism that, though a global phenomenon, in the case of the United States is the result of the defeat of key social movements in the early-to-mid 1970s, and a counterrevolutionary thrust of racist and patriarchal forces aligned with key segments of capital.
It is important to remember that the principal contradiction does not mean the only contradiction. It reflects the strategic contradiction that will most influence all other contradictions at a specific conjuncture. As noted earlier, it acts on and is always acted on by other contradictions. There is, therefore, no linear resolution to a principal contradiction.
A second feature of our situation is that the left generally, and the socialist left in particular, is on the strategic defensive. Drawing from Mao, this means that our opponents—capital and their political forces—have been on the move against the popular movements and the reform victories of the twentieth century since the 1970s. The political right has been eating away at the various gains that popular movements have won. In response, the victories that the “people” have won in the last forty years have been largely tactical and sometimes primarily symbolic. They have not yet seriously interrupted the offensive of the right.
Being on the strategic defensive, however, is not the equivalent of being routed, even though our movements were largely defeated in the 1970s. It means that the momentum has mainly been in the hands of the right. And, with the growth of neoliberalism, a rogue’s gallery assumed form, bringing together elements of the political right in an objective united front against the progressive movements.
Tactical victories have been won while we have been on the strategic defensive, including around LGBTQIA rights, and some immigrant rights, but none of this has seized the initiative away from the right. At least not yet.
In a situation of strategic defense, priority must be given to understanding and undermining the strategy of our opponents. Undermine the strategy of one’s opponent and one has undermined one’s opponent.
This is where matters become especially complicated since the political right is not one monolithic monster. The forces that formed the core of what became the New Right were ultraconservative (and in some cases crypto-fascists), with either secular or religious ambitions, that have sought to overturn the major progressive victories of the twentieth century. There has been a specific focus on overturning the victories of oppressed nationalities, racialized populations, and women, in addition to undermining the public sector and labor.
These reactionary movements arose prior to the full materialization of neoliberalism, but coalesced with the pro-neoliberal forces in the Republican Party. This coalescing came to be personified by the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party establishment increasingly embraced neoliberal economics, but demographically diversified because of the impact of the progressive social movements of the 1960s and ’70s on the Democratic Party itself.38
…Beginning during the period of the Barack Obama administration, ultraconservative capitalists have been quite successful in mobilizing a mass right-wing populist movement to advance neoliberalism. The presidency of Donald Trump demonstrated this. Despite his rhetoric, which frequently tried to center (white) “working people,” his initiatives advanced both the neoliberal agenda as well as his own objectives. Tying all of this to a racist, xenophobic program, he solidified a mass base, the core of which is approximately 25 percent of the electorate; a program which one might describe as the reaffirmation of the “white republic” or, as earlier stated, a campaign for a neo-apartheid state in the United States.
The destruction of the right-wing populist movement, and the New Confederacy, necessitates a combination of driving a wedge between that movement’s base and the ultraconservative capitalists, building a left populist current that is antiracist and antisexist rooted among working people with a particular focus on the achievement of a so-called Green New Deal.
An assessment of the right-wing populist base must distinguish between those who are confused and vacillating versus those who fully embrace the right-wing populist framework. To win over a segment of this base, genuine organizing must take place among this portion of the population, including but not limited to rural areas, as well as within segments of the working class. This, for instance, makes union organizing in the South and the Southwest of immense importance as a means of building “base areas” for progressive politics. That said, the approach toward union organizing must itself be transformed such that not only are the strategies novel, but so too must be the vision. This is what Fernando Gapasin and I were addressing in our book, Solidarity Divided.40
The great and immediate priority, however, is for the socialist left to cohere organizationally (building a national left organization) and to focus our attention on a counter-project. Specifically, we need to build a popular democratic bloc that is majoritarian in orientation, antiracist and antisexist in program and practice, and most immediately fights in favor of a progressive, democratic foreign policy, breaking with imperial privilege, and focuses on advancing the fight for the Third Reconstruction with a particular emphasis on winning a Green New Deal. Such a movement can reject both the neo-Confederacy as well as the neoliberal approach taken by the leaderships of both major parties.
Disrupting the strategy of our opponents necessitates tactical innovation and creativity. This includes, in the immediate, anti-voter suppression work, particularly in the South and Southwest; battles for Indigenous sovereignty; union organizing and labor struggles that challenge income, wealth inequality, and authoritarian workplaces; land occupation and anti-eviction struggles; challenges to police abuse and other forms of repression; and electoral campaigns in low turnout conservative districts. These constitute a variety of means to disrupt the other side. In essence, the progressive forces serve to become the unpredictable irritant.
To begin to shift the balance of forces, the progressive—left populist—movement must focus on an achievable objective: “governing power” in municipalities, counties, and eventually states. “Governing power” references winning progressive power within the context of so-called democratic capitalism rather than “state power,” the latter referencing the period of being the dominant force in moving postcapitalist, fundamental social transformation. To put it more directly, the fight for governing power is what we do now, as part of our effort to build the Third Reconstruction and defeat the New Confederacy. This does not assume the immediate end to capitalism. The fight for “state power,” however, is the longer-term fight to advance full social transformation away from capitalism under the leadership of the oppressed, including but not limited to the working class.
New Majority, a term that began to appear in the early 2000s and came to be associated with projects in Virginia and Florida, or Twenty-First-Century Majority, are good frames and identities for the left populist—structural reform—movement that needs to be constructed. The New Majority must be the mass base of the Third Reconstruction. This term expresses the reality of something different coming into being—particularly the rise of various social forces and movements—and the refusal to be seen as a minority or adjunct social force. The New Majority must push the limits of democratic capitalism under the banner of the fight for consistent democracy. New Majority, a term primarily used in different forms in the context of electoral efforts, can be applied to other social movements and be the identity or standard under which progressive social movements converge.
The New Majority (or left/progressive bloc) needs to win power in cities and counties but cannot afford to be limited to an urban movement. Therefore, eyeing political power at the state level becomes critical. A successful Republican ploy to undermine liberals and progressives in major urban centers has been “state preemption,” that is, limiting the ability of localities to undertake statutory reforms in the absence of the approval of state legislatures. Thus, a strategy to win must engage urban, suburban, and rural populations in the constitution of the New Majority.
Potential ImplicationsThe national left organization must be seen as the instrument that seeks to bring together the popular democratic bloc, to build a collective leadership of this bloc, and an organization that seeks to be among the leaders of this bloc. This last phrasing is critically important. The national left organization should not see itself as the sole instrument for the achievement of social transformation. The national left organization may take the form of a party for socialism or a revolutionary front, but it must assume that any leadership that it gains is earned through the struggle and the respect that the organization gains and not through self-aggrandizement or administrative methods.
The national left organization is the “Modern Tecumseh” precisely because of its strategic vision, diplomatic skill, antisectarianism, ability to forge a broad front or bloc, programmatic wisdom, and scope of work.
Finally, the national left organization must be multitendencied, in that there are many questions that simply cannot be resolved at present. Those questions that are necessary to forge a strategy covering this period must be bottom lines. Put in a different way, what are the questions or issues around which there must be unity in order for a national left organization or party to be effective? There are many issues that can certainly divide us. There are issues that may not be resolvable in the near future. The unity of the socialist left necessitates clarification as to what must unite us. There are myriad historical questions that may be of interest but cannot be resolved at this point and, truth be told, are simply not essential to unite around in order to advance the work—in the shorter term—of the socialist left.
