Defeating Trump, Trumpism, and Electing Democratic Socialists and Progressives
Submission to the national convention. We need your endorsements. Use this form. Include your e mail and telephone number.
Whereas, our first priority is the electoral and political defeat of Donald Trump, the Trump-dominated Republican Party and the authoritarian forces aligned with them. The white nationalist, patriarchal,authoritarianism of Trumpism poses a ‘clear and present danger’ to working people and their unions, to people of color, to women, to LGBTQIA people, to immigrants, to members of minority religious faiths and to democracy itself.
And whereas, a Trump victory in the 2020 elections would consolidate an authoritarian state with the most reactionary politics, expand imperial aggression abroad and shrinkthe political space for democratic and left forces at home.
And whereas, failure to prioritize the defeat of Trumpism would be nothing less than the abandonment of the struggles against the racism, sexism, white nationalism and bigotry against immigrants, Muslims and Jews that are central to Trumpism:
Be it therefore resolved that the defeat of Trumpism is a strategic imperative, the most important political task of our time.
Be it further resolved that to defeat the Trump regime, the Democratic Party and candidates for office running as Democrats must adopt a progressive platform that breaks decisively with neoliberal politics and economics, rejecting the policies of austerity, privatization, economic deregulation and ‘race to the bottom’ free trade under corporate hegemony.
Be it further resolved that DSA should promote the development of such a progressive platform, which places the interests of working people and their unions over corporations and the 1%, that takes on the economic impact of institutional racism and sexism in employment and social services, that addresses increasingly catastrophic climate change, protects abortion rights and reproductive justice and promotes the well-being of the great mass of U.S. working people, especially in the provision of fully-funded, universally accessible public goods in health care, education, housing and mass transportation.
Be it further resolved that DSA will vigorously support publicly avowed democratic socialists such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib (both DSA members), as well as other progressive elected officials. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for President deserves our support precisely because it can advance this progressive platform, even if he does not win the Democratic Party nomination.
And, be it further resolved that DSA’s electoral work is most effective and has the greatest impact when we work cooperatively with other progressive organizations on the left – both mass organizations such as unions, civil rights organizations and community groups, and political organizations, such as Our Revolution, the Working Families Party, and Justice Democrats.
And, be it finally resolved that the DSA Electoral Committee shall report to the membership their proposed strategy for achieving the above objectives.
DSA members may endorse the resolution here.
Submitted by Duane Campbell for the North Star Caucus
Proposal to national DSA Convention; 2019.
WHEREAS one of the first principles of democratic socialism is the importance of collective action;
WHEREAS our political work should be informed by a strategic analysis of the political economy of U.S. capitalism and the cutting edge issues of the day, with an eye to identifying the critical points of system leverage where we can collectively intervene to maximum political effect; and
Whereas DSA individuals, chapters, and the Immigrants’ Rights Working Group have been actively engaged for over six years, and continue to engage in the defense of immigrants and refugees from racists attacks, and promoting
and the promotion of comprehensive immigration reform that would secure their place in the U.S., putting an end to corporate induced competition between native born and immigrant workers, and between U.S. workers and workers abroad. ( See resolution #41 from the 2017 convention).
And, whereas, In the last half century, there has been a major restructuring of the global economy, conducted largely on the terms of transnational corporations seeking ever greater profits. Neo-liberal ‘free trade’ agreements, such as NAFTA I and II and CAFTA, have produced a global ‘race to the bottom,’ with capital flight sending good paying union jobs away from workers in the U.S. to countries with low wage employment, many of which are ruled by authoritarian states that ban independent unions. In the Americas, this global ‘free trade’ economy has devastated entire sectors of the economies of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, leading millions of people attempting to migrate to the U.S. in search of food, jobs, and security. Many also flee the ruthless violence of criminal groups in nations with ‘failed’ states, as well as the effects of climate catastrophes, from drought to increasingly vicious and destructive storms.
And, whereas, the racist nationalism of Trump and his cohort seeks to exploit the anger of U.S. workers by scapegoating immigrants and refugees, projecting racist fears and resentments on them.
And, whereas, only a politics which breaks with the neo-liberal paradigm can successfully counter the racism of Trump and the nationalist right wing, bringing a measure of justice both to immigrants and refugees and to workers in the U.S.
Be it therefore resolved that:
We invite you to join us as members of the North Star caucus of DSA.
You can find our complete Statement of Principles here.
We are committed to democracy as both a means and an end. We believe that socialism cannot be achieved except through democratic struggle.
Our current political priorities include:
We find this an exciting time to belong to DSA. We’re growing both from some of our electoral victories in 2018 and from the momentum of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, where Senator Sanders forced his opponents and the media to deal with his self-identification as a democratic socialist. We anticipate that DSA’s participation in the 2020 Sanders campaign will continue our growth and the development of democratic socialist politics.
