Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy

by Pham Binh on November 8, 2012

With 20,000 votes (a whopping 29.2% of the vote), the campaign of Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant in Washington’s 43rd legislative district is a bright beacon of hope on the otherwise bleak horizon of the 2012 election for the American left, although you wouldn’t know it by reading the party-line and left-liberal news outlets. Both focus on praising/blasting the two major parties and take solace in a handful of progressive initiatives that passed in a few states while occasionally mourning the poor performance of third parties nationally.

The first presidential election since Occupy brings with it a few lessons that the left should take to heart concerning the long haul, short-term strategy, and sectarianism/left unity. Every experience, no matter how depressing, traumatic, or distasteful is an opportunity to learn and grow, and 2012 is no exception.

The Long View

The failure of voting for the Great Evil as a strategy to arrest Evil’s victorious march over the past 10 election cycles does not need to be reiterated here. Rest assured, President Obama will show his true colors soon when his tax cuts for the 1% expire again (they stopped being Bush’s tax cuts the moment Obama chose to extend them), giving him the opportunity to attempt a second drone strike on Social Security and/or other “entitlements” under the heady guise of a “Grand Bargain” (“kill list” would be more accurate). I can already hear liberals squirming, moaning, and making excuses for Obama’s Faustian bargain, just as they did when Bill Clinton razed the first rampart of the New Deal to the ground in 1996 when he ended welfare. Some things never change, no matter how long your long view is.

Voters who decided to reject seppuku as a lesser evil to beheading are understandably demoralized at the turnout for Jill Stein, the 2012 Green Party candidate, who came up far short of the 5% needed to secure $20 million in federal matching funds for 2016.

Party/Candidate 2000 2004 2008 2012
Democratic 50,999,897 (48.38%) 59,028,109 (48.27%) 69,456897 (52.92%) 65,899,660 (51.71%)
Republican 50,456,002 (47.87%) 62,028,285 (50.73%) 59,934,815 (45.66%) 60,932,152 (47.82%)
Nader 2,882,955 (2.74%) 463,647 (0.38%) 738,475 (0.56%)
Green Nader 119,862 (0.10%) 161,603 (0.12%) 469,501 (0.37%)
Peace and Freedom Nader 27,607 (0.02%) 67,278 (0.05%)
Justice 43,011 (0.03%)
Socialist 5,602 (0.00%) 10,822 (0.01%) 6,528 (0.00%) 4,428 (0.00%)
Socialist Workers 7,378 (0.01%) 11,119 (0.01%) 7,571 (0.00%) 4,115 (0.00%)
Workers World 4,795 (0.00%) 1,656 (0.00%)
Socialism and Liberation 6,808 (0.01%) 9,388 (0.01%)
Socialist Equality 1,857 (0.00%) 1,279 (0.00%)

A political machine that consistently gives parties of the 1% 99% of the vote and a party of the 99% 1% of the vote, without producing revolution, is an instrument unmatched anywhere in the world for maintaining the status quo. Until the left finds a way to break up, undermine, and successfully sabotage this machine, 1% rule in the United States will forever remain secure. This setup weathered the storms of the 1930s and the 1960s and emerged from both periods largely unscathed, with 1% rule firmly intact. Now that unions are on the endangered species list, our generation has been left with no institutional legacy or defensive position from which to successfully resist naked market forces and unchecked state power.

What does that have to do with Stein’s showing? She was up against this machine with little to no social/political forces behind her and almost zero name recognition of her own on a national scale. The Green Party’s support doubled compared to 2008 with Nader’s absence from the race, the activist resurgence sparked by Occupy, and Hurricane Sandy’s reminder that climate change is a serious problem, but doubling from 0.12% of the vote to 0.3% is a far cry from the 5.0% necessary to really begin to make a dent in the national political machine.

The point here about the long haul is that it was totally unrealistic to expect Stein to do better than she did in the face of all of the above factors given that this was her first time on the national political stage. She was arrested repeatedly during the campaign and did not yield or bend a centimeter in the face of liberal hysteria about “the lesser evil.” In other words, she means business.

The Green Party has come a long way from 2004 when David Cobb exploited the party’s undemocratic voting system to block the party’s popular choice (Nader/Camejo) from being nominated, a mistake Cobb himself came to regret. This time, there was no question of the Greens endorsing Obama and they managed to qualify for some federal matching funds in 2012 and got on the ballot in 43 states. This recovery after their near-death experience in 2004 was the result of a lot of thankless and hard work by Green Party cadres.

However, hard work should not blind us to the sobering reality that the left-of-Democrat vote all but disappeared nationally in 2012 without Nader on the ballot. This is an indication of just how divided, weak, and unpopular the post-Nader American left is. A left presidential candidate to reaching the vaunted 5% popular vote threshold in 2016 or 2020 remains almost a pipe dream, given the current constellation of left forces that are badly divided, struggle hard just to survive, and survive to compete with rather than collaborate with one other. There is no excuse for the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Justice Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation to fight over “their” sliver of 1% of the electorate. Their presidential campaigns are money, man-hours, and credibility wasted, and when the left has so little of all three, squandering any of it is criminal.

The Green Party is the only rooted national force among these efforts, and the smart thing for non-Green forces to do would be to find ways to collaborate and work with the Green Party, strengthen their efforts, and weld an indivisible united electoral front against the two-party state. At a bare minimum, they should list the Green presidential candidate on their ballot lines in 2016 (barring any 2004-style Cobb-ery); 5% or bust is the name of the game if we’re serious about breaking the Democratic Party over the course of the coming decades.

Eugene Debs’ 1912 run where he garnered 6% of the vote on the Socialist Party ticket was his fourth attempt, something to keep in mind when assessing Stein’s first run. Furthermore, the Debs-era Socialist Party was the result of a few splits and many mergers of several national and dozens of local socialist groups that, by 1912, beat Democrats and Republicans to win local and state offices. Today, there are fewer organized socialists than the 6,000 there were in 1898, and we would do well to study our past if we want our future to look dramatically better than our present.

