IN THIS DOSSIER:
- The Organizer Editorial Board Statement: An Important Step Toward Labor’s Political Independence
- Sign-on Statement: Join Us to Support the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party!
- Why We Call for a New Mass Working-Class Party Rooted in the Unions and Oppressed Communities — by Sacramento Coalition for Independent Working Class Political Action
- Needed: An Independent Labor Movement With Its Own Political Party — by the Steering Committee of the Labor Fightback Network
- Report on the Tour Stop with Nick Brana in L.A. — by Olivia Gamboa
- ‘We Will Never Get What We Want from the Democrats!’ — by Millie Phillips
- Some Questions Posed During the Califorina Tour and Nick Brana’s Answers
- Toward a Mass-Based Independent Working-Class Party — by Saladin Muhammad
- The Anti-Trump Resistance and the Democratic Party — by the Steering Committee of the Labor Fightback Network
- Just How Progressive Are the Democratic Party ‘Progressives’? — Two articles excerpted from Black Agenda Report
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An Important Step Toward Labor’s Political Independence
In late August, the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP) and The Organizer — the monthly newspaper of Socialist Organizer — joined forces to launch the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party (LCCIP). In just the span of 10 days, more than 150 prominent trade unionists and activists from a wide array of political backgrounds endorsed this campaign, as did several national organizations. A number of trade union locals will be meeting in the coming weeks and are expected to jump on board.
In this issue of The Organizer, we are publishing as a special 8-page supplement of Unity & Independence — our Open Forum section — a dossier with the initial campaign documents and first contributions to the discussion. We urge our readers and supporters to endorse the LCCIP sign-on statement and join the effort to (1) build labor-community coalitions that run independent candidates for local and state office beginning in 2019, and (2) promote the discussion inside the labor movement about the need for a mass Labor-based political party.
Why do we, Socialist Organizer, support this campaign?
Basing our activity on the historic program of the Fourth International — the international party of world socialist revolution founded exactly 80 years ago by Leon Trotsky and his comrades — we believe that the alternative facing humanity in this period of the death agony of the capitalist system is either socialism or barbarism.
Capitalist barbarism, in fact, is rearing its ugly head at a dizzying pace. The $247 trillion global debt bomb, rooted in an orgy of speculation, is about to explode, with a major recession, if not Depression, on the horizon.
U.S. wars are being waged against oppressed peoples and nations all across the globe for the control of resources, such as oil, and capitalist profit, leaving in their wake untold deaths, the dislocation of millions of people, and massive destruction. Boston University’s Cost of Wars Project estimates that $4.6 trillion alone have been spent on the wars — bipartisan wars — in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. These huge sums should have been earmarked for good-paying union jobs in public-works programs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and social services — not plunder and devastation.
We are convinced that only the emancipation of the working class, championing the rights and democratic and social aspirations of all oppressed peoples, can open a future of peace and justice for all — a socialist future — through the collective appropriation of the means of production, placed under workers’ control.
We believe that the struggle for socialism in the United States requires that the working class declare its political independence from the capitalist class, which raises, in turn, the need for the trade unions, the only organized expression of the working class today, to break its ties of subordination to the Democratic Party, one of the twin parties of the bosses, and create a party of our own — a Labor-based party rooted in the unions and oppressed communities.
As such, we support all steps forward leading in this direction, which is why we support energetically the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party.
We invite you to join us …
You will find in the dossier published in this issue of Unity & Independence a wide array of political positions that reflect different political backgrounds and points of view. Some of the positions contained in this dossier do not necessarily represent the point of view of Socialist Organizer, but all of them, in our opinion, are an important contribution to the necessary discussion of how best to advance the struggle for independent working-class political action.
While opening our pages to this discussion, we feel that it is especially necessary for us to put forward our full positions in The Organizer newspaper in support of socialism and working-class internationalism — which is why we are supporters of the International Workers Committee for a Workers International and why we publish in every issue documents from IWC activists and sections of the OCRFI worldwide.
We invite our readers to become active builders of the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party, and we invite you, so that we can be more effective in this struggle, to join Socialist Organizer. To learn more about us, you can visit our website at http://www.socialistorganizer.com.
— The Editors
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The California tour of Nick Brana, national coordinator of the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP), and Millie Phillips, editorial board member of The Organizer newspaper and Steering Committee member of the Labor Fightback Network, was a big success.
More than 100 unionists and activists in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose attended the invitation-only organizing meetings aimed at promoting a labor-community campaign for an independent mass working class party rooted in the unions, youth, and communities of the oppressed. Event co-sponsors were heartened by the strong support for this effort during the tour.
At the conclusion of the meetings, the events’ co-sponsors — The Organizer Newspaper and the Movement for a People’s Party — called upon participants to endorse a statement [see below] launching this campaign. Within just a few days, eight organizations and 150 unionists and activists endorsed. [For the full list of initial endorsers, go to socialistorganizer.com or ForAPeople’sParty.org.]
