Dare to Win, Dare to Govern

by Isaac Marx on August 21, 2013

“For our ideas to matter we have to win.
Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern.
And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind.”

— Chris Christie, Republican Governor of New Jersey

Chris Christie inadvertently handed the American socialist movement the above wisdom during his pep talk to fellow Republicans. It’s a strategic insight that cuts to the heart of how we can regain the political clout we enjoyed in the first half of the 20th century.

If we don’t govern, socialist ideas don’t matter and all we do is shout into the wind.

Hal Draper’sAnatomy of a Micro Sect” is an unmatched analysis of why uniting socialist sects is a dead end and notes that what passes for a socialist movement in this country is by and large not moving at all. What Draper left unexplored is how can the American socialist non-movement become a movement? How can motion arise out of non-motion, activity out of inactivity, life out of lifeless components?

Our predecessors have successfully tackled this conundrum.

The Socialist Party (SP) of Eugene Debs’ day was the product of the 1901 merger of two sects — Social Democracy of America and a split from Daniel DeLeon’s revolutionary party-building outfit, the Socialist Labor Party. How did they avoid the trap Draper warned of? How did they not become a slightly larger, pro-unity sect? They took action, they launched a movement, one that was admittedly small and unsuccessful at first but eventually paid great dividends over the next decade as the SP became a small but real mass party. In doing so, they created the material basis for the more radical mass-based Communist Party formed in 1919 which in turn went on to build the AFL-CIO in the 1930s and 1940s. So the peak of radical influence in the American working class during the early/mid 20th century was the product of four decades of struggle (five if you count the SP’s predecessors, the Populists, who formed the People’s Party in the 1890s). If you’re a 1917-monger, this 40-year rule still holds up; without the creation of the German Social-Democratic party through the fusion of followers of Karl Marx’s and Ferdinand Lassalle’s follwers into a single organization way back in 1875, the Russian Bolsheviks of 1917 simply would not have existed.

Year

SP Membership

1901

~4,000

1903

15,975

1905

23,327

1906

26,784

1907

29,270

1908

41,751

1909

41,470

1910

58,011

1911

84,716

1912

118,045

1913

95,957

1914

93,579

1915

79,374

1916

83,284

1917

80,379

1918

82,344

1919

34,926

What did the 1901 SP do to start a socialist movement that actually moved? Run candidates for office and not as educational (read: shouting in the wind) campaigns but as real competition to the enemies of working people, the Democratic and Republican parties (Ds and Rs). At first the SP failed a lot and lost a lot of races. In the SP’s first presidential campaign of 1904, Eugene Debs got 402,810 votes, under 3%. That may seem like pathetic, but Debs at his low point positively clobbered the 2012 results of the Green Party’s Jill Stein in proportional terms by a factor of 10 and the entire American socialist left put together in absolute terms (four groups racked up a miserable 20,000 votes total). But every election cycle of failure in those days paved the way for success down the road; a couple of SP mayors became a dozen or so by 1912. The more power and influence the SP accumulated, the more working people gravitated towards it and away from the Ds and Rs.

The ideological ramification of this success was the growth within the SP of nonsensical trends like reformism and gradualism. The revolutionary left’s reaction to this was usually obverse nonsense: impossiblism, ultra-leftism, and the revolutionary syndicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World that derided “sewer socialism” and electoral action in favor of direct action and class war.

Today sewer socialism would be a step forward rather than backward in the face of ruthless and relentless neoliberal privatization campaigns that have placed public assets like schools into the hands of Wall Street.

All of this blathering about the long-gone glory days of American socialism is a way of illustrating what could eventually emerge out of tiny-sized battles over local offices waged by Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant, Ty Moore, and Seamus Wheland in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Boston, respectively, should any of them win. Admittedly, not one of them is the second coming of Debs who came to prominence as the leader of the American Railway Union strike of 1894 after having served as a Democratic legislator in the Illinois state legislature in 1884 (the only comparable labor leader today might be Karen Lewis, leader of the Chicago Teachers Union strike). Still, the creation and success of the SP was not due to one charismatic organic intellectual rooted in the labor movement but to the action and activity of thousands and eventually tens of thousands of organized socialists of various ideologies  working in common for concrete ends as part of a common organization.

These three races highlight the stark choice facing socialists in America. We can keep shouting in the wind, reveling in the irrelevance of our ideas and our movement while decrying the rigged bourgeois-democratic game and the positively unfair objective conditions we have to fight in, or we can dare to win, dare to govern, and use what offices we win to alter the terrain in our favor (however slightly) and construct an actual party rather than enlarging a propaganda club or a somehow-someday-we’ll-be-party sect. Elected officials can make $100,000 a year in salary and hire handfuls of staff on the taxpayer’s dime, a tremendous boon for any small, fringe organization that lives by the dues (or tithes) it receives from the ranks of the faithful. To combat officeholder opportunism, we can copy the Socialist Party of the Netherlands which has legal contracts with its elected officials diverting all their pay into party coffers from which they receive a reduced stipend for living expenses. Instead of the party working for elected officials who in turn work for lobbyists, elected officials work for the party and the party serves the people.

The sad thing is you don’t need a PhD in American socialist history to see how winning and governing can take our movement from the fringes to the center of national politics. Just study Ron Paul.

For those who don’t know, Ron Paul has come a long, long way from the margins to the mainstream. To get an idea of just how marginal he and his libertarian/paleo-conservative nutters were at the outset, here is an excerpt from one of his 1980s newsletters.

newletter2

How did Paul escape the irrelevance of the lunatic fringe to spearhead a major movement on the American right, pull double-digit returns in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, become the top recipient of donations from military personnel, and hand his son and heir Rand ownership of the political powerhouse he built?

  • He never gave up, watered down, or altered his principles (whack-job as they might be).
  • He kept running for office to win. Over and over and over again.
  • He used his seat in Congress as a springboard for presidential runs, to shout into the national political discourse rather than the wind, and to form a mini-empire that now boasts its own online paid subscription channel.

Not bad for a guy who started out peddling raggedy newspapers almost four decades ago.

Tactics, Strategy in Current Conditions

Now, there has been some debate on The North Star about whether it makes sense for socialists to run within or outside of/against the Democratic Party. Ty Huson argues we should “think of the Democratic Party not as an organization but as a brand and a ballot line” and Abaraham Marx one-upped him by pointing out that the same insight could apply equally to the Republican Party.