DSA has grown to more than 50,000 national members, with organized groups in nearly every state in the union. In many locations, DSA chapters have developed great programs of activity, ranging from Medicare for All advocacy, to electoral engagement, to defense of immigrant communities, to tenant organizing and more.
So why organize a caucus within DSA at all and why now?
Unfortunately, we saw unhealthy developments in the organization. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates to the 2017 National Convention voted to reject any joint work with Our Revolution, the group explicitly organized by Senator Sanders’ supporters to carry on the work begun in the 2016 campaign. What was the objection to Our Revolution? It’s not pure enough. It doesn’t exclusively support explicitly socialist candidates. That stance of political purism isolates DSA from the very people we need to reach. There remains a tendency to deny political participation to the broader, less active DSA membership. DSA is currently not doing enough to engage with our natural allies in coalition work or movement building. Electoral engagement is still criticized by some members as a waste of time. Political purism continues to distract from socialist organizing, even as some members openly reject the principles and tradition of democratic socialism.
Even more disturbing, we saw a trend of people, often operating anonymously through social media but sometimes identifying themselves openly, behaving in a manner that can be only described as toxic. They demonstrated a willingness to scrap any hint of due process or democratic deliberation and to organize digital mobs to enforce some sort of orthodoxy. The toxicity in DSA has not dissipated. If we continue down this path, the least damaging outcomes would be driving good people away from DSA and a descent into irrelevance; a much worse outcome would be that an organization with a toxic internal culture infects the broader progressive left.
North Star exists to challenge these tendencies and make DSA a better organization. We also dismiss the notion that DSA should exist without caucuses.
In an organization of 50,000 members, many if not most new to democratic socialism, the old DSA without caucuses is no longer viable. The organization needs organized factions – caucuses – that put DSAers who think alike and do similar work in touch with each other, allowing members to develop and present their political views and strategies to the organization as a whole. Interaction among such caucuses is the essence of democracy in any large organization. Without public caucuses, cliques will still form underground to deliberate, organize and push their politics. However, the vast majority of the membership will be left with no access to this decision-making. Insiders ‘in the know’ should not be allowed to make all the important decisions without real accountability in the form of organized dissent.
What does need to be addressed is how caucuses conduct themselves: do they operate in a factional way, putting the interest of the caucus above the interest of DSA as a whole, and even more importantly, above the interest of the movement as a whole? We have organized a caucus to pursue our vision of democratic socialism and we welcome other caucuses that have formed in a democratic manner.
We’d appreciate your response to this invitation, to our Statement of Principles and to content on our blog. If you support our Statement of Principles, please sign on as a member of our caucus. If you disagree, we welcome participation and dialogue.
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy
See who we are: www.dsanorthstar.org
We are proposing a constitutional amendment to DSA to increase the NPC from 16 to 24 members while retaining the allocation to various categories of members. The proposal is virtually identical to the 2017 resolution that received about 63% of the vote - not the 2/3 necessary to pass.
To get this on the 2019 convention agenda, we need co-sponsorship from 50 (or more) DSA members - and we need it by May 2.
If you agree, RESPOND DIRECTLY TO ME,
If you wan to sign on, your response should include:
(2) email (try to use the one you gave to the NO);
(4) zip code
return to this address
Resolution below the fold
WHEREAS one of the first principles of democratic socialism is the importance of collective action;
WHEREAS our political work should be informed by a strategic analysis of the political economy of American capitalism and the cutting edge issues of the day, with an eye to identifying the critical points of system leverage where we can collectively intervene to maximum political effect; and
WHEREAS to accomplish this objective of effective collective action, it is critical for DSA to develop organizational priorities, determined through democratic processes, to drive our work;
Be It Resolved:
THAT DSA’s top three priorities for political work over the next two years, until our next national convention in 2021, will be:
2. Addressing Climate Change and Promoting the Green New Deal
See prior post.
3. Addressing Immigration Policy and Defending Immigrants and
Our third priority is the defense of immigrants and refugees against racist attacks, and the promotion of comprehensive immigration reform that would secure their place in the U.S., putting an end to corporate induced competition between native born and immigrant workers, and between U.S. workers and workers abroad.
In the last half century, there has been a major restructuring of the global economy, conducted largely on the terms of transnational corporations seeking ever greater profits. Neo-liberal ‘free trade’ agreements, such as NAFTA I and II and CAFTA, have produced a global ‘race to the bottom,’ with capital flight sending good paying union jobs away from workers in the U.S. to countries with low wage employment, many of which are ruled by authoritarian states that ban independent unions. In the Americas, this global ‘free trade’ economy has devastated entire sectors of the economies of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, leading millions of people attempting to migrate to the U.S. in search of food, jobs, and security. Many also flee the ruthless violence of criminal groups in nations with ‘failed’ states, as well as the effects of climate catastrophes, from drought to increasingly vicious and destructive storms.