By Way of ConclusionTecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. His dream of an Indigenous confederacy largely died with him. Yet his appreciation of the moment and the possibilities for transformation lived on and should give us all pause. The skillful crafting of organization and the building of the Indigenous confederacy held unbelievable potential that could have fundamentally shifted the subsequent history of the United States.
The question of timing is the matter that I have always found to be the most haunting. At what point is it too late to shift the balance of forces? Is there ever a point where one concludes that victory has eluded us? And, if so, then what? Or is it that there are opportunities during specific “strategic moments” that are largely unpredictable and unprecedented, not replicable in other periods?
As far as Tecumseh was concerned, the situation was all or nothing. Given the convergence of the economic and environmental crises, such a formulation nearly sums up our situation as we proceed further into the twenty-first century. Either the socialist left can reverse a strategic defensive into a strategic counteroffensive, ultimately laying the foundations for the advancement toward socialism, or the masses of the laboring classes are condemned to be crushed by the juggernaut of capital and the barbarism inherent in right-wing populism and neofascism.
There does not appear to be any middle ground.
I wish to thank Tom Goodkind and Joel Haycock for their feedback and editing; and Howard Waitzkin for his editing assistance. I take sole responsibility for the content of this essay.
Notes ( Additional notes in the original.)1.↩A story within a story; using a story to make a separate point.
2.↩Antonio Gramsci,Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971).
3.↩Gramsci,Selections from the Prison Notebooks, 123–205.
4.↩Constitutionally democratic capitalismrefers to a form the state can take under capitalism when there are democratic rules in place, but the system operates to enforce capitalism. In speaking aboutdemocratic capitalism, I am distinguishing a system from that of autarchy, dictatorship, fascism, and so on.
5.↩Throughout this essay, I use the termIndigenousconsistently, rather thanNative American,American Indian, and so forth. Although most Indigenous peoples, like many other groups, refer more readily to their own social groupings such as clans and tribes,Indigenoushas emerged as a useful general term that contains less adverse symbolism than other terms. Other terms are used (and I have as well in other places), respectfully, in referencing the Indigenous in the Americas. No criticism of other terms is implicit in my usage ofIndigenous.
About Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime socialist, trade unionist, and internationalist. He is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, an editorial board member of the Black Commentator, and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He is the author of several books including Solidarity Divided (coauthored with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) and “They’re Bankrupting Us!”—And Twenty Other Myths About Unions.
Posted with the permission of the author.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
by José G. Pérez,
At first glance the proposed DSA platform seems to be a semi-organized collection demands where calls for a constitutional convention hang out with petitions for a little better funding for education. From that point of view, it is harmless albeit not useful. Its role would seem to be a sandbox for the delegates to play in while the cool kids – the ones who lead the caucuses-- fight it out behind everyone’s back.
But there is another side to the platform, its strategic core, and that is denying the agency of oppressed people except as part of “the multiracial working class,” which in reality is dominated by white people and white interests.
The easiest way to see this is to compare the hyping of the “labor movement,” (which has been in an uninterrupted decline since I was a kid, and I’m now on Medicare) with what it says about the Black movement.
The document singles out “the importance of a vibrant, fighting labor movement,” asserting this “cannot be overstated,” and moreover claiming to see “the rise of a fighting spirit” among workers and admonishing:
It is imperative that DSA members fan that flame, by taking rank-and-file union jobs, organizing new unions in their workplaces, building reform caucuses that fight for democracy in their unions, and providing support to workers on strike. It will take a huge fight to win any improvement to the lives of working class people. An organized, militant working class is the only force capable of winning these fights. [Emphasis added]
But ask yourself: what has been more significant in the last couple of years in the United States: strikes and union organizing drives or Black Lives Matter? So why does the platform explicitly bring up teachers strikes but does not even mention the George Floyd protests?
Where was the “organized, militant working class” in last summer’s movement? Where were the union banners and union contingents in the marches? How many union leaders got arrested? And I must have missed the ringing, fighting proclamations from the AFL-CIO.
I hold that the working class was there, in the streets, in the form of a mass upsurge against killer cops led by Blacks as a people. But not as a “militant working class” organized by the unions that the class-reductionist wing of the DSA fantasizes about.
And having just turned 70, I ask myself: what has been more important in my lifetime, in actually changing the United States, union battles or the Black liberation movement?
And in changing the world in my lifetime? So-called “labor,” or the national movements of oppressed and colonial peoples?
You might object, but these struggles of oppressed nationalities like Black people are actually also expressions of class struggles. That is exactly my point.
So find me where the platform says the DSA must unconditionally support Black Lives Matter as a movement, or the Latino movement or the immigrant movement? It doesn’t.
The sole active protagonist that the DSA platform identifies with in the United States is the “multiracial working class”.
We strive for the emancipation of all people by forging the multiracial working class into an organized, fighting force on the terms of its most oppressed members.
The phrase “in the terms of its most oppressed members” is a lie. That’s never been true of the U.S. labor movement, which has thrown Blacks, Latinos and women under the bus at every opportunity to secure gains --or at least the mirage of gains-- for unionized workers.
Why were farmworkers and domestic workers excluded from protection under labor law? Why were states in the South and Southwest allowed to keep anti-union “right to work” laws?
These were “compromises” to secure relative privileges for union workers in the rest of the country --overwhelmingly white union workers.
The operative part of the platform, when it discusses specifically where and how people should organize, says that the only real progressive movement of strategic significance is the union movement.
All other movements are implicitly denied, even if they are not explicitly denounced.
But think of how much focus and care it must have taken to produce an 8,000-word, 21-page putatively “socialist” platform in the United States in 2021 and not have the phrase “Black Lives Matter” pop up anywhere in the document.
That absence is not an accident, but a conscious choice, and it tells us the real political thrust of the platform: the rest is just cover-your-ass verbiage.
A bad document may seem like no big deal. The real problem is that the platform faithfully reflects the DSA’s actual practice, both as a national organization and in my chapter.
Our sole national priority is the PRO Act when it could not possibly have been clearer that the central issue in U.S. politics today, around which everything else hinges, including the PRO Act, is voting rights. Because the PRO Act is just a “messaging bill,” a glorified leaflet, until and unless the filibuster is smashed. And the one issue which might break the filibuster is voting rights.
So the very week the first big battle around voting rights came to a head in Georgia, the Atlanta DSA Chapter voted to make our priority phone banking for the PRO Act.
In what is above, I have mostly used the example of Black struggles, but let me add this.
First, the DSA’s class-reductionism impacts everything because what is denied is the legitimacy and autonomy of all independent movements.
Second, specifically in relation to oppressed peoples, there is a chauvinist tendency in the DSA to liquidate the specific, distinct struggles of different nationalities into racialized abstractions like “BIPOC.”
This isn’t just wrong but offensive. Latinos are not now, nor have we ever been “People of Color” as the American racial construct would have it. And this has very clear reflections in the platform.
The first draft of the platform did not even mention Latinos once, not with an “x” or an “e” at the end, or even under the name Hispanics. This second draft mentions Latinos twice, in both cases to liquidate our specific issues into the anglo BIPOC construct.
Decarceration and eventual abolition of the carceral state, which disproportionately targets and impacts Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other people of color.
Establish community based response systems, entirely seperated from the carceral state, in order respond to targeted anti-asian, anti-latino, antisemitic, anti-black, anti-indigenous, islamaphobic, and all types of racist violence.