We urge you to endorse and build this campaign. Return your coupon to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Please indicate your interest in (1) creating labor-community coalitions in your cities that run independent candidates for public office to promote the struggle for a new mass independent working-class party, and/or (2) opening a discussion in your unions or labor organizations about the need to create a committee of trade union leaders and rank-and-file activists that advocates for a Labor-Based Political Party.
— The Organizing Committee for a Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party
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Join Us to Support the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party
We — political, trade union, and community activists from different political backgrounds — have decided to constitute ourselves as the Labor-Community Campaign for an Independent Party (LCCIP) with two intertwined objectives:
Our first objective is to promote running independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2019 at a local and state level around a platform that embraces workers’ and communities’ pressing demands. The explicit aim is to advance the effort to build a mass party for working people rooted in unions, youth, and communities of the oppressed. The platforms of these independent candidates need to be discussed and approved by labor-community assemblies, and the candidates must be answerable to these assemblies and to the coalitions formed for this purpose.
Our second objective is to promote widely in the trade union movement a committee that advocates for a Labor-Based Political Party. A resolution adopted by the October 2017 national convention of the AFL-CIO affirmed that, “whether the candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of labor and working people have generally been set back.” A second convention resolution concluded that, “the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics.”
The committee’s goal will be to promote the discussion inside the labor movement about the need to break with the “lesser of two evils politics” and to create a “Labor-Based Political Party” — a reference to the title of a forum organized by key labor officials at the October 2017 AFL-CIO convention. In order to create such a mass party for working people, we will organize to raise awareness in the unions of the need to break with the Democratic Party.
– – – – –
[ ] I support this campaign.
[ ] My union/organization supports this campaign.
I would like to get involved in one or more of these activities:
[ ] Help to build a coalition in my city with the aim of running independent labor-community candidates and advancing the effort to build a new mass party for working people.
[ ] Ask for a speaker on this issue at my union or community organization.
[ ] Ask for support in drafting a resolution on this issue for my union or community organization.
UNION / ORG & Title (for id. only)
Please fill out and return to: email@example.com.
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Why We Call for a New Mass Working-Class Party Rooted in the Unions and Oppressed Communities
(excerpted from the Statement of Purpose of the Sacramento Coalition for Independent Working Class Political Action)
Fifty years after the Poor People’s March on Washington, DC, not only have living and working conditions failed to improve for the exploited working-class majority and the poor, conditions have gotten dramatically worse.
Why is this? In our view, it’s because we are living under a capitalist system in crisis — a system that only knows how to stem its growing crisis by fueling speculation and war spending, on the one hand, and by slashing workers’ wages and working/living conditions, on the other. To achieve this, divisions are created among workers and all the oppressed to prevent us from uniting and fighting back against their predatory system.
We’re in this dire situation because the capitalists have been able to count on their twin parties — the Democrats and Republicans — to do their bidding over these past 50 years.
To beat back this racist and anti-worker offensive by the employers and the politicians in their pay, we need to raise clear demands that can mobilize millions of people in the streets around their pressing needs. We must build democratically run coalitions that bring together the stakeholders in labor and the communities of the oppressed, so that they have a decisive say in formulating their demands and mapping out a strategy.
Most important, we need to put an end to the monopoly of political power by the Democrats and Republicans. The labor movement and the leaders of the Latino and Black struggles need to break with their reliance on the Democratic Party and build their own mass-based independent working class political party — a Labor-Based Political Party rooted in the struggles of the unions and all the oppressed communities.
At a time when close to two-thirds of the voting-age population favors the formation of a mass-based independent political party (September 2017 Gallup poll), the time is now to get this effort off the ground.
We will seek every opportunity to run independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2019 at the local and state levels, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass Labor-based political party. Such candidates will run against the Democrats and Republicans and will promote a “clean-break” strategy in relation to all wings of the Democratic Party.
The platforms of these independent candidates need to be discussed and approved by labor-community assemblies, and the candidates must be answerable to these assemblies and to the coalitions formed for this purpose. This is an essential component of the effort to build working class power.
Given that local races are often non-partisan (that is, candidates do not have to declare any party affiliation), any independent labor-community candidate running for public office as part of this effort would need to call for breaking with the Democratic Party as well as for building a new mass independent working class political party rooted in the unions, which represent exploited workers, and communities of the oppressed. That is the very definition of their political independence.
The candidates and the coalitions themselves cannot be limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in the platforms, projecting these struggles into the electoral arena. This will help to cement the alliance between labor and oppressed communities.
