Progressives and the left can’t hesitate in advocating a Biden-Harris vote
Down with Trump, but up with whom? | AP

Progressives and democratic socialists are saying it. Leaders, organizations, media, websites, and postings warn of a terrible threat.

Fascism, or neo-fascism, or the growing danger of it. If not that, a severe rollback of our democracy. A permanent increase in systemic and individual acts of racism, with a green light from the Oval Office.

If the forecasts are true, President Donald Trump must lose this November. In our two-party system, that happens only if Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris win. Therefore, those who know of the menace and vow to stop it have the obligation to labor for a Biden-Harris victory.

Many people, unions, third parties, organizations, and Democratic Party activists are doing this. Unfortunately, important voices, some with large audiences, are either opposing it or supporting it with such criticism it hurts the undertaking.

Views from the left

Some members of the Democratic Socialists of America are elected officials in Congress and state and city governments. If these legislators are to make laws that improve the lives of all working people, these DSA representatives must work with non-socialist legislators.

It is ironic, then, that DSA’s National Political Committee thinks beating Trump “is imperative” but that defeating the radical right is only possible “through a socialist movement.” It is especially painful since DSA is the country’s largest socialist organization.

Endorsements aren’t necessary for actions, and individual members may choose to work for a Biden-Harris victory. DSA’s best-known member, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, publicly calls for it. But a mandate to openly help a Biden-Harris triumph would be a strong signal to many younger DSA members. I have seen them in action, going door-to-door in 90% humidity in pre-COVID primary elections. They are a force when they sign on.

Some tell us to vote for the Green Party. Others modify the advice: Vote Green only if you live in a dark blue state. But the prescription works only if the recommendation doesn’t unsafely spread.

Like the virus, the idea travels everywhere. In vital states, just a few thousand—sometimes a few hundred or less—votes decide tight presidential contests. Supporters admit that some will incorrectly follow the counsel. How many? Enough to throw the election to Trump?

Others are more forceful about the necessity to defeat Trump, but the message provides reasons to not bother voting. A headline in L.A. Progressive is baffling: “Let’s Reject and Elect Biden at the Same Time.” The assertion that Trump must lose comes across clearly. But to whom? The guy we’re told to “reject.” But don’t reject him until the day after the election. Who’s on first?

Clearer-sighted democratic socialists forcefully argue that without the defeat of Trump, progressive advances are “impossible.” The decisive political task is to reverse our country’s “creeping neo-fascism.” Though tactical alliances with anti-Trump neoliberals are needed in November, the best way to defeat Trumpism is with a platform that “breaks decisively with neoliberal policies.”

That statement rejects sitting it out or backing spoiler third parties, and it admits to the need to work with centrist Democrats. But if the fascist hazard is real, it won’t go away in months. So regardless of who wins in November, neoliberal allies will still be needed after the inauguration and the new Congress, especially against a Republican Party gone mad. Some signatories are working on behalf of Biden-Harris, and actions are decisive.

But why not say his and her name? Wouldn’t a stronger, simpler message encourage more people to work for the success of Biden-Harris? After all, the battle for election activists is crucial for a November victory. Thousands of volunteers, in many states, are needed to get the vote out.

A less timid voice is found in the “Old New Left.” Asserting there is a critical difference between a “capitalist Democrat and a protofascist,” they rightly call this an “all-hands-on-deck moment.” The Working Families Party likewise understands this, and so does Our Revolution (though references to enemy “corporate Democrats” weakens the objective).

People’s Front

Indeed, progressives and the Left should embrace the Biden-Harris ticket and work for nothing else. The thinking that permits and demands this is the people’s front.

When first proposed and pursued in the 1930s, Communists and Socialists united with liberals and radicals against the greater enemy of fascism. Radicals favored the reform of capitalism in a more secular and democratic direction, not socialism. Some organizations and parties that were potential allies were led by “big capital,” but they had to be approached nonetheless.

Leon Trotsky, the leading opponent of the people’s front, argued that working-class power was needed for “even purely democratic problems.” He said the advance of socialism subsumed all other issues and was the only way to prevent fascism.

Given our two-party system and the moment’s urgency, progressives and the left have no choice but to work with Democrats who are variously described as centrist, moderate, corporate, or Wall Street. This applies to Biden-Harris as well as the goal of ending GOP control of the U.S. Senate. Those candidates are simply not socialists, and neither are most anti-Trump voters.

Is favoring the people’s front selling out? Far from it. It simply starts where voters actually stand, not where we want them to be. It unites the working class with anti-Trump farmers, small entrepreneurs, sub-contractors, professionals, intellectuals, some capitalists, and Republicans who haven’t gone insane.

Every success for the extreme right is a defeat for progress. If the peril isn’t defeated, there is no room for advances. Another term of Trump, starting with the loudest victory dance in our history and unbothered by re-election needs, will mean four more years of daily harm, spreading confusion through Twitter, breaking all remaining political traditions. His re-election will depress morale since it will be a major electoral loss. It will be dangerous, not romantic.

His Republican Party, the “Party of No” to our first Black president, was ripe for the ascendancy and is growing a vigilante wing. He has already sent unwelcome federal troops into states and cities.

All progressives, trade unions, civil and immigrant rights organizations, women’s equality movements, LGBTQ groups, students, and youth will be on the defensive. A people’s front demands that progressive social change yields the right-of-way to democracy and civility, initially. Stopping fascism (or neo-fascism, or proto-fascism, whatever term you desire) must happen if class, national, racial, and social progress is to be made.

Progressives and the left shouldn’t feel obligated to add “and we will work against Biden-Harris beginning Nov. 4” if Trump is defeated. We probably won’t have that luxury. Like it or not, the days and weeks after Nov. 3 will probably be a tense battleground, when the election night results change as the absentee ballots are properly counted. Millions who were ginned up four years ago are thoroughly intoxicated today. Their inebriation will be boosted by endless drips and dosages of tweets from Trump charging “fake election.” The larger the chorus countering him, the more drowned out will be his lying voice.

This article, like all op-eds published by People’s World, reflects the opinions of its author.


Michael Arney
Michael Arney

Michael Arney is active in the Working Families Party. Before that, he helped lead the Bronx Progressives, a local affiliate of the New York Political Action Network (Our Revolution). For twenty years he volunteered at his children’s schools, and he is a regular platelet donor.