Below is my note to a friend earlier this week. It’s my latest installment to a conversation that goes back to the beginning of this election season. In recent weeks much of our discussion, as you would probably guess, has revolved around Hillary, Bernie, and the upcoming Democratic Party primaries. While differences between us seem to take center stage in our conversations, I suspect that our divergent views are more a matter of different emphasis than something fundamental. Anyway, here is my note:
“I can only say that your understanding of the nature of right wing extremist power, the imperative of defeating that power in the coming elections, and the dynamics that would ensue upon its defeat is very different than mine. But rather than going into our differences in any detail, I would only say this: The defeat of right wing extremism – Trump and all – in November is an absolutely necessary, if not sufficient, condition to any sustained and successful challenge to corporate power on a broad range of issues.
In other words, if you skip this stage of struggle, you can kiss goodbye any serious struggle against what Bernie calls “Establishment” politics and economics. But it is precisely this interconnection that Bernie hasn’t adequately or systematically articulated in the course of the primary contest between Hillary and himself.
This blank spot in his analysis, even as his campaign draws lots of people into struggle and creates a new sense of political possibility that goes beyond the centrist boundaries of the top leadership of the Democratic Party, misleads people new to politics on the one hand, and reinforces a sectarian strain on the left on the other insofar as it flattens out the differences in the policies, political representation, and social constituencies of the Republicans and Democrats, tends to collapse the struggle for democracy and equality into categories of class and class struggle, and plays down the necessity of establishing diverse, broad, and complicated strategic and tactical alliances. In short, it simplifies the process of social change.
That may seem like no big deal, especially when people are in motion and thinking anew, but I would argue otherwise – partly from my own experience, but more so from my reading of history and its turning points.
One more thing, as positive and promising as the surge around Bernie’s candidacy is, its social composition is still too narrow, and thus its social power is limited. And it does no good when some of his supporters attempt to minimize or run away from this fact. A “political revolution” is, in the final analysis, the handiwork of only a movement of an “immense majority” (from “The Communist Manifesto”) that is heavily represented among working people, people of color, women and the young – not to mention able to elaborate a well considered strategy and employ a range of tactics and equipped with an inspiring and radical vision.
That’s my two cents. Next week, I will elaborate on all this in a post on my blog.”