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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  • "
    CPUSA Statement
    Issues concerning recent emails/statements by Alan Maki

    The Communist Party, USA is taking the unusual step of issuing this statement because of a barrage of recent emails and public statements by Alan Maki. Many have received emails from Alan Maki attacking a broad range of progressive activists. In many he represents himself as a member of the Communist Party, USA.

    Alan Maki is not a member of nor does he reflect the views of the Communist Party, USA. He was dropped from membership three years ago because of his attacks on progressives. He continues to target elected officials, union leaders, and other leaders in the broader mass movements for social change.

    The Communist Party believes the only path to social and economic justice is through the struggle for unity. We are deeply involved in efforts to organize the broadest possible coalitions against the Bush administration and its policies. The policies of the Communist Party have long been premised on working to unite all who struggle for democracy, peace and justice.

    National Board, CPUSA 8.24.2007 "

    Posted by , 11/07/2009 7:57pm (6 years ago)

  • I wasn't and am not angry at any one. It is just my frustration that fair and good questions have not been answered. Here's my smiley face :)

    PS I can't comment on Minnesota unions as I've no history there.


    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/07/2009 3:27pm (6 years ago)

  • Andrew, I do not see where Bruce's post regarding Alan Maki dismisses the thread. He rightly states that Maki's posts are highly disruptive and that Maki is falsely representing himself as holding a leadership position in the CPUSA. Maki's delusional reply serves only to underline Bruce's objections as it is filled with further misrepresentations. It is probably already obvious to anyone engaged in the labor movement, but there is no such thing as the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council. If you doubt that, I challenge anyone to do a google search and find anything that is not one of Alan Maki's many blogs or a blog that is claimed to be authored by someone else but is suspiciously filled with quotes from and praise for Alan Maki. Further, no Minnesota union leaders have heard of Alan Maki other than as a source of spam. Longwinded lies and delusions are an obstacle to the discussion that you would like to have Andrew and given this, I would suggest reserving some of the anger you direct at Mr. Bostick and others for Mr. Maki.

    Posted by , 11/07/2009 1:41pm (6 years ago)

  • Re "airing of personal bad blood between Bruce B.and Alan M. on a thread about cpusa policy"

    Bruce, by making one individual I have never met face to face,Mr Alan M. the centre of your reason for dismissing this thread, you have ignored all other communists and allies who have written here. You have not said one word about our just and fair-minded reservations or disagreements about the new line of Sam Webb or about the real concerns of paid-up Communists!

    Is this one more ploy to marginalize this whole forum? I hope not. That would be cynical beyond words.
    Will you do me the basic respect of addressing my comments?

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/07/2009 11:18am (6 years ago)

  • Lauel S: "He also said it was not polite not to respond when someone asks you a question."

    Your father had an admirable sense of how communities of respect are built. There are basics of democratic practice that specially obtain in small organizations.

    Without accountability and directness no renewal of anything can or will take place.

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/06/2009 1:22pm (6 years ago)

  • I goofed and there is no editing feature on here.

    I wrote "My dad also used to tell us kids to answer each other when we were talked to. I always wondered why he demanded this. Shortly before he passed away I asked him. He said that when family members don't respond to each other it makes for an unhappy family. He also said it was not polite to respond when someone asks you a question. I found in raising three kids my dad was right."

    I should have put "He also said it was not polite not to respond when someone asks you a question."

    Is it possible to get an editing feature on here like other sites have? Maybe there is such a feature but I don't know how to use it?

    Posted by Lauel Swenson, 11/06/2009 9:43am (6 years ago)

  • My dad also used to tell us kids to answer each other when we were talked to. I always wondered why he demanded this. Shortly before he passed away I asked him. He said that when family members don't respond to each other it makes for an unhappy family. He also said it was not polite to respond when someone asks you a question. I found in raising three kids my dad was right.

    I hate not getting a response from a politician when I write.

    I read A ragged process and each of the comments. I see where Sam Webb has responded on another blog.

    To me it seems just plain rude he has not responded to questions and comments about his article right here where he published his thoughts.

    Is there an organized way to effectively tell politicians they won't get our votes if they won't do what we want?

    I am enraged the way single-payer universal health care has been quashed by the Democrats. I would never again consider voting for Obama. I can't believe I was taken in by him.

    Gilbert, Minnesota

    Posted by Laurel Swenson, 11/06/2009 9:36am (6 years ago)

  • RE: Mikhail and "testosterone"

    Mikhail said:"Umm I don't think anybody is stopping anybody from saying anything here, as the many long winded posts I have read here would tend to prove Andrew. I just have a feeling that Gary just got sick of the testosterone thrown about. Also if you are going to talk about democracy I certainly hope you mean that for those of us who still support comrade Webb as well no?"

    Why does any one infer based on my comments here that I do not support Sam Webb? Unless Mikhail actually suggests that my principled arguments for continuing the democratic forum is in itself proof of opposition to comrade Webb?

    Mikhail, I have not 'thrown around' any 'testosterone' or criticized any one. I have asked on behalf of the working-class that old-style, authoritarian suggestions for stopping the online thread be re-considered. In this sense I am a true 'new times' small d democrat.


    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/04/2009 10:13am (6 years ago)

  • Re: 'Rick' "Internal disagreements on Party policy should be conducted over the appropriate forum in my humble opinion".

    In political cultures that have inherited and kept up top-down political cultures of passivity, deference
    and exclusion of dissent, "appropriate forums" are few and far between.

    Research the Party Press in diff countries after the 'Khrushchev Revelations' following the CPSU 20th Party Congress in 1956. Democracy broke out. That was indeed a renewal for socialism in many CP's.

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 11/03/2009 11:44pm (6 years ago)

  • As a non-member of the CP but independent socialist and avid reader of PW I find the airing of internal Party matters on this comment thread bewildering. Isn't PW targeting a broader audience than the dues paying members of the party that sponsors it? Internal disagreements on Party policy should be conducted over the appropriate forum in my humble opinion. For what it is worth I think Sam Webb is one of the only people of the far left able to articulate the appropriate mood of the period and the response to it. His writing is at once informative and engaging. Keep up the good work Sam and PW!

    Posted by Rick, 11/03/2009 10:21pm (6 years ago)

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