Krugman spot on

Krugman is spot on in his oped in today’s NYT; including on the overarching importance of electing a Democratic Congress in 2018. For some this may seem like a mundane task, far less sexy than a full scale assault on the foundations of a society that subordinates everything to profit making. But, given the dangers facing the country and the present balance of forces in Washington. it is absolutely necessary. It will give us leverage that we don’t presently have to more effectively fight Trump and Trumpism.

Admittedly, we won’t be out of the woods and at the door step of a new society in the event that Democrats regain control of Congress, but we will be better positioned to prevent the worst from happening as well as more favorably situated to effect a more fundamental turn later on.

If we have learned anything in the past two weeks of presidential saber — “fire and fury” — rattling and invocations about the “very fine people” that terrorized Charlotte, including turning a car into a murder weapon, it should be, it seems to me, that in the near term everything should be subordinated to weakening and ultimately ousting Trump from the White House. Socialism may be the new talk of the town — although I think this is exaggerated — but our desire for an egalitarian and democratic society shouldn’t take our attention from the utter urgency of our full participation in 2018 elections. We ignore this arena of struggle at our and the country’s peril.

Tactics matter

What we do and how we do it should largely pivot on how it contributes to the building of a much larger movement that can decisively defeat Trump and right wing extremism (the alt right in its various iterations is a subset of this larger political bloc) and throw the country on a different political trajectory that lifts up full and substantive equality, economic security, environmental sustainability, robust democracy, and peace and cooperation.

The choice of tactics, therefore, isn’t a matter of what I might think is cool or not cool or what strikes or doesn’t strike my fancy. MLK, who spent his too short adult life resisting concentrated white supremacist judicial and extra judicial power and terror, embraced tactics that would at once activate people who were sitting on the sidelines, neutralize and divide his opponents, exert pressure on government leaders to do the right thing, retain the high moral ground, and extend and unify a larger coalition of diverse people and organizations.

He didn’t approach tactics narrowly or abstractly. His political lens and tactical acumen were wide angled, flexible, concrete, and strategic. We should learn from his example.

A political crisis demands collective, non-violent, and massive actions

This could well be a defining political moment for the country. But only if the movement and its leaders — writ large and embracing big tent politics — respond immediately to what is a political crisis. At the core of any response to Trump’s embrace of the “fine people,” who espouse white supremacy, anti-semitism, and nazism and itch for violent confrontations, is, I would argue, collective, non-violent, and massive actions in their many forms — including and especially in the streets of Washington. The demand should be unequivocal: Trump is unfit for his office and should resign immediately.

Moreover, a counter narrative and vision should be offered that is rooted in the best traditions of our country.

The history of Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s records moments when a small circle mentality, the politics of purity, narrow tactics (eg. street fighting between Nazis and Communists that were followed by Hitler’s law and order appeals), and inaction at crucial turning points unintentionally facilitated the rise and consolidation of Hitler and the Nazis. I am confident that leaders of the larger peoples movement here won’t make those mistakes, but instead will appeal to us to join them in the public square where public opinion and the politics and fate of the country will be shaped in no small measure.

In the wake of Charlottesvillle

In the wake of the ugly and tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville this weekend, it strikes me that the main role of the left at this moment, apart from honoring the dead and injured, is to be a force to bring together, with a special urgency and in the spirit of non-violent resistance, a broad, diverse, and multi-racial coalition of peoples and organizations in support of democracy, equality, peace, human decency, and our planet. In other words, to assist in assembling “the near and the far,” to use the words of the socialist critic Irving Howe, in the public square, as it resists its own small circle thinking.

