A ragged process

Slightly over a year ago, the American people elected a young African American to the presidency and increased the Democratic majorities in the Congress. President Obama's victory represented a repudiation of the right-wing ideology, politics and economics. It constituted a serious setback for neoliberalism in both its conservative and liberal skin.

The defeat of right-wing extremism was a long time in coming, but when it finally happened it did so not only because of the brilliance of the candidate, now president, but also due to the broad wings of a people's coalition. Not in our lifetime have we participated in such a movement.

This swing in the political pendulum in the direction of economic justice, equality and peace ushered in the possibility of a new era. After 30 years of right-wing dominance, the balance of class and social forces is tilting once again in a progressive direction, but not to the degree that a people's agenda is simply rolled out and easily enacted.

That would be wishful thinking and we shouldn't engage in such thinking, as tempting as it is. The struggle ahead, much like the struggle over the past three decades, will be fierce. There will be no easy victories. But political advantage has shifted to our side and that's no small accomplishment.

To turn this advantage into a new New Deal will take many things, but two I consider fundamental: a proper strategy and a sense of process.

Some may wonder why I don't mention tactics. They are important to be sure, but they are shaped by strategy and process, not the other way around. Tactics are a dependent variable in this equation.

A proper strategy envisions the main class and social groupings and personalities that have to be assembled and united to transform the possibility of this moment into a concrete, lived reality for millions of people.

The strategic thrust of last year - to defeat the ultra right, especially as expressed by the Republican Party, at the polls - doesn't quite fill the bill any longer. Right wing extremism is still a factor, as demonstrated by the health care battle, but as a result of the election's outcome, it is on the defensive, no longer able to set the agenda and frame the debate to its desire.

At the same time a pure anti-corporate strategy doesn't quite fit either, given the configuration of forces coming out of the elections and the political agenda going forward.

The coalition to deepen and consolidate the promise of our time, in my view, stretches (for now) from President Obama to the core forces of the people's movement: labor, African American, Latino, and other the racially oppressed people, women, and youth. It also includes those who sat out last year's election, small and medium sized businesses, dissatisfied grassroots supporters of the right wing, sections of the Democratic Party and even corporate capital - depending on the issue at hand.

So the task - and it won't be easy - is to activate and maximize the unity of this very diverse, multi-class, and fluid coalition in the course of concrete struggles.

There will be competing views. Not everyone will be on board on every issue; the lineup and mix will change as the agenda and struggle changes. Some participants will be dependable and clear headed - the core forces - while others will be unreliable and temporary.

The notion of the capitalist class on the one side and the working class on the other may sound "radical," but it is neither Marxist, nor found in life and politics. Pure forms exist in high theory, but nowhere else. It would be a profound mistake to distance the core forces of this coalition from others who are temporary and unreliable at this and subsequent stages of struggle.

As for process, it is imperative to have a sense of the ebbs and flows of mass struggle - the contradictions and the dialectics - plus the near constant reconfiguration of this broad, multi-class coalition. Progress (and process) is never a straight line forward nor neatly packaged. It is usually ragged.

The main elements of the New Deal, for instance, were won not in 1933, which was Roosevelt's first year in office, but in 1935-1937. These elements were the fruit of a many-layered, multi-faceted struggle of a motley group of social actors.

I suspect the future will be much the same.


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  • Welcome to the future. Now that some time has past we can see clearly why the right has been in charge. The leftist policies of Obama were repudiated at the polls in November by a vast majority of Americans.
    Maybe next time around we need to meet somewhere in the middle instead of this hard left vs hard right mindset that is perpetuated in the media. Most Americans do fall in the middle and reject massive spending on on idealogical adventures.

    Peace and blessing to you all.

    Posted by Ben Sunness, 02/21/2011 5:42am (5 years ago)

  • There can be no doubt that Webb and his cronies in the CPUSA are doing everything possible to liquidate and dismantle the party. If you say you're a Marxist-Leninist...they don't even want you. I spent two years sending emails and making phone calls (never did speak to anyone) to get into the CPUSA. I never did and Webb wouldn't even respond to an email about it. Which is just as well; it seems perfectly obvious that this party is never going to return to communism.
    My advice: find a true US communist party and work with them.

    Posted by Activist 10, 01/03/2010 10:11pm (6 years ago)

  • I had been thinking about joining the CPUSA. I'll wait until there is real Marxist-Leninist leadership. There won't be any New Deal with Obama just more wars. I have never read an apology for imperialism like I read here by Sam Webb. All I read here is a hodge-podge of confusion being passed off as analysis.