We also will make every effort to promote the launching of a new committee advocating for a Labor-Based Political Party. We will promote this discussion in our unions, through discussion groups and union resolutions, based on the September 2017 resolutions calling for a break with “Lesser of Two Evils” politics adopted by the national convention of the AFL-CIO.
The efforts to promote independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2019 and a new committee advocating for a Labor-Based Political Party must go hand in hand. If the effort to get such a committee off the ground succeeds, more local unions are likely to endorse and campaign for the local candidates. Building successful coalitions to promote independent labor-community candidates at a local level could help gain new supporters at all levels of the labor movement to the effort to launch a committee advocating for a Labor-Based Party. Building locally and gaining national labor support are two prongs of an approach meant to feed off each other and advance our overall goals.
While labor itself is a multiracial movement, we also must be attentive to how we build trade union alliances with Black and Latino communities: The labor component of these coalitions must be sensitive to the fact, especially within the Black community, that a number of Black organizations have been running independent Black working class candidates for office, with some success. Labor should support such efforts as well as seek to involve them in broader labor-community coalitions for a new mass, labor-based party.
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Needed: An Independent Labor Movement With Its Own Political Party
(excerpted from a statement written by now-departed Labor Fightback Network founder Jerry Gordon that was adopted in August 2016 by the Steering Committee of the LFN)
As has long been the pattern of labor politics — with a growing number of dissenters among a number of unions and millions of rank-and-file workers — “lesser evil” is the controlling consideration in determining labor’s strategy.
But “lesser evil” is not working out. The Democratic Party is corporate-controlled and remains subservient to the big money rollers, not to the working class. Today that party stands exposed for the sham that it continues to perpetrate as the “party of the people.”
It is high time for labor to challenge the monopoly that Big Business exercises in the electoral arena. To be sure, this requires the spearheading of a coalition with its community allies. Labor could be a magnetic force in helping to unite tens of millions in support of a program that reflects the needs of workers, communities of color, youth, environmentalists, and other progressive forces.
For the above reasons, the Labor Fightback Network urges the formation of independent labor-community coalitions in cities and states around the country based on a program collectively decided. Such coalitions, functioning democratically, could serve as building blocks for a national party, which is indispensable, and in the meanwhile run its own candidates to challenge the status quo. The alternative is despair, dissolution, and irrelevance.
Labor’s failure to seize this rare moment will mean a continuation of the old politics which has led to a deepening of multiple crises: unending imperialist wars, as in Afghanistan; the escalation of gunning down unarmed people of color on our streets by cops out of control; social programs under attack by both parties; massive unemployment and under-employment; mass incarceration; runaway military spending; tens of millions without healthcare and millions more severely under-insured; the further poisoning of our environment; 50 million people living in poverty while 2/3 of all corporations pay no income taxes; upending assaults on abortion rights; climate change and more fracking.
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Report on the Tour Stop with Nick Brana in L.A.
By OLIVIA GAMBOA
The August 26 Los Angeles Living Room Forum on “Organizing for a New Labor-Based Political Party and For Independent Labor-Community Candidates” was very successful.
Along with Nick Brana, national coordinator of the Movement for a People’s Party and featured speaker at the gathering, the group also included several retired teachers, former union organizers, and a member of the military. A number of the people in attendance had volunteered for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, then for the effort to draft Bernie to a people’s party, and then for the Movement for a People’s Party.
Coral Wheeler, former graduate student union organizer, began the meeting with a brief history of how the Democratic Party had consistently betrayed working people’s interests. This was not news to anyone in attendance, however, and the group quickly began chiming in about their own experiences of being let down by the Democrats, which was what had inspired many people to get involved in independent politics in the first place.
Nick himself had been involved in the campaigns of both John Kerry and several congressional Democrats. Turned off by the realization that the Democratic Party could secretly change the party rules at any time, he left political organizing until 2015, when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy. Inspired by Bernie’s habit of telling the truth in simple terms and his pledge to reject corporate money, Nick re-ignited his activism.
The Sanders campaign, after learning of Nick’s experience dealing with corporate Democrats, sent him to meet with superdelegates pledged to Hillary Clinton to attempt to convert them to Bernie votes. He became the political outreach coordinator of the Bernie for President Campaign. It was there that he saw once and for all how undemocratic the Democratic Party was at its core. Then, after the establishment Democrats stole the nomination from Sanders outright, Nick decided that he was done with that party.
The final lesson, according to Nick, came in the form of Sanders not only failing to leave the Democratic Party, but refusing even to meet with members of the “Draft Bernie” movement — a movement to draft Bernie to independent politics, a new party with him as the head.
Since then, Sanders has refused to explain his change in position from believing that real change could only be made outside the Democratic Party to his current position that it can be reformed from within. Nick then went on to explain that, despite Sanders’ rhetoric, only one progressive candidate has successfully unseated a Democratic incumbent in the primary — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Furthermore, when tasked with an important reform demanded by progressives inside the party, the party leadership failed to eliminate the superdelegates, instead merely limiting their actual votes to a second round of voting at the convention [see accompanying article].
