Reply to Max Elbaum

Below is a reply to a recent analysis written by Max Elbaum as well as some earlier private communications between us. So there is no misunderstanding, when I mentioned to Max that I would like to post my reply to his analysis on my blog as well as send to my email list, he encouraged me to do so, adding that in the interest of dialogue he would have no problem including our earlier communications as well. It makes for a long post, but hopefully you will find time to read it.

Hi Max,

I’ve been a bit tardy in replying to your last email. But here it is.

If there is any unspoken assumption in what I wrote to you, it is that when an authoritarian president sits in the White House, there is some ground to consider broader and more flexible concepts and methods of struggle.

I thought Trump’s election would impose some strategic and tactical rethinking and coherence on the left. And it has, but only partially and inconsistently, and mainly at the strategic level. At the tactical level, the changes have been minimal in many ways.

Your powerful analysis, I’m sure, was very helpful to many activists, but largely, I suspect, in a strategic sense. While persuasively making a case for a strategic shift matching the present dangers and balance of class and social forces, it doesn’t make a similar case for what, I believe, should logically follow — tactical guidelines that are more expansive, flexible, and reach out to diverse people and constituencies. In other words, guidelines that conform to the strategic shift that you adumbrate.

You mention in passing the old left slogan of “struggle and unity,” but the weight, I’m sure you agree, of one or the other of this dialectical coupling changes in the face of changing circumstances. And in today’s circumstances, the weight, I would argue, falls on uniting a heterogeneous and motley coalition, especially with the midterm elections around the corner. But you don’t say this, at least with the kind of emphasis that, I believe, it deserves.

Instead, you reinforce an unmistakable tendency on the left to attach much greater weight to struggle — “fight” to use your word — rather than to unity. This has been the mantra of the left going back a long time, irrespective of concrete circumstances on the ground.

In fact, it was this tactical posture, reinforced by an inability to make a necessary strategic shift to new circumstances on the ground in the 1980s, that turned too many on the left, except for Jesse Jackson’s primary runs, into passive observers, while the right, using the election process, rose to power and consolidated its presence in U.S. politics at the national and state level.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against struggle within the Democratic Party and the broader anti-Trump coalition; actually I’m for it, and on some issues — especially the attack against so called “identity politics” — it is absolutely necessary. But it should be conditioned and modified by the main strategic challenge and with the overarching imperative of building broad unity against Trump firmly in mind.

That, however, doesn’t come through in your analysis. Rather than challenging the “reality based” left that is disposed to working in the Democratic Party to consider a basic tactical rethink in general and specifically in relation to the coming congressional elections, you recoil from your impressive strategic insights and end up endorsing, with some amendments, the main current tactical wisdom on the left — upping the ante regardless of circumstances and turning a candidate’s position on this or that issue into the near singular consideration in the elaboration of the left’s approach to next year’s elections.

All of which reminds me of what the courageous Bulgarian Communist leader and anti-fascist Georgi Dimitrov told a world gathering of communists in 1935:

“Formerly many communists used to be afraid it would be opportunism on their part if they did not counter every partial demand of the Social Democrats by demands of their own which were twice as radical.”

We may disagree here, but I find Dimitrov’s observation (which was, as you know, a piece of a much larger and long overdue strategic and tactical about face by the world communist movement) captures a persistent dynamic on the contemporary left. Nobody wants to be outbid; too many worry about saying something that will sully their revolutionary credentials and expose them to attacks from their left flank.

To be fair, you do mention that some slack might have to be cut for Democrats running in congressional districts where the politics and demographics are less than propitious. But it doesn’t stand out. Nor do you say it isn’t a seat or two here or there; it’s actually the lion’s share if Democrats have any hope of winning back control of the House. And much the same in the Senate, where Democrats are defending a larger number of seats compared to Republicans. Thus the outcome of the coming elections won’t be decided in cities like Berkeley or Cambridge or San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York. But in states like Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado, and upstate New York.

Finally, I am skeptical of Our Revolution and other organizations with similar politics. And my skepticism goes beyond their tactical disposition. From what I can see, they are juggling two strategic balls without an appreciation of which ball should be seized at this moment.

