Does it matter which party wins?

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It is obvious that there is a growing feeling of frustration and even anger among supporters of the Democratic Party with its performance over the past two years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking for the labor movement, strongly expressed this unhappiness in some recent speeches.

I am disappointed too with some aspects of the Obama administration's domestic and foreign policy.

But I don't forget that this administration governs in a very hostile political environment in which the right is laboring overtime to wreck its initiatives at every step of the way.

In addition, there are the structural pressures of governing in a capitalist economy and state.

Then there are conservative pressures coming from some congressional Democrats and members of the administration.

Everything can't be explained away by the objective context, however. The president and his administration can be faulted for a number of policy decisions.

But the main question from a strategic point of view is this: Does it make any difference, from the standpoint of the class and democratic struggles, which party gains political ascendency? 

Some - though not the labor movement nor other mass organizations of the American people - say no, it doesn't.

Some even go a step further and say a Democratic victory creates popular illusions, which in turn weaken the people's struggles. And the only way out of this vise is to form a third party now. 

Communists don't agree with either one of these views. In our view, the differences between the two parties of capitalism are of consequence to class and democratic struggles. 

Neither party is anti-capitalist, but they aren't identical either. Differences exist at the levels of policy and social composition. And despite the many frustrations of the past two years, the election of Barack Obama was historic and gave space to struggle for a people's agenda.

If, on the other hand, the Republicans had been victorious in 2008 the character of class and democratic struggles would have unfolded very differently. Our movement would have been on the defensive from Day One, the Democrats would be running for cover, and the Republicans would have an unfettered hand in their efforts to liquidate the welfare state, roll back the rights revolution of the 1930s and 1960s, and crush the people's movement - labor in the first place.

As for the wisdom of a third party, we have always advocated the formation of an independent people's party at the core of which are the working class and labor, racially and nationally oppressed people, women, youth, immigrants, seniors, gay and straight, etc. It is essential for any deep-going social change. But its realization depends on more than our desire, more than our political-ideological attitude. Millions who have to be at the core of this party still operate under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, albeit increasingly in an independent fashion.

Moreover, to separate ourselves at this moment from these forces would be contrary to our strategic policy of building maximum unity against right-wing extremism now and in next year's elections.

Now that doesn't mean that we give up our advocacy of an independent people's party, but we also understand that its formation is dictated by concrete political realities and strategic necessities. Nor does it mean that we hit the mute button when the Obama administration takes positions that we don't agree with. Just as we show no hesitation in supporting, and fighting for, the administration's progressive initiatives, we should have no compunction about taking issue with the administration when it takes positions that we don't agree on.

Which is what we have done. 

When someone says we are not critical of the administration what they usually mean is that our criticism isn't as sweeping and categorical as they would like. 

We make criticisms, but we do it in a certain context and with a certain strategic objective in mind. We are keenly aware of the fact that the agenda of the far right is to bring this administration and country to its knees, with a heavy dose of racism, lies and economic sabotage, setting the stage for a full blown return to power of the most reactionary, racist, anti-labor, anti-women, homophobic and militarist grouping in U.S. politics. 

We want no part of that. We don't have any illusions about the Democratic Party, but we don't have any illusions about the Republican Party either.

Furthermore, we are also aware of the undeniable fact that no other party besides the Democratic Party stands a chance of beating the GOP next year.

Photo: Night-thing CC 2.0 

 

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  • "If, on the other hand, the Republicans had been victorious in 2008 the character of class and democratic struggles would have unfolded very differently. Our movement would have been on the defensive from Day One, the Democrats would be running for cover, and the Republicans would have an unfettered hand in their efforts to liquidate the welfare state, roll back the rights revolution of the 1930s and 1960s, and crush the people's movement - labor in the first place." - Sam Webb

    Does this author understand the basic structure of the U.S. government? Even if a Republican had won the executive branch, the Democrats would have still been in majority control (filibuster proof) of Congress since they gained that control in 2006.
    Only until recently did the Democrats lose their grip on the Senate and House, and even now, they still control much.