According to Nick, this belies the recent proclamations that the Democratic Party is changing or can be changed in any meaningful way. This is what prompted him to found the Movement for a People’s Party. The Democratic Party, he insisted, cannot and will never be a party for working people, and working people need their own party
After Nick and Coral provided the attendees with this history, the conversation quickly turned to action and next steps. Everyone agreed with the principle of running independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2019 on a local level, as well as promoting within the labor movement the need to create a committee that advocates for a new mass-based Labor-based political party, to borrow the title of a forum held at the October 2017 national convention of the AFL-CIO.
Nick also called on everyone in attendance to help existing candidates that are supported by the MPP, such as independent Tim Canova, who recently quit the Democratic Party and is now challenging Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for Congress.
Nick and Coral also highlighted the importance that labor has in this movement for a party for working people rooted in unions, youth, and the communities of the oppressed. The Democratic Party has made a mockery of unions by making endless promises that are immediately broken once labor helps them win office.
Two resolutions adopted by the recent AFL-CIO convention in St. Louis call for the labor movement to break with “the lesser of two evils politics” and to explore the paths toward “independent and third-party politics.” Everyone at the meeting agreed that this was a crucial opening to build support for independent politics within labor.
Using these two resolutions, we all pledged to get involved in local union activities when possible, even if we ourselves are not currently in a union. This is immediately possible in Los Angeles, as UTLA, the second largest teachers’ union in the country, is preparing a major strike for the first time in decades. The very next day, two of the meeting’s attendees started this outreach by attending a UTLA strike-planning meeting in Los Angeles.
The next steps are crucial, and we must make sure to follow-up with all in attendance and organize for a future larger meeting, but it was a very important and successful first step. Everyone left the meeting feeling positive and committed to building this movement with the goal of winning elections and eventually having a real working-class alternative to the two parties of the bosses.
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‘We Will Never Get What We Want from the Democrats!’
(Following is the presentation by Millie Phillips, member of the Editorial Board of The Organizer newspaper, to the Aug. 28 forum/Organizing meeting in San Francisco on the “Fight for Independent Working-Class Politics.”)
Twenty years ago, I was one of the local activists leading the movement for a labor party, which, in the moment, felt like the culmination of an almost life-long dream: having a party of our own. And by “our” I mean a party grounded in the needs and desires of the working class as a whole and built by the resources of the organized working class; that is, the labor unions.
There was a lot that was very positive about this movement, which took place throughout the 1990s into the early 2000s. Here in the Bay Area, some 15 union locals endorsed. Regular meetings of our chapter attracted over a 100 activists for several years running. Nationally our founding convention attracted almost 1,500 elected union and chapter delegates and it adopted a program which, though it could use a lot of updating, is still a decent model of what a Labor Party ought to raise.
Yet, after a few annual conventions, the party fizzled, the victim of many factors, all of which provide partial explanations, but none of which was solely responsible.
The LP functioned as a pressure group on the Democrats
The most obvious, perhaps, was that the party declined, with a few local exceptions, such as South Carolina, to run candidates for office. In spite of its open advocacy for a new party of labor, in practice, it functioned as a pressure group on the Democrats, which frankly made it safe for the top leaders of unions.
Now, unions and social movements have always pressured the Democrats on issues and policies; sometimes with partial or temporary victories, occasionally with good reforms that last for a few generations. Nothing wrong with that when it comes to issues, but a labor party that does only that is redundant, just an extra set of meetings in an already busy activist’s schedule. When people hear the word party, they think elections and candidates, not yet another multi-issue coalition.
LP failed to include all communities negatively impacted by capitalism
However, with much hindsight, I think another one of the biggest factors was that organized labor was trying to go it on its own. The conclusion I reached was that we need, from the start, a collective effort that includes organized labor, absolutely, and also includes all communities negatively impacted by capitalism. Yes, unions form the organized sector of the working class and therefore the one with the most potential power. Labor is the only institution that represents the working class as such, but all working class people are exploited, by definition, regardless of other factors.
The vast majority of those who are oppressed in this country by race, immigrant status, national origin, and gender, are also working class. The vast majority of the working class, regardless of other forms of oppression, is not organized. The vast majority of those traditionally called middle class are actually working class and are downwardly mobile in a way unprecedented since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In all fairness to the Labor Party effort, labor itself is a multiracial, multinational movement. For example, thanks to the societal and legal shifts of the Civil Rights movement, workers of color have joined unions in much higher percentages than white workers ever since the 1970s. Within the Labor Party we had activists from many communities, and we did adopt a program that spoke powerfully to the interests of most, but by limiting it to organized labor, we failed to gain a much larger constituency and missed out on many essential voices.