Which isn’t surprising. After all, the strategic thrust of Bernie and his supporters in the presidential primary last year was “class against class” to the neglect of the wider and overarching danger of right wing authoritarianism seizing control of the entire federal government — not to mention issues of race and gender. In their strategic universe, the enemy was Hillary, the unreconstructed neoliberal and war monger, and no less the Establishment, elites in Washington and Wall Street, and the two parties of capitalism.

This strategic framing was flawed. And while I don’t have any empirical evidence at hand, I suspect that had a different approach been pursued by Bernie and a good chunk of the left in the primaries, the outcome of the elections might have been different. Moreover, albeit from a distance (I’m active locally, but have no connections to the larger national scene), I have to wonder to what degree the same mistake is being made again.

It probably sounds as if I’m completely unaware and unappreciative of the fact that Bernie is energizing lots of new faces and stretching the political conversation. But. actually, that isn’t the case — on my better days anyway. But to be candid, I believe that Bernie would be well served if he acquired some of the political dexterity, depth, and, not least, grace of a Barack Obama, or, especially, a Martin Luther King.

Much the same could be said about a section of the left that is awash in sectarian politics, rigid thinking, and self righteous indignation. But here’s the problem. The success of Bernie’s campaign hasn’t eased, but reinforced, this embedded politics and culture that stretches back to the sixties; some, in fact, think, albeit with a little push and agitation, socialism is around the corner.

I will end this long reply with this: It is hard to think of another moment in recent years when a sound strategy and correspondingly adjusted tactics on the part of the reality based left could matter so much. Sam

Earlier private communications, beginning with the first.

Hi Max,

Just read your recent analysis. Really liked it; if I had any issues it would be on approach to Democratic Party and the immediate election priorities. Will send you a couple of thoughts later.

Hope you are well; still working? Doing ok here. Peace, Sam

Thanks so much Sam. I’ll look forward to your further comments. I read the fb posts you sent – completely agree on the value of a nationwide coordinated action/mobilization to keep up the pressure … even in the last few days the right is taking hits – Trump’s DACA bash which pleased no one and put GOP congress people on the spot, his deal with Schumer over the debt ceiling exacerbating divisions in the GOP camp…

Hope all is good in your corner.

peace and hope!

Max

Hi Max,

Here are my thoughts, hastily written on the coming elections. Posted on fb and will send out later.

I’ve enjoyed stepping down and retirement, although it was a transition for me. But have a pretty good routine now.

By the way, what I hear of Our Revolution is very mixed. Not sure how it is catching on around country. As for DSA, seems very positive, but reaching some kind of strategic coherence, I suspect, won’t be easy.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on elections:

10 thoughts on the 2018 elections and an addendum

1. The coming elections are the main lever to rein in Trump and the damage that he continues to do, notwithstanding the importance of other forms of opposition.

2. Protecting and expanding the vote is of critical – no decisive – importance.

3. To insist that the program of the left is the point of departure for unity in the Democratic Party makes little sense. And that’s putting it diplomatically. Nevertheless. too many on the left appear to have this attitude. An example is to turn Medicare for All into a litmus test determining whether a candidate should receive support or not.

4. Candidate selection should be determined by more than a candidate’s position on one or another issue. Zephyr Teachout, who ran and lost in my congressional district to a Republican in 2016, was spot on issue wise, but had little name recognition, a limited history in the district, and few natural organizational connections. To wit: a wide-angled approach is in order, if we hope to shift control of Congress into Democratic hands.

5. The problems facing Democrats, progressives, and the left is as much – maybe more – organizational than political. In many congressional districts it is the right that has year-round organizational presence. And they use that foothold to shape attitudes toward politics and culture that eventually find their way into the voting booth. Change that organizational equation and much else will change, politically and otherwise.

6. Today’s Democratic Party is different from the Democratic Party of the Clinton years, even the Obama years. The constant refrain against its “neoliberal” wing is to some degree a straw man. The party as a whole has shifted in a progressive direction. Bernie can claim some credit for this shift, but broader changes in the economy, politics, and culture figure in any explanation as well. At any rate, this shift should inform the thinking and tactics of progressive and left people in the near and longer term. Our approach should accent breadth, flexibility, and the search for common ground.

