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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  • Anyone can see these people aren't going to engage in honest dialog. This is a digrace. People from all over the world are seeing what it means when the leadership of a Communist Party abandons their ideology and the working class.

    Posted by Rosa Smith, 11/14/2009 4:01pm (6 years ago)

  • Getting answers from Peoples World or CPUSA editors seems as unrealistic an expectation as getting water from a dry well ? The only difference now from the worst days of "models of Socialism imported from the 20th Century" is that they allow the opinions of those who disagree to appear. And they also silently wait for this attempt at democracy to turn into a dead-file...So much for the "new socialism"?

    Andrew Taylor, Winnipeg

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/14/2009 1:54pm (6 years ago)

  • How about it, leadership comrades? There are some very honest, very justified questions coming out in comments here. I would add two more:

    What is the Party line on peace and health care?

    What is the leadership's specific strategic plan for building the united front and working with and within the Democratic Party?

    Posted by Nicholas Hewko, 11/13/2009 12:16pm (6 years ago)

  • No questions from me. One comment.

    Obama is the problem not Alan Maki.

    Posted by Jo Ellen, 11/13/2009 10:18am (6 years ago)

  • I don't see anything controversial in what Mr. Maki has stated here. It all makes sense to me. I don't know him, never heard of him. What has brought out this angst and anger? There has to be more to politics than "defeating the ultra right" and this seems to be what he is saying. When do we talk about people their problems the solutions?

    CR NYC

    Posted by Cindy Ryerson, 11/13/2009 12:21am (6 years ago)

  • We are not just independently doing creative Marxist analysis in our national parties - although we are certainly responsible to perform that task.

    Because of the call contained in Marx's call "Workers of the world unite!" we are also stewards of a contended, disorderly international organism. ..

    there is no real creative national embodiment of Marxism without a recognition of the conciliar character of world communism.

    And its a travesty if multiple diverse calls for open discussion are conveniently dismissed by caricaturing all the "critics" by associating them as friends of Mr Maki.

    Andrew Taylor

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, Winnipeg MB, 11/12/2009 11:30pm (6 years ago)

  • Your words console me.....sane and sensible.


    Posted by Jody Ledew Britton, 11/11/2009 9:51pm (6 years ago)

  • You made another good contribution Jordan, especially the question of " how can WE give Sam and the upper echelon cover for taking stronger more bold positions". With all due respect, though, I don't think this is the problem. Do Sam Webb and what you've called "the upper echelon" wish to take "stronger more bold positions" (a renewed independent Communist political line and work)?

    Jordan and forum-members,

    Jordan, in regard to your thesis on the usa party leaderships' possible timidity about Communist positions because of red-baiting, it seems curious that one year into the most grave economic crisis since 1928 when socialist and Marxist ideas are being raised around the world in the bourgeois Press, that this is the moment a Communist leadership would sink into the woodwork because of fear of red-baiting?

    What other motivations, strategy and tactics might the cpusa leadership be applying? For one, Sam Webb has written that communists must move away from 20th Century "imported" models of Socialism. This would rationally seem to suggest that either the leadership is leaving the Leninist project on the QT -- or is adhering to a tactics and strategy that intelligent people with long histories on the Left of the spectrum simply are too slow to understand.

    Another thesis that is more logical to me is that the leadership believes that in order to completely identify with the "center" demands of the multi-class Obama supporters, it is necessary to diminish and submerge references to the Communist tradition. An example of this that I thought confirmed this thesis was in (Communist Party) Democrat candidate Rick Nagin's Cleveland ward race, when he told the Cleveland Press and others it was time to change the name of the CPUSA to something less offensive to Americans, such as, perhaps "the New Socialist Party."

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, Winnipeg MB, 11/11/2009 7:31pm (6 years ago)

  • What we need to be asking ourselves is how can WE give Sam and the upper echelon cover for taking stronger more bold positions. I know personally when I showed my voter's registration to my club and they saw that it says "Communist" and not independant, Democratic etc... they were astounded! How can we hope the Party to reflect our views and our positons if we ourselves can't freely proclaim them for fear of oppression? We in America because of the stigma are afraid of the word Communist and what mour peers might think when we tell them our beliefs. For all I can tell I'm the only person in the country who is actually registered with the party! Yet we look on social networking sights and there are "groups" with communist titles and names numbering in the thousands, how many do you think read the people's world or even know it exists? How many do you think would join our movement if they knew how to? I for one tried for years just to find my club! I'm all about accountability and progress, I just think that if we want our leadership to be truly 'radical' as Sam put it he needs to have his constituents to be just as radical and not hiding behind terms like "progressive" and "liberal". All I'm saying is there is plenty of blame to go around, America is crying out for a STRONG Leftist voice and not finding it in their reigning Liberal party and we need to make our voices heard as the party, the true cogs of the machine. Only then can we expect the same from our leaders.

    Posted by Jordan Farrar, 11/11/2009 4:34pm (6 years ago)

  • Goodwill Industries is a good example of what Sam Webb writes about. This is an example of how classes can cooperate and work together. The wealthy get tax write-offs for helping the poor who even get job training and all kinds of new skills. Another fine example is the United Way. In the church communities different classes work together all the time. Keep writing Sam you are on the right track doing a good job. There are so many fine examples of labor and employers working together in cooperation we can build on. Some people make such awful and nasty comments about your writing. Thank God for Bruce standing up for you. Most of us understand why you don't respond to your detractors. Stick to your guns and stay the course.

    Posted by Scott Odem, 11/11/2009 10:19am (6 years ago)

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