Notice the phrase “racist violence.” But an everyday aggression against Latinos has nothing to do with “race,” it has to do with language. Latinos are systematically ostracized, persecuted and even violently attacked for speaking Spanish.
Latinos are not a “race,” we are a people defined by common elements of origin, language and culture. Our oppression as a people is intimately and centrally tied to U.S. imperialist domination of Latin America and our language and culture.
And for that reason, I consider this document as one more an anglo insult against my people.
I very much fear the DSA’s blindness to its white and anglo chauvinism is going to doom the organization. Voting down this platform will not fix it, but it would be a start.
José G. Pérez, Atlanta.
As you may know DSA will hold its national convention on Aug.1-8. The convention will consider resolutions and a proposed platform as well as elect a new National Political Committee.
Today we are asking you to participate in deciding key issues of concern for the North Star delegation at the DSA national convention. We invite and request your input.
A subcommittee of the NS steering committee made up of Mark Schaeffer and Michael A. Dover have studied the resolutions proposed for the convention and have recommended which we should support and which we should oppose. The reflected upon recommendations will be sent to the delegates for their consideration.
The list is here.
It includes links to each resolution so you can refer to the actual resolution text.
We ask that you read the resolutions. We encourage all to use our list serve for open discussion of the resolutions you find important. Please share your views, your qualms, your reservations about specific resolutions.
To encourage you. This is a sample of what you will find on the link above.
Resolution (full text available here)
#1: Resolution on the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees
#2: Formation of a National Committee for Reparations to Black People
#3: Empowering DSA’s Mass Abolition Work
#4: Mass Campaign for Voting Rights
How to share;
Respond to the dsa list serve.
Add a title: ie. Response to resolution #3.
Sign your name in the post so that all will know who is speaking.
After a few days of discussion, we will send a separate e mail asking that you rank the five resolutions you regard as most important for NS to take a position on. You will receive an e mail with that link. We do not intend to take a position on each of the resolutions. We want to know which ones are most important to you.
The document is also attached below as a pdf.
After open discussion and priority ranking, the steering committee will make some recommendations to the NS delegates. The delegates will have the final word and they will vote on the resolutions. We anticipate substantial agreement among the North Star delegates. We will share the recommendations we make with the list.
Please read and discuss the resolutions. And, wait for the e mail offering a rank order process.
Duane Campbell, for
North Star Steering Committee
The plan announced at the White House on Thursday is a drop in the bucket. Democrats need to forget Republicans and pass a bold package that makes massive public investments.
MAX B. SAWICKY JUNE 24, 2021
In his classic 1958 book The Affluent Society, economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “Here, in an atmosphere of private opulence and public squalor, the private goods have full sway.” Nearly 70 years on, Galbraith is still right. For a country like the United States where the availability of safe drinking water is hit-and-miss, squalor is the right word — moral as well as physical.
A Twitter wag noted that we are flying helicopters remotely on Mars and broiling in Texas because scientists are in charge on Mars and Republicans are in charge in Texas. Climate change and the current struggle against the pandemic typify the risks of public squalor — the incapacity to mobilize collective resources to address collective problems.
In the U.S. Congress, plans to remedy this situation are afoot, ranging from paltry to ample, but ample is not coming easy.
The Democrats are eyeing a $4 trillion budget increase. This spending would be spread out over 10 years, but in the context of recent federal budget history, it’s still a departure. For instance, $400 billion a year might be two percent of U.S. GDP in 2021, which would be big by historical standards. For something resembling a democratic socialist budget comparable to European social democracies, more like ten percent of GDP would be needed. But in light of the narrowness of the Democrats’ majorities in Congress, two percent is not shabby, especially coming on the heels of the recent $2 trillion Covid-19relief package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
Under budget reconciliation rules, Democrats can pass any tax-spending package they want with 50 votes. For instance, Senator Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) who heads the Senate Budget Committee is developing a $6 trillion plan for physical and human infrastructure that would include policies from both American Jobs Plan and American Rescue Plan. The constraint on passing such a plan now is not the Republicans or the filibuster — it’s a handful of nominal Democrats within the Senate caucus. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona get all the brickbats, but hiding behind them are a few more laggards. It may not be possible to completely buy out the dismal duo of Sinema and Manchin, but if they can be rented to vote for a Democratic plan, there is nowhere for the backsliders to hide. There is lots of room in a multi-trillion-dollar package for sending some goodies to West Virginia and Arizona.
The chief sticking point now is the hidebound concern about “pay-fors,” on the pretext of precluding unhappy increases in the national debt. Since there’s still has a long ways to go to reach “full” employment, especially for communities of color, deficit worries are ill-timed. An economic downturn, when employment is below par and interest rates are rock-bottom, is the right time to launch a new wave of public investment.
A word about investment, which has come to be the progressive adjective for Everything We Like. Non-investment, also known as consumption, can be good too. An example is the expanded child tax credit that was included in the ARP — not investment, but still good. The same goes for reducing the Medicare eligibility age down to 60, as has been proposed by Sanders and other progressives.
For their part, Republicans have been griping about loose notions of “infrastructure.” With government investment, what’s in question is not necessarily bricks and mortar, so to speak, but public capital. A water system is capital. So is a broadband network. Capital expenditure boosts employment in the short term and economic growth in later years, just as in the private sector.
Current public spending formally classified as investment is predominantly roads. The aversion to an expansion of public capital is really a rejection of the need to address climate change, especially with a new, optimized power grid, but also with social transportation that relies less on roads. People talk about high-speed rail, but that is inter-city transportation. The working class mainly needs the homely bus and regional rail options for commuting and shopping.
Besides pay-fors, the other dodge away from expanding and enhancing the public capital stock (in composition as well as volume) is privatization. The most obvious risk is the simple rip-off of transferring public facilities to private ownership at fire-sale prices, in keeping with the capitalist looting of the welfare state, or the disastrous Chicago parking meter scam, enacted and then expanded, respectively, by ex-Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.
Even if everything is on the up and up, however, privatization still places a natural economic barrier to the expansion of investment, since it depends on the prospect of corporate profits financed by user fees. For investment oriented to combating climate change, user fees are intrinsically inadequate to finance what is needed. Social benefits always exceed individuals’ willingness to pay.
The excuse for privatization is usually to protect against increases in public debt, but as many economists of different persuasions have pointed out, there are other ways of reducing the net worth of the government without a literal, economically equivalent increase in debt. The so-called “savings” of privatization in this sense are illusory. Selling a public asset at below its value is one example. Another is giving away a drug patent made possible by publicly funded research. Privatization’s claim to conserve public resources usually relies on sketchy accounting.
Such attempts to use privatization to address the crises we face are reportedly being packaged into the current bipartisan “gang of 20” infrastructure proposal being hammered out in Congress. Such an approach wouldn’t just fly in the face of President Biden and the Democrats’ stated agenda to massively invest public dollars to boost physical and human infrastructure — it would actively undermine it.
If the shaky moderate Democrats in the Senate are able to sign onto a measly compromise bill, of the type presented by President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators at the White House on Thursday, it may be hard to move them on to additional spending in a reconciliation package. They can claim to their voters that they chose bipartisanship, fiscal prudence and independence from their socialist (sic) brethren.
There are four bright lines that distinguish a genuinely progressive budget proposal from business-as-usual:
One would think that Democrats understand they are on a clock. Unless they deliver the goods by the fall of next year, they are likely to be excluded from power altogether for the foreseeable future, facing an uphill battle in the 2022midterm elections, with Republicans threatening to enshrine minority rule. In this light, the appeal of compromises that vitiate the extent of benefits in jobs, income and investment — and that also flout themes that animate the Democrats’ electoral base, such as climate change and racial justice — fades away to nothing. The real weapon on the Republican side is their ability to waste precious time.