7. An economic populism that is silent on matters of race, gender, immigration, and sexuality seems to have fewer adherents these days, especially in the wake of Charlottesville and much else. And that’s a good thing.

8. The posture of progressive and left people in the Democratic Party shouldn’t be to “take it over.” Such a strategy is seriously flawed. Instead, the long term strategic objective should be to unite its various trends around a progressive/left program. If you think that the left alone can shift the politics of the country then I want to smoke what you are smoking. Didn’t happen in the 1930s or ’60s. The militant minority can’t do much without the immense majority.

9. The country is polarized; in fact it has been for a while. Admittedly, the lines of division are sharper today, thanks to Trump and longer term political and cultural shifts on both sides. And yet, no one should conclude that people of moderate views are a dying breed. They aren’t and they number in the millions.

10. Finally, the main challenge in the coming elections isn’t so much to swing Trump’s base to our side (although who would be against that?), but to bring the many millions, many of whom are moderates, to the polls who are unhappy with Trump and the Republican right as well as desire a change in direction.

My addendum: The monster storms wreaking destruction in the Caribbean and southern states — and the storms to come — are bringing new attention to the issue of climate change, which, in turn, could become an Achilles Heel of Trump and the Republican Party in the coming elections and beyond.
Sam

Thanks Sam. I mostly agree with what you write. But there is an implication in the package that all the major trends in the Democratic Party can be united around a progressive program without much of a fight because underlying trends are pushing in that direction, and the somewhat connected implication that if there are conflicts, it is the fault of the left (or Bernie people) for picking ones that are unnecessary. It doesn’t say that explicitly, but the tone of what is there combined with what isn’t said gives that impression (at least to me). And if that is an accurate reading of the package (you may disagree that it is, but that’s how I read it), on that I differ. Just as one for instance, I strongly agree with your point #10, I think in fact I made the same argument in my article. But there is already a very aggressive campaign being waged by some influential Democrats to go in the exact opposite direction. The cover is an attack on so-called identity politics, especially focused on race but also targeting women’s rights. I don’t see how that is going to be countered without a big fight. In the absence of any discussion of that tension or other battles that are being imposed on the progressives, I don’t think your piece will resonate with people who are directing their main fire at Trump and correctly think those who take the third party road or avoid the electoral battlefield are marginalizing themselves, but keep bumping up against deep opposition, often combined with doses of baiting and semi-smears, from more than a few Democratic players.

Peace and Hope,

Max

My reply above followed.

10 thoughts on the 2018 elections and an addendum

10 thoughts on the 2018 elections, and an addendum

1. The coming elections are the main lever to rein in Trump and the damage that he continues to do, notwithstanding the importance of other forms of opposition.

2. Protecting and expanding the vote is of critical – no decisive – importance.

3. To insist that the program of the left is the point of departure for unity in the Democratic Party makes little sense. And that’s putting it diplomatically. Nevertheless. too many on the left appear to have this attitude. An example is to turn Medicare for All into a litmus test determining whether a candidate should receive support or not.

4. Candidate selection should be determined by more than a candidate’s position on one or another issue. Zephyr Teachout, who ran and lost in my congressional district to a Republican in 2016, was spot on issue wise, but had little name recognition, a limited history in the district, and few natural organizational connections. To wit: a wide-angled approach is in order, if we hope to shift control of Congress into Democratic hands.

5. The problems facing Democrats, progressives, and the left is as much – maybe more – organizational than political. In many congressional districts it is the right that has year-round organizational presence. And they use that foothold to shape attitudes toward politics and culture that eventually find their way into the voting booth. Change that organizational equation and much else will change, politically and otherwise.

6. Today’s Democratic Party is different from the Democratic Party of the Clinton years, even the Obama years. The constant refrain against its “neoliberal” wing is to some degree a straw man. The party as a whole has shifted in a progressive direction. Bernie can claim some credit for this shift, but broader changes in the economy, politics, and culture figure in any explanation as well. At any rate, this shift should inform the thinking and tactics of progressive and left people in the near and longer term. Our approach should accent breadth, flexibility, and the search for common ground.