Short-Term Strategy: Lessons from Seattle

The contrast between Kshama Sawant’s and the Jill Stein’s vote totals could not be more stark, although comparing a district race for statewide office to a national fight for the most powerful political office in the world is a bit more than an apples and oranges comparison. Nonetheless, Sawant nearly topped the combined national votes of all the socialist candidates in a single district! No segment of the American electorate has ever voted for a clear-cut revolutionary socialist against a powerful Democrat by anything close to 27% of the vote, and certainly not with the endorsement of a union local.

Make no mistake: Sawant and Socialist Alternative made history in Seattle.

Socialism was on the ballot in Seattle’s 43rd district.

The race was highly unusual because there was no Republican in the running. This was a straight capitalism-versus-socialism contest, and Sawant’s 27% nearly matches the one-third of Americans who say they have a favorable view of socialism. It is proof positive that the potential for a mass-based socialist movement in America far outstrips the actually existing socialist movement’s capacity to translate that potential into something meaningful by at least several orders of magnitude.

So what are the strategic implications of all this?

District and city races are where the action is at, or should be at, while presidential races are (almost) hopeless fights and should be de-prioritized for the time being, given the left’s meager resources and national unpopularity. The best way to get ready to fight for and win 5% of the vote national vote for a left candidate in 2016 and 2020 is to win some local or state races. Concentrating our attack where the enemy is strongest and where we are weakest is stupidity, a recipe for more decades marked b y failure, frustration, and powerlessness. Local races require a lot less money to win, and the danger of billionaires emptying their bank accounts into super PACs to defeat us is far lower than it is when governorships, Senate seats, and the presidency are up for grabs.

If we win office at any level, we will be in a position to begin reversing neoliberalism, using Republican-style obstructionist tactics against Republican attacks, and begin undoing  the anti-democratic practices of the American electoral system. This is essentially how Hugo Chavez built massive popular support for smashing and grabbing (or “redistributing”) the wealth and power of Venezuela’s 1% to the 99% over the past decade one step at a time.

Socialist Alternative’s call for Occupy candidates to run in local races is a big step in the right direction. SYRIZA’s near-win in the Greek elections earlier this year exposed the fact that many on the left internationally are deathly afraid of wielding state power within the framework of capitalism, as if there were some other way to stop 1% politicians from slashing and burning whatever is left of social safety nets and union rights (waiting for soviets to form or dual power to emerge has not stopped neoliberalism anywhere, sorry). Modern protest politics — showing up at demonstrations with all kinds of clever and just demands — are insufficient for today’s class war; Greece has taken this brand of protest politics to extreme levels, where 16 general strikes have not stopped the austerity juggernaut.

Until we recognize that we have to wrest as much political, economic, social, and cultural power from the 1% by any means necessary and act on that recognition, we won’t stand a chance at stopping them.

Sectarianism/Left Unity

The other strategic lesson of the Sawant campaign concerns the problem of sectarianism/left unity. The International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) refusal to endorse and work with/for Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative materially weakened the campaign against the Washington legislature’s Democratic speaker, Frank Chopp. The ISO’s support could have brought much-needed publicity and funds to a dynamic and promising but under-funded campaign since the ISO is the largest revolutionary socialist organization in the country.

Here was an exceedingly rare and golden opportunity to unite a fractured local left against the most powerful Democrat in state politics and instead of seizing the opportunity to weaken the Democratic Party, the ISO refused to get on board, preferring silence, inaction, and isolation while Chopp twisted the arms of unions and nonprofits alike to endorse him or stay neutral (as the ISO did).

Sectarianism must be exposed to the light of day and combated in the here and now, while the stakes are low. When the stakes are high, we cannot afford the “luxury” of this kind of needless and counterproductive sectarianism. In Greece, the Communist Party’s (KKE) sectarianism towards the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) gave the European Union’s banksters the security of knowing they would face a workers’ movement and a left unwilling to unite, and like Germany in the 1930s, the Communist Party’s unwillingness to unite has opened up the space for a menacing fascist movement, the Golden Dawn.

What we really need is an American SYRIZA, not an American KKE in miniature. Creating one and overcoming the other remains our central task.

  • http://www.howiehawkins.com Howie Hawkins

    Good analysis that I’m sharing with Greens in Syracuse NY. Another race worth studying is Ursula Rozum’s 8% in the NY’s 24th CD (ursulaforcongress.org) around Syracuse. She earned the highest vote (21,000+) and percentage for any Green congressional candidate in the US in 2012 in race where a corporate New Democrat and an ultra-right Republican incumbent were tied at 44% in the polls going into the election. The 24th CD is demographically and politically a pretty close proxy for the US as a whole. The Dem is now winning 48-44%, by 14,000 votes with about 20,000 absentee and affadavit ballots to count. Rozum ran on a Green New Deal platform close to Stein’s. She overperformed in working class precincts and underperformed in middle class liberal precincts, where the lesser evil appeal by union, community, and environmental organizations resonated more with social liberals who are not offended by the austerity economics of Obama, Cuomo, and the Dem in this race, Dan Maffei. We need to run these kinds of district races across the country — local, state, and congress. We can win a lot more local and state immediately. A few congressional seats then become possible. We do that and we will have the base to impact the national debate in presidential elections.

    • http://www.hireLarryFireBobby.com Larry Carter Center

      Howie is spot on to note Greens get votes when less censorship by news media… I saw her debate on C-SPAN

  • Joe Vaughan

    I don’t know what “brand” of socialist Sawant is, but I am heartened by Binh’s clear evidence that the left can attract more support by forthrightly embracing the “S” word than by “rethinking” it out of existence–even in the way in which the Green Party has done.

    But should this be surprising, given the presence of at least one avowed socialist (Sanders) in the Senate?