The problem with Hudson’s line of thinking on this is that it misses the crucial fact that it is this very flexibility, this very “emptyness” of the Democratic Party, particularly at the local and state levels, that has successfully assimilated, pre-empted, and aborted third parties from developing for well over a century. 

nowackIn the 1940s, United Auto Workers (UAW) leader and Communist Party member Stanley Nowak was the floor leader of the Democratic caucus in the Michigan state senate, allowing the Democrats to function as a “de facto labor party” in the words of socialist Jim Zarichny. When Nowak left the Democrats after winning five elections to run as a nonpartisan candidate for the same office, he was defeated, leaving the two-party state intact. 

That didn’t work out so well in the long run for Detroit and the UAW now did it?

So the non-organization ballot line brand known as the Democratic Party is supple enough to absorb challengers, even revolutionaries and communists, allowing it to function as the electoral equivalent of regulatory capture. The Hudsons don’t seem to have a means of combatting this ballot line brand’s quicksand-like tendency to swallow those who think they can easily and profitably exit when it suits them and decide to work within the Democratic Party. Any examples where this tactic actually succeeded in creating a vehicle independent of the Democrats would be interesting to hear about and learn from.

The John Halle strategy of ensuring one-party Democratic dominance first (neutralizing the spoiler problem created by the winner-take-all/first past the post voting system) before challenging and defeating them second seems smarter and more sound strategically than occupying the Democrats. If our goal is to begin breaking up the monopoly the Ds and Rs enjoy over the political marketplace, buying either brand as Hudson advises won’t further that process. However, this stages approach flies in the face of the typical “no voting for any Democrat ever under any circumstance” commandment espoused by many modern socialists. The strategic drawback of Halle’s “line” is that there can and will be in-between situations where Democratic dominance can be taken for granted in a normal, two-party contest but will be threatened when a red spoiler enters the field. It’s a problem that would be great to have but a dilemma that we are a long way from since there are only two elected officials in their country from a socialist party: Pat Noble who was elected to a local school board in New Jersey and Matt Erard who was elected to a neighborhood council in Detroit.

Socialism: Drawback or Asset?

There has also been some debate on The North Star about whether the success of Sawant in Seattle is the result of or despite her identification with socialism. It’s impossible to say for sure whether a non-red radical would have done better or worse against Democratic speaker of the Washington state legislature Frank Chopp, but Sawant’s 20,425 votes in her district nearly matched Stein’s 20,928 votes statewide in the same election. If Sawant had ditched socialism for Stein’s petty-bourgeois revolutionism, it’s hard to imagine that she would have racked up a dramatically higher figure given that it was a two-way race between her and Chopp.

The bottom line on this question is that the stigma socialism suffered as a failed ideology in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, a stigma that formed the backdrop for the Green Party’s coalescence in the 1990s (and socialist Peter Camejo’s decision to downplay red for green), is long gone. Nowadays, trends on the left that avoid anti-capitalism are behind the times since Lehman and 2008 appear to be to capitalism what the Soviet Union and 1989-1991 was to socialism, which helps explain why a good third of the U.S. population views socialism favorably despite the socialist non-movement’s total irrelevance to the national body politic.

It also doesn’t hurt that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have single-handedly rehabilitated “socialism,” “communism,” and “class war” by rabidly attacking every non-idiotic policy and utterance of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Barack Obama as ‘liberty-threatening, Constitution-destroying, gun-snatching SOCIALISM-COMMUNISM-CLASS-WAR AMURRICACIDE!!!!!!!’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week for more than a decade. They have rendered us a great service by creating a large swathe of the population with a strong immunity to red-baiting that knows instinctively that if Fox is screaming against it, they should scream for it.

The crucial thing to understand is that we have a world-historic opportunity to reintroduce socialism to growing segments of the American population desperate to find a way to keep a roof over their heads, give their kids a better life, and retire without subsisting on dog food. We could make socialism synonymous with familiar and overwhelmingly popular programs like Social Security and Medicare and use that as a basis to push for Medicare for all. This will be pretty important since Obamacare looks like it’ll be a disasterpiece and the bipartisan attacks on the New Deal we’ve seen so far are nothing compared to the Raw Deal that’s to come.

A growing, thriving, and governing socialist movement might be the only thing stopping Ron Paul’s dream of abolishing the social safety net. Besides we can’t afford to waste the next four decades like we wasted the past four decades shouting into the wind.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis Proyect August 21, 2013 at 3:59 pm

That didn’t work out so well in the long run for Detroit and the UAW now did it?

Well, obviously the road ahead for the auto workers and Detroit was electing Democrats. Look how far that got them.

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Richard Estes August 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I could say a lot about this post, but will limit myself to two things: (1) it significantly exaggerates the successes and influence of Ron Paul; and (2) if socialists are going to get involved in the electoral process, they must do so under their own banner with the ability to run on their own ideas. If they are going to do that, SYRIZA is the model whereby a synergy between activism and electoral participation can be pursued. It will be difficult, but that is the only plausible path that I see.

I would also recommend that people look into the Richmond Progressive Alliance:
http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

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Abraham Marx August 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I’m proud of you son. Sorry about leading you up that hill and trying to kill you.

No but seriously I did a double take when I saw the name. No (witting) relation to the writer.

Shoot me an email. A more coherent response will follow.

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Saturnite August 22, 2013 at 1:20 am

Thank you for writing this. Time to get this party built.

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J.B. August 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

Saturnite, you said it. I think there’s more than enough consensus on this site and throughout the post-Occupy Left to get something like this moving. We have a functioning model of what a party that embraces all three currents of the far left could look like in Philly Socialists. We have functional electoral campaigns being modeled and developed by organizations like Socialist Alternative. We have the pieces we need, and we have interested people. So maybe we’ve had enough articles about why it needs to be done… Let’s start having some articles about what we need to be doing to make this happen! It’s time, people!!!

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David Walters August 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

I luv the comparisons to two completely, totally independent America’s a century apart as if “lessons” can be drawn so neatly.

In fact, Deb’s campaign, all 4 of ’em, were exactly “shouting in the wind”. If you read his speeches there are nary a word around immediate, ‘how we will govern’, phrases. He talks of the bigger question, war, capitalism (how it sucks), the need for *revolution*. So he pulled almost a *million* votes in 1920…why no mention of this?