7. An economic populism that is silent on matters of race, gender, immigration, and sexuality seems to have fewer adherents these days, especially in the wake of Charlottesville and much else. And that’s a good thing.

8. The posture of progressive and left people in the Democratic Party shouldn’t be to “take it over.” Such a strategy is seriously flawed. Instead, the long term strategic objective should be to unite its various trends around a progressive/left program. If you think that the left alone can shift the politics of the country then I want to smoke what you are smoking. Didn’t happen in the 1930s or ’60s. The militant minority can’t do much without the immense majority.

9. The country is polarized; in fact it has been for a while. Admittedly, the lines of division are sharper today, thanks to Trump and longer term political and cultural shifts on both sides. And yet, no one should conclude that people of moderate views are a dying breed. They aren’t and they number in the millions.

10. And finally, the main challenge in the coming elections isn’t so much to swing Trump’s base to our side (although who would be against that?), but to bring the many millions, many of whom are moderates, to the polls who are unhappy with Trump and the Republican right as well as desire a change in direction.

My addendum: The monster storms wreaking destruction in the Caribbean and southern states — and the storms to come — are bringing new attention to the issue of climate change, which, in turn, could become an Achilles Heel of Trump and the Republican Party in the coming elections and beyond.

Some thoughts on class and class struggle

Below are some excerpts from a presentation that I made 17 years ago. Yikes! Anyway thought they might be germane to some of today’s discussions. At the time I was the National Chair of the Communist Party, but since then stepped down and am no longer even a member of CPUSA. But that is another story.

I don’t stand by every word of what appears below, but who would when so much time has passed and so much has happened. At the time I was in the middle of rethinking marxism and politics. And that process continues.

Opening to the National Board, Communist Party (March 2000)

‘History generally, and the history of revolutions in particular is
always richer in content, more varied, more many-sided, more lively and
‘subtle’ than even the best parties and the most class conscious vanguards
of the most advanced classes can ever imagine.’ (Lenin, Left Wing
Communism, An Infantile Disorder, p. 76)

Introduction

We are living at a time marked by profound changes in the political, economic, and social landscape on
a global level. It is, arguably, a new era in world development.

These changes, as you would expect, bring with them new theoretical
problems and challenges. In a fast changing world, the pat answer of yesterday
is sometimes patently wrong today.

Thus, a timely and fresh approach to questions of theory and ideology
is imperative.

To insure the most fruitful discussions, we should strive to create
an atmosphere that encourages comrades to break new ground, to think outside
the box. We need an atmosphere that welcomes for theoretical exploration
and innovation.

No one should feel constrained by what they think the ‘party line’ is
on this or that question. Nor, as I said at the NC meeting, should anyone
assume the responsibility of ideological guardian of Marxism-Leninism.
That is the role of collective bodies and even collective bodies should
exercise that function in a considered way.

Moreover, we should suspend raising our eyebrows, muttering under our
breath, and seeking out sympathetic eyes across the table when comrades
make a remark that goes against the grain of our thinking.

An excessive zeal for what we understand to be doctrinal purity stifles
theoretical inquiry and discussion. It dampens our theoretical imagination
and willingness to think about problems in a fresh way.

The founders of scientific socialism never claimed, as far as I know,
that what they wrote was the last word on politics, economics, or ideology.
They never viewed their theoretical innovations, immense as they were,
as anything but a foundation for further analysis of a wide range of problems.

Lenin once said that Marxism is not a closed and inviolable system, while
Engels years earlier echoed a similar concern,

‘The materialistic conception of history,’ he wrote to a comrade, ‘has
a lot of them nowadays, to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying
history … our conception of history is above all a guide to study, not
a lever for construction after the manner of the Hegelian. All history
must be studied afresh, the conditions of existence of the different formations
of society must be examined individually before the attempt is made to
deduce from them the political, civil law, aesthetic, philosophic, and
religious views corresponding to them. But instead too many of the younger
Germans simply make use of the phrase historical materialism (and everything
can be turned into a phrase) only in order to get their own relatively
scanty historical knowledge constructed into a neat system as quickly
as possible and then they deem themselves very tremendous’ (Letter to
C, Schmidt, August 5, 1890)

Marx, of course, shared Engels view. These great minds appreciated the
dynamic nature of world capitalism and insisted on creatively and constantly
developing their insights and thinking in line with a changing world.