    The shitstorm that is bound to be raised on the left by even asking that question is probably as much of an answer as it will ever get. No matter how forward thinking some old-line Leftists may be, the limits of “valid” bourgeois-democratic election activity will always be a sore point. Even non-sectarians can become sectarian over this.

    The problem is, when one wipes off all the venom, that this anti-sectarian sectarianism unfortunately has good reasons on its side. Who wants an American version of the kind of socialism represented e.g. by Strauss-Kahn? Who wants New Labor? Is there really any substance to so-called Democratic Socialism as it appears in the U.S., when it seems to be nothing but a collection of Lenin-haters obsessed with the term “violence” and willing to go to any lengths politically to destroy the “violent” enemy that they see under every bed?

    Let’s rule out of the question at once the notion, so well-represented by old-line anti-imperialists, that the American working class are labor aristocrats who belong in the dustbin of history and that the United States can offer the world nothing better than total and irreparable economic and social collapse. Presumably no follower of Occupy will agree with this, since here in the homeland of Occupy it sends the 99% and the 1% over Niagara in the same leaky barrel.

    Even so, the devil here remains in the details. Who is going to be calling the shots in the American Syriza–who will be the arbiters of correctness and incorrectness in the party line? Can Marxists out of the Leninist tradition really tolerate the risks inherent in leaving that permanently to the untutored, un-centralized whims of the masses?

    Still–27%. 27% of any electorate voting for an avowed socialist–and in this case, apparently not an apologetic one hiding within the worn-out American individualist (read Independent) tradition!

    Thinking people will always be forced to the left by the contradictions of capitalism. As long as such people have access to political and economic fact and some portion of historical truth, the left will remain alive. But only the prospect of victory in some tangible form will bring a mass movement to life. Getting 27% of a vote is still not victory, but a movement strong enough to bring about such an outcome repeatedly will wield more than enough influence to make victory a tangible prospect for the masses. The benefits of this would be incalculable.

    • Aquifer

      “Even so, the devil here remains in the details. Who is going to be calling the shots in the American Syriza–who will be the arbiters of correctness and incorrectness in the party line?”

      Bingo! Aside from ideology, which various “left” factions seem to have coming out their ears, all politics is personal – each of these smaller parties has a few diehards who have been laboring in their fields for years, without compensation or the satisfaction of victory – all they have is THEIR place in the struggle and they are not about to give it up to some “newbies” who just arrived and haven’t earned their place. Of course no one will admit this ….

      Get real folks, until lefties admit that are just as “human” as anyone else and prone to the ego routine, often disguised as “ideology”. there will be no progress on this front – so you can have an Anderson, e.g. whose platform was the same as the Greens, who, instead of competing in the Green primary process, starts his own party – yeesh ….

      There are many things that struck me about Stein’s campaign, but one was the statement she made in the last debate with Johnson – She said, I don’t have an ideology, I’m a doctor – I go with what works …

      Until the left decides to adopt that approach, and lets go of magic words and frameworks and icons, it will not succeed, IMO

      As for Sawant’s election – i can’t help wondering what it would have looked like with a Rep in the race – how many voted for her as “a protest” against the Dem? And by the same token, how would Stein have done if there were no Rep in the race …

      Rozum’s race is perhaps more interesting in that regard – up until the end it was predicted as neck and neck between DnR, so the “spoiler” meme loomed large …. In that case the Rep was truly a fringe right winger, but she comes across personally as “sincere”. The Dem, frankly, is a real jerk – but he ran against her Tea Party platform. Rozum comes across as honest, sympathetic and sincere. Given different candidates, with the same platforms, the results, I, at least, suspect would have been different ..

      Oh yeah, and better organization! When you don’t have money to mail you need folks to flyer and you need to have a way to organize them – a few people, getting together and divying up the terrain can get a LOT done – but you have to have a way for them to connect …

      So i guess I would go with the basics – too often overlooked: 1) be pragmatic, go with what works – cut the ideology and sample from all “traditions” 2) all politics is personal …. 3) organize – I know that is usually listed as “first”, but methinks, although a sine qua non, the others are equally, if not more, important ….

      • http://howardswitzer.com/ Howard Switzer

        I think you are spot on, Aquifer, and the constant little jabs, i.e. the Cobb comment, do little to unite even while the writer says that unity is what they want. Oh, really? I’m for breaking with the limiting language ideology traps. We need the new approach that Jill made some real progress toward, despite the numbers.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

          Unity in action does not mean hushing up or hiding differences of opinion. Cobb himself regretted his actions in 2004 and deserves a lot of credit for that. Flagrantly violating democratic norms the way he did in 2004 in order to get his way is unacceptable, at least to me and I’m not going to pull any punches on that.

      • Joe Vaughan

        Sawant’s showing pretty clearly shows that running on what you call “ideology” (and how ideological is that, btw?) can “work” far better, pragmatically speaking, than all the routine political stuff about practicality and individuality and “real people” versus “ideologues.” You hear that language every day from people who hate and fear socialism–or are intimidated by those who do.

        And not to knock the Greens–I voted for some of them–but the fact seems to be, so to speak, that in 2012 socialism has more market share than spinach. (I hope this language is suitably “pragmatic.”)

        The left has many contradictions to overcome–I touched on a few of the rawer nerves–but they don’t go against this basic fact.

        • Aquifer

          Really? Do you know her personally? Do you know what kind if a candidate she was and how she campaigned/connected with folks? What was her actual platform ? Can you honestly say it was her “ideology” that got her those votes – how did she define/explain her version of “socialism”?

          I don’t “hate or fear” socialism per se – I hate and fear ANY ideology that gets in the way of people getting together to solve problems – do what works, if to get there you have to give it a different name, who the heck cares – this attachment to terms and formulae and sacred texts just gets in the way –

          Oh yeah – “market share” is one of those terms i could do without as well – but hey, if that’s part of your ideology …

          • Joe Vaughan

            You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

            • Aquifer

              So enlighten me …

              • Joe Vaughan

                Fair enough. Here’s the two-cent version for all the cowboys out there who like to shoot playing-cards out of the air.