The Biden administration seemed to recognize this by setting a deadline for the completion of a bipartisan proposal at the end of June, but now the deadline has been met. A passable deal that would coöpt Republicans takes some steam out of their fulminations, but the new compromise is short of passable — promising only $579 billion in spending over ten years. It provides little of significance to voters while handing Sinema and Manchin an escape hatch.
The better path is the one being pursued by Sanders and his Democratic allies, using reconciliation to pass a massive plan that includes whatever they can browbeat Sinema and Manchin into accepting, unencumbered by Republican fiscal canards.
MAX B. SAWICKY is a senior research fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He has worked at the Economic Policy Institute and the Government Accountability Office, and has written for numerous progressive outlets.
He is a member of North Star.
Reposted from In These Times.
By Alexander Hernández
In his article on developments in the Democratic Socialists of America
[ in New Politics] as the organization approaches its 2021 convention, Andrew Sernatinger states: “A priority campaign over immigration received overwhelming support from delegates [at the last convention, two years ago] but never materialized.”
In reality, coming out of the 2019 convention, the national Immigrants’ Rights Working Group (IRWG) spearheaded a national day of action. Planning calls brought in members from across country, culminating that October with actions in 27 cities to #CloseTheCamps, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, and Atlanta just to name a few.
Take the example from Atlanta DSA. The chapter’s immigrants’ justice working group organized a #CloseTheCamps action alongside the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Project South, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration to name a few local partners with grassroots working class and undocumented base. Today, Atlanta DSA works with those partners as part of the Close the Jail Atl coalition.
A key component for this work is the sensitivity of organizing in immigrant and undocumented people’s communities. And that sometimes means our role is not in the spotlight. The 2019 mandate called for “immigrants and their communities to lead this struggle and determine its tactics.” This was reflected in the #CloseTheCamp coalitions. The relationship and trust building between bases takes time and showing up is just the start.
In addition, the 2019 convention mandate called for the IRWG to “coordinate activities listed in this resolution and develop a program of education on the history and political economy of immigration, as well as how to argue against right-wing positions and respond to provocations.” To fulfill this, the IRWG created a getting started Immigrants’ Rights Organizing Guide for chapters and at-large members, this was updated and followed up with an Organizing Action toolkit, with resources that have been helpful for different chapter’s work.
Shifting into COVID, the IRWG focused on producing educational materials by recording webinars covering Immigrants’ Struggles in the Time of COVID featuring comrades in the struggle exposing human rights abuses at ICE detention centers, winning union contracts for indigenous migrant workers, dairy farm workers in Vermont calling on dairy companies to ensure respect for human rights in their supply chain, and the importance of workers’ centers as a place for workers to learn about their rights and organizing. We partnered up with AfroSOC and MiJente for the Eyes On ICE: Stories of Struggle and Resistance forum. And a tremendously successful all in Spanish webinar Quienes somos y qué queremos los Socialistas Democráticos. These resources were created to fulfill the mandate of convention and helped see a 47% growth in the IRWG.
Immigrants in the United States are living under apartheid conditions. Under the U.S. constitution, persons living in the U.S. are promised basic human rights; however, under the current legal framework migrants in the U.S. are disenfranchised from basic legal protections. The migrant working class constitutes at least 20% of the working class. Political projects that do not include a substantive and realistic analysis of the migrant working class fail to understand both race and class in the U.S. and thus fail to address our fundamental political tasks.
Resolution #1 On the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees reaffirms our commitment to building with working-class communities of color currently outside of DSA. According to the recent chapter survey from the Growth and Development Committee, at least 31 chapters have a formal immigrants rights group and 50 others are interested in forming one. This work, centering the communities impacted means DSA is not always the visible partner; and until the makeup of our base changes, we should not be expected to be leading, but continue to prioritize relationship building and learning to listen to these communities. The heart of these efforts is to educate, agitate, and organize. The best thing we can do now is continue to build on the lessons from the past two years.
June 14, 2021 9:40 AM CDT BY ANDRÉS JIMÉNEZ MONTOYA
With the announcement of results from the June 6th Mexican midterm elections, the center-left MORENA Party has held onto its federal congressional majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and won state and local elections across the country in 31 states and Mexico City. MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional) is the party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials, AMLO) who is in the middle of his single six-year term.
According to official tallies of the National Electoral Institute (INE), the parties with the largest number of national congressional votes were MORENA with 40%, 19% for the center-right National Action Party (PAN), and 18% for the long-reigning Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
MORENA’s coalition partners, the Mexican Green Ecological Party (PVEM) and Workers Party (PT), together received almost 8% of the vote. Under AMLO, MORENA is seeking to achieve what it calls a “Fourth Transformation” (4T), a major historical renewal of modern Mexican politics equivalent in importance to independence from Spain in 1821, the reform led by Benito Juárez in the mid-19th century, and the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
Final counts show the midterm earned the social democratic MORENA and its coalition partners a 279-seat majority in the 500-seat lower house Chamber of Deputies. While MORENA itself dropped in seats compared to what it won in the 2018 election, the coalition parties made up the difference. MORENA and PVEM also won 11 out of 15 governorships contested. And MORENA now governs seven of the nation’s ten most populous cities, including Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez along the U.S. border, adding to their existing hold on the office of mayor of Mexico City and other cities throughout the country.
The congressional upper house Senate seats were not up for election, where MORENA holds a comfortable super majority of 77 out of 128 seats, allowing the government coalition to amend the Mexican Constitution.
A social democratic party of a new type?
In the character of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) and social democrats in Argentina, now represented in the Alberto Fernández presidency, MORENA is a type of Latin American social democratic party shaped by the contours of Mexican political history and the government and presidential and congressional system created by the 1917 Constitution, which was itself a product of the Mexican Revolution.
AMLO is a co-founder of MORENA, and 2018 was the first election where the party competed at the national level. In power, the party has shown a willingness to embrace a solid left identity in the region.
AMLO’s government, for instance, provided a safe haven for Bolivian President Evo Morales during the right-wing coup of 2019 in that country, has cultivated a close relationship to left-led Argentina, and has consolidated friendly ties with the Cuban government.
Currently, Mexico also chairs the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was created in 2011 to deepen Latin American integration and to reduce the significant influence of the United States on the politics and economics of Latin America.
Evolving relationship with the U.S.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris with AMLO, June 8, 2021, at the National Palace in Mexico City. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP
As a result of the leftward shift of the Mexican government, its enhanced international role, and its emergence among the leaders of social democratic and socialist governments and parties of Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico’s relationship to the United States has undergone a significant evolution since the AMLO presidency began in December 2018.
During the Trump administration, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón and his team exercised a degree of damage control and restraint in dealing with rocky and unexpected conflicts in areas such as immigration and border enforcement. Mexico managed to avoid a threatened Trump imposition of tariffs in spring 2019 when the U.S. asserted Mexico was not controlling border crossings. Mexico also refused to agree to U.S. pressure to declare itself a third safe country to harbor U.S. asylum seekers.
Also in 2019, Mexico reached an agreement with Canada and the U.S. on a revised North American free trade deal—the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement—that is the basis of new economic and labor integration on the continent.
