My Angle of Entry

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

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 “historical” 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 and the accompanying severe contraction of class and democratic possibilities caught me – and many others – by surprise. After all, I was radicalized at at time when the world seemed nearly infinitely malleable and relentlessly marching to a better future. “Socialism in our time” didn’t seem like wishful thinking. So when the forward march of history 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.

Setting the record straight

It isn’t something that a lot of people lose sleep about, and that includes me. But it bothers me when I see someone assert that the retreat of the working class, social democratic, communist, and people’s movement in recent decades began with the implosion of the Soviet Union. Perhaps at first glance this seems reasonable, but with a bit of reflection it quickly becomes an untenable claim. It strikes me as an ideological construction to fit someone’s political disposition rather than serious analysis.

The reconfiguring of global power to the advantage of the imperialist states and transnational corporations and the retreat of the above-mentioned movements that followed was well on its way by the time things went south in the socialist world in the late 1980s. Even a quick glance at the facts locates the beginnings of this offensive in the mid 1970s. That’s more than a decade before the Soviet Union went belly up.

Capital Talk

The Good: John Boehner, Republican and House Majority leader, is leaving Congress.

The Bad: Paul Ryan, Republican and even more right wing than Beohner, is the new House Majority leader

The Ugly: Mitch O’Connell, Republican and Senate Majority leader, is still there.

What we can learn from Canadian elections

Is “is Hillary reliable?” the right question?

I have been reminded more than once since the Democratic Party debate earlier this week that Hillary Clinton is unreliable, that she is a political chameleon, that she can’t be trusted. My guess is that people on the left said much the same and worse about Lincoln, Roosevelt, and LBJ in their time. So what’s my point? Politics and the process of social change is complex and full of surprises. And one surprise – and maybe it shouldn’t be – is that people and even presidents change, as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Johnson did under the impact of events and visionary, powerful, and popular movements/coalitions. Of course, if the occupant of the White House is of the left that enlarges the likelihood of change and stretches out the parameters of the politically possible. But if that isn’t the case, it doesn’t automatically preclude a swing in a progressive direction by any means. As in the past, an embedded, sophisticated, and sustained movement of the “immense majority,” to use a term of Marx and Engels, can turn a so-so or even a good president into a transformative one, a facilitator of social transformations. In other words, if we do our part, that is, dramatically grow and deepen the popular movement/coalition in the period ahead, the governing posture of Hillary Clinton in the event that she, not Bernie, wins the Democratic Party nominee next August and then goes on to capture the presidency in November, could well surprise us. Again, it won’t be the first time.

Share This