                The term “ideology” was invented during the Enlightenment by a French philosopher called Destutt de Tracy who used the term to designate a purported science of ideas based on the Lockean assertion that all ideas are built up in individual minds through the gradual accumulation of sense impressions hot from nature itself.

                Napoleon Bonaparte used the terms “ideologue” and “ideology” to disparage the thinking of his many critics in post-revolutionary French intellectual circles, thus giving the word a specifically political pejorative connotation in some ways equivalent to that of the word “intellectual” in the mouth of an old-fashioned American Republican.

                Karl Marx, who (incidentally) despised de Tracy as a “fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire,” used the term “ideology” to designate the body of means whereby the ruling class at any period in history attains hegemony over the minds of the people by reproducing its outlook on a mass scale.

                So when you use the term “ideology” as you do, with the assumption that is opposed to the plain, hardworking, common-sense, cheerfully anti-intellectual, and therefore virtuous outlook of Mr. and Ms. OK Joe Just Plain Hardworking Folks, you are in fact making a highly ideological pronouncement.

                This is the very stuff that has given us among other things the all-but-pointless charade of American electoral politics, which has a ton of eager beavers out there pragmatically organizing their fat little tails off against their own vital interests.

                It’s precisely the universality of the ruling-class ideology you represent–even if you yourself don’t grasp that this is what you’re doing–that makes Sawant’s showing significant. According to that ideology, it is simply not possible that
                The People Yes would ever vote in any numbers for socialism. Therefore, when so many of them do, it must be that they are really voting for something else.

                Don’t be surprised if many thinking people reject this reasoning.

                • Aquifer

                  I’m quite sure that Mr. & Mrs. OK Joe would truly be edified by your quite “intellectual” version of what “ideology” means – I have a dictionary, thank you and i suspect, so do they. Frankly I could care less who invented the term or what Marx thought of him – but if it makes you feel better to show off, knock yourself out, please …. However you completely misconstrued, deliberately or not, dunno, my question – so I , in turn, will enlighten you as to what my request for enlightenment concerned – I asked to be “enlightened” as to what, precisely, you yourself knew of the candidate herself. Had you seen/heard her campaign, did you have direct feedback from the folks who voted for her as to why they did? Simple questions, no? Unless you have answers, any assumption that ALL these folks votes were due to an overwhelming enthusiasm for “socialism” , whatever that means, seems to me to have no “data base” to back it … Maybe they all did, maybe only some – the fact of the matter is, you have given me no indication that you have any bona fide “reason” to make such assumptions, one way or the other …

                  Your attempt at “reasoning” as to what my reasoning process “must be” leaves a lot to be desired, ISTM , but i have run into this sort of stuff before including the all too familiar charge – “It’s precisely the universality of the ruling-class ideology you represent–even if you yourself don’t grasp that this is what you’re doing” – oh bless you sir for “enlightening” me as to what i am doing – shucks, i never would have known ….

                  Now here’s a clue from me as to what you are doing – by referring to American politics as an “all but pointless charade” you are discouraging participation by any who would indeed use it make a point or two – which discouragement suits TPTB just fine – the fewer that participate the more they can be assured of retaining control of the process by which our reps are chosen – so you are carrying water for them “even if you yourself don’t grasp that this is what you’re doing–”

                  Not to mention that leaves the question as to why you would even bother to be impressed by the possibility, let alone spend so much time in insisting on the “fact “, that “so many” voted for socialism in an “all but pointless charade” …

                  • Joe Vaughan

                    I can only quote the great David Berger, who said, in response to “Che”:

                    “With all due respect, this is some if the dumbest shit I have ever read on a leftist website.”

        • http://mosquitocloud.net aprescoup

          Socialist tendencies express themselves in a variety of discreet, and too often, hard held “ideological” positions (ISO, above?)

          EU’s “socialist” parties in supporting (ideologically?) the notion of international workers movements, global revolution, or less altruistic reasons, have found themselves supporting the 1%’s dream of a unified Europe under the auspices of central banksters. Go figure.

          So the question I have is: what does the label “socialism” represent, whose idea of “socialism” is the one to unite the left, and given the deep “intellectualism” underpinning the various engaged factions pissing about details, what of the public?

          Socialism addresses value of labor v means of production which itself is a throwback to to world promising an endless flow of plenty. In that, the thinking has changed little: let the workers have a greater share of the value of their labor crating gadget in a consumerist oriented global marketplace…

          What of sustainability, resource depletion, climate change, technology, etc? Where and how does 19th century socialism address the issues of our 21st century reality?

          A link to socialist sites grappling with issues beyond those reflecting the challenges of an industrial revolution would be appreciated.

          Thanks.

          • Ben

            Most actual socialist groups in the EU are opposed to the bosses’ neoliberal EU. For a socialist europe!

  • PM

    This just in from the Seattle Times:

    - “Sawant … did better than past contenders. Kim Verde, a Republican, lost to [Chopp] in 2008 and 2010, each time with about 13 percent of the vote,” compared with Sawant’s 27%.

    - Sawant “has set her sights on next year’s city elections” and “says she is recruiting a slate of Socialist candidates to run for Seattle City Council and mayor next year.”

    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/politicsnorthwest/2012/11/08/socialist-candidate-lost-to-chopp-moving-on-to-city-elections/

    Good for her and SA for keeping it moving. I hope to God the ISO will get over itself and join the effort.