Today, with so many vibrant movements of people fighting back who are not in labor unions, and a revived labor movement that is much better at community solidarity, outreach, and allyship than it was in the 1990s, it would be a far worse mistake not to include unorganized workers or equal representation in the leadership from oppressed and frontline communities. Barely 10% of public sector workers are organized and only 6% of the privately employed. We can’t leave out the rest of us.
Labor is the only institution that represents the working class as such
Yet, labor is still an essential part of this effort. Why? Some of that is practical: in addition to being the only institution that represents the working class as such, labor has significant money and volunteer resources. One major union alone raised and spent close to $70 million on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Imagine how we could use that money.
Also, despite the decline and defeats, labor is rising up again, along with workers trying to organize and join unions. Young people working in fast food and retail – the fight for $15, groups like Rise Up and OUR Walmart and Young Workers United. Locally our labor council has representatives from these groups; an act of solidarity and inclusion that was unheard of in the 1990s.
Democrats’ sell-out gave us Trump
And we are beginning to win again. Teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma and Arizona struck even when it was illegal and actually won significant improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions. Workers in Missouri rejected Right to Work. I’ve lived in Missouri and Arizona — when workers fight back, gain tremendous community support, and win in places like those, that is truly significant.
Here we are winning victories, too, such as our K-12 teachers did with a new, militant leadership and saving City College and making it free to city residents. Janitors struck and won a much-improved contract. Unions are supporting the immigrant rights movement and helping form groups like Bay Resistance dedicated to uniting us across other divisions. And we are gearing up for more: On Labor Day, UNITE HERE Local 2 will kick off its campaign for hotel contracts starting with Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain.
There is a rising militancy of youth and a rapidly growing and now majority support throughout the population for the idea of another party. Now is absolutely not the time to let the Democratic Party use Trump to suck us back into the two-party, never-draining swamp. Let’s face it; Trump would never be in office if the Democrats hadn’t sold out everything we in this room stand for. We aren’t traitors or dupes of the Russians — we are the working-class majority.
Why should any of us settle for less
We want racial and gender equality, but not the current race to the bottom in the name of equality promoted by those at the top. We want a living wage, housing for all, civil liberties, free education, community control of law enforcement personnel, full rights for immigrants, a single payer Medicare for all system, strengthening Social Security, taxing the rich, ending the war economy.
We want a rational response to climate change, the consequences of which, if unchecked, will render all our other demands irrelevant. Ultimately, we want a new system and the sooner the better. And I challenge you, give me a single reason why any of us should settle for less?
We will never get what we want from the Democratic Party or any institution beholden to the capitalist class. We need nothing less than a movement grounded and built from below by local organizing, leading to a national effort for a new working-class party. Back in the 1990s, we had the right idea. The objective conditions were ripe then, too.
But, today, we have the right time and, let’s get brutally honest, not enough time left to risk waiting any longer. The objective conditions are rapidly getting past ripe, and, as more and more of us come up against the utter depravity of capitalism in our own lives, now we see the subjective conditions emerging in a way unprecedented in our lifetimes. It’s time!
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Some Questions Posed During the Calif. Tour and Nick Brana’s Answers
Question: The Democratic National Committee just met this past weekend [Aug. 25-26] in Chicago, and one of the main stories coming out of the meeting was that the progressives — the Berniecrats — were able to make great headway in their effort to “reform” and “take back” the Democratic Party. Proof of this, it was reported, was the assertion that the DNC had agreed to eliminate the superdelegates. Is there any truth to this claim?
Brana: No. The DNC did not eliminate the superdelegates. The party leadership could have done so, but it didn’t. What they did is push the superdelegates to the second ballot of the presidential nomination convention. And because the DNC controls the Rules and Bylaws Committee, the party can force a second ballot if it wants to.
This means that the DNC retains its ability to subvert the democratic will of the party’s convention delegates by resorting to a vote of the superdelegates on a second ballot, which, again, the party leadership can force at will. The party leadership can wield the votes of superdelegates in the event the first ballot does not produce a presidential nominee of their liking.
These superdelegates are all party insiders, DNC members, state party chairs, and corporate lobbyists. Each superdelegate has the power of 10,000 voters.
Question: Is there anything else that came out of the DNC meeting that we haven’t been told about?
Brana: The DNC actually took several steps to expand and consolidate its power over the 2020 presidential primary. In addition to rebuking progressive demands to eliminate the superdelegates, the party reduced caucuses, which had supplied more than half of Bernie’s state wins in 2016, and replaced them with primaries.
It preserved the use of joint fundraising agreements, which Hillary Clinton used to launder money to her campaign and take over the DNC. It approved a rule allowing the DNC to block candidates who have not been “faithful” Democrats from running — a new rule that directly targets Bernie Sanders. It kept nearly a hundred lobbyists on the DNC. And it did nothing to extricate corporate and billionaire money from the party, preserving rampant corruption.
