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.

More on debate!

Bernie did well in the debate this week (and I’m happy about that), but it is also the case that Hillary Clinton’s performance was impressive. Setting aside pundits and online/instant polls, I suspect lots of viewers found her depth of knowledge, relaxed style, skillful presentation, and substance quite compelling. Hillary as well as Bernie are responding to a very different (more progressive) political atmosphere in the country, compared to a few years ago, which is to her and his credit. When candidates change their positions and embrace better positions on one issue or another as she has, people on the left should welcome such changes. Locking candidates and elected officials into tightly constructed political categories is counterproductive. It usually reflects political immaturity and little understanding about the complex and contradictory process of social change.

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