    As for the civil rights movement, far more Republicans voted FOR the Civil Rights Act than the Democrats; and far more Democrats OPPOSED it than Republicans. Where are you getting your facts?

    "We are keenly aware of the fact that the agenda of the far right is to bring this administration and country to its knees, with a heavy dose of racism, lies and economic sabotage, setting the stage for a full blown return to power of the most reactionary, racist, anti-labor, anti-women, homophobic and militarist grouping in U.S. politics." - Sam Webb

    Wasn't the far-left (communists, socialist-revolutionary, socialist-democratic, etc.) practicing racism, sexism, economic sabotage, "reactionism", etc. in Russia, China, Cuba, Argentina, Eastern European blocs, Mexico, Laos, Cambodia, etc. etc.??? But you say the "far-right" does it now????? Can you honestly say far-leftists like Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Peron, Paul & Raul Castro, Pol Pot, and current far-left despots are/were NOT racist, reactionary, homophobic, militarist, etc.????

    Are you illiterate that you cannot read history, or merely incompetent to not understand it? Or do you desire to bend history to your own twisted version in order to apply your own distorted agenda (just like the countless number of marxist tyrants)?

    This drivel is bizarre...but people whom actually take this "article" seriously, even more so.

    Posted by Common Sense, 08/19/2011 5:15pm (3 years ago)

  • What do you want?
    The man is an empty suit.
    His right teleprompter tells him to say PRO
    His left teleprompter tells him to say CON
    McCain is worse, is that possible?

    Posted by dan bryan, 08/13/2011 9:15pm (3 years ago)

  • Just keep choosing the lesser of two evils? Where does that lead? The lesser of two evils is still evil, not good. The only real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, since the days of F.D.R., is that the Republicans give everything to their rich friends and nothing whatever to the poor and oppressed, while the Democrats every now and again throw a meatless bone to the poor and the oppressed to keep them quite and getting them thinking that, if it weren't for the rich tossing off their scraps, they'd have nothing at all.

    Posted by Irving, 08/08/2011 7:39am (3 years ago)

  • For a third party to be viable there are THREE VERY IMPORTANT inviable core beliefs that must be stated.The right to free speech within the party;this has been forgotten by both the Democrats and Republicans;they turn on their own when they ask to many questions about the status quo.The second and no less important is the right to keep and bare arms;while many would say this part of the Constitution,its more important than you realize.When the citizens of this country lose the ability to over throw its government then politicians aren't as arrogant toward those they serve.Liberty comes when the government fears the people;tyranny when the people fear the government.The third is personal discipline of those who want to hold office;just because you have the power to do something doesn't mean you always should.Gary Condit,Bill Clinton,George Bush are perfect examples of that.Infidelity of marriage and country.Using childish grins and good ol' language to admit they got caught is not an excuse .

    Posted by Eloy, 07/09/2011 7:29pm (3 years ago)

  • Progressives should be non-partisan in their criticism of those in power be they Democratic or Republican. Allowing the Obama administration to get away with certain things because they would not be as bad as a McCain administration is a cop-out.

    As Mr. Webb noted, each party is pro-capitalist. To believe the Democratic Party will come around to the far left in support of the oppressed is, in the words of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, "silly, silly, silly."

    Now is the time to launch a third party. Wait, there is already a third party which has run candidates for president. It is now time for the Communist Party to again start running candidates in the vein of William Foster, the radical labor leader and three-time Communist Party presidential candidate and James Ford, the African-American who was the three time vice-presidential candidate.

    Posted by detectivetom, 07/04/2011 3:13am (3 years ago)

  • While we may recognize the current Democratic Party as little more than simply "better than the GOP", the fact we have not been able to have such sustained activism like that of the anti-war movement of the Bush presidency shows that most people are not yet where we are at.