Question: The effort to begin the process of launching a new mass working class party is laudable, but isn’t it jumping the gun? Don’t we have to wait for big movements and struggles to take place within the trade unions and the social movements for a new party to emerge?
Nick Brana: Building the social movements and promoting the fightback struggles within labor need to go hand in hand with taking initial steps toward building a new mass independent party for working people. These are complementary activities. A social movement without the ability to gain power and elect people is stunted.
The idea that we should delay building the foundation of a new mass political party to some indeterminate future, especially when the polls show that a large majority want such a new party now, is not the way to go.
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Toward a Mass-Based Independent Working-Class Party
By Saladin Muhammad
(Saladin Muhammad is a founder of Black Workers For Justice and co-coordinator of the Southern Workers Assembly.)
While recognizing that the election of Trump/Pence is a symptom of the capitalist crisis and the obvious failure of the Democratic Party to provide a program of social policies that address vital needs of working-class and oppressed people, Trump’s role in government cannot simply be referred to as a symptom, like unemployment
The Trump/Pence regime represents a blatant racist and fascist section of the U.S. ruling class shaping a neo-fascist direction of the State and fostering a racist social movement that seeks to divide and intimidate the working class, especially the nationally oppressed sectors.
One of the questions facing the working class, especially among the nationally oppressed, as part of the path towards building an independent political party is how to defeat the Trump/Pence regime as a struggle against rising fascism. The Trump/Pence regime has helped to foster an open fascist tendency that directly attacks working class Black and other oppressed peoples. Without being identified as a force struggling to expose, isolate, and defeat the Trump/Pence regime, working-class Black and other oppressed masses of color will not feel that an independent mass working-class party-building effort is fully including the struggle against deep and racist impacts of the capitalist crisis on them.
A struggle to include the defense and expansion of Black majority political districts and opposition to Black church burnings as part of the U.S. Labor Party’s program at its founding convention in June 1996 required the formation of a Black Caucus to wage a struggle on the convention floor. This was a strong indication that a movement to form a working-class and oppressed peoples’ independent party has to make the struggle against structural racism a major part of the working-class political program and struggle. This means, especially for the Left, recognizing the Black liberation movement under the leadership of the Black working class and the struggle for African American self-determination as an autonomous flank in U.S. and international working-class struggle against capitalism and imperialism.
The popular front strategy of many on the Left against fascism has meant supporting the so-called liberal wing of capitalism — in the U.S. case, the Democratic Party, as the so-called lesser of two evils. Forces on the Left, especially among the nationally oppressed working-class sectors, must develop and promote an independent political action program that links building areas of local and state government power as an aspect of developing bases of working-class and oppressed peoples contending and transformative power.
This means linking running and electing political candidates to a strategic program and plan to build areas of mass-based power. Elected officials must be accountable to a conscious and active political mass base — a mass base that is not only active in elections but that is building power and influence in the social and economic institutions within the political districts, cities, counties, and states of the elected officials. Political power must not be viewed as the exclusive role of elected officials, thereby reducing the political power of the working class to voting in elections.
The major capitalist parties are vehicles used by the U.S. ruling class to exercise power over the U.S. State to protect the capitalist and imperialist system, and to present an illusion of democracy where the masses of people have a right to vote to elect political representatives. We must expose how bourgeois democracy intentionally disenfranchises large numbers of working-class people of color, and how the vote for the highest office of the United States, the president, is not decided by the majority vote of the citizens. The building of mass-based struggles challenging this undemocratic electoral system must be one of the major tasks of the mass work toward building an independent mass working-class and oppressed peoples’ party.
Running and electing independent working-class political officials must be seen as helping to build the mass-based working-class and oppressed peoples’ struggle for contending and transforming political power within and over the various levels of governmental (State) power. Simply electing self-declared socialists, revolutionary nationalists, or even members of trade unions, without an active strategy for building areas of mass-based working-class and oppressed peoples’ contending power is not enough to begin favorably altering the balance of power for the working class and oppressed peoples. It also starts and shapes the main character of the independent party-building process from above, running candidates, and not from a base-building strategy from below.
As has been typical during the deepening of the capitalist crisis, structural racism has created a reactionary white nationalist consciousness, a form of national chauvinism among many white workers and poor people according to which Blacks, Latinos, Native Americas and immigrants from the global South, are their main enemy, diverting their attention from their real enemy: the capitalist class.
The labor movement, as the most organized and resourceful section of the working class, must be won as a major force for building an independent working-class and oppressed mass political party. With rank-and-file democracy and control and a social-movement unionism perspective, trade unions are in the best position to help forge unity among a large percentage of the U.S. multinational working-class.