  • Pingback: Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy | Occupy Wall Street Info

  • Pingback: In the Media

  • http://socialistworld.net Bryan Koulouris

    Just a point of information: the vote for Sawant will end up (after all ballots are counted) being far bigger than 12,000. It will be around 20,000. Thanks.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      So far it’s just under 16,000 and supposedly 100% of the votes are counted:
      http://vote.wa.gov/results/current/LegislativeDistrict43.html

      • Jess Spear

        As of Tuesday, Nov 13th

        Kshama Sawant
        Votes -17,673
        Percent -28.48

        • admin

          Thanks. The bottom of the article has been updated twice now to reflect the growing vote totals, although the district’s claim that 100% of the vote has been counted is to blame for this mix up.

  • Ben

    I thought this was an excellent article and Sawant’s result is an inspiration. I’m pleased that the momentum will continue to the point of standing Occupy activists — as Socialist Alternative put it “a united left slate of independent working-class candidates”!

    • Ben Campbell

      FWIW, this comment is from a different Ben, although I agree that “this was an excellent article and Sawant’s result is an inspiration”. As for most of the presidential candidates, not so much. Let this be a lesson to future Rocky Anderson’s, that building a party isn’t something that’s done overnight.

  • RedPleb

    People need to stop blaming us at the ISO for all their problems and people need to stop attacking us as a means to get our attention. The one time we ever bothered to endorse another party (namely the Greens and Nader) we have never since stopped hearing about it, so I’m sorry if we are a little apprehensive to do that again. Maybe in the future after this success it’s worthy of some assessment about uniting around elections, but even it can’t be about all other groups endorsing one particular’s campaign, but rather an actual alliance.

    • PM

      No one’s blaming the ISO for their problems. God, you guys are whiners. As the article states, Sawant did well without y’all’s support. But she could have done even better with it, and it’s mystifying that the ISO, with its relatively robust resources, didn’t even see fit to mention the campaign in its press, much less endorse it, much less join the campaign. Mystifying, I say! And it’s to the ISO’s credit that it supported the Greens and Nader (and, er, Chretien, though that’s no surprise—he’s one of your own). Why be apprehensive? And what’s this vague talk about uniting around elections vs. an “actual alliance”? This ain’t rocket science, pal.

      • MB

        Socialist Alternative did not seriously attempt coalition-building with the ISO — rather, they waited until about two weeks before the election before asking for the ISO’s endorsement. This is the difference between “endorsing one particular’s campaign” and an “actual alliance.” The ISO has done “actual alliances” before, including with Socialist Alternative. But this was more like an attempt to mobilize the ISO’s resources to build SA specifically, and the ISO has no responsibility to do this, not even in the name of “left unity.”

    • http://withthesuniriseup.wordpress.com JM

      “The one time we ever bothered to endorse another party (namely the Greens and Nader) we have never since stopped hearing about it, so I’m sorry if we are a little apprehensive to do that again. ”

      That’s a pretty telling statement, one would hope that the ISO would be able to look back upon decisions which got them flak from the Liberal establishment with integrity, seeing honor in weathering the storm of lesser-evilism. Rather I get the impression that instead there is regret at standing firm and losing loose friends.

      To concur with PM, why the “apprehension”? It is now the concluding months of 2012, 8 years have passed since the Nader endorsement you bring up, 4 years since Obama’s election and honeymoon period, and 1 year since Occupy.

      The ISO has had a number of political swings in their history, I think it time for another.

      “Maybe in the future after this success it’s worthy of some assessment about uniting around elections, but even it can’t be about all other groups endorsing one particular’s campaign, but rather an actual alliance.”

      As the article that you are commenting on implies, Socialist Alternative is putting forward the strategy of a Left United Front for the 2013 election. We would be overjoyed to have the Greens, the Justice Party, the Freedom Socialist Party, and yes, the ISO, all participate. This is “an actual alliance” being constructed right now, in the spirit of the United Left Alliance, De Linke, and SYRIZA. This is what is crucially needed right now, and the ISO can remain relevant only if they become useful.

    • Gumby

      I hope an actual electoral alliance is possible between groups. I don’t think anyone said it was all about other groups endorsing one particular’s campaign….however in this case I don’t think the ISO has any real excuse. It’s really not possible to put your group name on a list of support for a socialist running for office after they win a runoff spot and are able to publicly debate the Dem? Or maybe…reprint an interview with the candidate.

      This was clearly a big deal on the left and not supporting it or mentioning it at all was a mistake and I don’t care for any of the excuses I’ve heard from you or other ISO members. Don’t let your group do it again. Please.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      Why is Socialist Worker ignoring the Sawant campaign in its election coverage? Even Huffingtonpost is covering it:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/kshama-sawant-socialist-washington_n_2102380.html

      • Old and tired

        I don’t think ignoring Sawant is helpful – even for the ISO. They are not educating their members to see all the huge opportunities opening up for socialists, nor are they educating those that look to them. In this sense, they may be holding back the movement. Articles they have written – to explain why they did not take a bold approach in 2012 – have emphasized one size of the problem, “no big electoral efforts exist today.” This is a very dangerous attitude for socialists. What if people in Egypt concluded “there are no big movements against Mubarak today” and nobody took the initiative to make the movement their happen? What if on Sept 16, 2011, activists took the attitude “their are no big efforts today to build challenges to Wall Street”? Socialist Alternative scored a coup with this election against “the biggest socialist group in the US”. This may be no accident and may flow from the ISO’s own conservative approach to the huge changes taking place in the U.S. It also may be an indication that the ISO is very vulnerable to be overtaken by other socialist forces that do show bold initiative. Unless, of course, the ISO learns from this and makes some changes soon. Unfortunately, from their material following the election they say nothing about the need for more independent left candidates. ISO members should demand their organization start running candidates.

        • Alexander

          I love the idea of running candidates from the left but even the largest socialist organization (the infamous ISO) has only fifteen hundred members. When we have right-to-work expanding int the north, the south remaining non-union, with a left you could gather into one prison, should we be spending precious resources on elections? I don’t think so. We could do a lot of damage with some elected officials but to have enough to make a dent is a lot more and a lot better spent elsewhere. Also, SYRIZA is great but even they are being pulled in a rightward direction after their successes. My money is on an eventual split between left and right with the left starting it (and getting out ahead of the game for a change).