Socialism might be the only alternative to barbarism, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote nearly a century ago, but it is a mistake — a colossal one in fact — to think that it is the immediate action task on the people’s or left’s political agenda. What is is a robust defense of democracy and social progress at the core of which is the immediate removal of Trump from office and a sustained struggle against the Republican right and the alt right. And in this regard, it’s none too early to prepare for next year’s elections, which give us an opportunity to hand a good shellacking to this nasty, backward faction. In doing so, we can breathe not only a little sigh of relief, but also more realistically think about an agenda of democratic reforms, including radical ones, not to mention position the country to make a more fundamental shift in political power and direction in 2020.


Wrong angle of entry

Below are two excerpts from the always interesting summer issue of Monthly Review (personal note: its founding editors introduced me to a non-dogmatic marxism).

The first is from John Bellamy Foster’s article, “Revolution and Counterrevolution:”

“All of this reaffirms the historical truth that there can be no socialist revolution—however it should arise—that is not also forced to confront the reality of counterrevolution. Indeed, in judging revolution and counterrevolution over the last century, particular stress must be put on the strength and virulence of the counterrevolution. The struggles and errors of the revolutionists are only to be seen in the context of this wider historical dialectic.”

And the other is from the Editors:

“Indeed, if there is a single underlying theme to the articles included here, it is that they all indicate that in interpreting revolution and counterrevolution over the last century emphasis must be placed on the strength and virulence of the counterrevolution, and that the errors of the revolutionists can only be assessed in that context.”

My initial reaction anyway is that their emphasis, i.e. on the forces of counterrevolution, is wrong if we hope to arrive at an understanding of what happened in the 20th century and the requirements for a turn to socialism and democracy in this century.

Here is what I wrote on my blog (Angle of Entry, more than a year ago, which places “stress” elsewhere:

“Much of I write is exploratory. It is a work in progress; an ongoing conversation with myself as well as with readers.

And there’s an explanation for this: I came to radicalism and the Communist Party in the early 1970s, but I grew up politically in the last two decades of the 20th century and the first decade of this one. During that relatively short stretch of time, two signal events took place that disrupted my safe political space. One was the rise of right wing extremism, neoliberalism, and capitalist globalization at the beginning of the 1980s; the other was the implosion of Soviet socialism a decade later.

The resulting sea change in the direction of world politics caught me – and many others – off guard. After all, I was radicalized at at time when the world seemed nearly infinitely malleable. “Socialism in our time” didn’t seem like wishful thinking. So when the forward march of labor and its allies was abruptly halted and Soviet socialism went belly up with barely a whimper, I felt compelled to reexamine many of the assumptions and core ideas that had framed my thinking and activity.

It was too much of a stretch to think that my old understandings of marxism, marxist methodology, and the world could explain this unexpected and sudden recasting of the world.

Or to put it differently, in the face of a profound and historic defeats, I concluded that the losing side – of which I was a small part – would make a big mistake if it attributes those defeats exclusively to the strength of its opposition or to “class traitors” from within its ranks.

Instead it seemed obvious to me that it was imperative to interrogate my own assumptions, understandings, and practices. To do otherwise seemed profoundly unrealistic, undialectical, and non-marxist. And that continues to be my strongly held opinion.

I learned from playing basketball that if your opponent beats the hell out of you (and that happened to me more than once – the only championship team I ever played on was in 8th grade), then you better make some big adjustments before your next game. To do nothing is to invite another rout.

So I re-read – this time from a different vantage point – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, Dimitrov, Luxemburg, Togliatti, and others of their generations. I also read the work of many contemporary authors who write mainly, but not exclusively, in the Marxist tradition.

In the course of this rethink (and especially over the 14 years that I was the National Chair of the CPUSA before stepping down in 2014 and resigning in 2016), I like to believe that I gained new insights on matters of theory, politics, culture, and marxism as well as jettisoned old notions that had left me so flatfooted in a changing world.

On this blog I will continue, albeit with my obvious limitations, that endeavor. And in doing so I hope that it assists in some small way in the building of a people’s movement and a left that has the vision, reach, unity, power, and common sense to save our fragile planet and make life livable, free, and joyous for all.”

This emphasis, I believe, would serve us better.

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