    Posted by Dan Plochman, 12/04/2009 2:09am (6 years ago)

  • Would a Marxist Leninist make this statement?

    "The notion of the capitalist class on the one side and the working class on the other may sound "radical," but it is neither Marxist, nor found in life and politics."

    This really says it all about the current status of the party

    Posted by Red Grandad, 11/28/2009 11:58am (6 years ago)

  • Posted by Red Grandad, 11/28/2009 11:57am (6 years ago)

  • Same Webb and the editors of PW are making us alll look like fools as they turn the CPUSA/PW/PA into the laughing stock of the left. They want to start a new organization with a new name as they leave the rest behind so no one can reclaim the names for the use intended. Webb is a Party wrecker.

    Posted by Sheila Warren, 11/27/2009 1:50pm (6 years ago)

  • I would like to see Sam Webb fill in this very sketchy and ragged analysis with full details. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't the same coporate power structure still hold political and economic power in this country?

    The names of presidents have changed; nothing else.

    Oh, yes; we have a DemocRAT instead of a Republican.

    Where is the rest of the change we were promised?

    Isn't Barack Obama now fighting against the change he promised? He is fighting against the change we need.

    I was reading on a facebook site Amy Dean will be speaking at a People's World fundraiser in Chicago.

    I have read her book. Does Amy Dean reflect the unions of the future? I think NOT. I would like to hear from Sam Webb if what Amy Dean is proposing is his idea of how we get change.

    Some details please.

    Denise Reister*Chicago Illinois

    Posted by Denise Reister, 11/21/2009 2:03pm (6 years ago)

  • I am reading many other articles in the People's World. They all seem to have a very similar way to them. None are detailed in suggesting what people can do about all the problems we are encountering.

    Worse than this. In reading what is being passed off as "analysis" we really get no analysis of any kind.

    I am reading the book Can Capitalism Last? by Daniel Rubin. In this book Rubin writes that Marxists have a responsibility to analyze and explain the class forces at work and the individuals representing those classes.

    Does the People's World provide this type of Marxist analysis? Not in "A ragged process." I do not see this kind of analysis in any of the articles I am reading in the People's World.

    Rubin notes too the need to have thorough discussions. I assume he has something in mind besides the hateful diatribes by Webb supporters we have witnessed here directed against one individual by name and the rest of us by implication.

    Rubin discusses the need for a variety of Marxist organizations but in reading the comments of Webb supporters their is a lack of respect towards other Marxists with differing views. Not disagreement but lack of respect and a certain kind of snobbishness befitting what one would expect from those in capitalist ruling circles towards working people.

    I note this "analysis" by Sam Webb has received more comments than any other article in the People's World as a result it seems to have been intentionally placed where it is hard to locate. Just seems to me that an article getting this kind of feedback from readers should remain on a main page easy for all to read and comment on.

    I was pleased to read in the book by Daniel Rubin the respect demonstrated for all Marxist currents. I consider myself to be an independent Marxist with support for the Communist Party. Some things I am reading here greatly disturb me. Not because I disagree with any certain opinions but the very negative hate by people mostly hiding behind not revealing their names.

    I join others in asking for the names of the members of the National Board. I can't believe any organization seking credibility with working people would not provide the names of its leaders especially when publishing the kind of thing we have seen here.

    I feel very strongly all readers and those who took time to post their comments are owed an apology and explanation along with the proper responses to comments from Sam Webb for what has transpired here.

    Sandy W. Menomonie, WI

    Posted by Sandy Wilcox, 11/18/2009 10:43am (6 years ago)

  • Rosa Luxemburg said something wise about democracy: "Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently."

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/16/2009 2:25am (6 years ago)

  • Let me add my voice as one more reader wanting answers from Sam Webb. It is cowardly for Webb's crowd to post the attacks they have. Did anyone catch the speech by Jarvis Tyner on the CPUSA website? He says Obama is just the beginning of something better to come. I think he is confused. Every president since Truman has been successively worse. Obama is no exception. One has to wonder how these members of the CPUSA National Board measure things getting better. I always thought the condition of the lives of working people was what Communist measured with. If Tyner is correct then the Democratic Party is the way to progress. But is it?

    Posted by Brent Williamson, 11/15/2009 12:40pm (6 years ago)

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