Recognizing that forces like Our Revolution will be trying to pressure from the inside, the question at this stage becomes how to build and consolidate a mass based independent party movement as a leader of the anti-fascist and anti-capitalist/imperialist struggles from the outside?
The demand of “Impeach Trump” should be viewed by the Left as an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist demand, promoting strategic reforms that empower the working class and oppressed in a bottom-up mass-based independent political movement for contending and transformative power. Yes, an Impeach the Trump/Pence Regime slogan and campaign will project some objective expression of alignment with the Democratic Party, but we must project a program that elevates Impeach Trump/Pence to a program that also challenges the general protect capitalism/imperialism program of the Democratic Party.
Just as some have broken from the Bernie Sanders strategy of trying to transform the Democratic Party, a slogan calling for impeaching and jailing the Trump/Pence regime moves it outside of solely depending on electing a Democratic majority to the U.S. Congress. Impeach, Jail and Overturn Executive Orders and Policies Established by the Trump/Pence Regime needs to be projected as a slogan of the movement to build an independent mass working-class and oppressed peoples’ political agenda during the 2018 and 2020 election periods.
It offers a potential for winning socialists working inside of the Democratic Party and wider sections of the working class in the labor, Black liberation, women’s, LGBTQ and anti-war movements and mass organizations, among others, to join and help the development of a mass movement to build an independent mass working class and oppressed peoples’ party.
Winning working class and oppressed masses to local bases, issue battlefronts, and national organizations like trade unions that help to position them to exercise working-class power must be a concentrated focus of work to build independent mass bases of contending power for the emergence of an independent mass party. Uniting the mass bases around an independent program and in worker assemblies that may run local candidates for offices in non-partisan elections or organize for local and statewide referendums can begin to establish the identity and challenges of the mass party in the electoral arena.
For the Black liberation movement, the perspective of uniting the common Black working-class mass-issue struggles into Black working-class-led Black liberation movement battlefronts struggling for mass-based power is critical for linking the Black Left to the Black working-class and developing a consciousness and base for an independent working-class and oppressed peoples’ mass political party.
The formation of Black liberation assemblies — promoted by the National Assembly for Black Liberation held on May 18-20, 2018 in Durham, N.C. — is an organizing form to develop unity in action around independent local, state, and national demands that begin to bring a national and international character and support to the struggles and strategies for local contending and transformative power.
A major concern is how to prevent the further fragmenting of the Black Left around the 2018 and 2020 election periods. Without sufficient roots in the Black working class among the Black Left, the split among us during the Obama election period and candidacy occurred without a national framework for discussing possible points of unity that may have allowed the development of a strategic program to build local independent mass Black working-class bases of resistance and contending power during the Obama presidency. This would have helped to provide more strategic political direction to the spontaneous struggles taking place during the Obama administration, helping to position and deepen mass bases of resistance and political independence among the Black working class, no matter who won the 2016 presidential elections.
Such a split now, when the government and social forces of rising fascism are growing, uniting and testing their strength, would not only further fragment the Black Left, keeping the Black liberation movement from developing beyond the level of spontaneity. It would leave the spontaneous movements vulnerable to a level of repression that would intimidate and dismantle mass organizations, social movements and the mass bases that the Left relies on to advance an independent working-class and oppressed peoples’ political agenda and for the development of political party.
The Black working class enters the broad alliance of working-class-led forces as part of a Black liberation movement struggling for self-determination, as a form of dual contending and transformative power against a settler-colonial capitalist and imperialist State. Promoting an understanding of the importance of the struggle against structural racism as an essential part of building a movement and political party for working-class political independence must be a major task of the Left within the labor movement.
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The Anti-Trump Resistance and the Democratic Party
(Following are brief excerpts from a statement issued by Steering Committee of the Labor Fightback Network. The full text can be accessed at http://laborfightback.org.)
It would be surprising if anyone who believes in peace, justice, economic equality, and environmental protection did not feel white-hot anger at the policies and pronouncements of President Donald Trump. Millions of people observing the horror show of the Trump administration support the idea of impeaching Trump.
The political establishment has found the “high crime” with which they will charge Trump to remove him from office — and it is a big one, actually mentioned before “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Constitution. It is treason — yes, treason. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as other agencies in that murky network known as “the intelligence community,” have come to a consensus that agents of the Russian “intelligence community” attempted to influence the 2016 election in favor of Mr. Trump.
Suddenly, Democrats have worked themselves into a frenzy about Russia.
What is dangerous is that liberal Democrats are now taking a page from the Cold War playbook. We have heard accusations that, not only is Trump a “traitor,” but that anyone who does not actively work for his impeachment is a “traitor,” too. That goes for anyone who does not vote Democratic in the 2018 election or who campaigns for electoral candidates running as Greens or as independent socialists.
