Year One of The North Star

by The North Star on February 3, 2013

Inspired by Occupy’s initial success in uniting progressive forces under its banner, The North Star was launched one year ago with the aim of creating a community of participants cutting across the ideological and organizational fault lines that have traditionally divided—and neutralized—the left.

We aim to lead by example, to act as the left we aim to create, where vigorous and principled debates are firmly situated within the framework of common ends and goals—putting us all on the same side of the barricades.

Towards this end, we held an online roundtable discussing the possibilities and questions raised by the Greek radical left coalition, SYRIZA. The multi-tendency discussion featured contributions by Richard Estes, Doug Enaa Greene (Kasama), Chris Maisano (Democratic Socialists of America), Bob Morris (Green Party), Louis Proyect, and Billy Wharton (Socialist Party USA).

Such debate concerning the radical left’s strengths and weaknesses was a recurring theme of our first year, and will continue to be going forward. Pham Binh’s recap of the 2012 election, “Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy”, was our most viewed post of 2012. The North Star focused attention on Kshama Sawant’s campaign for a seat in the Washington State House of Representatives. Sawant was unsuccessful, but won an impressive 28% of the vote, highlighting the opportunity of raising ‘socialism’ in electoral campaigns.

Putting a national spotlight on the race broadened interest in the initiative beyond those in Socialist Alternative’s political orbit, putting the problem of left sectarianism squarely on the table. The subsequent exchange between Socialist Alternative, the International Socialist Organization, and  independent socialists proves that a multi-tendency online platform can play a critical role in facilitating substantive political engagement between different fragments of the left—exchange that hitherto has been sorely lacking.

Addressing the historical weaknesses of the left, Dan Dimaggio asked “How Can We Build the Socialist Movement in the 21st Century?”, while Wayne Collins recounted the limits of the “The Trotskyist Experience”. Ben Campbell surveyed the state of the left on “The Future of the Left and the Status Quo,” a panel organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society.

The other primary area of heated discussion and debate surrounded the Arab Spring. Christian Wright wrote “Dogma or Revolution? The Choice Is Ours” and Mike Ely of Kasama wrote of “Our Responsibility to Oppose New U.S. Crimes” in response to Binh’s controversial argument over the question of whether imperialist intervention in the Arab Spring is subordinate to the struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. Binh replied to the issues Ely raised in “Our Responsibility to the Arab Spring” as did Patrick Muldowney in “Syria: It Is Right to Rebel!”.

One year after being founded, The North Star has grown from a one-man show with few followers into an operation with three editors and an informal but growing community of contributors and readers.

The North Star‘s non-sectarian, open-minded, and dead honest approach to the U.S. left’s problems and shortcomings earned it the support of Philly Socialists, an independent socialist collective. In a resolution passed January 5, 2013, the group resolved to “begin fraternally corresponding with The North Star.” Although noting that The North Star and Philly Socialists have “divergences of opinion,” it listed the following “points of unity”:

  1. The necessity of building a Party, defined either as a new political party, a tendency within such a political party, a mass-based independent political organization, or some combination thereof
  2. Science as a core Socialist value
  3. Taking elections seriously, gaining political power via participation in the electoral process (with an emphasis on winning)
  4. Respectful and comradely debate and airing of political differences.

As the first step of this collaboration, Tim Horras, Chair of the Philly Socialists, contributed a review of the Vermont Progressive Party. We heartily welcome this new partnership and look forward to building it. We also hope to hear from other socialists out there—be they individuals or groups—who are interested in working with us.

Our progress notwithstanding, The North Star‘s first year has not proven friction-free. Organizing multi-tendency roundtables has proven easier said than done—we are attempting to put together a discussion on the topic of “Marxism and Feminism” (please contact us if you have a contribution). While we solicited and received funds to pay for a masthead image, we have not yet finalized the artwork. We are now working with a professional graphic designer and hope to roll out the masthead soon.

Above all else, we need more engagement and participation by readers and activists, including original contributions (both written and multimedia), and greater participation in our articles’ comments sections—which we view as key to this site. Our graphical design, multimedia content, and social media efforts are underdeveloped at best—we encourage you to get in touch if you would like to contribute in these areas.

In the coming year, we will continue to offer material that we think merits serious discussion on the left, in the hope that open debate will help us begin the long process of building the mass movement we so desperately need. At the same time, we would like to expand the discussion to topics that have thus far been underrepresented. While intra-left debate is important, we hope to focus increasingly on ongoing anti-austerity struggles and opportunities for anti-capitalists, as well as focusing on our real opponents, including the Democratic Party and other obstacles that stand in the way of a renewed left.

We welcome your suggestions, feedback, critiques, and suggestions for article topics and authors.

If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact us at editors [at] thenorthstar [dot] info, or donate (via PayPal in the right panel).

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas Barton February 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Congratulations & respect to The North Star.

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke.

“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.

“We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Frederick Douglass, 1852


Brandy Baker February 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Peter would be proud. :)


Ross Wolfe February 3, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Great work!


Ben Campbell February 4, 2013 at 4:30 am

Thanks Thomas, Brandy, and Ross.

It occurs to me that I should add one point. The North Star is not a publication in the traditional sense. It is intended as more of a moderated forum. It reflects a recognition that there is already much insight scattered around the fragmented left, that needs to be brought together in some way (instead of each grouping duplicating and triplicating publication efforts), and hopefully somehow made into something more coherent and larger than the sum of its parts. We do not claim to have done that yet, but that is our goal.

Thus if you have enjoyed reading The North Star it is likely because we have shamelessly re-posted content from the most interesting blogs/sites on the left to encourage discussion (hopefully always with permission, explicit or Creative Commons). These include, in no order:
… and many more (attributions should be found in individual articles).

At the same time, The North Star wouldn’t exist if we felt the existing left was adequate. Thus, in the future, we would like to increase the amount of original material published—not for the purpose of duplicating efforts or becoming a competing publication, but rather to address areas of discussion and debate that might be inadequately covered elsewhere (for whatever reason). Please note the new submissions tab, and we encourage you to submit if you think your contribution can further the discussion:


Richard Estes February 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm

congratulations, it is great to observe the success of The North Star, having followed it since Pham first conceived of it

everyone involved deserves credit for what has been accomplished


Pham Binh February 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Thank you. However, I didn’t conceive of it. I stole it from Camejo, who got it from Douglass. If it weren’t for the collaborative effort of quite a few people behind it, this would have never gotten off the ground.


Brian S. February 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Congratulations and a special thanks to the hardworking team at “Admin”. Northstar has managed to both create a distinct identity and at the same time build an open space where radicals with often differing perspectives can debate the key issues of the day. A foundation stone for the sort of left that we need on both sides of the Atlantic and further afield.


Jesse Harasta February 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Congrats to the whole North Star Team–editors, writers and faithful commentators! I have been pleased to be peripherally involved in the project and look forward to reading (and writing!) in the future. Keep up the good work.


Matt February 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Unclear where to file this under, but anyone familiar with the contents of the old International Socialist Review in the US of a century ago? If and when I find the time – right now I need to produce a concise article of publication quality on a Marxian theory of rent, no easy task – I intend to go through the archives myself.

I have an interest not only in the context of the debates over revolutionary politics, nor not only in connection with my hobby-horse on the WWI Era ( ), but also as part of a “theoretical” project on the development of capitalism and the working class in the USA from the 1870’s to the present.

Though I seldom have the time to follow up on replies in my gmail box, I will follow up on this.


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