Tasks of the socialist moment: Should our emphasis be joining with the Democratic Party against the “extreme right?”

BY:Chris Butters| May 29, 2019


One thread in our NY State Convention discussion recently was the process of rebuilding the Party after what has been called the “Webb years.”  I don’t think the reasons for a decade-long downplaying of the role of the Party can be traced solely to the stance  of one person, (any more than the  downfall  of the USSR can). It ignores a whole range of policies that paved the way — and Party institutions not as strong as they should have been.

I support the four proposals emerging from our NY District convention (rebuild our Party’s youth organization, reestablish a PW print presence, Marxist School, restore our theoretical journal). Most  of these Party institutions were abandoned or downplayed in the “Webb years”. Sections of our draft program reflect those years.

In the preconvention discussion, some are wrestling with the relationship between “the socialist moment” (left turn in polls, increasingly anti-capitalist demands) versus the struggle against the “extreme right”  stage. Others may ask, how can we be in “a socialist moment” ,if we  are in  an “extreme right” stage?

Referring to the socialist moment, Joe Sims writes of “ this huge conversation taking place about this huge movement that’s unfolding. There’s only thing missing; us.”

“Is the source of the problem a belief that the growth of socialist sentiment is a detraction from broad unity against the right?… What about the concept  our focus should be on movement building, on aiding the creation of a united front, that now in fact is not a time for building the party? “

I believe sections of the draft program reflect the problem Joe identifies.

In my earlier document I disagreed with our “extreme right” stage, as being ineffective in either combating the right or building the Party. But it is not just that anti-monopoly demands  are relegated to an uncertain  future. It is that the program raises no demands other than for voting rights and electoral reform.  Instead  the program emphasizes the need for building unity with the Democratic party during elections.

It is true the rise of that political amalgamation we term the “extreme right” is a grave danger. Trump’s fascistic power grab  needs to be repulsed by workers and oppressed. But a crucial component is offering not just “resistance” but a positive alternative – and a program that can split the support Trump has among some workers and small business owners, many of whom are struggling, lost their homes in the past decade, etc.

If the main fault line in this struggle is identified as “between the Democratic  and Republican parties” (Juan Lopez’ contribution)   that leads our members to the conclusion that planting seeds of a working class alternative in what we do  is in fact  a “detraction from broad unity”  and  “now is not the time to build the party.”

We need unity, but a special kind of unity.  We need working class unity, above all, politically, and labor-union unity  against the bosses. And we need leadership by a disciplined working class party, winning the confidence and guiding the majority of oppressed, who are either denied jobs or forced to go into business for themselves.

As for elections, we need to strategically identify the real “fault line” — between working people and monopoly capital. Across that  divide lie Republicans, but also those in the national Democratic Party  who would weaken the struggle against Trump, rather than support anti-capitalist candidates such as Sanders or AOC.

In the coming period  we should support any initiatives to meet human needs taken by Sanders, AOC, Gabbard, on the basis of our program. Wherever we decide to focus, though, our emphasis should be building confidence and initiatives of workers and oppressed, while developing no confidence in the capitalist class and its state.

On another point, I agree with Bobbie Wood’s  contribution which calls for a class analysis of the “right”. She argues that the “extreme right” would better be called the “corporate right.”

Identifying the “corporate right” invites us to struggle not just against right wing  “extremism“, but the banks/corporations who continually shaft poor and working class supporters of the right in the name of  patriotism (and worse!).  It objectively sets whatever working class support Trump has against the top.  It is actually an invitation to a larger and deeper anti –monopoly struggle, a struggle side by side with the one against racist and authoritarian rule.

By identifying the main enemy as monopoly capital and capitalism, this does not diminish the struggle against the racism and authoritarianism  of the Trump administration. (It hasn’t with worldwide CPs , none of whom have a separate  and distinct “extreme right” stage, and it shouldn’t with us.)

It would mean making a distinction between electoral tactics today and our larger class struggle strategy.It would change PW coverage regarding corporate democrats. But it would better focus our work in coalitions around the burning issues, while making our views and program known.

It would better intersect a whole generation of young anti-Trump activists and workers who have flocked to DSA, believing it can challenge capitalism.   It would mean building — as we celebrate our 100th anniversary — on the best traditions of our Party, both  the programmatic clarity of Lenin, the “communist plus” of Gus Hall and Henry Winston, the class struggle labor work of George Meyers , and the economic analysis of Victor Perlo.

This assumes , of course,  our members are being educated in Marxist political economy, and  education about the  role of monopoly capital’s parties. Monopoly capital has been extremely monopolized in launching the neo-liberal policies over the last 40 years that gave birth to Trump.

I found Party education in Marxist political economy generally  lacking during the ”Webb years”. Strategy and tactics should  flow from our general political-economic analysis; that  analysis  should not be revised based on what particular political forces we seek to intersect with today.










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