From time to time I will post under the title of “Scraps and Leftovers” comments that I made elsewhere on the internet and social media. While they come without the surrounding conversation of other participants in the conversation, I hope they will shed some light on our troubled, but promising times. If I hear otherwise, I will chalk it up as a good try and move on. After all, there are worse things in this world than a small failure that very likely harms not a soul.
*I’m not abandoning Bernie, but I do take issue with sweeping and un-contextualized condemnations of Hillary Clinton. Strikes me that petulance and pique (and perhaps some male supremacy) trump sober politics here. And nothing good will come from that in the event that she is the nominee other than to leave the left at a distance from the main forces of social change this fall and beyond.
*Isn’t the overarching strategic task to defeat the right wing this fall? But some on the left don’t see it that way. They believe that the differences between the two parties, or between Hillary, if she is the nominee, and whoever the Republicans field is of no consequence. To that I can only say that they apparently give little weight to the struggle to preserve and extend democracy and democratic rights (broadly understood). After all, in the event of a Republican victory it is the elimination of these rights that will be at the top of its agenda. This tendency to underestimate the danger of right wing extremism on the part of sections of the left is no longer surprising to me. It seems to be built into their DNA. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of their schemes to raise the struggle to a “higher level.”
*I worry some about a sizable number of Bernie’s supporters boycotting the general election. But I also think that things will look much different in the fall than they do now. And my expectation is that nearly all of us, including Hillary’s and Sanders’ most vocal supporters, will adjust our political calculus accordingly. We would be fools not to. I will vote for Hillary with my hand nowhere near my nose if that is my choice in November. I always thought this was a silly image, devoid of a politics that insists on a concrete analysis of the balance of social and class forces and the strategic/tactical/political approach that follows.
*As for the left, we are in a turbulent period, in which, to paraphrase Antonio Gramsci, much of the old left of the 20th century is dying and a new left of the 21st is yet to be born. Meanwhile, the signs of renewal are evident on all sides – Bernie’s campaign of course, but elsewhere as well, including in the seldom mentioned labor movement. My hope is that the 21st century left, whatever forms it takes, will avoid the narrow sectarian policies and culture that weakened the left in the 20th century (and here I include the Communist Party). So far the jury is out.
*This is a unique moment for sure, and the challenge for Sanders, if he hopes to secure the nomination is to build an election coalition along the lines of President Obama’s in 2008. But he hasn’t done that yet. That can change, although the clock is ticking. But it won’t be on the basis of his socialist pedigree. Other factors, not least of which is a sharper focus on the right wing danger, a more nuanced fluency in the language and substance of racial and gender inequality, and the further elaboration of political solutions that curb as well as eliminate corporate power, will have to figure prominently.
*In an oped column on socialism, John Bellamy Foster, the editor of Monthly Review, mentions the term “two party duopoly.” But the term strikes me as wrongheaded at anything but the most abstract level. At the level of concrete politics where strategy and tactics are elaborated and democratic reforms, including radical ones, are enacted, it conceals much more than it reveals. It’s interesting to note that not a word in the article is spent on Trump and the right wing.
*To cite Hillary’s connections to Wall Street or her past positions on issues of war and peace is a necessary part of arriving at a considered attitude toward her candidacy. But too many on the left make that part of her resume the beginning and end of their analysis. Other considerations, such as the larger political environment, the alignment of political forces, and the dangers confronting the country and humanity, never enter the picture. Such a methodology is of limited value and can leave its proponents, notwithstanding how righteous they feel about their position, flatfooted and on the margins of political life. Worse still, it could endanger the outcome of the elections.
*The decisive defeat of the right depends heavily on an election sweep that that gives democratic, liberal, progressive and left representatives and movements the upper hand in Washington. But it also turns on the weakening of the right in state government and the realm of ideas, the breaking up the right wing coalition at the grassroots and leadership level, the strengthening of the ideological, political, and organizational capacity of the people’s movement, and more. It is on this wider ground that the right’s power and influence will be qualitatively diminished and the conditions realized for a people’s election victory at the national level to be consolidated and deepened.
*Left governance we are learning isn’t for amateurs. It takes a compelling – morally grounded – vision, enormous strategic and tactical skill, a nose for the mood of millions, and, not least, high ethical standards and practices.
*It is interesting that Marx spoke of a community OF freely associated individuals and a society OF associated producers. Notice he doesn’t use the word “FOR.” What I take from this is Marx’s insistence (actually a core idea) that the working class is the architect of the new society as well as grave digger of the old. But that happens only to the degree that power is devolved and every sphere of society is democratized. How else can working class ownership and agency take material form? How else can working class consciousness and capacity grow and deepen? How else can socialism’s formal and rhetorical claims become actual realities? But I don’t think this side of Marx’s (and Lenin’s for that matter) thinking was substantively metabolized by the communist movement.
*I really doubt your reading of young people. I know plenty of them who support Bernie, but in the event Hillary wins the nomination, my guess is that they will vote for her in the general election. Of course, some won’t, but that is to be expected. A larger problem in this regard will be with sections of the radical left – young and old, which is still a small sliver of Bernie’s support and a much smaller slice of the electorate. That includes more than a few sixties radicals, who never fully extricated themselves from the sectarian practices, doctrinaire thinking, and marginalizing culture of those times. The Communist Manifesto’s challenge to build movements of the “majority in the interests of the immense majority” never framed their thinking and practice, then or now. Difference, rupture, left demands and forms, resistance to cooptation, and energetic minorities became the exclusive stars to steer their politics by.
*Some on the left are prone to making sweeping, one sided statements that preclude nuance, complexity, contradictory tendencies, many sidedness, etc. In this world, everything is one thing or the other, everybody and everything fits into a self-enclosed category. There is no elasticity. Stasis and rigidity, not movement, not process, not contradiction reign supreme here.
*If Trump and Cruz are beatable – and I think they are – why not beat them badly? Why not turn the election into a rout? Why not beat the hell out of them? Isn’t that the only language that they understand and the only path to end Republican obstruction and misrule? What would better position the larger movement and the left in the election’s aftermath? That said, polling that has both Hillary and Bernie winning by a large margin over Trump strikes me as problematic. It rests, I assume, on a stable and unchanging political environment here and around the world – not a good assumption. The takeaway: assume nothing and stay engaged and united.
* Never in our country’s history has a woman run – let alone been elected – president. And yet that dimension of Hillary’s candidacy is virtually ignored by many progressive and left people. Something’s wrong here.