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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  • So, comrade Webb, the consciousness of class conflict between the workers and their capitalist exploiters "is neither Marxist, nor found in life." It is difficult to argue with that kind of Marxist analysis. Perhaps I should not have allowed myself to be confused by, e.g., such as Marx's Capital, v.1 where he wrote the following:

    “Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process or as a process of reproduction produces not only commodities, not only surplus value, but it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation itself, on the one hand the capitalist and on the other, the labourer.”

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Posted by Odnovo Litso, 11/01/2009 1:44pm (6 years ago)

  • I would add as well that Communists aim to affect the conditions through their principled (as opposed to opportunistic) work fighting alongside the non-revolutionary masses in reform struggles, such as the struggle for universal health care. That kind of work will win us many times more allies (and more members) than cozying up to the Democrats ideologically.

    Posted by Nicholas Hewko, 11/01/2009 2:11am (6 years ago)

  • Oh and Gary, our friends are the working class men and women of our communities and the supporters of the communist party.

    Our enemies are bourgeois men and women and those who stand against the communist party...

    Communists need to be among the masses fighting the fight aye.. the communist fight. While it may appear to make more sense to sacrifice ideology to attract a bigger following.. to abandon leninism for a peoples coalitions.

    While that may APPEAR to be the easiest way to achieve socialism, the reality is it is not. There is a word for that attitude.. it's called opportunism.

    The reality is, the way to achieve socialism is to stick to our lofty revolutionary ideas, until the conditions are right. Until the worlds going to hell in a hand basket and the people will turn to any alternative to capitalism, and the communist party is established and their to serve as their vanguard. The reality is the road to revolution is patience and vigilance.

    There is a word for that attitude to, it's called materialism, or if you prefer, Leninism.

    Posted by Robert Gillis, 11/01/2009 1:17am (6 years ago)

  • Ok so, let me see if I got this right.

    In order to defeat Liberals we must first strengthen and elect them. We do this by forging an alliance with multiple classes, the workers, the Corporate bourgeois, and the petty bourgeois, a peoples coalition, probably headed by labor unions who will act as the vanguard of the masses.

    The immediate goal is to get another new deal, which somehow swings the country in a progressive direction.

    Once the country is progressive people will think communists are the shit and support them, afterwards we strike a deal with our corporate allies and get them to stop giving obama all their cash, which means we can actually win an election thereby becoming communist.

    I think I might be confused.. if so please correct me.. and clarify.. how exactly will we be beating the liberals and overthrowing capitalism again?

    Posted by Robert Gillis, 11/01/2009 1:03am (6 years ago)

  • Gary I like what you wrote."i'm up for reading in our communist press stories about the battles fought and won-- and lost too --- and where we got it right. and where we could have done better. and above all what did we learn. the kind of stuff that properly belongs in a communist press."Do you feel you are getting this at present?

    Posted by Cassandra James, 10/31/2009 9:08pm (6 years ago)

  • I agree but let's see where we are. let's examine all the forces that are involved.

    Posted by roslyn sims, 10/30/2009 9:03pm (6 years ago)

  • RE: Sam's quotation from Lenin "One further thought from the leader of Russian revolution":

    Sam is right. Lenin's words on exploiting the smallest class rifts in a careful assiduous manner is and remains a truth that Marxists must heed in pushing the process for progress forward. But there is always a balance in Lenin, so he also warned in "Opportunism, and the Collapse of the Second International" of another danger on the opposite side:

    "Social-chauvinism and opportunism are the same in their political essence; class collaboration, repudiation of the proletarian dictatorship, rejection of revolutionary action, obeisance to bourgeois legality, non-confidence in the proletariat, and confidence in the bourgeoisie. The political ideas are identical, and so is the political content of their tactics. Social-chauvinism is the direct continuation and consummation of Millerandism, Bernsteinism, and British liberal-labour policies, their sum, their total, their highest achievement. "

    I am accusing no one of any of these pitfalls. But we must always strike the correct balance when considering Lenin as a guide or we can become one-sided?
    Andrew Taylor, Manitoba (formerly of Ohio)

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 10/30/2009 1:37pm (6 years ago)

  • I agree that phrase about capitalist class and working class could be better said along the lines that Gene suggested. Nevertheless, in its context the intent is clear.

    One further thought from the leader of Russian revolution:

    “The more powerful enemy,” Lenin said, “can be conquered only by exerting the utmost effort, and by thoroughly, carefully, attentively, and skillfully taking advantage of every, even the smallest, “rift” among the enemies, … among the various groups of bourgeoisie …, by taking advantage of every, even the smallest, opportunity of gaining a mass ally, even though this ally may be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable, and conditional. Those who do not understand this, do not understand even a particle of Marxism.”

    The greatest U.S. mass leader of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, wasn't a Marxist and probably didn't read Lenin, but his strategic and tactical thinking went in this direction, notwithstanding the pressures from some sections of left to "radicalize the struggle" for civil rights.

    In today's conditions, we have a responsibility to elaborate strategy and tactics in a broad and flexible way. And, like King, we can't pay much mind to our critics; if we do, it hampers our ability to think afresh; we become too cautious in a strategic and tactical sense, too worried about our left flank.

    Communists and the rest of the left have a unique opportunity to qualitatively enlarge our role in the labor and people's movements, but only if we shed in the spirit of Marxism some of the rigid and paralyzing concepts and practices carried over from earlier periods.

    Posted by sam webb, 10/30/2009 11:24am (6 years ago)

  • Comrade Webb:

    It finally dawned on me why you are able to come up with such rational choices for the progressives to foster.

    You have a background in Accounting or Business or something like that. Keep inspiring the progressive movement. Hey what is the best starting point for the initiated.

    best regards

    Posted by Larson Shiflet, 10/29/2009 4:29pm (6 years ago)

  • Re: Sam and Jim Lane:
    This article by Sam contained aspects of a careful analysis, the best I've read in PW from the leadership of the US party for a time. But as Jim Lane infers, it was spoiled to some extent by resorting to a caricature of unnamed out-if-step "unreliable" people on the Left who, it was claimed, believe in a silly, ultra leftist worldview where " the capitalist class [is] on the one side and the working class on the other".

    While certain tiny grouplets may believe and act on such a deficient political analysis, Sam failed to note that many Communist Party members (and many others)in the Us as well as the international parties honestly practice popular front politics but disagree with the degree of the application of the popular front in the cpusa's last few years.

    We too believe in enlisting and building the support of allies outside the working class and do so every day of the week in coalitions and fighting for reforms, guiding support to end NATO-US wars, EI reform, etc.
    Resorting to mere caricature of other thoughtful Communist analysis and strategy is intellectually lazy when it has become a fixed habitual modus operandi.
    We are all struggling for greater clarity and so must all try be reasoned and careful not to make insinuations in talking to our friends.

    Posted by Andrew Taylor, 10/29/2009 2:43pm (6 years ago)

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