It seems like the term ‘sect’ has lost all meaning here. It should be pointed out that even Debs’ original Social Democratic Federation itself would not of existed had not the SLP existed and maintained the Marxist continuity from the First International through the founding, via a split. Certainly the SLP, in my opinion, developed into a sect of sorts, but the groups coming out if were anything but. The unity of these groups during the 1901 through 1904 period, along with the founding of the IWW a year later, represented not a ‘regroupment’ philosophy (something also in vogue in talk shops now) but the actual confluence of real forces in the class struggle *organically* linked too, and arising form, real working class struggles…something that simply doesn’t exist today. Talking in wind…

David

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Isaac Marx August 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm

The proposal is not to have sects continually run their own wannabe-Debs as they have been doing for the past four decades to no avail. Why no mention of this in your comment?

Now, if Karen Lewis or some other nationally-known leader rooted in the union movement becomes a red and wants to run on a red ticket, that would change the calculus, but that ain’t gonna happen until the socialist movement reforms and becomes worthy of going over to by the Lewises of today.

The SLP, the SP, and SDF were all sects and not products of the American class struggle. They became something more and better — the beginnings of a class-based party — when they decided to ditch being recruitment/conversion socities and began contesting power in elections successfully, allowing them to organically link up with the working class in motion.

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Aaron Aarons August 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Isaac Marx writes, “The proposal is not to have sects continually run their own wannabe-Debs as they have been doing for the past four decades to no avail.”

Whatever Isaac Marx’ proposal is, the “sects” will continue to run their own candidates, not all of them “wannabe-Debs”, though some of these “sects” might give critical (or uncritical) support to a broad-based left candidate that has some mass support.

And, to what extent are groups like the PSL and Workers World of the last decade or two, and the SWP of the 1960’s, properly characterized as “sects” when they have been capable of organizing mass demonstrations?

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Alan Stolzer August 22, 2013 at 10:40 am

All this is well and good if not a bit trite and outdated.

Instead, how about giving people a weapon in which to fight? Lately, Stevie Wonder stated he wouldn’t appear in Florida or any of the other “Stand Your Ground” states after the Zimmerman verdict. This was an economic threat, perhaps by a lone individual, but a famous one at that which brings to mind the Montgomery Bus Boycott where the population, as part of their strategy, didn’t (wouldn’t) ride buses in order to HURT the opposition and, eventually, brought Jim Crow of 1954 to the table. THAT was correct strategy and surely there must be an economist, Marxist or otherwise, or anyone else who can come up with a plan to HURT the opposition, thereby giving people who’ve lost jobs and homes a weapon and purpose to struggle and not only pull a lever in a voting booth.
If it’s class war one must have a strategy that embraces masses of people who can actively participate. Otherwise it’s just rhetoric.

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Richard Estes August 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

There is much that I could say about this post, but I will limit myself to two things: (1) the author significantly exaggerates the successes and influence of Ron Paul; and (2) the achievements of the earlier left efforts that the author references were attributable to a motivated, organized working class which is lacking today. To imply that people like Jill Stein and others can create a party as substantial as the one created by Debs, without comparing the social conditions of that time to the present, strikes me as a bit reductionist.

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Richard Estes August 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm

North Star admin has been working on it. I cleared my browser cache this morning and was able to post, as you can see below. Don’t know if that, or the efforts of admin, or both, enabled me to post today. But clearing your browser cache is a good idea, anyway.

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admin August 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm

We are working on the tech glitch issues that many users are experiencing when they try comment on the site. Unclear when/why this began; hopefully we’ll figure it out soon. Comments that “disappear” are not in spam/trash folders or otherwise accessible to the admin. Please clear your browser’s cache and try.

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J.B. August 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I agree strongly with this article. I also agree with Saturnite. Time to stop talking about it and get to work! A few replies to other comments:

Alan: Those strategies are excellent, but I don’t see why you can’t both run candidates and organize boycotts. They’re both good strategies, and I think they could work in a synergistic fashion. The best strategy to emphasize for a given region probably depends on local conditions in that region.

Richard: I also would have liked more historical comparison, but I fear sometimes we put too much stock in that sort of thing. The fact of the matter is that none of us can tell the future, and we don’t know what’s possible yet, because this isn’t a strategy anyone is seriously pursuing anymore. The old days of classic working class organization are indeed over. But there’s a surge of energy coming off Occupy that needs to be channeled somewhere, and a lot of people who might be involved with the old kind of working class organizations who have no where to go. Why not use some of that energy to win some small local races and try to build from there? Who is to say this couldn’t turn into something big in time?

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Richard Estes August 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

The left has been running candidates for a long time. It is not a new development. And, yet, they continue to perform poorly. Why is that? The article has little to say on the subject.

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Isaac Marx August 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Sawant’s performance in 2012 can hardly be described as poor. The SP’s dozen or so candidates in last year’s elections almost universally failed to even reach 5% in local, small races because they are mostly ceremonial campaigns done by rote rather than well-planned strategic campaigns. The Green and Peace and Freedom parties are both weak IMO because they waste resources trying to compete at the state and national levels when they can barely elect anyone locally, a bit like swinging for the fences when you haven’t mastered the fine art of bunting.

As for your point about Ron Paul, the point of the piece was to show how he was able to break out of marginality, not to claim he has vast/decisive influence on mainstream politics.

Your second point is a topic that needs to be explored: “the achievements of the earlier left efforts that the author references were attributable to a motivated, organized working class which is lacking today. To imply that people like Jill Stein and others can create a party as substantial as the one created by Debs, without comparing the social conditions of that time to the present, strikes me as a bit reductionist.”

Do you know what the unionization rate was in 1901-1919? Not much better than it is today. The working class wasn’t drastically more/better organized then than it is now. If anything, conditions are positively better. We don’t have Pinkertons and National Guard shooting people who strike.

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Richard Estes August 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

“Do you know what the unionization rate was in 1901-1919? Not much better than it is today. The working class wasn’t drastically more/better organized then than it is now. If anything, conditions are positively better. We don’t have Pinkertons and National Guard shooting people who strike.”

That’s probably because there aren’t very many strikes anymore. Workers were more active between 1901-1919 than they are today, regardless of how many were unionized.

It becomes a bit of an argument about semantics, but I still consider Ron Paul to be marginal. His influence on public policy is nil. His libertarian policies have always been promoted by corporate interests, and his isolationism has had no impact on US foreign policy.

