People on the left who express surprise at the progressive political posture and positions of the Biden administration would be well served to consider what in their analysis prevented them from seeing this possibility. Or, to go a step further, this likelihood. I have some thoughts about it, but I leave them for some other time.
To find something similar in ambition to Biden’s speech to Congress earlier this week, one has to go back to speeches of LBJ (before the war consumed him and the Great Society) or FDR. Or, to frame it a little differently, the speech positively reconstructed the social compact between the government and the people. In doing so, Biden repudiated another president and ideology of more recent vintage, Ronald Reagan. This speech should find its way into every place where people gather.
Each May Day has its own specific challenge. As I see it, this year’s challenge for the left is to assist in enacting Biden’s legislative and political agenda. This may not sound very sexy, but the enactment of the Biden agenda will not only bring relief to millions. reinflate the economy, provide a measure of justice, and raise their legislative ambitions, but also position Democrats to increase their Congressional majorities in next year’s midterm elections. And it is hard to think of anything that is as politically weighty at this political conjuncture. Happy May Day!
Upon hearing the verdict that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three charges, I felt some relief and a measure of joy. The world wasn’t righted by any stretch. The structures of racial oppression didn’t melt away. Nor did police shootings and vigilantism suddenly cease, as we were reminded when Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year old African American girl, was shot 4 times in the chest in Columbus, Ohio and died, 20 minutes before the verdict was announced.
And yet, the jury’s quick verdict to convict Chauvin of all charges goes against the grain of past practice where acquittal, regardless of deeply incriminating evidence, was assured. It is also a reminder of the changing landscape in this struggle, and demonstrates the power of popular mass action. Don’t let anyone tell you that the millions of people in the streets didn’t find its way into the courtroom deliberations and the jury’s decision.
Victories always run the danger of creating illusions, but there is little evidence of that here. Rather, for the growing array of drum majors for racial justice, this verdict is proof that their activism is necessary, their cause just, and their mission unfinished.
George Floyd was killed, assassinated by racists who assumed, with more than ample precedent, that the blue wall and stacked courts would protect them no matter how out of bounds and deadly their actions. But they were wrong. And while nothing can make up for the Floyd family’s sorrow, perhaps the verdict and the well spring of support for George can give them a little comfort that his death, as his brother said at the time, wasn’t in vain; that he didn’t die unknown and unnoticed.
Indeed, George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant and so many others) reside in the hearts of tens of millions who feel outraged by their extrajudicial murders at the hands of “upholders” of the law and a judicial system that demonstrates, almost daily, that Black Lives don’t matter. The struggle continues!
Socialist democracy includes not only the provision of economic and social rights, but also the ability of the governed to actively and democratically intervene and shape their lives in every social setting. The socialist states fulfilled the first provision, albeit not quite as well as the communist movement suggested at the time and subsequently, but scored poorly on the second. This is especially so when we keep in mind the contradiction between the formal structures and mechanisms of socialist democracy and the actual practice and content of that democracy.