These are tactics worthy of Senator Joseph “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy, whose reign of terror in the late 1940s and early 1950s was a sad chapter in the history of this republic. The liberals are attempting to intimidate people into voting Democratic, as increasing numbers of voters recognize that the Democrats do not represent our interests.
The social-justice wing of the labor movement needs to stand up and fight back against these undemocratic election tactics. The Democrats need to be told in no uncertain terms that working people have the right to vote as they see fit to promote their interests and values, and that it is not treason to do so.
At the same time, it is important to support and work for the success of mass actions in the streets. Mass demonstrations in the streets are the first step to organizing working people in their own interests and in their own name to take whatever actions necessary to save life on Earth.
Simply removing Donald Trump from the presidency — as desirable as it is — will not do that. After all, can we expect anything good from President Mike Pence?
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Just How Progressive Are the Democratic Party “Progressives”?
AOC’s Tweet to John McCain
(Following are excerpts from an article by Danny Haiphong that was published in the Sept. 12 issue of Black Agenda Report. The full article can be accessed at www.blackagendareport.com.)
It should be all too clear by now that the “Resistance” to Donald Trump within the U.S. power structure is just a public relations stunt to sow popular consensus for war. The “Resistance” is comprised of the parasitic ruling class entities that huddled under Hillary Clinton’s big tent in the 2016 presidential election.
The “Resistance” was out in full force to celebrate John McCain’s life, and it used the occasion of his funeral to promote its “anti-Trump,” pro-war message.
McCain supported Nazis in Ukraine and head-chopping terrorists in Syria. He encouraged enthusiastically the U.S. invasion of Iraq and called for the bombing of Iran on numerous occasions. He also opposed fervently the existence of a Martin Luther King holiday.
To Democrats and Republicans, it was his service to the lords of war and finance that made him so heroic.
In fact, praise from McCain has come from all sides of the so-called “Resistance” to Trump. Congressman John Lewis called McCain a “warrior for peace.” Former President Barack Obama eulogized McCain as a prime example of what it meant to be a “patriot.”
What is surprising, or at least should be, is that self-proclaimed democratic socialists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are guilty of the same crime. When McCain died, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that his “legacy represents an example of human decency and American service.”
Some members of DSA have issued a rebuke of Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet. While this is a necessary step in a positive direction, Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet is representative of much more than a mere case of bad politics. Her support of McCain means that she isn’t an opponent of empire. It also means that she certainly IS a Democrat.
Ocasio-Cortez’s unapologetic co-sign of McCain’s corporate war agenda calls into question the limitations of running for elected office within the Democratic Party apparatus.
The Democratic Party has never been the party of the working class or oppressed. It has never been the party of Black America. Democratic Party leaders promise only more austerity and war and actively suppress anyone who stands in their way.
The love that Democrats and their corporate media partners have shown McCain over the last few weeks is a stark indication of just how deep the bipartisan consensus for war and imperialism runs. That Ocasio-Cortez joined the chorus is a reminder that socialism is more than just a word. Socialism is a system that people fight for when armed with the understanding that capitalism and imperialism cannot be reformed.
Socialism is a system where workers and oppressed people operate and control a new state, one that is geared toward the needs of the people rather than the profit motive. Such a system is impossible without a movement grounded in the principle of solidarity with people beyond U.S. borders.
Real socialists understand that the U.S. war machine is the principle instrument of imperialist oppression worldwide. Solidarity is a conscious decision to fight the U.S. war machine so that people around the world can strengthen their own movements for liberation.
Socialists have two paths before them. One leads directly to the graveyard of social movements staffed by the Democratic National Committee. The other leads to abandonment of the Democrats so that new independent formations and organizations can emerge and find increased popular support.
All socialist-leaning organizers, activists, and journalists should consider this when thinking about running another election campaign within the Democratic Party machinery.
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Silence on U.S. Foreign Policy
(Following are brief excerpts from an article by Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce Dixon. The full article can be found at http://www.blackagendareport.com.)
There are three national outfits providing technical and fundraising assistance, expert personnel, and endorsements to supposedly progressive Democrats. They are Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, and Our Revolution.
They had a big hand in the victory of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in New York, and in dozens of congressional, state level, and local Democratic primary campaigns.
Thirty-one congressional candidates endorsed by one or more of these progressive outfits survived the Democratic primary to face Republicans in November. Black Agenda Report took a quick look at the web sites of those 31 progressive candidates for congress.
What stands out in their web sites is that 21 out of 31 have absolutely NOTHING to say to voters about war or peace, or about the military budget which consumes roughly one trillion dollars a year.
For 21 out of 31 so-called progressive Democratic candidates, the world outside the U.S., the American global empire, and the globally integrated capitalist economy either do not exist at all, or just don’t make their top 10 or top 12 list of priority issues.
That’s what it is to be a progressive Democrat these days.
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