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            Right to work passed in Michigan because we have one party out to destroy us, and another that will compromise with that party three-quarters of the way. Ditto with Wisconsin.

            We have to concentrate our forces where we are strongest and they are weakest. Runs for national office are a waste of resources; let’s build popular support in ghettos, barrios, projects, and trailer parks first. Pat Noble of the Socialist Party was elected to a local school board. That may seem like nothing, but how do you think these right-wing nuts keep putting creationism into the curriculum? By permeating every level of state power, no matter how small.

            Until we do the same, we are just going to keep losing. The last 40 years proves it.

            • Old and tired

              @Alexander, the weakness of the left is just one side of things. There are also huge opportunities for building the left — bigger than any time since the 60s or 70s. Even a small group can make a big impact and grow with the right approach and bold initiative. In fact, I don’t think the real issue facing the left is it’s size — that is a problem. But, a bigger potential problem is it’s inability to seize huge opportunities with bold initiatives that can connect with people. Just think about this: a relatively small group in Seattle got 20,000 votes for socialism. What should that small group have done instead? Was there something better in 2012?

              @Pham Binh, what do you think about activists running for Congress? One problem with a complete focus on local campaigns is that most people in the U.S. are focused on national politics. It’s much harder to run for Congress and shouldn’t be done without a proper basis. But I don’t think it should be ruled out. Especially, if disappointment with Obama and the Democrats grows substantially in the coming years. A viable congressional campaign could become a strong vehicle for building a bigger left base and organization.

              • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                I think putting a Bolshevik into Congress would really rattle their cages! The main question is feasibility, of course. Dan LaBotz’s run for Senate in Ohio was a propaganda operation, not a fight for power, and I’m increasingly inclined to think we need less of the former and more of the latter. Charles Barron, a city councilman (former Panther) here in New York City, was endorsed by Workers World Party and they campaigned for him in a congressional Democratic primary (he lost by almost 70% fort-greene.thelocal.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/hakeem-jeffries-defeats-charles-barron-in-bitter-democratic-primary/).

                I’d say this is a case by case, district by district question. Karen Lewis of CTU would make a great Green Party candidate for mayor against Rahm Emmanuel. I wish the ISO would use its influence in CTU to push things in that direction, but it’s much easier to make propaganda calling for unions to “break with the Democratic Party” than it is to engineer such a break in practice.

                • Old and tired

                  I strongly agree with trying to convince Karen Lewis to run in Chicago. Unfortunately, the next mayoral election is not until 2015 in Chicago. But that also gives time to prepare. I think the ISO could explain the idea of Lewis running as a way to break out of the limitations imposed on them by labor laws. Legally, the CTU can only bargain a limited set of things. I cannot remember exactly what they are. But, if the CTU ran a candidate, they would be able to make the campaign about a whole range of issues that are important for a good education system. If Karen Lewis does not agree to run, I think the ISO should be prepared to run their own candidate. And if the ISO does not run, some other forces should step in to capitalize on the ISO mistakes. Having independent candidates at election time is crucial for winning wider agreement on actually breaking from the democrats in fact. Not having candidates makes it easier for the Democrats to present themselves as the only choice working people have.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          They are teaching their members to hunker down and lower their expectations because they have not grown in either numbers or influence appreciably despite a lot of man hours since 2008 and since fall of 2011 when Occupy Wall Street erupted. Bold, ambitious multi-tendency initiatives are not their thing, no matter how big the opening or the potential.

  • David Berger

    FROM PHAM BINH: If we win office at any level, we will be in a position to begin reversing neoliberalism, using Republican-style obstructionist tactics against Republican attacks, and begin undoing the anti-democratic practices of the American electoral system. This is essentially how Hugo Chavez built massive popular support for smashing and grabbing (or “redistributing”) the wealth and power of Venezuela’s 1% to the 99% over the past decade one step at a time.

    FROM DAVID BERGER: You’ve got to be kidding.

    • Aaron Aarons

      One of the most absurd and counter-revoultionary ideas — one that is repeated on this page and elsewhere on this web site — is pragmatism, i.e., the ideology of ‘going with what works’!

      I challenge anybody to tell us how we can know “what works” to stop the destruction of large parts of the planet’s human and other life-forms, and their support system, by capitalism. But pragmatists don’t even think in those terms. In dealing with elections, they think largely of “what works” to get on the ballot, to get matching funds, to get as many votes as possible, etc., or “what works” to solve a transitory, local problem like the killings in Syria, and wind up pragmatically adapting to the actually existing power in the world, imperialist capital.

      What the pseudo-leftists who dominate this site forget is that what they call ‘ideology’ and what are properly called ‘principles’ exist precisely as a counter to pragmatic adaptation to power.

      • Joe Vaughan

        Look up the word “ideology.” Look up “pragmatism” too. Your snippy and confused post gives no evidence that you have the faintest idea what those terms refer to.

        A college friend of mine told a story about a Dae Kwon Do class he took. The instructor, a second-desk violinist with the Boston Symphony as well as a master of martial arts, began the class with the following short speech:

        “You Harvard bastards!” he said. “You think you’re tough! But this is not so.”

        You could learn from this master.

        • Joe Vaughan

          Actually, my preceding post is way off the point. What a waste of a good anecdote!

          I should have stopped when I said I would.

        • Aaron Aarons

          Maybe you, Joe, could point us to a definition of “ideology” and one of “pragmatism” that you consider authoritative? If my use of the term “pragmatism” is non-standard, its meaning is nevertheless clear from what I wrote and is consistent with the use of that term and of its variants by you and others here.

          I’ve always understood ‘ideology’ to be fossilized consciousness. That may be a holdover from my few years of hanging in the pro-Situationist milieu around 40 years ago, but, fossilized or not, pragmatism, or “going with what works”, is certainly an ideology, and a quintessentially bourgeois one.