Never did they attempt to shoehorn facts to theory. Rather they elaborated
and adjusted their theoretical constructs to order to illuminate a fluid
and ever changing historical reality. And they did it eagerly and fearlessly.

We should try to follow their example in our discussions on ideology
and theory in the NB.

THEME OF THE OPENING

About a week ago, I was in Chicago for a meeting of the National Labor
Commission. While there someone asked me what the theme of my opening to
the NB was. I thought a moment, but somewhat embarrassingly, came up blank.

Needless to say, this concerned me. After all, I should know what the
general line of my presentation is. So I immediately skimmed my very rough
notes, hoping that I could cull from them the main thrust of my argument.

I wish I could say that I saw the light at once, but that wouldn’t be
the truth. Nonetheless, after reading the notes a few times, I hit on
what I believe is the main theme of my opening. And it is this: I hope
to make a case against stiff and rigid concepts of class.

In my experience, stiffly constructed concepts of class are never appropriate.
And particularly now when political, economic, and ideological life is
so fluid, when new opportunities exist to strengthen working class, multi-racial,
and all people’s unity.

What I would like to do is to discuss in order the class struggle, class
exploitation and social democracy, class-consciousness, and finally the
working class.

Part 1: THE CLASS STRUGGLE

‘The history of all hitherto existing societies,’ wrote Marx and Engels,
‘is the history of class struggle.’ This profound observation by the founders
of scientific socialism challenged conventional wisdom. Up until then,
the historical process was seen as accidental and arbitrary. If human
agency played any role in historical change, it turned on the actions
of great personalities and dominant social classes. Marx and Engels, by
contrast, turned the historical process on its head. Constructing a new
theoretical model, they persuasively argued that historical change was
in large measure the outcome of the collective struggle of millions against
their class oppressors rather than the result of either the whims of individuals
perched at the top of the social structure or historical accidents.

In doing so, Marx and Engels transformed in the realm of theory the
exploited and oppressed from an inert mass into makers of history. This
insight has provided hundreds of millions in every corner of the globe
with a new way to understand as well as influence the historical process.
And that is precisely what people have done, sometimes in dramatic ways,
including in the US where we have had our own moments when ordinary men
and women stormed heaven.

With any new concept, however, there is always the danger of misinterpretation
and oversimplification. And there is no reason to think that this idea
of Marx and Engels is safe from such dangers.

To be sure, the class struggle is the main thread in historical development,
but it is not the only thread, it is not the only causal factor. The historical
process is exceedingly complicated and other struggles leave their imprint
on history’s record as well.

In fact, the class struggle mingles with other social struggles and
the relationship is complex and reciprocal. The relationship is not one
way, with the class struggle always ruling the roost.

Only at a high level of theoretical abstraction does the class struggle
appear in pure form, does it dance on the stage of history untouched and
untainted by the world swirling around it. Closer to the ground, closer
to the actual course of events, the class struggle is embedded in a complex
social process in which it structures and is structured by other processes.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, history abhors pure forms, the compartmentalization
of social phenomena, neat lines of demarcation and static relationships.
Let’s face it, the historical process is messy.

Marx, Engels and Lenin particularly appreciated the entangling nature
of historical development. If it were a choice between complexity and
simplicity of explanation with regard to historical change, they almost
always chose the former for fear that the latter concealed as much as
it revealed.

They were suspicious of historical explanations that drained the historical
process of variation, discounted new experience, and resisted the modification
of theory under any circumstances. By and large, they never gave the same
explanatory weight to the elegant phrases that appear in their writings
that later Marxists and Marxist-Leninists did.

While acknowledging the primary role of the class struggle in the historical
process, these theoretical giants allowed for novelty, embraced new experience,
and altered their views to changing reality. Historical change for them
was not reducible to some sanitized version of the class struggle.