If you want to start out with getting people elected locally, you have to realize that the local versus state versus national distinction is becoming artificial. In Sacramento, where I live, it takes about $100,000 to get elected to city council or supervisor seat, even with district elections. That’s a lot more than 15-20 years ago. The Democratic Party establishment, along with their corporate supporters and local developers, anoint their candidates, who have a tremendous advantage.

Sacramento has gone from being a city that, in the 1980s and 1990s, had a substantial number of progressive, grassroots local elected officials, with progressive mayors with origins in activist politics, to very few, and those who remain are an endangered species. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are unbeatable, but there is a tremendous headwind, just as there is at the state and national levels. Even school board candidates are being pre-approved.

Can this be overcome? Possibly. But it requires a lot more than an exhortation to “dare to win” and invocations of successful left political campaigns of the past, and a few socialist campaigns around the country. It requires a concrete explanation as to how the existing impediments within a capitalist democratic system can be successfully overcome.

If you want an example that deserves more attention, here’s one: the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

It shows both the possibilities and the limitations upon this approach. There’s also an article in the summer 2013 issue of Social Policy about the RPA as well, an article that goes over its history in depth.

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Richard Estes August 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

That’s probably because there aren’t very many strikes these days. If we faced strikes of the kind that took place on a mass scale in the early 20th Century, we’d see the same level of violence if the response to Occupy is any indication. The unionization rate is irrevelant, what is relevant is the fact that workers, regardless of unionization, were more militant then.

As for Ron Paul, he’s still marginal, he merely serves the purpsoe of showing a faux diversity of political influence in the US, much as Jesse Jackson did at one time. One shouldn’t mistake visibility for political power, a flaw that reveals itself in various ways in the article.

I live in Sacramento, and it is almost a closed political system, dominated by an elite of electoral officials, lobbyists, developers and corporations, who donate large sums to non-profits created by political figures. Wal Mart recently played this game to get restrictions on superstores relaxed, giving a lot of money to a city council member’s purported social service non-profit. The city has gone to from one with a substantial number of progressive city council members and mayors to one that requires machine support for school board.

So, the problem isn’t that no one will “dare to win”, but that there must be a strategy for succeeding in such a system, one that, at the local level, isn’t that much easier to penetrate than the state and national ones. Again, other than exhorting people to take action, the article provides no assistance in that regard. As a consequence, there is likely to be a great disillusionment when electoral politics turns out be much harder than anticipated. For guidance, I would recommend the Richmond Progressive Alliance, an over 10 year effort in Richmond, California, an effort that reveals the strengths and weakness of this approach in a favorable environment:

http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

Mike Parker also wrote an excellent analysis of it, with lessons to be learned, in an article published in the summer 2013 issue of Social Policy.

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Isaac Marx August 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

“If we faced strikes of the kind that took place on a mass scale in the early 20th Century, we’d see the same level of violence if the response to Occupy is any indication. The unionization rate is irrevelant, what is relevant is the fact that workers, regardless of unionization, were more militant then.”

Anecdotally this sounds right, but I don’t know if the empirical and historical data supports this claim. It sounds like a left version of the “past was so much better” that is common in Americana.

I couldn’t disagree more that large-scale strikes today would face the kind of employer violence they did back then; the 1930s-1940s were a turning point away from the “Wild West” model of labor relations (shoot first, arbitrate never). Class conflict now is much more state regulated to avoid precisely this kind of violence. PATCO, the 1997 UPS strike, the May 1, 2006 general strike, the TWU strike in NYC in 2006, the CTU strike — none of these were met with bloody repression. We are in a different era now and face much different, more difficult problems than our predecessors did.

“If you want to start out with getting people elected locally, you have to realize that the local versus state versus national distinction is becoming artificial. In Sacramento, where I live, it takes about $100,000 to get elected to city council or supervisor seat, even with district elections.”

Right, because they are spending a lot of that money on expensive, slick T.V. ads. This is how Sawant, who was out-raised and out-funded by Conlin, beat him in the dollar-for-vote ratio. They apparently have a volunteer army of 300; I suspect the Democrats don’t have that kind of ground game there. A red candidate that has a real shot at winning has to be popular in the community, well liked, have friends and supporters in the local NGOs, unions, and churches to beat the money/patronage machines. It isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either, and it’s certainly not cost-prohibitive at the local or municipal level. As you move higher up in the system, it becomes hard and harder for foot power to match dollar power.

“So, the problem isn’t that no one will ‘dare to win’, but that there must be a strategy for succeeding in such a system, one that, at the local level, isn’t that much easier to penetrate than the state and national ones.”

Simply not true. Why do you think the Greens and the Libertarians in office are concentrated almost exclusively in local offices? Because state, local, and national offices are equally inaccessible or impossible to win? Hardly.

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Aaron Aarons August 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm

It’s quite consistent. Supposed ‘socialists’ who argue for electoralist, reformist politics rarely make any mention, direct or indirect, of imperialism or related matters like global inequality and its consequences for class consciousness. Some, unlike Isaac Marx, do at least mention racism in passing, but even they don’t deal with white supremacy as an integral part of the system.

While people like Sawant, who is far to the left of Isaac Marx, can generally avoid dealing with imperialism in running for, or even after winning, positions on local legislative bodies, what will a victorious Sawant do if confronted, e.g., with a vote for a budget that includes things she supports but also includes money for the police, jails and other instruments of capitalist repression and white domination, in a situation where her vote might determine the outcome? Would she stick to principle, or become a ‘pragmatist’?

BTW, giving Chris Christie as an authority on the question of governing vs not governing ignores the fact that Christie wants to manage a state apparatus (whether of the United Snakes or just New Jersey) that is an instrument of his class whether he is governing it or not. For a socialist, that state apparatus is the enemy, even if (s)he gets to manage it on the surface.

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Alan Stolzer August 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Sure, synergy is desirable but there must be fresh ideas that people hammered by the system can sympathize with to the extent of joining. A thrust out to people is what’s necessary not just the comfort of electoral politics.

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Deran August 22, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I think “sewer socialism” in the present day might include things like public ownership, say through something like a “Public Utility District” with an elected commission, like we have for sewers, water and electricity in several areas of Washington State, that would own and operate the fiber optic network in a region. I don’t think it is unreasonable at this date in history to look at affordable access to fast internet is not quite as important as clean water and sewers, but more and more humans need access to the internet to be able to participate in the economy and civilization (such as it is).