Now, with the Biden administration in power in Washington, Mexico has been an energetic defender of its position of protecting its sovereignty and upholding the principle of non-intervention. One example of this is the recent complaint made by the Mexican government that the U.S. government was fundingprivate sector opponents of the AMLO presidency.
The AMLO administration has also taken the initiative in recommending strategies for longer-term investment in the countries of the Northern Triangle, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, as well as in the regions of Mexico with the greatest immigration to the United States. These proposals were raised this past week during the visit of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to Mexico City on June 8.
At that time, the two governments signed agreements for cooperation in areas related to human trafficking, border security, and regional economic development. Also, under the auspices of the USMCA treaty, the U.S. Department of Labor, with the support of the U.S. labor movement, challenged the lack of union representation at a Mexican auto parts supplier.
In this new era of Mexican-U.S. relations, the MORENA Party in Mexico and its leadership should be included in an ongoing dialogue with our organized U.S. communities of labor and its allies, including with left, progressive, and socialist organizations. MORENA’s politics reflect the growth of popularly supported and electorally successful socialist politics in North America.
At the same time, Mexico plays a big role within the United States. There are no less than 42 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S., over 75% of whom are U.S.-born.
The Mexico-U.S. border region is fully integrated, as we share a tri-national economic zone that ties together workers from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Mexico is now the largest trading partner of the U.S., providing an economic basis for a needed politics of solidarity across our continent.
Reposted from People’s World.
Andrés Jiménez Montoya
Andrés Jiménez is an Inter-American political and labor activist who serves as President and CEO of the nonprofit Américas.
In “The White Republic and The Struggle for Racial Justice,” Bob Wing contended that the U.S. state is racist to the core, and this has specific implications for our movements’ work going forward, especially the need to replace this racist state with an anti-racist state. Organizing Upgrade is publishing a series of commentaries on this piece, and we invite readers to respond as well. In this response, Peter Olney and Rand Wilson look at the role that labor unions can play in building the cross-class front against what Wing calls “the re-entrenchment of the white republic.” From their long experience as union organizers, they draw the lesson “that unity and awareness of our shared enemy is built among trade unionists and allies in the trenches of common struggle.”
Labor Must ‘Block and Build’ to Defend Democracy
By Peter Olney & Rand Wilson
Bob Wing argues in “The White Republic” that American capitalism is firmly rooted in the appropriation of the lands and labor of native peoples and African slaves. Throughout U.S. history this system has been one of white supremacy and racial oppression, not only of Native peoples and Blacks, but also of other exploited peoples like Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos.
The 2020 Presidential election, the battle for the Senate in Georgia, and the January 6 Capitol insurrection illustrated the white supremacist forces at play. Democracy and majority rule are in the cross-hairs. Republicans are moving in lockstep to suppress and oppress the votes of people of color to preserve minority rule. The recent spate of state legislative initiatives to restrict voting is the closest thing to the “Jim Crow” era since before the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
We accept the veracity of Wing’s analysis, and the need for a “united front” to defeat and destroy the white supremacist forces in the long term. Our challenge in trying to bring the labor movement into that front is to operationalize a perspective that builds antiracist practice, tackles white supremacy and fights capitalism – and to do that among a membership that is not rooted in a shared identity or philosophy.
It’s no easy matter. Demographics are not destiny – at least not fast enough. The country remains 62 percent non-Hispanic white. And as we saw in the last election, Trump’s racist, proto-fascist appeals garnered 73 million votes, and his vote totals increased in both Latinx and Black communities.
As lifelong trade unionists, we embrace the challenge of building the broad united front between labor and communities of color to defeat white supremacy. But how best is that elusive unity built? Imagine going to a union meeting and denouncing the “white republic” when many cars and trucks in the parking lot sport “Blue Lives Matter” bumper stickers. It’s a recipe for a very heated exchange, or worse, a brawl! What’s really needed are ways to open discussions with members that don’t condescend or polarize, and do involve deep listening and identifying common values.
Many union leaders have begun this process by centering racial justice in membership education programs, organizing campaigns and bargaining. “Labor organizations are taking up the fight for racial justice in many ways,” wrote Stephanie Luce in a profile of contemporary efforts by union leaders. “They’re developing in-depth member education on racial capitalism. They are using bargaining to address structural racism and developing new leaders.” Luce also cites SEIU 1199 in New England which has used Bargaining for the Common Good to build relationships and common demands with racial justice organizations. This is one approach.
BONDING THROUGH COMMON WORK
Experience tells us that unity and awareness of our shared enemy is built among trade unionists and allies in the trenches of common struggle. We are inspired by the work of UNITE HERE and other unions in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and later the Senate race in Georgia in 2020-21. The bold decision by a few union leaders to recruit and support their members to canvass on the doors during the pandemic built lasting relationships and respect with the organizations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans already deeply engaged in those battleground situations.
The union banners, T-shirts, and buttons (we do bling well!) were welcomed in action, as was the experience and courage of these able trade unionists of all colors. Nothing bonds people better than working together in 95-degree heat, with a mask, a visor, and the determination to knock on every door. That joint work is worth a thousand educational sessions.
The great Italian Marxist philosopher and organizer Antonio Gramsci points to the limits of education and intellectual argument in this passage on “Philosophy, Common Sense, Language and Folklore” from his famous Prison Notebooks:
“Imagine the intellectual position of the man of the people: he has formed his own opinions, convictions, criteria of discrimination, standards of conduct. Anyone with a superior intellectual formation with a point of view opposed to his can put forward arguments better than he and really tear him to pieces logically and so on. But should the man of the people change his opinions just because of this? Just because he cannot impose himself in a bout of argument? In that case he might find himself having to change every day, or every time he meets an ideological adversary who is his intellectual superior. On what elements, therefore, can his philosophy be founded? And in particular his philosophy in the form which has the greatest importance for his standards of conduct?”
The 2022 midterm elections offer an excellent opportunity for the “men [and women] of the people” to forge new convictions and standards of conduct.
2022: NEXT BATTLEGROUND, FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE
Maintaining the momentum to win progressive legislation and beat back the far right and the “big lie” of election theft requires a broad commitment to win seats in the 2022 midterm elections on November 8 – and win big. It’s no easy task. The political system is rigged against Democrats who got five million more votes in their 2020 races for the U.S. House of Representatives yet lost 11 seats in Congress.
Can we defy history and increase Democratic margins in the House and Senate? Can we afford not to? The 1934 midterms during Roosevelt’s first term in the midst of the Great Depression are inspiring. Gains were made in both the House and Senate that enabled the passage of key legislation like the National Labor Relations Act, which encouraged millions of workers to fight for and form new unions.
The 2022 midterms are perhaps more monumental. The Trump forces will be determined to recapture both houses of Congress and stymie any positive Biden initiatives in the second two years of his presidency. They will have all the advantages of their voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts. But the ground forces on the front lines in the last election will not be deterred. They will be out again, and with even more gusto.
LUCHA in Arizona will fight to keep Democrat Mark Kelly in the Senate. The New Georgia Project and Stacey Abrams will be rolling up their sleeves to defend the Senate seat of Rev. Raphael Warnock. All the battleground locations will see healthy mobilizations of activists from all over the country eager to defeat the right. These are the battles that labor must join, and these are the flashpoints where multi-racial unity will be forged in the common struggle to preserve the forward march of the pro-labor Biden agenda and stem the racist right.