DSA’s top three priorities for political work over the next two years, until our next national convention in 2021, should be:
2. Addressing Climate Change and Promoting the Green New Deal
Our second priority is the promotion of the Green New Deal (GND) to address climate change, through political, educational, direct action, electoral and legislative campaigns.
The environmental ravages of unbridled global capitalism have led to increasingly dramatic climate change, with humanity headed toward the brink of planetary ruin. In this crisis, the U.S. has been among the world’s leading polluters, in large measure because corporate interests have put their profits before the health of the environment. Under Trump, the US has even withdrawn from the limited Paris agreement to address climate change with modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Without quick, dramatic and far reaching action, climate change could soon become irreversible, with disastrous effects on humanity and life on earth.
The negative effects of this environmental crisis are not limited to the environment. Climate change impacts the economically vulnerable global South in ways that are more severe, with greater cost in human suffering, than the global North. The growing refugee crises out of the global South are inextricably linked to climate catastrophes that are triggering and exacerbating desperate scrambles for safety from many of the poorest areas of the world. While climate change is not the only cause of these refuge crises, it is a central factor: these crises cannot be solved without taking on the cause which is increasingly fueling them.
Defeating Trumpism and Electing Democratic Socialists and Progressives.
A proposed priority policy developed by the North Star Caucus.
Be It Resolved:
THAT DSA’s top three priorities for political work over the next two years, until our next national convention in 2021, will be:
Our first priority is the electoral and political defeat of Donald Trump, the Trumpist Republican Party and all of the authoritarian forces aligned with them. The white nationalist authoritarianism of Trumpism poses a‘clear and present danger’ to working people and their unions, to people of color, to women, to LGBTQIA people, to immigrants, to members of minority religious faiths and to democracy itself. Trumpist victories in the 2020 elections would mean the consolidation of an authoritarian state with the most reactionary politics, the expansion of imperial aggression abroad and the collapse of the political space for democratic and left forces at home. The defeat of Trumpism is thus a strategic imperative, the most important political task of our time.
Given the central role of racism, white nationalism and bigotry against immigrants and Muslims in the political agenda of Trumpism, and the echoes of the most shameful racist moments of past U.S. history in Trumpian discourse, a failure to prioritize its defeat would be nothing less than the abandonment of the struggle against racism.
To be best positioned to defeat Trumpism, the Democratic Party and candidates for office running as Democrats must adopt a progressive platform the breaks decisively with neo-liberal politics and economics, rejecting the policies of austerity, privatization, economic deregulation and ‘race to the bottom’ free trade under corporate hegemony. DSA should promote the development of such a progressive platform, one that places the interests of working people and their unions over corporations and the 1%, that takes on the economic impact of institutional racism and sexism in employment and social services, that addresses increasingly catastrophic climate change, and that promotes the well-being of the great mass of Americans, especially in the provision of fully-funded, universally accessible public goods in health care, education, housing and mass transportation.
- Bill Barclay, CPEG and Ventura DSA
The first two posts in this series described two proposals for attacking the overarching problem inequality by directly taxing wealth, one during and after the lifetime of the wealth holder. The first, Warren's proposal for a wealth tax, is new in U.S. political discourse and the other, Sanders' reform of the Estate Tax, draws on a longer history of assaults against obscene inequality. This post discusses a proposal, the "Jobs for All Act," (Act) that also has a long history as part of countering inequality through restructuring the market for labor but the proposed Act is new in its scope.[i] I'll begin by outlining the history of efforts to create a full employment economy in the U.S., then sketch the major features of the Act and finally discuss the class dynamics of the Act.[ii]
I. The Right to Work: Seeking Full Employment the "Jobs for All Act" (HR 1000)
At the 2017 convention, DSA passed - by an overwhelming margin - a resolution in support of legislation that would guarantee a well paid job for anyone "willing and able to work." This was the language of the "Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act" that that we in CPEG, as part of the National Jobs for All Coalition,[iii]had worked on during the Great Recession with Rep. John Conyers' (at that time the only DSA member in Congress) staff. It is also close to FDR's call, in his 1944 State of the Union, that Congress establish "the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation."