‘To imagine that social revolution,’ Lenin wrote, ‘is conceivable without
revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary
outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all of its prejudices,
without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian
masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy,
To imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines
up and says, ‘We are for socialism,’ and another army lines up somewhere
else and says, ‘We are for imperialism,’ and that will be social revolution
… Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see
it. Such a person pays lip service to revolution without understanding
what revolution is all about.’ (The Discussion of Self-Determination Summed
Up)

And on another occasion, he said,

‘All nations will arrive at socialism – this is inevitable, but all
will do so in not exactly the same way, each will contribute something
of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship
of the proletariat, to the varying rates of socialist transformation in
the different aspects of social life. There is nothing more primitive
from the viewpoint of theory or more ridiculous from that of practice,
than to paint, ‘in the name of historical materialism’, this aspect of
the future in monotonous grey.’ (A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist
Economism)

Such an approach to theory and ideology would suit us well today given
the emergence of new political, economic, and ideological patterns, given
the emergence of capitalist globalization and everything that comes in
its train.

 

Tactically speaking

1. Paul Krugman is spot on in his oped in 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 an absolutely necessary one. 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 Charlottesvillle, 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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/opinion/trump-caligula-republican-congress.html?smid=fb-share

2. Just thinking — I have no idea what is being talked about in leadership circles of the broad democratic coalition opposing Trump and Trumpism. And I’m sure no one is going to solicit my opinion. But for the record here it is — I think that this is an auspicious moment to bring a million people or more people back to Washington.

Such a massive turnout would be a punctuation point on a turn of events last week that has greatly de-legitimitized Trump and the entire white supremacist, anti-democratic right wing/alt right movement.

Not to do so amounts to a failure to appreciate that the difference between victory or defeat against a menacing in many cases turns on seizing those moments when your foe is on the run and relentlessly pressing your advantage — not spending too much time enjoying the elixir of victory.

And while a wave of local actions in recent days go in this direction, it still seems to me that they don’t have the same power as a nationwide march not only to reach and underscore to tens of millions that the emperor Trump has no clothes nor claim to continue in office, but also to prevent him and his team from regrouping and regaining the initiative.

Time to march on Washington imho.

3. 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.

4. The struggle against right wing authoritarianism and fascism shouldn’t be reduced to fighting the alt right’s hooligans in the streets. The danger from the right goes far beyond this gang. Indeed, it reaches into the main citadels of state and class power — the Trump White House in the first place.

Nor should physical and direct confrontations against white supremacists and fascists be considered the preferred, or even a good, method of struggle. Such confrontations are easily exploited by Trump and the right wing media to make a case for “moral equivalency” or worse to shift blame to our side, while demagogically appealing for “law and order.” Our aim, after all, is to win far larger numbers of people to anti-authoritarian, anti-fascist consciousness and action. And, to the degree that some methods of struggle do that, they should be encouraged; to the degree they don’t, they should be challenged.

Finally, no anti-fascist movement no matter how militant and righteous it presents itself — and I’m thinking about atifa here — should be given a proprietary claim on this terrain of struggle. Atifa is part of the mix, but nothing more. Their actions shouldn’t be off limits from critical examination and comment from others in the wider coalition. Nor should they substitute for the actions of other people’s organizations — many of whom have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner since Trump’s election.

5. An overarching challenge, as I see it, is to give tens of millions of Americans who are sympathetic to the struggle against white supremacy, or even many who are not quite sure what they think, but aren’t hard core racists, the compelling arguments – a new common sense — to speak to their neighbors, family members, and coworkers in a way that convinces them in their heart as well as their mind of the righteousness of this struggle.

6. Many people on the left speak of the “base” of the Democratic Party as if it is of one mind, anxiously awaiting its marching orders from candidates who are ready to rumble. But is this the case? I ask this question because, as a block captain for Citizen Action in my neighborhood, my experience going door-to-door — small sample as it is — suggests to me that the base of the Democratic Party isn’t uniform in its thinking, nor is it chomping at the bit to fight the power. Many people feel overwhelmed, or nearly so, by the pressures and pulls of everyday life. If this is the case, the mobilization of the “base” for the midterm elections will far less simple than some would have us believe.

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 an absolutely necessary one. 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 Charlottesvillle, 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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/opinion/trump-caligula-republican-congress.html?smid=fb-share

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