Solidarity forever?

The assertion by most parties in the world communist movement that the war in Ukaine is no more than a “proxy war” between U.S. and western imperialism on the one hand and Russian imperialism on the other, in which one country – Ukraine – is little more than the staging ground for this clash is problematic to say the least. That Ukraine might have its own independent motives, desires, and interests doesn’t figure much in this framing.

To be fair, these parties are critical of Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it is more a footnote than a headline, more a buried subtext than the text, more an afterthought than a framing element. In the same train of thinking, the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty finds a place in their analysis, but on a much lower register than the competiion and clash of rival imperialisms.

And if you still are unpersuaded by this analysis, they will immediately enjoin that Ukraine’s democracy and governing institutions are fradualent and empty; if anything in the hands of oligarchs and fascists.

This devaluing and displacing of Ukrainain sovereignty and democracy strikes me as a transparent, but in the end ineffective ploy, designed to derail any criticism of their position. But events on the ground in Ukraine, as well as their departure from a fundamental position of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, that is, nations have the right to self-determination. Noe of them considerd this right a tactical or secondary matter.

Such a political posture, it follows, has little to do with working class or socialist internationalism, not to mention political non-alignment.

Here are two articles on this subject that are well worth reading. One by a Ukrainian socialist that addresses some of these issues. The other is written by Bill Fletcher, Bill Gelligos, and Jamala Rogers.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, Katherine, and my step mother, Molly. My mother was the emotional ballast and unappreciated caregiver in our family as well as a working woman, piano and organ player, devout catholic, and friend of many and adored by more than a few in the small town in Maine where we lived. But she suddenly left this world much too soon, leaving behind a bereft and spirling downward husband and three grieving and traumatized sons.

Into this emotionally fractured family entered my stepmother, nearly 50 years old and childless up to then, to rescue and give stability to our reeling family. Had she not I’m not sure what would have happened to us, though nothing good for sure. I probably don’t do it well and seldom do it consciously, but I figure I carry pieces of both of them foward in my own journey (or better yet ramble) through life.

Time and moments of reflection only make me appreciate and love each of them more.

Buckpassing

I would argue that there is much too much of what I call “buckpassing” among many left and progressive activists. By this I mean an attitude that places responsibility for the enactment of the postive elements – and there are many – of Biden’s political and legislative agenda exclusively on Biden and Congressional Democrats. The ball, in this understanding of politica, is in their court so to speak. The rest of us are no more than observers – watching, bemoaning, and critiquing compromises, half measures, and withdrawn bills.

Let me give you one example – and there are many: When Biden introduced Build Back Better – a bill that if passed would strike a blow against 30 years of neoliberalism and Reaganism – this same activists, save Reverend Barber and the Poor People’s campaign and a few others, did little in the public square demanding the bill’s passage. The bill was more an object of interest than a subject of struggle.

Nothing like Solidarity Day I and II, protesting Reagan’s punitive policies was organized. Or, like the Women’s March, coinciding with Trump’s inauguration. Or, like the massive demonstrations, triggered by the police asassination of George Floyd.

Even when the bill, albeit in shrunken form, was hanging by a thread, the feet on the ground in Washington or other elsewhere across the country calling for its passage were few. No doubt their absence made it much easier for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to oppose it and, in doing so, kill the bill, as it was constructed.

Granted the pandemic made a mass presence difficult. But making the difficult doable is what leaders of mass organizations are elected to do. If there’s a will, and a splash of creativity, there’s a way.

Now if Biden had a congressional majority in the Senate and House approximating the majorities that Roosevelt and Johnson could count on in their first terms, buckpassing wouldn’t matter so much.

But he doesn’t. Far from it. The Democratic advantage in the Senate and House, as everyone knows, is razor thin and Republican opposition to Biden’s domestic agenda is locked in and fierce. Any Democratic defection in the Senate to a bill is its death knell. In these circumstances, mass actions should be a no brainer. But aren’t yet.

So much so, one could argue that Biden has pressed his domestic agenda better than the diverse coalition that elected him has fought for it. But the past doesn’t have to be prologue to the future. Buckpassing can give way to practical engagement on this crucial level of politics.

But will it? It should, but as we inch closer to November, the attention of elected represenatives of both parties and their various constitutencies will migrate from the halls of Congress to the vector of electoral politics. Moreover, the the foreign policy of the Biden administration – and in particular its unequivocal support of Ukraine and fierce opposition to Putin – have become an escape hatch for some progressive and radical people to further distance them from the administration.

Finally, the results of the November elections, no matter their outcome, will likely trigger a recalibration of the posture of progressive and left activists toward the Biden administration and Democratic Party. In what way isn’t yet clear.

The sound of feet

This opinion article was written in November of last year. It was on target then, but resonates even more in the wake of the leaking of the draft Supreme Court ruling overturing Roe v Wade earlier this week. I hope a national march of a million or more – and soon – is in the works soon. As Frederick Dounglass long ago said. “Power concedes nothing without a struggle.”

Such a march, among other things, would affirm the righteousness of our struggle, reach tens of millions not there – the media and social media would be all over it – and reframe the stakes of the elections this fall, imparting to them new energy, new determination, and a new level of mass mobilization. The sound of feet can sometimes work miracles!

If you’re have doubts about the importance of national marches and actions, recall how the Women’s March in the immediate wake of Trump’s victory lifted people’s spiirits, shifting the atomosphere across the country, and gave a needed impulse to the anti-Trump movement.

A retrograde majority in robes

In its leaked decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the majority on the Supreme Court demonstrates once again that the court, much like the Republican Party, is in the hooks of an authoritarian movement that is virulently misogynist and patriarchal, not to mention rabidly racist and xenophobic, proudly homo and trans phobic, relentlessly anti-democratic and anti-working class, increasingly irrational, angry, and messianic, and, yes, possessing no human decency.

While it portrays itself as populist, anti-elitist, and patriotic, standing up for American values, against “enemies at the gate,” nothing could be further from the truth. At its apex are billionaires, while occupying its base are angry white people – mostly male and Christian – who are inclined toward irrationalism, violence, retribution, and end times thinking.

Needless to say, they are ready, like the Supreme Court majority, to criminalize women and others with child bearing capacity for insisting on control over their own bodies.

If there are any historical antecedents to this retrograge movement that might give us a glimpse of the future if they were to seize power, it is the Southern Redeemers who with a prayer book in one hand and a gun in the another laid waste to the experiment in interracial democracy and substantive equality – first of all racial and gender equality – in the South in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Most Americans and even more women want no part of such a future.

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