Since FDR spoke, there have been several efforts to assure jobs for anyone willing and able to work. The most important were the Employment Act of 1946 and the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978. A major component of both Acts was direct job creation by the federal government.[iv]
Neither Act, nor the policies of the Federal Reserve, have created anything close to full employment, at least in the usual English language meaning of the term. What has happened is the political redefinition, led by too many economists, of full employment as 4% unemployment - and only counting those people actively seeking a job. How much difference does the definition make? In January 2019 the official unemployment rate was 4%, or 6.5 million people. However, there were another 5.1 million people working part time who wanted a full time job but couldn't find one and 5.3 million people who wanted to work but were not actively seeking a job in the four weeks prior to the unemployment census so not included in the "unemployed." These numbers total to 16.9 million people or 10% of the U.S. labor force.[v]
II: The "Jobs for All Act" (HR 1000)
- Bill Barclay, CPEG and Ventura DSA
As I argued in my first “Taming Capital” post, the political landscape defined by the 2018 midterms has reinvigorated the discussion of economic inequality and what we can or should do about it. The problem of inequality was a focus of the Occupy movement. It was also the core 2016 campaign message of Bernie Sanders – who just announced he is running for president in 2020. Like Warren’s wealth tax, Sanders understands that the obscene levels of economic inequality in the U.S. today cannot be countered simply by raising the minimum wage or a more progressive income tax structure. The concentration of wealth must also be addressed. And Sanders has put forth an important proposal for doing so – but also one that has a long history in the U.S.
Making the Estate Tax Real: Bernie Sanders
The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
Over a century ago under urging from Theodore Roosevelt, Congress created the modern estate tax.[i] TR understood the need for an estate tax in terms that apply equally or even more so today: the problem of an inherited aristocracy based on private capital accumulation, arising from some combination of good fortune, innovation and, very importantly, coupled with institutional supports that allowed an individual to amass large amounts of wealth in a single generation. As TR argued, such inheritances were, for the next generation, free and unearned money. Not only were the inheritors of the next generation no more deserving of this wealth than any other citizen, TR believed that they would all too often fritter in away in lavish living – think of Paris Hilton, the $37 million dollar ranch that Bill Gates bought his daughter Jennifer because she likes to ride,[ii]etc.
Taming Capital? - Part 1
- Bill Barclay, CPEG and Ventura DSA
The midterms have not simply given the Democratic Party a majority in the House; they have visibly expanded the range of political discourse, the so called "Overton Window". This impact is particularly marked in terms of the issue of economic inequality. In the past few weeks, three major progressive - perhaps even socialist? - initiatives have been proposed. In chronological order, these are Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax, Bernie Sanders changes to the Estate Tax, and HR 1000, guaranteeing a job to all willing and able to work, a true "right-to-work." Each treads on what has been seen by the right as the prerogatives of capital. For those of us on the left, each raises the question of to what extent it is possible to intervene in the market allocation of wealth and income in a capitalist political economy, perhaps even altering the dynamics of capital accumulation and use the resulting revenues for social rather than private ends.
In this first post I'll look at Warren's for a wealth tax. The next two posts will analyze Sanders Estate Tax revisions and then HR 1000.
An Annual Tax on Wealth: Elizabeth Warren
Because it is unique in U.S. political discourse - and probably doomed whatever small chance she had of being the Democratic nominee for president - Warren's wealth tax proposal
could be considered the most radical of the three. The idea behind the proposal is conceptually simple: she calls for an annual tax on wealth with two rates: 2% on household wealth over $50 million and less than $1 billion and 3% on wealth over $1 billion. This is an unprecedented proposal for a nationally known political figure, because it places wealth, rather than income, at the center of the problem of extreme and growing inequality in the U.S.
There are several things to like about Warren's proposal.
National DSA, through the NPC, has initiated a process to begin considering the endorsement of a candidate for U.S. President. The process seems structurally sound and open. Here
North Star welcomes DSA’s new caucus, Socialist Majority. We agree with you on many issues and look forward to working with you to discover new strengths and then build a diverse, democratic, DSA.
Yours in Solidarity,
DSA North Star
The caucus for Socialism and Democracy
AOC’s Achievement: Making Americans’ Progressive Beliefs Politically Acceptable. Of all the reasons that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is driving the right crazy, one of the most important is this: She’s advancing presumably radical ideas (by the right’s standards, anyway) that actually have massive public support.
Green New Deal? Fuzzy though its meanings may be, it brings together regional development policies for the huge region of the country that private capital has long since abandoned, climate change policies in a nation where climate-change apprehension is at an all-time high, full employment and decent wage policies for a nation where even voters in Republican states are casting ballots for higher wages and better jobs. Before AOC, whose radar was a Green New Deal even on? Since she joined the protestors in Nancy Pelosi’s office, a far-flung majority of Americans now see it as a way to address all manner of problems.
Likewise with taxing the rich. When AOC made the case for a 70 percent tax rate on annual income over the $10 million threshold, CNN’s Anderson Cooper responded as if she’d just called for collective farms. Now that Senator Elizabeth Warren is proposing a wealth tax that would compel the rich to pay an even fairer share of their bounty to support the common good, pundits are beginning to notice that the public has been supporting much higher taxes on the rich for a very long time. Since 2003, Gallup has annually asked the public whether they believe the level of taxes the rich pay is too high, too low or just right. The percentage saying “too low” has been in the 60-percent-to-70-percent range every year.