    Further, most effective politics occurs within institutions, such as unions, colleges, city councils, etc. It is not always best to think first of people marching in the street. People marching in the street, afterall, did not stop our last few wars.

    The only way that makes any sense to me is to organize outside the Democratic Party on issues effecting people where we live and participate in that Party's electoral politics where their victories can give us and our allies organizing tools (a functioning National Labor Review Board, for example).

    We are quite insignificant at this time. No manner of rhetoric will change that. Disciplined, long-term commitment to strategic action is required.

    Winning the future is dependent on winning the hearts and minds of people, and we don't always have control over how they come to us.

    Posted by Jean Paul Holmes, 07/02/2011 10:32pm (3 years ago)

  • Webb takes a reasonable tactic (supporting some Democrats, some of the time), makes it absolute and raises it to a grand strategy. As a result he becomes an apologist for an administration that has pushed the aggressiveness and militarism of the US state to unprecedented heights, continued the transformation of the US into a police state, and completed the subordination of the state to the dictates of finance capital.

    To back up his strategy he projects a grand coalition, to consist of everybody with a sexual orientation ('gay and straight') plus a few other overlapping demographics. Despite the seeming hyper-inclusiveness of this coalition he does not appear to have a place in it for, among other forces, the powerful, emerging anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-'bankster' trends among conservative Republicans or the 60-odd million US socialists. In truth, the coalition would consist only of an alliance of bourgeois non-profits i.e. organizations, which for all their sometimes radical rhetoric, good work and good intentions, accept capitalist relations as objective constraints on their struggle for limited objectives. These groups, including the trade unions, can never really ally, much less form the basis of a revolutionary movement, because their objectives and methods formulated in narrow, distorted bourgeois terms always conflict.

    Posted by Goldenboy, 07/02/2011 7:46pm (3 years ago)

  • I just can't help but wonder how many of you Pro-Communists/Socialists have ever lived under Communist rule. I have no problem with having a 3rd party in our political system. I have been voting for local & state representatives other than the 2 parties we currently have for years now. While so many countries around the world are marching in the streets for Democracy & throwing off the shackles of Communism & Socialism, how can anyone born & raised in this, the greatest country think they are wrong & want what they are fighting against?

    Posted by Brian , 07/02/2011 2:58pm (3 years ago)

  • This entire discussion begs the question: WHEN will an independent people's party become a viable option? WHAT WILL IT TAKE for the progressive and people's movement to WAKE UP and become active enough to be able to drive a people's agenda?

    In 2008, I had no illusions about the Obama candidacy, but like most people, I certainly was hopeful. It was hard not to be. The word "CHANGE" meant something. I thought that it might be possible to actually advance a progressive agenda. And like alot of other folks, I worked my ass off toward that end.

    What happened to the people's movement? Where is the coalition of labor, youth, the anti-war movement, etc. that elected Obama? I realize that it still exists, but why is it not more vocal? Why are we not seeing, on a daily, or weekly, or monthly basis, what we saw happen in Madison last winter? Nothing is gonna "CHANGE" until we get loud, folks.

    I'm in agreement with you, Sam, that now is not the time to dump the Democratic Party. Next year I'm pretty sure that I'll vote for Obama again. But I have to say that I am deeply disappointed that we don't have a public option in the health care plan, that the Employee Free Choice Act has not been signed into law, and that we are still in Afghanistan (not to mention Iraq). And the blame for all of the above cannot entirely be laid at the feet of the GOP.

    Posted by Ed Jensen, 07/01/2011 4:03am (3 years ago)

  • On a historical note, it is important to recall that in the early 1930s the German Communist Party actually thought that allowing the Nazis to come to power would be a good thing--that the Nazis would so overreach that they would lose all credibility and self-destruct. But it was Communists (and millions of others) who ended up in the concentration camps and 12 years and millions of lost lives later it was Germany that was destroyed and lay in rubble.

    Posted by John Whiskey, 06/30/2011 10:31pm (3 years ago)

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