I also still think rent stabilization is another “sewer socialist” issue that may well benefit middle class people, but rent stabilization con be of an even more direct benefit to working class and low income residents of cities. Rent stabilization can keep cities, like Seattle, from becoming entirely enclave of the rich. Forcefully keeping rents affordable creates stability and a place in the city for working class and low income people.

Now seems the time to make hay with those sorts of nuts and bolts issues. Use them openings to show that democratically controlled and publicly owned can be “successful” and innovative, and public regulation of rents can be a positive thing. So there is not only real things to accomplish, and socialists are making the point that socialism can have answers (if even in these sorts of “mild” forms).

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Aaron Aarons August 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm

The problem isn’t whether or not to fight for reforms. The problem is with “governing”, i.e., taking over the management of institutions of the capitalist state, or even “constructively” engage in the legislative process. I’ll repeat essentially the same question I raised above:

Do socialists on a city council join, for example, in voting for a city budget that includes money for the forces and instruments of repression because that budget also includes things that benefit workers and the poor? Does a socialist mayor sign, or fail to veto, such a budget?

I think any genuine socialist would have to answer “NO” to both questions. Will anyone who advocates “governing” under capitalism give their answers to these questions, or do you all just want to avoid the matter?

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You Big Weirdo August 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm

(This is Deran, NS seems to dump all my recent posts in to the void, so I’ll see if this works)

The problem with only being involved “from the outside”, only engaging in single issue struggles with the government is that no one ever gets to see if socialist ideas (greater good), can actually provide anything useful. I’m sure it feels good to the dogmatists to remain aloof in a small sectlette of like minded cadre, but that is where socialists will remain if the are not willing to engage and take on power.

Unless one is going to go straight from where the world is now to councilism, there has to some time when socialists show their chops and govern, even locally. What happens if you get one socialist elected to a city council, and this leads to other socialists getting electd to the same city council? Couldn’t a socialist majority cause so real life changes?

Dogmatic purity has kept the US Left of the last few decades off in the corners or out hawking badly written newspapers.

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Abraham Marx August 28, 2013 at 9:40 am

EXACTLY.
As much as an overnight transmogrification to council communism would help; it’s not gonna happen.

And if it did… how would we resolve issues like the serious drought in the US? water supplies? energy? How would we administer logistics and transport? All this is stuff that requires choosing to spend resources on one thing over another, hard choices.

Concretion is the only step forward right now.

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Aaron Aarons August 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

The most important thing that socialists have to say is that these major problems can not be solved, or even seriously ameliorated, without an attack on the property rights and the consequent political and social power of the capitalist class. After the capitalists are expropriated, there will be a lot more resources the allocation of which can be debated within the working class and allied strata.

But, while capitalism still rules, we can make – and endeavor to impose! – demands against the use of resources in ways that do not benefit, and usually harm, the mass of the U.S. and global population. In particular, socialists must be unequivocally opposed to any allocation of resources to the military and security apparatuses of the U.S. capitalist state. And it should be constantly pointed out that the U.S. military is responsible for a substantial portion of energy consumption and greenhouse gases, so it isn’t just a matter of saving resources in the abstract form of ‘money’.

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Richard Estes August 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm

“In particular, socialists must be unequivocally opposed to any allocation of resources to the military and security apparatuses of the U.S. capitalist state. And it should be constantly pointed out that the U.S. military is responsible for a substantial portion of energy consumption and greenhouse gases, so it isn’t just a matter of saving resources in the abstract form of ‘money’.”

Indeed, this is exactly what needs to be said. Of course, it can be part of a broader agenda related to the issues present in any community in which someone runs for office, but a refusal to acknowledge the extent to which “the military and security apparatuses” of the US are directly connected to poverty and income equality is merely another form of liberal politics, where candidates run upon illusory solutions.

Of course, such a stance will not immediately be embraced, but that shouldn’t be a problem, as the author of this piece is an advocate for a long term electoral effort.

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J.B. August 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Alan, I would suspect this approach would take many of us far out of our comfort zones. As I Marx has pointed out, this isn’t something we do much or are very good at. Serious electoral work would hardly be a cup of chamomile tea. But you’re right of course that this can’t be the only focus of regroupment, and that a forceful presentation of socialist ideas should accompany any campaign.

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Alan Stolzer August 23, 2013 at 9:21 am

J.B.

Comfort zone has always puzzled me. What are we being comfortable about, especially these days?
Relating to the community (issues: housing, unemployment, etc.) is critical. Joining with groups already formed, showing people you’re part of the struggle is paramount. Certainly ideas can be formed through internal discussion but you have to get out of the political shell first!

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Abraham Marx August 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

First and foremost, the comfort zone of Marxists is other Marxists, the sectarian press, and the very real echo-chamber that we have built online. The political shell as Stolzer above says.

Some giveaway lines:

– the snarky throwaway question from Proyect, “didn’t work out so well did it?”

– the recursive Feuerbach thesis loop from Stolzer: “If it’s class war one must have a strategy that embraces masses of people who can actively participate. Otherwise it’s just rhetoric.” This is the kernel of the left’s problems. Seconded by JB: “Time to stop talking about it and get to work!” Thirded by Stolzer.

-unbreakable tautological pessimism presented as academic hairsplitting. Most of what Estes says. Bonus points for use of terms like reductionist.

-then of course there is the pure-virgin complex; a liberal disgust with power politics that seems to have infected radicals. You have to have a strong stomach to see how sausage and laws are made…. See Aron Arons keeping himself safe by siding with Sawant who is “far to the left of I Marx.” Then there is the arms-length distrust and contempt for ‘sewer socialism’ that Deran speaks of.

It is exactly the same as the Free Republic, John Birch, libertarian, and Republican echo-chamber. Except they honor Reagan’s eleventh amendment, and they actually pour their time and treasure into local politics and races (either pragmatically or as pawns of the lobbyists and politicians). This actually gives them a bit more freedom and flexibility to opine and theorize about ideal political situations.

The root point that Isaac makes is that WE HAVE TO BE READY TO GOVERN. Which means to take responsibility and blame for trying to achieve good ends in a hostile environment.

The point that he makes is that people like Ron Paul, by virtue of their diligence and undiluted defense of principles, convince people by sheer example of courage and endurance. He has seen the winds of Washington shift ever-more in his direction.

He writes: “the crucial thing to understand is that we have a world-historic opportunity to reintroduce socialism to growing segments of the American population desperate to find a way to keep a roof over their heads, give their kids a better life, and retire without subsisting on dog food.” And I agree wholeheartedly.

