12 comments on “Obama, The Crisis & The Movements

  1. Pingback: Van Jones Helps Save Obama’s Credibility with the Reactionary Right « Advance the Struggle

  2. I’m very serious about my socialist project. At the moment, it consists of theoretical work on what 21st Century Socialism is, and what it isn’t, along with revolutionary education among the more advanced fighters to win them to it. Where it makes sense to propose wider structural reforms that can serve as a bridge to socialism I advocate those as well. See David Schweickart’s Letter to Obama in the recent Tikkun as a case in point. Or any number of items at http://solidarityeconomy.net

    To me, socialism is much more serious than tacking a graph on at the end of a flyer or speech, and requires serious work. I’ve been working steadily on it for more than 15 years in the Chicago Third Wave Study Group, at http://thirdwavestudygroup.blogspot.com Jerry Harris and I produced a book, CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age, summing up some of our findings. Get it on Amazon or http://stores.lulu.com/changermaker Harris has also recently produced ‘Dialectics of Globalization’ and David Schweickart has ‘After Capitalism’ Out. I consider these organizing works for serious approaches to socialism in today’s world.

    It overlaps with my mass democratic projects, but it’s not the same. Today, if you know how to count, the prospect for running a socialist party as a contender for posts and power for the working class are remote and not yet that useful.

    I don’t like the term ‘anti-capitalist’ party. It’s either too left or too right. If you really mean socialism, say so. If not, then promote an anti-financial oligarchy package that serves the working class, but can also appeal to sectors of productive high-road business.

    The text of my ‘Eleven Talking Points on 21st Century Socialism’ are available on ZNet as well as my personal blog, http://carldavidson.blogspot.com, for anyone interested.


    • Carl,

      You haven’t read this blog have you? We are nothing if not openly socialist. And since I do know how to count I’ll give you the number of years that “progressives” have been trying to do what you are trying to do. It’s been 103 years since the “cross of gold speech”. And the number of “progressive parties” born in the barren womb of the Democrats? 0. You’ve had your advertisement for your project. Now good luck.



  3. Carl,

    Since the crisis is caused by capitalism I suggest that any genuine alternative has to be anti-capitalist in perspective, not an impossible pie-in-the-sky kinder and gentler capitalism, or it is not much of an alternative. You can’t reform an apple into an orange. Yep, that’s not easy work. There are no short cuts to it either through the Democrats or by simply proclaiming “we socialists are right, join us.” We’re going to have to agree to disagree. We have two different perspectives. Good luck on your project.



  4. A critical mass to fashion a political instrument that will serve the working class and its allies in the electoral arena, and belong to them.

    You have to offer an alternative. You start with an alternative platform. Our PDA platform here is ‘Out Now’, EFCA, Green Jobs, HR 676 and debt relief, especially for youth. I assure you, this is not the package of our local Blue Dog and his crew, or the Dems at the top. Once you have the strength, you run alternative tickets. And if you want a real multiparty democracy, you work for election law reform, especially fusion and IRV.

    Some Dems, even most at the top, are dunderheads when it comes to fighting the far right. They tuck their tails between their legs. But some are not. The main tactical point is not to split an election tally between third party and Dem progressives, so that the ‘Tea Party’ GOPers, who are feeding the far right, take the post instead. When we take down a Dem, we want someone better to take the post. You can’t always tell in advance, but most times you can.


  5. Carl,

    I have plenty of experience resisting the far right and have only been obstructed in that work by the Democratic Party. If Democrats really are a break on fascists/right-wing populists/etc. how come every time they get elected we end up getting Reagan or Newt or W. in the next election cycle? How does one replace the Democrats without offering an alternative to the Democrats? A critical mass to do what?



  6. We do need to prepare against a fascist danger, inside and outside of electoral politics. It’s real and there’s no demagogy on my part. We’ve got three dead cops at the hands of a local neo-Nazi youth, and a run on ammo in all the local gun stores. Rightwing populism is a serious and dangerous trend, even if a minority, and a special problem in the working class, especially in the more backward sectors around here. We have a responsibility to see to it that our electoral tactics don’t put them or their close allies in positions of power.