So it’s not hard to see why AOC is driving the right crazy. Forget the dancing, not to mention the racism and sexism that underpins many of the right’s complaints. It’s that she’s giving voice to progressive ideas that the public actually supports but that have long gone unvoiced by nearly everyone in power who has a megaphone they could use. She’s game-changingly brilliant at promoting progressive public policy. To the right, if I may steal from the Bard, such women are dangerous. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON
Photo Credit: Gretchen Dohart
If there is a heaven, and it reserves a place for virtuous skeptics, I imagine the late Michael Harrington looking down with celestial satisfaction at the recent growth of Democratic Socialists of America, having played such an essential role in its founding 35 years before.
Harrington, who would have turned 90 in February 2018 but who died too young at age 61, was born in St. Louis and moved to New York City in 1949 to become a writer. In 1951, he began a life-long commitment to radical politics when he joined Dorothy Day’s anarchist-pacifist Catholic Worker movement.
Mike soon shed his anarchism as well as his parents’ Catholicism, and in 1952 left Day’s community for the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL), youth affiliate of the battered remnant of the Socialist Party (SP). YPSL counted 134 members nationwide that year. And it was about to get smaller, because Mike joined a faction that split away to form an even fringier group, the Young Socialist League (YSL), whose adult mentor, Max Shachtman, had a long history of radical in-fighting.
In the late 1950s, the Shachtmanites rejoined the SP. As newly appointed YPSL national organizer, Mike hitch-hiked across the country, visiting campuses from Brandeis to Berkeley to recruit young socialists (among those who joined in those days was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago named Bernie Sanders). Tom Hayden and other campus activists, in the process of creating Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), were among those Harrington influenced. Mike famously wound up quarreling with Hayden and other SDSers at their founding convention in Port Huron, Michigan, in 1962, over some serious issues (the Cold War, the Soviet Union, anticommunism), but also over unspoken generational tensions. It was a rift he later deeply regretted.
In the mid-1960s, following the publication of his book The Other America, Mike became famous as “the man who discovered poverty.” He was invited to take part in planning sessions for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty in 1964 and advised Martin Luther King Jr. on the civil rights leader’s plans for a Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. Like King, Mike wrestled with the political and moral dilemma posed by LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War, reluctant to sever ties with an administration that, domestically, had been so committed to a progressive agenda. King’s breaking point came in 1967, when he publicly denounced and marched against the war. Mike, for complicated reasons including ties to the comrades of his youth, the increasingly right-leaning Shachtmanites, took much longer to do so. It was probably the costliest political mistake of his life, among other results undermining any remaining influence he had over the New Left in the later 1960s. Mike never abandoned his opposition to communism as the antithesis of his own democratic socialist beliefs. But, through painful experience, he learned from King’s example that a morally consistent politics also proved, in the long run, a pragmatically sound politics.
By the early 1970s, the old SP was hopelessly divided over the war in Vietnam and other issues, and in 1973, Mike and others, breaking with the right-wing Shachtmanites, created the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), which grew to several thousand members. Nine years later, in 1982, DSOC merged with the New American Movement (NAM), which had been founded some years earlier by former New Leftists. The new Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) represented a partial healing of old generational/political divisions.
Now that they are in Congress, both Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez will almost certainly develop broadened political bases largely independent of DSA. Organized labor and liberal advocacy groups will be in their camp now. The Congresswomen may, out of conviction or good will, continue to pay DSA dues, and show up for rallies, fundraisers or other socialist gatherings, as Dellums and Owens did. But it’s unlikely they’ll have the time or inclination to devote much more in terms of direct involvement. If they are going to do their jobs right, serve their constituents—and get re-elected—they are going to be very busy and in a much bigger arena.
Volunteer power from DSA, however, did help both Tlaib and, perhaps more so, Ocasio-Cortez, win their contested primaries. That involvement shows what kind of an impact the organization can have on electoral races, and will likely inspire other insurgent candidates to seek DSA’s endorsement in future races. And as more politicians begin to adopt the label of “democratic socialist”—while advancing the values and policy priorities of the group, DSA will continue to grow in power as a player in American politics.
It is this growth that is more important for the organization’s continued success than discussions of strict accountability to DSA. After all, as elected representatives, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez are accountable to a number of different groups that helped elect them, and first and foremost—and rightly so in a democratic system—to the voters of the districts they represent. And as a matter of practicality, DSA currently needs Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez more than either of them need DSA.
This reality is worth remembering if the newly reenergized DSA is to help expand the socialist caucus in the House of Representatives beyond the two it currently counts.
Maurice Isserman, a charter member of Democratic Socialists of America, is the author of The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington (2000)
This post is dated. We intended to post it back in November, however our blog was not functioning at that time.
