Does it matter which party wins?


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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  • Wisdom is defined as ; understanding applied to the benefit of all concerned / this article manifests quite succinctly the essence of wisdom /

    Posted by Leandro DellaPiana, 06/30/2011 7:44pm (4 years ago)

  • the notion we need to unite behind obama
    to prevent a gop white house
    relies on a historic knee jerk
    the kpd didn't take nsdap seriously

    "after them us "
    and yes the popular front then
    as hitler rode to ever greater power
    was indeed the correct strageic policy adjustment
    thru out democratic europe ...then

    this is now and any organization trying to equate
    tea party america with weimar germany circa
    1930 or 32
    is either hysterical or coniving

    turning the gop into something it clearly isn't suggests corporate amerika in its majority is turning
    toward spome up date of fascism

    indeed that might happen else where now
    but not here
    if the gop wins the white house so what
    has the struggle in wisconsin or ohio been any easier these past months
    because we had a Demcratic leadership council
    chew toy
    in the white house ???

    Posted by paine, 06/30/2011 5:59pm (4 years ago)

  • sam--the strategy has really been working well since george mcgovern--as the democrats and debate keep moving further to the right

    Posted by ed cloonan, 06/30/2011 4:47pm (4 years ago)

  • This was a helpful article, because it's certainly something I've been agonizing over. I am extremely disappointed with the Obama administration; I expected more. However, I am fully aware of the dangers posed by the extreme right and the need to set them back on their heels. I really resent this "lesser of two evils" approach, but I tend to agree with you on the difficulty of a third party, socialist in its agenda, putting people in office at the national level. I still need to think about this, because in the end, with capitalism in severe crisis, the Democrats will ultimately serve the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

    Posted by John Lombardo, 06/30/2011 2:20pm (4 years ago)

  • A friend of mine said the republicans are busy blaming those in lack, for the harm of the people doing the complaining. And the democrates are too lazy and scared to stand up for the 70% to 85% of us at the bottom.
    I voted for OBAMA but he is a republican in disgrace and disquise. I hope the GREEN Party comes up with a candidate of the people.

    Posted by Jan of Maine, 06/30/2011 12:27pm (4 years ago)

  • The late Peter Camejo once observed that "the Democrats make the Republicans possible." I have serious doubts that having a right wing president in centrist attire isn't worse than having a right wing president who is honest about his agenda. I am not inviting anyone to dissuade me from this view nor am I attempting to persuade anyone else...what I am interested in is seeing the Party run a candidate. I worked for Gus and Angela in 1984 (and had been voting CP since 1976 when I turned 18). I really miss having a candidate that I actually wanted to vote for. It's great that the CP can offer analysis on why it's better to have a faux centrist than an overt reactionary in the White House. And I'm sure many will vote in the manner Sam W has prescribed. But for those of us who long to vote CPUSA, why not run a ticket and use the platform to make points tweedledum and tweedledee will fail to raise?

    Posted by Thomas Good, 06/30/2011 11:46am (4 years ago)

  • As much as we would all like to see a strong people's party, it is not going to happen in 2012. What we on the left need to do is to unite the forces of the center with the left in order to defeat the ultra-right. As much as we would like to see a strong labor-based party play a role in US politics, we have to look at the real world and base our actions on it.
    We should shudder at what could happen to this country if the tea party-dominated Republicans win next year. Sam Webb puts it very clearly and distinctly.
    Consider this: every time in the last fifty years when the Republicans have won an election, they put into effect policies worse than the preceding GOP administration (not to mention compared to the Democrats.)
    As bad as Nixon was (Watergate) he opened relations with China and signed arms agreements with the USSR. Reagan was worse--his military spending added trillions to the national debt and he was viciously anti-union (PATCO). Yet, he signed arms agreements with the Soviets that reduced Cold War tensions. The senior Bush was an extension of Reagan. The younger Bush, as we all remember, stole the 2000 election and we remember the horrors of his eight years in office.
    What will the next Republican administration bring?

    Posted by David G., 06/30/2011 12:03am (4 years ago)

  • Mr. Webb,

    I agree with you generally. Once Nov 2012 rolls around, I will vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The GOP represents a number of very heinous attitudes, policy positions, and views for our country and the world. The Democrats often stand for things that are not so heinous, or even good!

    At the same time, fascination with Obama, electoral politics, and the machinations of legislatures betrays a certain lack of radical élan. We have seen the 21st century Democratic Party betray the people. And if we remember our history, politics conducted in the mainstream in the 20th and 19th centuries also betrayed the interests of the oppressed. I'm reading Howard Zinn's A People's History currently. In the Civil War era, radical unionist movements were co-opted and essentially wrecked by growing participation in mainstream politics.

    I don't have a knee-jerk reaction against voting, endorsing Democratic candidates, &c but in your quest to defend the Party's doing so, don't forget that if we wanted to be Democrats, we could go do just that.

    Posted by Ryan, 06/29/2011 10:04pm (4 years ago)

  • Good points.

    But we owe it to the average American workers to criticize the current administration and the Dems when they act sheepish or outright reactionary and do not support working class issues. It is not about appeasing the third-party advocators in and outside of our Party; it's to retain our credibilty as a popular anti-capitalist organization.

    We have to win the battle of ideas; and it's fought on a daily basis. So, yea, we gotta be consistent. Measured and tactful, yes. But critical nonetheless.

    Posted by Luis Rivas, 06/29/2011 8:20pm (4 years ago)

  • I really like this piece. It makes some pretty clear observations about the difference between desire and the possible, and alludes to a well thought out strategy that, in the long term, may bring the two together.

    Posted by Jean Paul Holmes, 06/29/2011 8:16pm (4 years ago)

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