In Donald Trump’s first month in the White House, the left has been confronted by the biggest challenge in decades. Unlike the administrations of the post-WWII period, there is wide agreement that Trump is something different and constitutes the biggest threat to bourgeois democracy since Joseph McCarthy. Discussions about how to theorize “Trumpism” overlap with those about strategy and tactics. All this takes place in the context of massive demonstrations and the growth of the left that also requires analysis, especially since by most accounts the Democratic Party is fueling the anti-Trump movement.
When the North Star website was launched in 2012, it was never understood by its editors as offering a “line” that the left should follow. Its primary purpose was to defend a non-sectarian approach to building the left that departed from “Leninist” orthodoxy. In this, it was hearkening back to the original vision of Peter Camejo’s North Star Network of the early 80s that was the first attempt to unify a badly fractured left around a broad left program with the most important elements being rejection of the two-party system, the creation of a revolutionary party based in the working class and the need for a total transformation of American society based on socialism.
Within the broad discussion taking place on the left around a series of interrelated questions, the North Star editorial board would like to invite submissions dealing with the period we have entered. To give you an idea of the kind of analysis we would like to publish, we urge you to consider editorial board member John Reimann’s articles on “Donald Trump and the World Capitalist Crisis” and “The Trump-Putin Connection”.
While these bullet points should not be considered as constituting the boundaries of the analysis we would like to provide a platform for, they do represent our impressions of what the left has been grappling with:
- What is Trumpism?
Is Donald Trump a fascist? What are the class forces that constitute his base of support both at the top and the bottom? Under what circumstances can we see a break with bourgeois democracy? A massive terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11?
- War and Peace
What are the prospects for new wars that were perhaps not fully anticipated when Trump campaigned as an “isolationist” determined to keep the USA from disasters like the invasion of Iraq? Are the threats against China and Iran to be taken seriously? Does the CIA intervention against Michael Flynn indicate that the “Deep State” is anxious to maintain the New Cold War against Russia that begin under Obama and that Hillary Clinton supported?
- The working class and the trade unions
Trump has begun orienting to a wing of the labor movement that might be enticed by his protectionism and support for pipelines that supposedly will provide jobs for construction workers. What kind of strategy will be necessary for a counter-mobilization, especially in the context of a labor movement on the defensive overall?
- Class versus Identity
It has been argued that Trump defeated Clinton because she alienated white workers with “identity politics”. Is this a valid concern? Is there a way to resolve the contradiction between these supposed opposites on a higher level?
Since the viral video of Richard Spencer getting punched and the Berkeley black bloc intervention, there have been debates about whether this kind of “antifascism” helps or hinders the left. Is there a place for property destruction and street fighting in the broader movement? Does a “diversity of tactics” represent a compromise between those who favor mass action and those who seek opportunities to fight the police? Is there a legitimate need for preventing people like Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking in public?
- Deep State
Does the CIA move against Michael Flynn indicate that the USA is plagued by a deep state that might even stage a coup to sustain its goals? Was the resignation of Flynn a mini-coup? How does the premise of a deep state relate to traditional Marxist understandings of the state as found in Marx and Lenin?
- Electoral politics
Despite the recognition that Jill Stein received in the 2016 election, has the Green Party reached an impasse? Will it ever be able to constitute itself as an independent radical party when so many key players continue to straddle the fence between the GPUS and the Democrats, as was indicated by Stein’s fundraising for a recount that clearly served DP interests? Can the GPUS become a membership party of the sort that Howie Hawkins and Bruce Dixon advocate? Or, is the Sanders campaign indicate the wave of the future with the prospects of an ongoing Political Revolution transforming the Democratic Party?
- Prospects for socialist organizing
The DSA has enjoyed significant growth after Trump began pushing through his reactionary policies. Is it possible that for many young people, it is the only alternative to the sects that continue to see themselves as the nucleus of a vanguard party? With the parallel growth of the influence of Jacobin, is this the wave of the near-term future? Are there possibilities for grass roots groups like Philly Socialists to network with other such groups to begin the process of building a new revolutionary left?
- Prospects for broad left formations
Is there a basis for an American Podemos, Die Linke or Syriza? Leaving aside the failure of Syriza to meet the expectations of the international left, do such parties still offer a way forward for those trying to build significant anti-capitalist parties that contest for electoral power as well as build mass actions? Does a failure to spell out an explicitly revolutionary socialist program in and of itself mean that such groups are preordained to become class collaborationist?
- Class consciousness
The entire premise of Marxism and socialist revolution has been based on the revolutionary potential of the working class. In the USA today, are there any sectors of the working class that are ready to break with the capitalist system in the same fashion as those who joined Eugene V. Debs’s party over 100 years ago? What will be required to transform the simmering discontent with the status quo into a fighting spirit that will be willing to go all the way? This is the question that will face the left for the foreseeable future given the dynamics of class formation in the USA.
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