A political river is being crossed

These are edited excerpts from “On the Road Again,” a report to a recent meeting of the Communist Party USA National Committee. Further excerpts will appear in next week’s issue. The full text is available at .

We are at the cusp of a new stage of struggle that has the potential to shift the balance of forces in our country, not incrementally and momentarily, but decisively and enduringly in favor of the working class and people and against the right that has dominated political life for nearly three decades.

Now, this is still as much a potential as a reality, but it would be a mistake not to see the possibilities of the present moment. While we do not want to overestimate this process (and in doing so, get ahead of ourselves in formulating strategy and tactics), we don’t want to underestimate it either.

Communists, not to mention the larger movement, must be able to discern in the chaotic thicket of day-to-day events the larger patterns of political development, and nurture the new shoots of struggle that contain the possibility of reconstituting politics along progressive lines.

All around us we see competing images and realities that reflect the clash between two stages of struggle, one in which the extreme right is expending its energies to remain dominant, and the other in which the labor-led people’s movement is struggling to become dominant.

In the old stage, domination by force is the favored instrument of foreign policy. In the new stage, cooperation, multilateralism, diplomacy and peaceful resolution of conflict are gaining ground.

In the old stage, government is best that governs least. In the new stage, government is a necessary steward of public education, retirement security, health care, the environment, housing and equality.

In the old stage, the market is seen as self-correcting, efficient and a fair distributor of wealth. In the new stage, the market is seen as operating to the advantage of big business, aggravating inequalities, degrading the environment and strongly tending to frequent failures.

In the old stage, income inequality is a good and natural thing, In the new stage, the rich should pay a larger share of the tax burden, CEO compensation is outrageous and a living wage is a right.

In the old stage, the “Washington consensus” dominates trade policy and the mantra is “globalize, globalize.” In the new stage, the consensus is fracturing and capitalist globalization is meeting stiff resistance from all quarters of the world.

In the old stage, neo-liberalism is the political and economic model — the doctrine and practice at the government and corporate level that aims to maximize capitalist class power and profitability, deregulate markets, destroy the public sector, facilitate the internationalization of capital, drive down living standards, erode working class and progressive social solidarities and restructure the role and functions of the state. In the new stage, challenges to that model are mounting, however vaguely defined those challenges are right now.

In the old stage, the right wing mobilizes popular sentiment along racist, male supremacist, anti-immigrant and homophobic lines. In the new stage, such appeals have less currency and are meeting new resistance, illustrated by the mass outcry against the racist injustice in Jena, La.

In the old stage, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity dominated cable news; in the new stage, they are eclipsed by Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, Tavis Smiley, Steven Colbert and Rosie O’Donnell.

In the old stage, warnings of climate change are met with skepticism, thanks largely to right-wing-organized opposition. In the new stage, Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize for his work on global warming.

In the old stage, there is no Moveon.org or YouTube, no left and progressive online organizations or news sources. In the new stage, these are major players on the political scene.

In the old stage, the idea of a “people’s agenda” is seen as wishful thinking. In the new stage it is something that people think can be fought for and even won.

In the old stage, it is argued that Democratic candidates have to tack to the right in order to gain electoral advantage and broaden their voter base. In the new stage, Democratic candidates hurt themselves and the potential of their voting constituencies with such tactics.

It’s obvious, but I will say it anyway: we are not going from a non-revolutionary stage to a revolutionary one, in which the capitalist system has broken down completely.

But, a river is being crossed: a movement of potentially enormous scope and depth is in its early stages of formation. And its immediate and inescapable task is to decisively defeat the Republican right in the 2008 elections. Such a victory wouldn’t consolidate a new stage of struggle, but it would position this developing movement to undo the damage of three decades of right-wing extremist rule and to challenge the profits and privileges of corporate capital in far more favorable conditions of struggle.

Thus, in my view, anything that slights or, going further, cynically ridicules the importance of the 2008 elections and its outcome is misguided. It might have a militant and left ring, but it utterly fails to understand what is necessary to move class and democratic struggle to a new stage.

Sam Webb (swebb @cpusa.org) is national chair of the Communist Party USA.