But here I have a practical-technical question. What would poll better, what would the american people be more receptive to? Terms like socialism and marxism and proletariat and capitalism and the scientific-technical-academic terms we have been raised on? Or lucid policy slogans like “universal medicaid,” “restore Glass-Steagall,” “restore the Clinton tax rates,” etc.

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Isaac Marx August 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm

“What would poll better, what would the american people be more receptive to? Terms like socialism and marxism and proletariat and capitalism and the scientific-technical-academic terms we have been raised on? Or lucid policy slogans like ‘universal medicaid,’ ‘restore Glass-Steagall,’ ‘restore the Clinton tax rates,’ etc.”

Socialism is polling surprisingly well. Your policy slogans are probably to wonkish and Beltwayish to gain much traction — hardly anyone knows was Glass-Steagall is or what the Clinton tax rates were. Combatting ignorance is another major task, unfortunately.

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Abraham Marx August 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm

As to the Beltwayish stuff; the phrasing is pitched towards politically aware people. It could be rephrased to ‘defang the banks,’ ‘universal healthcare,’ ‘undo the Bush tax cuts,’ etc.

But does the left have its own polling operations, or is polling of the word ‘socialism’ simply one of those other polls that get coverage among us? That’s how we could measure the depth and breadth of knowledge and support for the basic program of socialists.

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Aaron Aarons August 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Abraham Marx writes:

Some giveaway lines:

– the snarky throwaway question from Proyect, “didn’t work out so well did it?”

What Louis Proyect can be faulted for there is his consistent failure to properly distinguish things he is quoting from his own words, while Abraham Marx demonstrates, here and elsewhere, a tendency to put paraphrases or abridgements in quotes as if he were quoting literally. The full sentence that Proyect wrote:

That didn’t work out so well in the long run for Detroit and the UAW now did it?

was, unlike most of Louis Proyect’s snarky remarks, a direct quote from the main article. He responded with justified retaliatory sarcasm:

Well, obviously the road ahead for the auto workers and Detroit was electing Democrats. Look how far that got them.

This is one of the rare times I have come to the defense of comrade Proyect, while I have strongly disagreed with him, and provoked some of his notorious snarky remarks, numerous times. It says something about the right-reformist character of people like the Marx [political]Brothers here that Proyect probably finds himself closer politically to me than to them.

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Louis Proyect August 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

Proyect probably finds himself closer politically to me than to them.

Not really. Your Marcyite/Spart politics really turns my stomach.

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Aaron Aarons August 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

My apologies for over-estimating your distance from reformism, Louis.

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Aaron Aarons August 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Abraham Marx also writes:

-then of course there is the pure-virgin complex; a liberal disgust with power politics that seems to have infected radicals. You have to have a strong stomach to see how sausage and laws are made…. See Aron Arons keeping himself safe by siding with Sawant who is “far to the left of I Marx.”

I certainly manifest no “liberal disgust with power politics” when those are anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist power politics. For example, I was outspoken in my support for the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the attempted suppression of the CIA’s and Vatican’s Solidarnosh ‘union’ in Poland. I also often speak out in support of armed struggle by groups like the FARC in Colombia, the NPA in the Philippines, and give at least critical support to most armed anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist actions, most controversially that of Hasan Akbar in Kuwait in 2003.

As for the making of sausages and laws, our job is NOT to take responsibility for them in order to perhaps make them slightly less toxic, but to expose and denounce their toxicity, so that the people we are trying to reach don’t swallow them. In particular, part of our job is to make the designation “law-abiding citizen” a term of derision and contempt, while using exposure and militant protest (mostly, but not always, non-violent) to make it harder for the ruling class to impose the worst of its desired laws. (I’ll leave it to vegan activists to deal with the sausage question.)

Better, incidentally, to have a “pure-virgin complex” than to be a whore — or, more accurately, a pimp — for the bourgeoisie.

BTW, A. Marx should at least learn to either cut and paste or be careful when he copies by typing. He mistypes my name as ‘Aron Arons’ and substitutes “I Marx” for “Isaac Marx” inside quotation marks. These are not politically important, but they do show gratuitous sloppiness.

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Abraham Marx August 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Oh man. Sorry for getting the names sorta wrong in my quoting. I guess that’s the same as misrepresentation.

As to Proyect, that’s who he is. Snarky and sarcastic. It’s part of his charm. I enjoy his blog and know that the function marxmail performs is incalculable.

Bringing it back to brass tacks, LBJ pushed for the first civil rights bill using a rationale that any bill would be better than no bill; and that it would serve as the foundation to build on. He used the phrase “break the virginity,” repeatedly. Without his push to break the virginity, there likely would have been no civil rights bill at all, in the 50’s or on the heels of JFK’s death. (whether or not this would have been a good thing – provoking serious revolutionary movement, is a different discussion; civil rights laws are preferable to no civil rights laws in absence of insurrection)

I was born in 1989, and so have no first hand experience of the Soviet Union or Poland’s solidarity. But that’s a different age, long gone, and again you seem to mistake speech for action.

Assuming Ms. Sawant gets into City Council (small potatoes but a good step) she’d have to ‘vote for’ prisons or teacher reform or all kinds of really nasty sausage; unless voting against every single proposal seems acceptable. She’d have to play bourgeois politics because she holds bourgeois office. That requires quid-pro-quo; that requires dirty deals; but it requires retaining principles and credibility so as to build a movement in Seattle.

As to the name calling? Right-reformism? Reductionism? This kind of name-calling has zero traction.

All of us support universal healthcare, education, housing, and employment; an end to borders and war, ecological restoration and sustainable production. The primary question is how to take this kernel and make it meaningful to people who have no interest in Debs, or polling, or Bismarck, or Glass-Steagall, or reformism, or any of that stuff.

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Aaron Aarons August 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm

1) I don’t know what you mean when you say that I “seem to mistake speech for action.” What are you doing that goes beyond speech? Why is advocating (in appropriate situations) sabotage or armed struggle and publicly defending unpopular anti-imperialist causes less a form of action than is advocating electoral activity?