          • Joe Vaughan

            Aaron. I misread what you wrote and tried to repudiate my original comment, to which you appear to be replying anyway. I don’t have a direct response to your original post.

            In case you are curious, I did post a longish and thoughtful message about the history of the word “ideology” elsewhere in this forum in reply to a comment about still another message of mine. This was a wasted labor of love, and provoked a bestially stupid ad hominem response, but you might find it useful if you can find it.

            In general, I think attacks on the term “ideology” are a key theme in the ruling-class ideology of our times–people are never more ideological than when denouncing “ideology” or “ideologies of the right and left.” I’m against that.

  • Pingback: USA: Sosialistille 27% äänistä Seattlessa - Sosialismi.net

  • Che

    Congrats to Stein and Sawant! But the left should only be focusing on immigrants rights and anti-war protests. The ‘working class’ here is mind-bogglingly bribed by the ruling classes which comes in the form of wages out of unproductive labour, debt and rent mechanism. So unless they show solidarity with workers of the South to the extreme that they start organizing for their rights only none can save the ‘working class’ of the US.

    • David Berger

      This is third-worldism and a perversion of Marxism. Grow up politically! The working class in the major industrial countries is being impoverished and is struggling for its life as a class.

      David Berger

      • Che

        All the data support in this direction. Most of our consumption goods are made in the South and increasingly even Dept I goods are coming from scattered production processes in the global South. In other words, most of the surplus value gets created in the South. Yet borders of the North are closed. So it is not third-worldism and a perversion of Marxism. It is a plain reality. The ‘working class’ of the North knows the harsh reality of the South and they do not want their living standard to deteriorate on the level of their southern comrades, yet revolutionaries in the North persist that workers here can be radicalized. This is why both Wisconsin and Occupy did not grow. The working class here is fundamentally bribed. Our job is to appeal the ‘working class’ of the North to look beyond their countries, work for opening the northern borders so that surplus population of the South gets some respite and join in the ferocious class struggle of the South. This will tremendously help developing an international class outlook. Otherwise get ready for race to the bottom. The South is already living in the bottom despite producing most of the surplus value of the world.

        • David Berger

          FROM CHE: Our job is to appeal the ‘working class’ of the North to look beyond their countries, work for opening the northern borders so that surplus population of the South gets some respite and join in the ferocious class struggle of the South.

          FROM DAVID BERGER: With all due respect, this is some if the dumbest shit I have ever read on a leftist website.

      • Che

        Also, is not it ironical that Sawant as an immigrant from the South has been able to energize the people. I will not be surprised to learn that out of 20,000 votes Sawant earned a lot of them must have come from immigrants. So do we have any demo data here?

        • Joe Vaughan

          Why are you posting this contemptible nonsense on a web site based on the Occupy movement, which is focused at its core on social inequality in the so-called advanced nations?

          You are not a socialist: yours is a politics of race and climate with no intellectual content whatever.

          [admin: edited to remove ad hominem]

          • Joe Vaughan

            A statement of simple truth is never ad hominem.

            • Che

              Please read this article carefully:
              http://monthlyreview.org/2012/07/01/the-gdp-illusion

              The author is 100% right that we need to find our answer where production is happening. The real working class has become global because of globalized scattered production processes. Sooner we understand it better we become fighting imperialist and therefore capitalist forces. The rate of exploitation is astoundingly high in the South and difference between average worker of the North and average worker of the South has only grown (not lessened) after the crisis. We live in a globalized world and the North is hell bent to maintain wage differential between the Southern workforce and the Northern workforce. This blocks developing an international class outlook. Our job is to completely open our borders. Rest is secondary.

              • David Berger

                I’m curious Che:

                (1) Do you belong to a group or tendency or are you speaking for yourself?

                (2) Do you support class struggle in the US when workers fight for wage increases?

                • Che

                  (1) I am writing with a pseudonym.

                  (2) I support the class struggle. But David, we have to realize the fact that only 12 million manufacturing workers are employed in the US. I hope you do understand the Marxist definition of productive and unproductive worker. By all analysis, the US workers are not producing even an iota of Value what Chinese, India and Brazilian workers are producing. Finance, Insurance, Retailing etc do not produce Value. They are employed in circulation. In this scenario, when working class is not producing Value and lives under debt, Lenin would have called this as bribe. It is as simple as that. I do not know why David Graeber and all those who were saying that financial crisis is the biggest and so on have been given so much importance. Before 1980 the North was producing Value mainly through its manufacturing but increasingly after 1990s their roles have greatly diminished. The workers here are receiving the values captured by corporations of the North who instead of completely shifting their businesses in the South still operate from the North (because of colonial legacies, huge military spending and so on). So we are talking about super-exploitation of the South by the North, and a part of that exploitation is shared with workers here in the form of debt and other financial mechanisms. Unless we break this cycle I am afraid the workers here will not rise from the sleeping pill. They have to fight for wage increase but as I said they are already better off than 80% population of the South. Its true that workers in the North have seen rising inequality in neoliberal period 1979-ongoing, but globalization has offered very cheap consumption goods because of ‘cheap’ living labour of the South, and therefore their real wages have not gone down drastically. In fact workers in lowest quartiles are certainly better-off because they do not use much luxurious items and instead consume a greater share of their income in consumption goods. So inequality has increased but it does not mean their living standard has gone down. So when the left claims that workers are poorer here, that is true only with respect to rich in the their own countries, the absolute income inequality between workers of the North and workers of the South has also increased. And one more thing, the South has such a large peasant population that globalization forces will keep making their life hell for a very long time unless they migrate in mass to the North, and the living standard of the North will also not go down because of further cheapening of consumption goods. This makes the analysis clear that labor peace policies bought by the ruling classes here will continue. Obama’s re-election further confirms this. Rich will be taxed a little extra. This will keep blunting the class struggle in the North. The deadlock will continue. If we have to move from this deadlock we have to work for developing an international class consciousness largely for the benefit of workers of the South. Just three links will show you the super-exploitation of the South (all talk of war on terror and Taliban etc is bullshit):
                  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/world/asia/pakistan-factory-passed-inspection-before-fire.html?pagewanted=all
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDrH9ffn7eA
                  http://www.gfintegrity.org/content/view/581/70/

                  • David Berger

                    FROM CHE: I support the class struggle.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: What aspects of the class struggle in the US have you or the group you belong to been involved in? Talk is cheap.

