I wrote this nearly a decade ago. It’s a section from my speech at the CPUSA convention in 2014. My observations have been overtaken by events:
“I mention this because some on the left – even in our own party – are ready, if not to vacate, then at least to dial down on the struggle to defeat right-wing extremism. In their view, the strategy has come up empty; the two parties are two peas in a pod; the democratic – legislative and electoral – process has become completely compromised and corrupted, thanks in part to Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions.
The real action, many now say, is at the state and city level. And then a few on the sectarian left go a step further, claiming that the effort to defeat right-wing extremists is a retreat from the real class struggle.
None of these claims hold up in the court of life. In the first place, this strategy has stymied the right wing’s most extreme plans to restructure political, economic, and cultural relations in a deep-going, permanent, and thoroughly reactionary way. No small achievement; in fact, an enormous achievement!
Second, victories – some of great import, some garnering fewer headlines – have been won. And these victories have made a difference in the lives of tens of millions.
Third, the emerging movement against the right doesn’t yet have transformative capacity, but it’s closer to it today than a few years ago.
Fourth, there is no other way – and certainly no easy way – at this stage of struggle to get to a future that puts people and nature before profits other than to battle and defeat right-wing extremism.
I wish this stage of struggle could be skipped in favor of something sexier, but it can’t. Political possibilities at every level are and will be limited as long as the right wing casts a long shadow over the nation’s politics. Islands of socialism, and even progressivism, in a sea in which the right wing makes big waves are a figment of a fertile but unrealistic imagination.
Finally, the struggle against the right is a form of the class struggle. In fact, it’s the leading edge of the class (and democratic) struggle at this moment. Only someone with a dogmatic cast of mind would think otherwise. Struggle, class and otherwise, never comes in pure form.
That said, we shouldn’t minimize the difficulties, nor conceal the class nature of the two-party system, nor give the Democrats a free pass, but at the same time we shouldn’t suggest in the slightest way that the electoral/legislative struggle in present circumstances is a fool’s errand. Such a position feels self-satisfying and has a radical ring to it, but in the end it’s the real fool’s errand. Frustration – and we all feel it now and then – can’t be a substitute for informed and sober politics.
In the 20th century two transformative movements uprooted deeply structured modes of political and economic governance – one an unregulated, crisis-ridden capitalism in the 1930s and the other a massive, many-layered, and deeply racist system, sanctioned by law, custom, and violence in the 1960s. Neither one of these transformative movements, however, boycotted or stood apart from the electoral and legislative process. They were engaged in a very practical way in “bourgeois politics,” but that didn’t weaken their cause, in fact it was part of the explanation for their historic victories. A mature party and left will not discount these experiences.”