2) Why would Kshama Sawant “have to ‘vote for’ prisons or teacher reform [???] or all kinds of really nasty sausage”? If she argued that way — she doesn’t! — she wouldn’t deserve even critical support. Moreover, “voting against every single proposal” would only be necessary in a situation where nothing acceptable was put to a vote, which would presumably mean that nothing Sawant herself proposed could be voted on. However, if Seattle works like most jurisdictions and has an overall budget that the council votes for, it is highly likely that no budget would come to a final vote that she could vote for, although she could probably vote for some amendments.

You write: “She’d have to play bourgeois politics because she holds bourgeois office.” Unless you mean by “play bourgeois politics” that she’d have to attend city council meetings and give a modicum of deference to rules of procedure, I can’t see any justification for that statement. And you follow that illogic with the self-contradictory statement:

That requires quid-pro-quo; that requires dirty deals; but it requires retaining principles and credibility so as to build a movement in Seattle.

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Abraham Marx August 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Once we get into the process of governing, there is no logic. It is reconciling irreconcilables. Clear principles fade away.

Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk comes to mind as an example of how hard practical concrete historical situations are. Caught between an unwinnable war and an unsustainable peace. There is no option that isn’t nasty.

An elementary example should suffice. Say council member A wants to attract investment or development in their neighborhood. This requires a zoning exemption, or a tax break, or an environmental violation.

Supporting this noxious motion means that later, on a pressing issue, say the city minimum wage, or a union issue, or an issue crucial to local school districts, the council member one helped will vote the way you want.

Making this even dicier, suppose council member A can throw money at you if you don’t vote in favor of this noxious issue, and could throw money against the issue important to you.

Opposing everything is one option; you keep your hands clean and your principles intact. Going along means you deliver on one crucial issue at the expense of another. etc.

Are you complicit? Corrupt? Pragmatic? It is a messy process.

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Aaron Aarons August 25, 2013 at 3:09 am

I don’t see how the negotiation of a peace treaty between a workers’ state in a desperate situation and an imperialist state that has its own need for such a treaty is at all similar to what you are talking about regarding how pseudo-socialists might wheel and deal on a city council. Genuine socialists in the latter situation might approve a package deal that includes pet projects of bourgeois councilmembers, provided that there is no concession on principle, such as would be the case if they voted for money for police and prisons. But the role of socialists in legislative bodies is to (1) use them as a platform for agitation, propaganda, and organizing, and (2) obstruct the most harmful work of such bodies. It is NOT to use them to bring about change through legislation, unless that can be done, with the help of a militant mass movement, in a way that doesn’t concede any matters of principle.

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Aaron Aarons August 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm

The root point that Isaac makes is that WE HAVE TO BE READY TO GOVERN. Which means to take responsibility and blame for trying to achieve good ends in a hostile environment.

The point that he makes is that people like Ron Paul, by virtue of their diligence and undiluted defense of principles, convince people by sheer example of courage and endurance. He has seen the winds of Washington shift ever-more in his direction.

Ron Paul, despite the fact that his class, not ours, rules, has never governed! AFAIK, and I admit I haven’t followed his votes, he appears to have, as a member of Congress, pretty much acted as a right-wing counterpart of how a genuine socialist congressperson would act. (This is certainly the impression one would get from the sentence about “diligence and undiluted defense of principles,” and “courage and endurance” that I quote here from A. Marx.)

I’m still waiting, BTW, for any of the “Dare to Govern” crowd to answer my question about whether you would, if you were in a position to affect the outcome, vote for legislation that would both fund the repressive apparatus of the state and provide some benefits for the workers and poor?

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Aaron Aarons August 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I’m still waiting for a response to that last question. Is it that complicated?

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Deran August 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm

“But here I have a practical-technical question. What would poll better, what would the american people be more receptive to? Terms like socialism and marxism and proletariat and capitalism and the scientific-technical-academic terms we have been raised on? Or lucid policy slogans like “universal medicaid,” “restore Glass-Steagall,” “restore the Clinton tax rates,” etc.”

Do you really think that many people know what Glass-Steagall is? By the time you explain that you could have laid out at least a basic sentence or two explanation? And isn’t that really more of a progressivist idea of a solution?

“Proletariat” is an archaic word that doesn’t move a conversation. People in the US know they “work”. Why not use a term people already understand. Socialism itself if difficult to explain with out having to do a long series asteriks of explanation of obscure jargon?

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Abraham Marx August 26, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Fair points. Even I myself fall back into the marxist lexicon. Proletariat is arcane, obscure, european.

But, “restore Glass Steagall” is the professional-class phrasing of the demand. Watering it down a little to “tame the banks” or “end wall street gambling” or “make banking boring” is closer to the mark.

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Aaron Aarons August 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Why would socialists argue for anything less than “seize the banks and their assets, along with the personal wealth accumulated by criminal banksters.” The exact phrasing could be modified, in order, among other reasons, to make it clear that pension funds and working-class and middle-class depositors would be protected.

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Aaron Aarons August 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Refining my own suggestion, I propose the slogans:

Seize the Banks!

Expropriate the Banksters!

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Richard Estes August 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

“The point that he makes is that people like Ron Paul, by virtue of their diligence and undiluted defense of principles, convince people by sheer example of courage and endurance. He has seen the winds of Washington shift ever-more in his direction.”

Really? Where, exactly? Perhaps, say, his isolationism? No, that can’t be it.

And no credit for mentioning neoliberal policies that have already been in motion since the Reagan and Thatcher victories. Paul is not at the front of movement, but is actually a neoliberal extremist, one that has been empowered by neoliberal trends of the last 35 years.

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John Halle August 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks for writing this. One small qualification: I wouldn’t describe what I’m proposing as ensuring machine dominance, in the sense that we should necessarily actively work with the Democrats to achieve that. Given that this trajectory is already under way, it is reasonable to simply wait for it to develop and in the mean time focus our electoral efforts in districts where single party dominance has already been achieved.

Also, in connection with the Socialist Party campaigns and victories on the last century, lots of good stuff in the Eric Davin book Radicals in Power on this. In a nutshell, while some of this history is inspiring some of it would be better described as cautionary. We should be willing to learn both positive and negative lessons from it. As it turns out, there is lots of both.

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Abraham Marx August 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Isaac’s main points are pretty clear. His use of a Chris Christie quote underscores something I think is true. The right, the republicans, have a more dynamic and apt grasp of political messaging.

“for our ideas to matter we have to win.” This is actually pretty much the exact opposite of what most Marxists and radicals and liberals tend to argue over. If only we had the right ideas then the proletariat would recognize us for our truth and virtue and we’d be swept to power!