“Michael Harrington.” It’s a name that gets tossed around by members of DSA, sometimes in negative and derogatory ways. But simply put, DSA, as an organization advocating democratic (as opposed to authoritarian) socialism, that fights for free, honest and open elections for achieving socialism based on democratic self-determination and for transformative change for the here and now, is Harringtonist to its core. Harringtonism is the guiding ideology of democratic socialism in the US, and the basic set of political principles that separates DSA from the authoritarian, totalizing, and revolution-fantasy nostrums of anarchism and Marxism-Leninism.
by Leo Casey
1) How should the left approach the 2020 elections? Here are my thoughts. The paramount objective must be the defeat of Trump & the retaking of the Senate from GOP. This is the ‘prize’ on which we must keep our eyes.
2) If we do not win this ‘prize,’ the elections will be catastrophic for American democracy, those targeted by Trump’s authoritarian populism & the left. But much of the discussion on left twitter and facebook takes place within a political vacuum, as if context was irrelevant.
3) There will be a vigorous campaign over which presidential candidate would be the best standard bearer in that all important battle. But the very breadth of the current field means that there are many authentic progressives who are credible prospects.
4) Rather than rush to anoint a particular candidate as the one and only prospect, it makes much more sense for the left, at this early point in the campaign for an election two years down the road, to be focused on promoting issues that it wants the Democratic Party and whomever is the candidate to embrace.
5) Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s ability to put the #GreenNewDeal on the agenda before she was even sworn in illustrates what the democratic left can – and should be – doing to advance an agenda that will address critical issues such as climate change and economic inequality & set the stage for 2020.
By Max Sawicky
Ferment inspired by the execrable Trump presidency and Republican Congress has returned Democrats to a majority in the House of Representatives, but their incoming leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is maneuvering to squelch that ferment with a new “rules package” that will discourage progressive legislation.
The two moves in question are reinstituting a “PAY-GO” restriction on legislation, and neutering a new committee dedicated to advancing the Green New Deal (GND).
PAY-GO, short for “pay-as-you-go,” requires any proposal for new spending or tax cuts to be accompanied by offsetting measures that preclude any increase in the federal budget deficit over the ensuing decade. Under this rule, a bill violating this requirement is subject to a “point of order” on the House floor. That immediately interrupts consideration of the bill, which can then be killed absent consent by the Democratic leadership, meaning Nancy. It is possible for the restriction to be waived, but that would require buy-in from you guessed it, Nancy, so it will be her way or no way.
In practice, of course, a speaker who has the support of her caucus has dictatorial control over the House. She or her can block any bill at any time. What PAY-GO does is give Pelosi an excuse for letting something die before it has a chance to get a vote by the full House. Her fingerprints on the blockage are not as obvious. Instead of the headline being, “Nancy says she doesn’t like this bill,” it will be, “Green New Deal falls afoul of PAY-GO rules.” Meanwhile, the new committee dedicated to advancing the GND, besides being hampered by PAY-GO, would lack subpoena power. So compared to other Congressional committees, it will be like the kids’ table at Thanksgiving.
Why, oh why, would the great San Francisco liberal be doing this? A few possibilities come to mind.
The worst is that she is committed to the same nostrums of fiscal responsibility that have helped the Democrats lose political battles since Walter Mondale in 1984. If you’re old, you may remember Mondale’s bold announcement in his presidential campaign that he would raise taxes to fix the deficit. That November, he lost 49 states to the addled Ronald Reagan. In 1993, new president Bill Clinton rammed through a deficit-reduction-minded budget deal that was followed in 1994 by Democrats losing both the Senate and the House, the latter for the first time in forty years. In 2010, Barack Obama promoted a health care reform that, out of deficit concerns, was insufficiently funded, among other deficiencies, resulting in a plethora of difficulties in operation of the new law, and some impact on flipping the Congress to the Republicans. There’s a pattern here.
The wonder about mainstream Democratic affection for PAY-GO is that the deficit fears upon which it is premised are no longer subscribed to by Democratic economists, even relatively moderate ones such as Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, or Jason Furman, head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Summers has written of his worries that the economy is in a long-term rut of “secular stagnation.” Furman recently acknowledged in the Wall Street Journal that deficits resulting from Trump’s tax cut had a positive boost for the economy, albeit limited and temporary.
There is a reasonable case for higher deficits even now with a low unemployment rate (and many remaining labor market drop-outs). Moreover, there is no reason to expect current conditions to persist for a full decade. In particular, policies that strengthen the “automatic stabilizers” in the budget (i.e., those that automatically increase spending and cut taxes when the economy slows down) would be beneficial for the long term.
As a general matter, it makes sense to finance infrastructure — investments that provided benefits over an extended period of time — with borrowed money, as business firms often do. Defraying the interest on such debt is the real pay-as-you-go. Denying such investment is just cutting your nose to spite your face.
We might also linger on the thought that a reduced national debt would not be much consolation after the advent of irreversible, catastrophic climate change. Investment will be one of the pillars of addressing this threat.