TIME IS RUNNING SHORT
Prior to the midterms, there will be important primary challenges by progressive Democrats running to win against corporate Democrats. Nina Turner’s primary campaign for the recently vacated seat in Ohio’s 11th congressional district is a great example. These pro-labor/pro-racial justice candidates need support, especially where Democrats have safe seats. But once the 2022 primaries are over, labor must focus on competitive races where congressional seats need to be defended or where seats can be gained. In addition to the seats held by Senators Kelly and Warnock, there are six more Senate seats where Republicans are resigning or are vulnerable, in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and Missouri.
The labor movement can draw much inspiration from the experience and energy of 2020 combined with the surprisingly good performance of President Biden. The new administration’s taming of the pandemic and its robust stimulus and infrastructure bills should create the foundation to peel away many of the estimated forty percent of trade unionists who voted for Trump. Particularly in the more conservative building trades, funding for infrastructure is something to fight to preserve and extend. Biden’s shutdown of the Keystone XL pipeline, a big issue that many building trades leaders railed against under Obama, is being overshadowed by the massive infrastructure proposals.
After detailing the billions of dollars of infrastructure spending that Biden is proposing in an editorial to the membership, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) President Lonnie R. Stephenson wrote, “This is enough work to last from apprenticeship to retirement not just for you, but for tens of thousands of new union members in our brotherhood alone…This bill means hundreds of thousands of jobs for construction members, but also for our members in utility, telecom, railroad and broadcasting.”
Stephenson knows “A Lifetime of Work” is what will motivate IBEW members to support the plan regardless of how they voted. And that is what will motivate the IBEW and other unions to recruit and send members to preserve the possibility of anti-austerity measures like the infrastructure bills that have a direct benefit to working people. Few IBEW members will ever embrace the notion of a “white republic” or “racial capitalism,” but when those members are in the trenches (or on the doors) with Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans with a common purpose, they will come much closer to supporting Wing’s call for “a powerful antiracist movement of people of color and whites” to “defeat the white supremacist right, transform or replace the racist institutions that dominate the country, and to reconstruct society based on peace, sustainability, and justice.”
We can think of our strategy going forward as “Blocking and Building,” as laid out by Tarso Ramos of Political Research Associates. “We need to block the Right Wing…and build relationships, strategies, and campaigns of deep solidarity and shared power across the communities that together will build real multi-racial democracy,” Ramos said. For us in the labor movement, this looks like blocking white supremacy, preserving a pro-labor agenda, and building our power. Funding and supporting union members for the ballot brigades in the key 2022 election races will be the most concrete way to dovetail labor and race in the trenches.
In the run-up to the November 2020 election, Labor Action to Defend Democracy (LADD) was formed to protect the election from being stolen. It was an exciting and relatively broad formation supported by many union leaders. Combined with the energy and resources of other progressive labor initiatives, LADD could be reassembled in some form to support activist union members in the key battleground states to work alongside local organizations battling the Trumpista white supremacists.
Bob Wing’s work is theoretically sound. The Block and Build labor brigades are one example of how to put that vision into concrete strategic practice. It is time to get cracking, as we are only 17 months out from our day of reckoning: November 8, 2022.
This article is being published simultaneously by Organizing Upgrade and The Stansbury Forum.
Peter Olney is on the Steering Committee of DSA’s Labor Commission and a lifelong union organizer. In 2020, he volunteered with Seed the Vote (STV) to work on the Biden campaign in Maricopa County Arizona. Rand Wilson, also a lifelong union organizer, has been a member of DSA since 1986 and a past recipient of Boston DSA’s Debs Thomas Bernstein award. Wilson registered as a Democrat for the first time in 2015, after Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Wilson was elected a delegate to the 2016 DNC convention and a member of the Credentials Committee for the 2020 convention. He is now an elected member of the Somerville, MA Democratic Committee representing Ward 6.
Thank you to Carl Davidson for pointing out this article on his web site- Left Links.
The 1995 AFL-CIO convention initiated a real but incomplete process of reform. How can labor activists fully realize its potential?
By Kurt Stand
socialistforum.dsausa.org/issues/spring-2021/the-afl-cios-regime-of-1995-a-partial-turning-point-for-labor/In Socialist Forum.
The list of workers looking to assert their rights through the collective power of unionism is long and growing: nurses, newspaper reporters, farm workers, tech engineers, warehouse workers, fast food employers, restaurant servers and bussers, retail workers, gig employees, college athletes, truckers, domestic workers, computer programmers, day laborers, auto workers – low-paid or comparatively well-paid, working at behemoths like Amazon and Walmart or at small non-profits and at coffee shops. Workers are showing resilience in sticking with union campaigns over the long haul. There is little evidence in mainstream, business or the labor press of unionizing employees attributing difficulties, setbacks or defeats to the limitations of unionism. The unfairness of our political system, the undue power of corporations and business executives, is no longer hidden.
That is a far cry from the 1980s and 1990s, when anti-union sentiment seeped into the general population. The media and too many politicians promoted the myth of overweening power wielded by union “bosses,” while the complacency and narrowness of too many union leaders made it all the more difficult to combat anti-labor lies and distortions. There were many in the labor movement, from rank-and-file members to some in national union leadership, who continued to organize on the basis of a genuine and consistent solidarity. But at the top levels of the AFL-CIO, and in some of the more seemingly stable unions whose leadership thought they could ride out any crisis, calls for solidarity were not backed by genuine conviction. In a time of devastating and unrelenting attacks on unionism, that combination meant not only defeat, but also pervasive demoralization.
At the same time, however, the outlines of a new orientation began to come into view. In 1995, the“ New Voices” slate challenged and defeated the existing AFL-CIO leadership at the federation’s national convention. John Sweeney was elected president, Richard Trumka secretary-treasurer, and Linda Chavez-Thompson executive vice president. Sweeney’s death in February 2021 provides an occasion to review the under-appreciated significance of that change, the progress that ensued, the possibilities that still need to be realized.
By Way of Background
The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax
by Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausenand Paul KielJune 8, 5 a.m. EDT
The lengthy document is covered by Creative Commons licensing – Thus it can be reposted.
Two major pieces of labor law legislation, both rooted in the concept of “sectoral bargaining,” are now being weighed in California and New York. California’s would represent a genuine advance for low-wage workers; New York’s would be a disaster.
Posted on Jacobin.
An important piece on labor law reform.
New York and California are the two largest blue states in the country, both with labor movements of creativity and power. Since congressional passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act remains a long shot, much pro-labor legislative action still remains with the nation’s handful of progressive states, where the template for a new union movement — and the state laws sustaining it — is being forged.
So it’s important that in New York and California, some unions are pursuing two different legislative initiatives seeking to leverage the support they enjoy among elected officials in each state. At first glance both look good. But look closer and you see that one is an utter disaster, the other a social innovation with much progressive promise.
A Labor Law Reform Only Gig Companies Could Love
In New York, legislation that purports to create collective bargaining rights for gig-economy workers is being introduced in the State Senate, pushed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Transport Workers Union, with support from the New York AFL-CIO.
Over three years ago, a group of close to two hundred DSA members came together to form the DSA North Star caucus. Many of us were veterans of decades of activism on the U.S. left and in DSA. A smaller number were younger, new to the left and DSA. What we had in common was a belief that the US was at a pivotal political moment, with the defeat of Donald Trump and the Trumpist GOP in the 2020 election being a political imperative. At stake was whether or not the U.S. would devolve into an openly authoritarian state of the far right with racism at its core, or maintain the elements of a democratic government we now possess, such as free and fair elections.