Nope. Sorry. Not how it works. Marx says somewhere (in Hal Draper iirc) that one real movement of the masses is worth any number of platforms, agendas, and manifestos.

Isaac lays out one past example of left success, Debs and them. One present example of left success, Sawant. And then one example of unbridled success, Ron Paul, who is from the right.
“He never gave up, watered down, or altered his principles (whack-job as they might be).
He kept running for office to win. Over and over and over again.
He used his seat in Congress as a springboard for presidential runs, to shout into the national political discourse rather than the wind, and to form a mini-empire that now boasts its own online paid subscription channel.”

Sorry, but to all the naysayers and hairsplitters, this is a guy one is forced to respect and take seriously. Unlike say, O’Reilly, or Limbaugh, who were given a platform, he had to build his all on his own. Who among the left is attempting something similar?

Isaac writes, and I agree: “The crucial thing to understand is that we have a world-historic opportunity to reintroduce socialism to growing segments of the American population desperate to find a way to keep a roof over their heads, give their kids a better life, and retire without subsisting on dog food. ” The stigma of socialism is gone, there is no mean nasty Stalin Union. And the right’s hysteria is doing some of the work for us (work we should have been doing for ourselves).

I suppose the next step is a few questions more technical in nature. What type of messaging should we take up that build rapport among the american people? The scientific-academic jargon of Marxism is by its very nature insular and esoteric. I’d suggest that the left begin its own thorough polling on these messaging questions. Do words like ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ and ‘Marx’ and ‘Lenin’ have positive or negative effects? How about ‘occupy’ or ‘arab spring’? Or what about policies themselves? ‘Medicaid for all,’ or ‘Restore Glass-Steagall,’ or ‘Clinton tax rates,’ or ‘abolish debt.’? Or the hypothetical questions that polls ask: “is the two-party system legitimate?” “are there any real differences between how the two-parties govern?” “is meaningful reform from Washington possible?” “would you vote for an occupy third party?”

All the material facts are on our side. Our goals have wide support. But we do not have the ability to win, and we shirk from the responsibility of governing. Our message is wrapped up in an academic-sectarian-echo-chamber cocoon. If it became simpler, clearer, yet undiluted, people would fight for it.

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Aaron Aarons August 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Sorry, but no “we” that I am part of, or that Lenin, Luxemburg, or any of the great leftists would have been part of, accepts any “responsibility of governing” until we have defeated the capitalist class and its state. If you want to see examples of what happens when supposed leftists accept the “responsibility of governing” the capitalist state, you couldn’t find a better example than South Africa today. Take a look in that mirror!

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Abraham Marx August 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

Lenin ran for office under Tsardom….

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Aaron Aarons August 27, 2013 at 1:26 am

Lenin and the Bolsheviks never ran for positions as managers of the Russian state, either before or after the February revolution that overthrew the Tsar but left capitalism intact. They ran for, and won, positions in the Duma, which they used for propaganda, agitation and organizing. They never engaged in horse-trading and deal-making that would involve them in voting for, or failing to vote against, something they opposed. If you believe I am wrong, please provide examples.

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Abraham Marx August 28, 2013 at 9:43 am

I’ll believe you’re trying to enlarge semantic differences into differences so big you can characterize me as a ‘right reformist.’

The difference between ‘managing’ the Russian state, or running for posts in the Tsarist government isn’t a difference of principle. It might only be a difference in proportion of representation. And even then, Duma reps have to vote for or against as well as serving as mouthpieces. The bolsheviks certainly had to make very hard choices for or against as well….

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Isaac Marx August 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

Daring to win, daring to govern can bring all the unions to the yard: http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article10.php?id=2178

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Abraham Marx August 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm

The tide is shifting slowly, but it is shifting.
What are other local-municipal success stories?

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Isaac Marx August 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

“The political situation in Seattle, as in the rest of the nation and the world, cries out for popular opposition and a demand to change the priorities of the government and system.

“The level of struggle in Seattle is low but increasing, with organizing against racism, low wages, the oppression of women, homelessness, transit cuts, corporate education deform and environmental destruction picking up. Openness to more radical solutions is rising.

“In the August primary, a socialist candidate for City Council, Kshama Sawant, came in second of three candidates in the race, with a vote of 35 percent. This is probably the largest vote for a socialist candidate in Seattle since the 1930s.”

“The prospects for more, larger and more successful struggles are on the horizon–as long as people see through the liberal hypocrisy of the politicians and organize independently.”
http://socialistworker.org/2013/08/29/liberal-hypocrisy-in-seattle

No change without governance.

Will they at least endorse?

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Aaron Aarons August 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Isaac Marx writes:

No change without governance.

Indeed, we would not have had the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, SSI, or the Clean Air Act if we hadn’t elected those great socialists, Lyndon Bains Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, to office.

Or do I misunderstand what you are saying, Isaac?

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Isaac Marx August 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Heads up: the 20th century is over and 20th century methods no longer work. Got any 21st century examples?

You’ve made your preference for keeping capitalist politicians in the drivers’ seat of the car while we whine “are we there yet?” from the back seat abundantly clear.

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Aaron Aarons August 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

So, when it suits you, Isaac, we must ignore all of the history of class struggle before January 1, 2001. Or maybe you mean that we only have to ignore that history from January 1, 1901 to December 31, 2000?

As long as the road is controlled by the capitalist state and the driver obeys the ruling class’ rules of the road, I want our side to be the ones in the back seat with guns pointed at the driver’s head, or at the side of the road planting IED’s, rather than driving the vehicle of capitalist government where the road allows.

BTW, Isaac, I had previously considered you to be shallow but sincere. I have now revised half of that opinion.

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Aaron Aarons September 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

I just took a minute or two to look over the photo from the 1901 Socialist Unity convention. It appears to me that, of the approximately 100 people in the photo, maybe 5 or 6 are women and even fewer, if any, are “people of color”. For now this is just an observation, but it is indicative of a problem that needs to be discussed.

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deb June 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Any leftist movement that runs someone for president in 2016 is a failed movement. End or story.

You don’t build a movement by dashing yourselves against the rocks of federal elections. You build support locally, from district to district, until you have a stable coalition. Then you expand outward.

Right now the Pacific Northwest is showing the first budding of true leftist representation. Efforts should be focused there, until the big guys start writing it off as a waste of funding. This might take years. It might take DECADES. But it’s the only way.

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