Deficit reduction politics by now should be recognized as a gigantic loser for Democrats. Republicans are never constrained by deficit impacts in any of their proposals. Either they are ignored, or measures like the Trump tax cut are magically transformed into deficit-reducing miracles.
On the Democratic side, any “fully-funded” spending bill provides opponents of the bill with a nice array of groups negatively affected by the offsets upon which to base a counter-mobilization. Knowledge of the PAY-GO obstacle will strangle potential progressive initiatives in the crib.
Nancy’s rules are probably designed to restrain the energized progressive contingent of House Democrats. She’s smart, after all; she can’t be unaware of the impact of her rules. However effective she was in mobilizing her caucus behind Obama’s initiatives in 2008 and 2009, her vision of political possibilities does not seemed to have evolved with the times. She reminds us of defeated Senator Claire McCaskill, who wondered how someone like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez had become “the new, shiny object.” Something is happening and she don’t know what it is.
One rationale for stifling discussion of social legislation is to keep the spotlight on toppling Trump. While there is no reason not to unleash the full fire and fury of the House majority on our vicious, kleptocratic administration, there is a pragmatic reason to maintain attention on the issues that arguably flipped the House: meat and potatoes stuff like health care, the minimum wage, etc.
It is true that no progressive initiative is likely to make it through the Republican Senate, much less Trump’s White House, but that’s the cynic’s view. Proposing hopeless initiatives is the beginning of providing some hope for them. Republicans seem to understand that better than Democrats.
It’s always possible that the commitment to PAY-GO, like most other decisions, is more an artifact of what wealthy donors have indicated they prefer, rather than ordinary voters. Or as Nancy says, “We’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is.”
Reposted from Jacobin blog with the permission of the author.
Max B. Sawicky is an economist and writer living in Virginia. He has worked at the Government Accountability Office and the Economic Policy Institute.
Ed note; Congresswoman Alexandria Acosio-Cortez was one of 3 Democrats to vote to oppose the Pay-Go rule.
We are witnessing an explosive revival of the far right across the globe. It is happening in Europe, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and Asia. But it is particularly ominous that it is also happening in the United States, the dominant and oldest democracy, after the election of Donald Trump.
Last month, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece, launched Progressive International, which hopes to create a united front against the far right by mobilizing “a global network of individuals and organizations that will fight together for dignity, peace, prosperity and the future of our planet.” They issued a call to action:
“There is a global war being waged against workers, against our environment, against democracy, against decency.
“A network of right-wing factions is collaborating across borders to erode human rights, silence dissent, and promote intolerance. Not since the 1930s has humanity faced such an existential threat.
“To defeat them, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last few decades. Unfettered globalization promised peace and prosperity. But it delivered financial crisis, needless war, and disastrous climate change, instead.”
The announcement was delivered at an inaugural three-day event in Burlington, Vermont, by a new think-tank called the Sanders Institute, which is led by the senator’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders. She said that the Institute was founded in 2017 but the gathering was deliberately held after the midterm elections:
“The Democrats took back the House, so the ideas that we’re coming up with have more of a shot of being brought forward in the House and even possibly pass depending on how strong the progressives are and that will help us in terms of moving the principles and the values and ideas that we have forward.”
The gathering brought together some 250 progressive thinkers, politicians and activists. The attendees included Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Danny Glover, Our Revolution president Nina Turner, The Young Turks founder Cenk Uyger, labor leaders Roseann DeMoro (National Nurses United) and Peter Knowlton (United Electrical Workers), and Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Speeches and panel discussions dealt with winning Medicare for All, solving the climate crisis with a Green New Deal, reforming the criminal justice system and creating affordable housing.
Shortly after the gathering, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, announced on Facebook her support for Progressive International because it represents “the struggle for general welfare, security, and dignity for all people,” and that a trans-border network of those on the left would help “alleviate social and economic inequality, make changes to the global financial system, turn away from the arms race, and stop climate change.”
Jakobsdóttir, who’s been described as “the anti-Trump,” is the leader of Iceland’s Left-Green Movement, which is in a coalition government with two more conservative parties. John Nichols of The Nation notes that she is “the first elected head of state who comes from a new breed of Nordic left-wing parties that link democratic socialism, environmentalism, feminism, and anti-militarism. She is, as well, one of a number of young left-leaning women who have emerged as prime ministers and party leaders in countries around the world at the same time that the United States has been coming to grips with the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the election of Donald Trump.”
In 2018, a record number of women were elected to office in the U.S. But we still have a lot of catching up to do. Americans have a problem hearing that we can learn from the experiences of other countries. Politicians are always telling us that we are the greatest and most wonderful country on the planet. This arrogant notion that we are an isolated shining city on a hill is a dangerous delusion. We are not immune from the forces of history.
It can happen here. America can become fascist.