    But you’re missing the larger point. I’m not interested in making the Democratic party into ‘something it cannot be’; it has to be replaced. I work there because that’s where the most progressive and politically active workers are, and we build our own organizations not subject to any discipline of Dem officialdom. When we reach critical mass, together with others inside and outside this arena, the Dem officialdom will most likely split from us, and we will supplant it with something better.

    So far, I see more progress here than I ever did with any of my third party efforts. I’m not saying third party efforts can’t work as well. Maybe in some places it can, so go for it if you think you can get somewhere, and I mean produce something that’s mainly blue collar. But it makes no sense where I am.


  7. Carl,

    Since well before William Jenning Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech “progressives” have tried to make the Democratic Party something it can not be. They are an institutional party and an institutional party requisitely defends the institutions that give it life. Those institutions requisitely defend the interests of the class in power. All of these years of the union movement looking to the Democrats to protect their interests has gotten, what exactly? Not even the repeal of Taft-Hartley and they’ve been demanding that as part of their support for 60 years now. And nearly every election they claim to be holding the line against “proto-fascists” as a way to frighten folks away from independent politics and into the cul-de-sac of the Dems. If every election cycle really does see the spectre of fascism we need to dump parliamentary politics altogether and go for civil war since fascists are not known for respecting electoral outcomes. This is just demagoguery. In the end I think that “progressives” and socialists want two very different things. Progressives wish capitalism would respond to the needs of workers (hence their support of institutional parties)and socialists want workers to act on their own needs (hence their rejection of institutional parties). You are right; they are two different projects.



  8. You’ll have to do better than this, MN Roy, if you want to do polemics with the grownups. You obviously know little about me and what I do or think about things.

    I demonstrate against the war nearly every week here in Beaver County, Western PA, and took part in a major regional of UFPJ’s in Pittburgh not too long ago. then we had one on Wall St to link the war and the economy April 4.

    I don’t expect the Democrats to implement any major structural reforms, certainly not of their own accord. We’ve got a Blue Dog jerk as our local congressman, and we cross swords with him nearly every week. When we’re strong enough, we’ll take him down. That’s why we have our own PDA group fighting for ‘out now,’ EFCA, Green Jobs and HR 676. We just got the city councils of two mill towns here, Aliquippa and Ambridge, to endorse it. But to get it, it’s going to take considerable street heat as well. We’re setting the conditions for it with our ‘healthcare not warfare’ campaign, where we have dozens of locals signed on.

    And we’re very clear on Obama. We support him where he has a decent program, like Green Jobs, and oppose him where he’s dead wrong, like the wars. If he doesn’t change course, they will destroy him, his presidency and anything decent he may want to do. But he also defend him against the rightwing proto-fascists who would like to take him down ‘by any means necessary,’ and they’re killing a few people already to show us what they have in mind.

    From your post, it is seems pretty clear that you have no idea about what’s involved with organizing the working class at the base. We live in different worlds. Let’s keep it that way–you stay in yours, and I’ll stay in mine. We’ll see who manages to organize the power to do some earth-moving. At the moment neither of us have much to speak of, but I’m much happier being in my position than yours.


  9. Well , RR, now you know you finally made the big time, when none other than Carl Davidson shows up on your site to beat the drums for “lesser evilism.” For all his bluster and bravado about “forces and building blocks” and “strategy” are, as all of us know by now, nothimg more than a cover for supporting any and every Democrat. Carl, after all, was one of the originators of “Anybody But Bush” amongst the “left” back in 2004. Well he finally got his wish last year.

    Only considering Obama’s track record as imperialist warmonger second to none and errand boy for Wall Street, I thought that Carl might be laying low these days. Maybe there aren’t any Democats around for Carl to get “grassroots alliances and base communities” to support this time of the year. You certainly don’t see him at any mass antiwar demonstrations being organiuzed by his pals at UFPJ, for the simple reason that there are none now that there’s a Democrat in the White House!

    Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe they are off, secretly and unknown to the rest of us “ultra-lefists” hung up with our project,” “building the political instrument that will push the two dominant parties aside” by burying themselves completely in one of those “two dominant parties.” And considering the record of the Democrats when it came to “restructuring,” ie, gutting the auto industry, we can see just how successful they have been when it comes to “the immediate needs and structural reforms required by the working class.”

    One thing Carl is right about, however, is that “there’s a lot of earth to be moved before we’ in a position to brush the Democrats aside.” Only for that to happen, I’m afraid that Carl and his friends will be amongst the “earth…moved,” in order to do the brushing.


  10. Leaving aside the Soli-speak and PC lingo, LaBotz is pretty much on the mark as to what the real left needs to do to ” challenge Obama and his policies.” Indeed, his laundry list of demands reminds me of what people like us used to refer to as “transitional demands.”

    Only don’t hold your breath waiting for the ISO to “challenge Obama.” Unless, of course, his popularity takes a nose-dive amongst the “progressive” milleau that the ISO tails after, as its “left wing,” of course.

    Unlike Solidarity, the ISO refused to endorse Nader or McKinney, fearing isolation from what it refers to as the “Obama Generation.” It joined with the latter in partying in the streets when Obama won, pretty much proclaiming that anything was possible in this “new era.” Anything but challenging the illusions surrounding the pro-war, pro-Wall Street president, that is. For the ISO, the latter is about as rare as “progressive” reforms are coming from Obama.

    Even today, the ISO refuses to characterize Obama as the bag-man for Wall Street that he is, focusing on the unpopular Democrats in Congress instead. Indeed, you’d hardly know he was a capitalist politician, representing the millionaires who own him, rather than the millions who voted for him, from reading the ISR or SW. Having published a slew of articles trying to portray Lenin as a super small-d “democrat,” they probably forgot about the stuff in “State and Revolution” describing the state as an instrument used by one class to oppress another. When Obama’s “betrayals” become even too much for the ISO to swallow, criticism is left to others like John Pilger or Jeremy Scahill who have no connection to them.

    For the ISO, “pressuring the politicians” via petty-bourgeois protest politics is about as good as good is gonna’ get. Only thanks to the “Obama movement,” which took everyone off the streets and into the polling places for the Democrats, there isn’t even that anymore. I guess they didn’t pay much attention to the article they published by Mike Davis in the “roundtable” on “Obama’s First 100 Days” which made precisely that point.

    That’s the sorry reality that the ISO refuses to recognize. That and the need to politically confront and defeat the “lesser evilism” that its progressive pals push. Only as long as the latter help pack their “Socalism” confabs with their star drawing power and boost the circulation of the ISR with their articles, don’t count on it.


  11. I’ve with Bill Fletcher, but I’d assert we are building the political instrument that will push the two dominant parties aside, and other backward forces as well.

    The forces and building blocks of that instrument are today ‘inside and outside’ the Democratic arena, especially the workers and minority communities at the grassroots. And that’s exactly why we need an ‘inside-outside’ strategy to reach them and organize within the electoral arena.

    Dan LaBotz and Solidarity can’t see their way to this. Fine. That’s their business, and I’m sure there are others who share it. Good luck with your project.

    But a good number of us are choosing a different course. It involves nonpartisan (not anti-partisan) grassroots alliances and base communities, with political independence seeking common platform and tickets based of the immediate needs and structural reforms required by the working class. And yes, some of the people we will vote for will be Democrats, and others will not.

    Over the years I’ve worked in the Citizens Party, New Party, Labor Party and Green Party, as well as certain Democrats. There’s nothing magical about any third party. And I still consider them, or their successors, allies strategically, even if at the moment they are largely a cul-de-sac that walls us off from the more politically conscious and active workers. Of course, that can change, and hopefully for the better and soon. But there’s a lot of earth to be moved before we’ in a position to brush the Democrats aside.


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