The founders of DSA North Star thought that DSA could and should play an important role in that struggle. There was extraordinary potential in DSA, given the growth of our ranks after the organization’s role in the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders and 2018 campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But we were concerned that the caucuses that had organized in DSA up to that point did not share our estimation of the importance of defeating Trump, and were instead guided by a sectarian opposition to meaningful involvement in electoral politics, either because they would only support third party candidacies or because they were electoral abstentionists. DSA North Star was a vehicle for advancing our political perspective on what DSA should do.
From its beginning, DSA North Star was something of an anomaly among DSA caucuses. We did not look to capture positions in the DSA leadership, but were happy to support NPC candidates from other caucuses whom we thought would make good leaders. We were not concerned if members of our caucus were also members of other caucuses, or of other democratic left organizations outside of DSA. Indeed, it was our experience that ultra-left and sectarian attitudes toward the world outside of DSA was invariably combined with factionalism inside the organization, and we were opposed to both. Over the three years of our existence, our major interventions inside DSA and the left – our statement of principles; our letter in support of AOC when she came under attack by ultra-leftists in DSA’s ranks; our letter of prominent socialists inside and outside DSA calling for a vote for Biden in 2020 that was published in the Nation; the essay by a number of our leading members of the dangers of entryism; our public forums – have been defined by a politics that sought to rise above sectarianism and factionalism to address the key questions of our moment.
After three years of existence, it is time to take stock of who we are and where we want to go. Part of the reason for doing so is take a look at what has changed – and not changed – in the politics of the U.S. Has the threat of a racist authoritarianism of the far right passed, or does it remain the defining issue of our day? And in what ways has DSA’s politics changed over the last three years? Do ultra-leftism, sectarianism and factionalism pose the same sort of danger within DSA that they did when we were formed? We should not assume that we are of a single mind on such questions, although we may well be, but instead have a full and robust discussion so we know for certain where we stand.
And part of the reason is that other caucuses in DSA are changing in ways that will impact us, and to which we will have to respond. One caucus has reached out to us and told us that they will tell their members who are also members of North Star that they can no longer remain members of both caucuses, and will have to make a choice between the two caucuses. How do we respond?
On the steering committee, there is common agreement on the value of continuing to articulate and organize our politics, inside DSA and the broader left. What is less clear is this: should we continue to call ourselves a caucus, even though we are different from other DSA caucuses in some major ways, or should we adopt a different term, such as a network, which may better describe the work we have done inside DSA and our views toward the broader left? The differences here may seem more semantic than practical, but how we choose to describe ourselves is a political choice, a statement of both of who we believe we are and of how we relate to the political world around us. It is a semantic choice that should be taken with care and deliberation.
We invite your thoughts. No decision has been made at this time.
A lively discussion among North Star members is continuing on our North Star list serve.
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy".
At the same time, however, there is risk that some members and/or organizational governing bodies will rely on these codes of conduct to avoid open discussion and debate of political differences. This route around political differences does DSA a disfavor. Use of codes of conduct in lieu of political discussion may intimidate a member or members from continuing to articulate a political position that might find additional support within DSA and will, if applied widely, effectively narrow the range of “acceptable” political positions. We will become a smaller rather than a larger tent organization and we will be less democratic.
North Star Steering Committee
Rising Protests Across U.S.
by Paul Garver
On Mayday, a lone man scrawled slogans in red paint on the front wall of the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise [MOGE] office on Pagoda Road in Yangon, Myanmar. The slogans demanded that four international energy companies, the largest being Chevron and Total, stop their payments to MOGE that provide monthly payments through their joint venture with MOGE that fund the murderous military machine that is at war with the people of Myanmar.
The man in Yangon was not standing alone. The legitimate civilian National Unity Government of Myanmar, now reconstituted to include representatives of the ethnic groups that have long fought for autonomy, made the same demands. Sheltering underground in Myanmar itself, Maung Maung, president of the largest union confederation, the CTUM, sent a similar message.
Around the world Burmese communities and solidarity organizations that support their cause have amplified that call for several weeks. Italia-Birmania Insieme [Italy-Burma Together] had already launched a GoFundMe appeal to provide essential communications equipment for the CTUM to maintain its network within Myanmar, and provided the platform for DSA to launch its own GoFundMe site for the CTUM. Campaigners from Info Birmanie in France, prior to the recent pandemic lockdown had demonstrated against Total’s payments to the military regime.
An informal working group of the Coalition against Chevron in Myanmar is composed of representatives of the various Burmese communities in the USA, together with organizations that have long been campaigning for human and worker rights in Myanmar, of several national environmental lobbyists and some members of the various subcommittees of the DSA International Committee. There is also a somewhat looser network that includes labor union representatives in the USA and Myanmar union leaders, some underground inside Myanmar, and others in temporary exile in the USA and Europe, together with their supporters and other Burmese and human rights solidarity organizers in Europe.
To date there have been significant organized protest actions targeting Chevron in Denver [April 11 and 16], Houston and Pasadena [April 17]; Washington DC, New York San Ramon [Chevron headquarters], all on April 16. Videos and other visuals available on the new public Facebook page of the Coalition against Chevron in Myanmar at https://www.facebook.com/groups/263548775494329. This Facebook page was created and maintained by the Burmese activists within the coalition.
Why target Chevron?
Chevron [ in its previous incarnation Unocal] has long been a target for human rights and environmental campaigners throughout the world. Its record throughout the world is notorious for its disregard for indigenous rights, in despoiling the environment and directly harming workers and communities. Besides Myanmar, Chevron is currently a target of environmental and worker rights campaigners in Ecuador and the Philippines, where it helps prop up Duterte just as it does the murderous military regime in Myanmar. In Richmond, California, Chevron spend millions of dollars to a failed try to unseat critics of its environmental pollution in that community [from one of its four large U.S. refineries].
In Myanmar Chevron and the French energy giant conglomerate Total are the major foreign partners in a joint venture natural gas offshore production and pipeline company with the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Corporation [MOGE]. Total and Chevron contribute directly to the military government through tax payments to the government and through direct monthly payments to MOGE. These revenues are currently the largest single source of income for the Myanmar military.
Burmese civil society organizations have taken the lead in demanding that payments to MOGE be suspended until the military stops their repressive actions and a more democratic government is installed. An appeal to Chevron and Total was endorsed by 403 Burmese civil society organizations: https://progressivevoicemyanmar.org/2021/04/20/open-letter-to-total-and-chevron/
Global labor organizations support this call. For one example, here is an official letter to Chevron from the United Steelworkers [USW] International President Tom Conway. The USW represents the workers at the Chevron refineries in the USA. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gJxc8edR_FidQaH1TJxIx6eMB1qvaMYLC9kKcVyEuxQ/edit?usp=sharing
Media coverage resulting from the first wave of demonstrations
These demonstrations and statements helped call attention to how Chevron is bankrolling the Myanmar military’s war on its own people in the mass media.
The New York Times published an excellent report [4-23] on how Chevron is lobbying hard in DC against any restrictions on its profits from Myanmar. Chevron Lobbies to Head Off New Sanctions on Myanmar.docx – Google Docs
The editorial board of the Washington Post issued an Opinion supporting the goals of the campaign: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/its-time-to-cut-off-the-gas-for-myanmars-military-coup-leaders/2021/04/22/83cdd5a0-a384-11eb-85fc-06664ff4489d_story.html
Action in the Biden administration and in Congress
Several environmentalist and labor organizations have been making the same case for cutting off payments from Chevron to the military regime in Washington DC. Sen. Markey conducted a subcommittee hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee that featured testimony from Thomas Andrews, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar to the Human Rights Council. Andrews had made a comprehensive report that included his recommendation for international sanctions against MOGE and the natural gas joint venture. With action in the Security Council blocked by the threat of vetoes from Russia and China, Andrews made a plea for a coalition of member states to economically isolate the Myanmarmilitary.