In September, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis wrote a pair of op-eds in the Guardian about the need for a Progressive International. Sanders asked:
“Three years ago, who would have imagined that the United States would stay neutral between Canada, our democratic neighbor and second largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchic, client state that treats women as third-class citizens? It’s also hard to imagine that Israel’s Netanyahu government would have moved to pass the recent ‘nation state law’, which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, if Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t know Trump would have his back.
“All of this is not exactly a secret. As the U.S. continues to grow further and further apart from our longtime democratic allies, the U.S. ambassador to Germany recently made clear the Trump administration’s support for rightwing extremist parties across Europe.”
Varoufakis said that fascism can become attractive to desperate people:
“Our task is not unprecedented. Fascists did not come to power in the mid-war period by promising violence, war or concentration camps. They came to power by addressing good people who, following a severe capitalist crisis, had been treated for too long like livestock that had lost its market value. Instead of treating them like ‘deplorables,’ fascists looked at them in the eye and promised to restore their pride, offered their friendship, gave them a sense that they belonged to a larger ideal, allowed them to think of themselves as something more than sovereign consumers.”
But he says, “That injection of self-esteem was accompanied by warnings against the lurking ‘alien’ who threatened their revived hope.” Progressives can offer a positive alternative to both the fascists and the establishment — a global Green New Deal.
Reposted from the Boulder Weekly. Dec.13,2018. https://www.boulderweekly.com/opinion/the-anderson-file/building-a-global-progressive-network-to-combat-fascism/
Dave Anderson is a long time member of NAM and DSA. He was a
paralibrarian at the University of Colorado Boulder for 30 years and
has been a free lance writer. He was the president of the university's
AFSCME Local 3592. He has been an activist in the labor, single payer,
peace and environmental movements.
In the face of an openly racist campaign by Trump and the Republicans in the November 2018 elections, voters opted for Democrats by 9 percentage points in a record turnout, resulting in the largest Democratic gains in the House in a half-century. Two of the those Democrats, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Rashida Tliab, were women of color who ran and were elected as open members of DSA. The mid-terms resulted in the largest number of women ever elected to the US Congress, in eight African-American Congresspersons elected from majority white districts, and in the passage of several progressive referenda, such as the Florida vote to restore voting rights to ex-felons. On the other hand, the Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate, and widespread voter suppression in Georgia, Florida and Texas brought narrow GOP victories over the historic progressive campaigns of Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Rourke.
What does all this mean for the political terrain on which DSA and the broader progressive movement fight going forward?
North Star DSA invites all members and friends to participate in a discussion of these questions, with a panel led by People for Bernie founder Winnie Wong, American Prospect Executive Editor Harold Meyerson and long time union organizer and writer Bill Fletcher, (above) followed by questions and answers.
Here is the discussion. We encourage further discussion on the North Star discussion board. For those who couldn't make the call for any reason, here is the recorded video of the call.
The North Star interim steering committee met by Zoom call on November 12, 2018 and resolved to continue building the North Star caucus. As several of our members have pointed out, our political project is just beginning.
During the midterm elections, many leaders and members of North Star dedicated their energies towards campaigning for a better future. Around the country, socialists and other progressives were elected into office at every level of government. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to the United State Congress. Rashida Tlaib became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Marc Elrich was elected to become the chief executive of a jurisdiction with over one million residents. Several of our candidates to state legislatures also won elections or re-election. The broader progressive movement had many more historic victories with both elected officials and ballot measures.
We look forward to getting back to strengthening and growing North Star.
The toxicity in DSA has not dissipated. Electoral engagement is still criticized by some members as a waste of time. There remains a tendency to deny political participation to the broader, less active DSA membership. DSA is currently not doing enough to engage with our natural allies in coalition work or movement building. Political purism continues to distract from socialist organizing, even as some members openly reject the principles and tradition of democratic socialism. North Star exists to challenge these tendencies and make DSA a better organization.
We dismiss the notion that DSA should exist without caucuses.
In an organization of 50,000 members, many if not most new to democratic socialism, the old DSA without caucuses is no longer viable. The organization needs organized factions – caucuses – that put DSAers who think alike and do similar work in touch with each other, allowing members to develop and present their political views and strategies to the organization as a whole. Interaction among such caucuses is the essence of democracy in any large organization. Without public caucuses, cliques will still form underground to deliberate, organize and push their politics. However, the great preponderance of the membership will be left with no access to this decision-making. Insiders ‘in the know’ should not be allowed to make all the important decisions without real accountability in the form of organized dissent.
The idea that DSA can do without caucuses is not all that different from the idea of our country’s founders that the republic could do without political parties. The principle is bound to fail because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how politics works in large organizations.
What does need to be addressed is how caucuses conduct themselves: do they operate in a factional way, putting the interest of the caucus above the interest of DSA as a whole, and even more importantly, above the interest of the movement as a whole? North Star has never played that game and never will