(This is a letter from me to Max Elbum in which convey some thoughts in reaction to his recent article. It was written as the immoral and imperialist Russian invasion of Ukraine was beginning. No doubt, it will (is already) shifting the terrain on which the elections and much else will fought be out.)
I had intended to send you a note a few days ago, but for various reasons – some good like my daughter and grandchildren were here – I never got around to it. I’m writing it quickly and will do no editing.
In the meantime, since you wrote this, war has broken out. I have some thoughts about that for some other time.
As for your analysis on the balance of power between the two main competing blocs in U.S. politics, I thought it was insightful and instructive. I hope it is read and circulated widely. The importance of sober minded thinking is so important. And your article (and the two earlier companion articles) provide that sober analysis and strategic direction. Without both, we’re sunk. I noticed Portside posted it. At any rate, I had a few thoughts on the edges:
- The main task is to “build out” the anti-Maga bloc. And there is no reason to think it can’t be done.
- The accent in the relations between the left and center in the anti-Maga bloc should be on unity; struggle is necessary and inevitable, but given the nature of the challenge this November and beyond the struggle, unity and breadth of approach is primary in my thinking. If we win then the dialectic between one and the other will change in line with new conditions and challenges.
- The mobilization of the labor movement and the traditional organizations in the African American community, not least the churches, retain their strategic importance, even though neither has the same clout as they did decades ago.
- Both labor and the Democratic Party have a national reach, or that potential anyway. Few other organizations can make such a claim. Thus they should be accorded more, not less attention. Independent political action that excludes the Democratic Party as a vechile in which progressive and left activists hang their hat and get out the vote is mistaken. Abstractly, It sounds right, but it fails when the concrete situation of this moment and what it will take to win in the fall is taken into account. Winning populous urban centers, as you know, won’t defeat Maga. Moreover, in many states, including here in NY, local Democratic Party organizations and local unions could be the main instruments for statewide mobilization. The teacher’s union, for example, has reach into many nooks and crannies here as well as every other state, not to mention a presence in urban and suburban centers.
- The coalition backing MAGA has seized the initiative since the elections, as you mention, not the coalition that elected Biden. Had the latter remained mobilized and focused on Biden’s domestic- legislative agenda – Build Back Better, for example – Biden’s legislative achievements, would likely have been greater. As I tried to point out in another piece I wrote, transformative movements are the bedrock of transformative presidents. So far though such a movement doesn’t yet exist to drive the many progressive-democratic aspects of Biden’s agenda. Potentially yes, but actually no. What it suggests to me anyway is that the expansive coalition that elected Biden doesn’t realize that its success – legislative and electoral – turns in many ways on the success of the Biden administration. If MAGA takes Biden down, in other words, the
- It’s a mistake, and unnecessarily narrowing, to separate the “Squad” from a substantial section of other members of Congress who embrace progressive-broad left politics. Both are on the same political continuum, albeit not in the same exact spot. Moreover, many members of the Progressive Caucus posses years of experience as well as a tactical acumen and strategic depth that I would hope young progressive-left legislators would appreciate and draw from (btw I read a piece in Jacobin that questioned the left credentials of AOC. I find that ridiculous and a promissory note to its diminishing relevance – and that is regretable given the challenges that the country faces.)
- I agree that the MAGA coalition, or, as you correctly write, movement is more politically unified and thus able to act with greater speed and cohesion than our side. At the same time our breadth and diversity can be a strength as well as a weakness.
- Many left thinking people are found in left led or non-profit organizations. There are good reasons for this and the results have been impressive, But I do wonder if enough of us are participants in.broader mass organizations whose politics … When I first became active in the communist party in Portland Me, we were too small to initiate such forms of organizations; thus we join mainstream unions and labor councils, NAACP, welfare rights organizations, neighborhood councils, etc. – none of which were left led; if anything they would be center or centrist in their politics. Nevertheless, or perhaps because we did, it gave us an influence that we would never had if we had decided to camp out ii left forms. Anyway just a thought!
- The impact of the pandemic and its many impacts didn’t receive either any or enough attention. It certainly presented a far more difficult that either Biden or many of us anticipated. What happens between now and November will have a major shaping impact on the elections and their outcome. It is certainly going to be a point of contention.
- The outbreak of war this week I don’t have to tell you is going to have major consequences on the terrain and outcome of the elections. How it’s going to tilt the playing field isn’t obvious now, at least to me.
I have a couple more thoughts, but I’m sure you have more important things to do than reading my meandering ruminations. Peace, sam