With input from members of the Chevron campaign who lobby Congress on environmental and human rights issues, a bipartisan group of six U.S senators sent a letter calling on the Biden administration to freeze all foreign currency revenues and foreign exchange reserves held in state accounts outside of Myanmar. The senators said that the administration’s first step should be imposing sanctions on the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), now under the control of the junta’s leaders.
The English-language The Irrawaddy [one of the few media sources that can still reach people in Myanmar] gave an extensive and accurate report: https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/us-senators-call-for-sanctions-on-myanmar-oil-and-gas-enterprise.html.
This report was widely shared on social media in Myanmar that can evade strict military control of the internet. As the military crackdown continues, imprisoning, torturing and killing worker and democratic activists, reports like this keep hope alive that somehow worker rights and democracy can be restored to Myanmar.
The Coalition is planning more events and demonstrations in various places throughout May. Chevron is holding its annual shareholders’ meeting in San Ramon on May 26, while Total is holding its meeting on May 28 in Paris. If the companies have not voluntarily ceased payments to the military regime before then, there will likely be major protests in San Ramon. There may also be additional protests near the Chevron refineries in Richmond and Los Angeles CA and Houston TX sometime in May. For all updates and additional documents, go to the Coalition Against Myanmar Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/groups/263548775494329
Posted from Beyond the Chron.
See post on Democratic Left
Why NS members should run for delegates to the 2021 DSA Convention
As we enter the run-up to the 2021 DSA convention, DSA has achieved a size similar to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at its peak. This is no small accomplishment. DSA is also more geographically and occupationally diverse than SDS was, although not more racially or gender diverse.
Now we face a very different political terrain than at our 2019 convention, and that implies different organizational and political priorities. First, DSA, like SDS, has had the luxury of recruitment by default – that is to say recruitment driven by opposition. In SDS it was opposition to the War in Southeast Asia; in our case much of our growth over the past four years was the result of Trump and Trumpism. That luxury has now ended. Of course, Trumpism – and Trump – have not gone away, but he and it are much less able to dominate the media or drive the political issues and policies, to define the universe of political discussion, than over the past four years.
The biggest changes since our 2019 convention are, of course, the defeat of Trump in the 2020 election and, closely related, the shift of the center of political gravity in the Democratic Party, and much of the electorate, to the left. No, the electorate did not vote a socialist into the presidency. But the broad left, of which DSA is an important component, elected a president and – barely – a Congress much more sympathetic to progressive ideas and policies.
So, what does this mean for DSA and why is it important that North Star’s voice be heard at and prior to the 2021 convention?
Because of our growth and the range of 2020 successful electoral victories (AOC and Rashida Talib were joined in Congress by Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, and many successful campaigns succeeded at the state and local level), there is a temptation, a siren song that attracts many of our members. Let’s rebrand DSA as the leading progressive voice, claiming that we are the true keepers of the progressive flame and can, on our own, lead the U.S. progressive forces.
North Star believes that this is exactly the wrong strategy for the coming years. We cannot jump the queue of political influence but must continue to build gradually up the ladder of political success. Rather than seeking to separate ourselves from the broad left of environmentalists, racial justice advocates, feminists, liberal reformers, and labor activists, and claiming the mantle of leadership, we need to immerse ourselves in the left. We can do that by both running but also supporting socialist and non-socialist candidates. These candidates will, of necessity when the election is partisan, usually run on the Democratic Party line. But our electoral work should be joined with our non-electoral education, agitation and organizing, around both policies such as M4A and wide goals such as reversing the dynamics that drive the approaching climate disaster.
Second, we believe that, rather than remain in an oppositionist stance, DSA must embrace the Biden administration policies when they further our ends while continuing to educate, organize and agitate for policies and politics that respond more fully to the needs of our people, in health care, in attacking economic inequality and in fighting the looming threat of climate change. The current administration has opened avenues in each of these – and other – arenas that we can expand and that can be the basis of a new approach to recruitment.
But there is also a dark side of the situation in which we are doing our political work: Trump and the supporters he mobilized are not going away. In fact, there are strands in his universe that are even more committed to his cultural and political agenda. And here is the real threat: the right has, to an impressive extent, waged Gramsci’s warfare on the cultural front, creating both institutions and a “common sense” that validates the “stolen election” meme as well as the rejection of science and the rise of the irrational in our political discourse. While we know that much of this is rooted in the fears on the part of whites, especially older, rural whites, of “displacement” by people of color, the chain of “reasoning” that drives these politics is often opaque and hard to tackle directly. Of course, we should always support efforts to counter Trumpism. But, since we will not be able to convert – and it is a conversion process – many now embedded in the world view of Christian white nationalism, DSA must be deeply engaged in the struggle to not just maintain but expand voting access and registration.
Certainly, there are other areas of political struggle that we in North Star know are important, but the foregoing alone is an urgent call for North Star members to run as delegates to the 2021 DSA convention. Our goals importantly include keeping DSA in the growing river of the progressive left in the United States and not in a small creek of purism and to salvage a democratic society for ourselves and our heirs by expanding the electorate to populations that have been historically – and again today – found their access to the ballot box called into question.
Steering Committee. North Star Caucus
North Star Caucus
National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights
Sat May.| details
On International Workers Day and Immigrant Rights Day, we recognize and celebrate workers and their right to organize. This May Day also concludes the first 100 days of Biden’s administration. In the next 100 days, the President and the Congress will decide whether to create the pathway to citizenship for the approximately 10 million undocumented people who call this country home.
At this week’s Moral Monday, viewers were urged to attend Movimiento Cosecha’s May Day Action in Washington DC, where activists and allies will demand sweeping immigration reform. We Californians can show our support at actions taking place across the state. Find a May Day event near you.
A closer look-at-teacher-insurgency/trendingineducation.com/20a-closer-look-at-teacher-insurgency/
April 22, 2021
Mike welcomes Dr. Leo Casey, the Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute who has written a book called The Teacher Insurgency: A Strategic and Organizing Perspective. They begin with Leo’s upbringing by two New York City teachers, how he abandoned his dissertation to teach in Crown Heights, and how he began working with the union when his school shut down.
Leo then began to head the Albert Shanker Institute, a strategic think tank within the American Federation of Teachers which examines labor history, especially for teachers. Leo explains the origins of the 2018 and 2019 teacher strikes: theJanus case, post-2008 austerity, deprofessionalization, and movements like the Women’s March on Washington. Teachers saw both their compensation as well as their position in the classroom undergoing rapid decline.
The first teacher’s strikes were held in West Virginia, which had a history labor movement–both within education and beyond. From here the strikes spread, and ultimately the movement was successful in protecting teachers during COVID-19 times (in this context, MIke mentions Leo’s article on Black Lives Matter and the NBA.)
Leo notes his concern about both the early retirement of teachers and the paucity in the pipeline for new teachers. Leo also expresses optimism for the Biden-Harris administration, notably President Biden’s support of unions. Leo finishes up by discussing the discourses around how teachers see themselves, and the need for true civics teaching.
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