Strategic imperative

The slogan, “Strengthen the Left and Defeat Trump and the Right” may sound right, but it’s strategically one sided and thus problematic. At the core of any strategic approach of the left (and progressives and other democratic actors for that matter) should be the following: To join with, unite, and assist in the mobilization and strengthening of the diverse currents that make up the broad democratic, anti-Trump, anti-MAGA coalition, including the Democratic Party. The failure to mention, let alone shine a light on this overarching task in the slogan above, doesn’t surprise me, even at this crucial moment. Old habits and modes of thinking are stubborn things.

Nevertheless, that is the principal task of this moment and going forward. And no matter what happens on election day, the further building of the anti-MAGA, anti-Republican Party coalition outward and downward will remain a strategic political objective of the first order. It is only on this ground – and no other ground – that a decisive victory over the MAGA bloc comes within our grasp and a durable, muscular, and non-sectarian left stands a chance of emerging.

More democracy, more socialism

For someone who regrettably drank the Kool Aid of the steady deepening of democracy during the long ascendency of the Soviet Union, I can’t so easily dismiss the autocratic and undemocratic trends in China. Some of China’s economic acheivements – the reduction in poverty and economic modernization – are impressive for sure, but they don’t ease my concern about the amassing of power and decision making in fewer and fewer (party) hands and the longer term consequences of that trend.

The much maligned Gorbachev, I believe, was right decades ago when he said: more socialiism, more democracy and more democracy, more socialism! Autocratic socialism, in his experience and understanding, was a contradiction of terms that eventually leads to contradictions in every sphere of life. Chinese Party leader Xi Jinping doesn’t share this point of view. For him, the overaching task of the party is to tighten controls and elevate the party’s role to the final and unchallenged arbiter across Chinese society.

Which leaves unanswered whether such a posture will work in the long run and is such a society socialist.


An interesting factoid: While getting briefed at a union office before canvassing last Saturday in Hyde Park, NY, it was mentioned by one of the organizers that FDR never electorally carried this relatively small town – where he and Eleanor spent a good deal of time and where his presidential library is today – at the lower end of the Hudson Valley.

Apparently, his rhetoric and policies didn’t sit well at the time with the good citizens of this community. I think that is changing.

Douglass in the Botanical Garden

I came across Robert Hayden’s moving poem to Frederick Douglass etched on a stone in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx today. As I bent over to read the poem amid the many colors of fall, I was surprised to hear its recitation over a speaker nearby. What a treat, not to mention a moment of Inspiration! And, Lord knows, don’t we need the latter in these troubled times in which democracy, truth, and freedom are the targets of a furious assault from the MAGA movement and Republican Party.

Frederick Douglass 


When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,   
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,   
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,   
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more   
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:   
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro   
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world   
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,   
this man, superb in love and logic, this man   
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,   
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives   
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Missed opportunity

The tragedy (or missed opportunity) of the past two years is that the Biden administration, politically and legislatively, attempted to break, if not in full, with the logic and policies of neoliberalism – a logic and policies that date back to the mid-1970s. And yet, the coalition, including progressives and the left, that elected Biden, for all practical purposes, sat on its hands.

The same can’t be said about the Republican-MAGA movement. They furiously resisted Biden’s political/legislative agenda and defeated much of it, with the help of a couple of Senate Democrats.

Let’s hope that we don’t pay a steep price on election day for our inaction and more than occasional snipping at the Biden administration and Democratic legislators over the past two years.

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