                    FROM CHE: But David, we have to realize the fact that only 12 million manufacturing workers are employed in the US.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Of course, you are ignoring the tens of millions of workers involved in transportation, communication, distribution, education, healthcare, etc.

                    FROM CHE: I hope you do understand the Marxist definition of productive and unproductive worker.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: I was reading Marx and involved in strikes before you were born.

                    FROM CHE: By all analysis, the US workers are not producing even an iota of Value what Chinese, India and Brazilian workers are producing. Finance, Insurance, Retailing etc do not produce Value.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Your notion of the production of value is crude and simplistic. In general, value is produced by the working class as a whole. The working class in the US is a lot more than finance, insurance and retailing. Have you flown on a plane, ridden on a subway or a highway or bought something from a warehouse lately?

                    FROM CHE: They are employed in circulation.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Circulation or distribution is part of the total production of value. Just because one aspect of the creation of value is in China and another is in the US, does not separate the US workers from the creation of value. The commodities that Chinese workers produce would have no value in the absence of the physical marketing and distribution system operated by the labor of US workers.

                    FROM CHE: In this scenario, when working class is not producing Value and lives under debt, Lenin would have called this as bribe.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: I would love to see where Lenin would call the condition of American workers a bribe.

                    FROM CHE: It is as simple as that.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: The only thing simple around here, or better simplistic, is your analysis. I wonder what kind of political participation you engage iN.

                    FROM CHE: I do not know why David Graeber and all those who were saying that financial crisis is the biggest and so on have been given so much importance.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Maybe because they’re right.

                    FROM CHE: Before 1980 the North was producing Value mainly through its manufacturing but increasingly after 1990s their roles have greatly diminished.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: And?

                    FROM CHE: The workers here are receiving the values captured by corporations of the North who instead of completely shifting their businesses in the South still operate from the North (because of colonial legacies, huge military spending and so on).

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: That’s a little confusing. I think you need to rephrase that.

                    FROM CHE: So we are talking about super-exploitation of the South by the North, and a part of that exploitation is shared with workers here in the form of debt and other financial mechanisms.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: (1) Your obsession of the South and North is becoming tiresome. Where do fit China and India into your equation? (2) It’s difficult to conceive of workers in the US sharing in the exploitation of workers in other countries through acquiring debt.

                    FROM CHE: Unless we

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Who is “we”?

                    FROM CHE: break this cycle I am afraid the workers here will not rise from the sleeping pill.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Obviously, you have no idea of the rising tempo of class struggle in the US. Have you been involved in any labor struggles in the last year of so, directly or indirectly?

                    FROM CHE: They have to fight for wage increase

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: That’s big of you to permit US workers to fight for higher wages.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: but as I said they are already better off than 80% population of the South.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: That may be, but only by supporting and organizing class struggle in the US can a revolutionary movement be built in the US. Your Third Worldism is basically a guilt trip against the American working class and its radical supporters.

                    FROM CHE: Its true that workers in the North have seen rising inequality in neoliberal period 1979-ongoing

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: And a serious lowering of their standard of living in spite of increases in productivity.

                    FROM CHE: but globalization has offered very cheap consumption goods because of ‘cheap’ living labour of the South, and therefore their real wages have not gone down drastically.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER:
                    __________

                    REAL WAGES IN THE US

                    Year          Weekly Earnings (1982-84 dollars)
                    1972          $341.83 (peak)
                    1975          $314.75
                    1980          $290.86
                    1985          $285.34
                    1990          $271.12
                    1992          $266.46 (lowest point; 22% below peak)
                    1995          $267.07
                    2000          $284.79
                    2005          $284.99
                    2010          $297.67
                    2011          $294.78 (still 14% below peak)

                    Thus, we have 39 straight years where real wages have yet to get back to their 1972 peak and, indeed, they are a long way from that peak still. This is doubly surprising when we consider that productivity has been increasing steadily throughout that period, approximately doubling from 1970 to 2011 … .

                    http://middleclasspoliticaleconomist.blogspot.com/2012/03/basics-real-wages-remain-below-their.html
                    ________

                    FROM CHE: In fact workers in lowest quartiles are certainly better-off because they do not use much luxurious items and instead consume a greater share of their income in consumption goods.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: That is really dumb shit. What you are saying is that poorer workers in the US are better off than higher-paid workers.

                    FROM CHE: So inequality has increased but it does not mean their living standard has gone down.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: The general standard of living in the US has seriously declined. Wal-Mart prices do not offset a 57% decline. in wages.

                    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31010.htm

                    FROM CHE: So when the left claims that workers are poorer here, that is true only with respect to rich in the their own countries, the absolute income inequality between workers of the North and workers of the South has also increased.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: We are not dealing with the rise in inequality. We are dealing with a decline in the standard of living. If you think this hasn’t happened in the US, a quick trip to Detroit will disabuse you of this notion.

                    FROM CHE: And one more thing, the South has such a large peasant population that globalization forces will keep making their life hell

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: No one is denying that life for peasants, agricultural workers and industrial workers in the South and other places, like China and India, is hell .
                    FROM CHE: for a very long time unless they migrate in mass to the North.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: This reminds me of the plan of certain people in the US 200 years ago whose solution to the problem of slavery was to send the slaves back to Africa.

                    FROM CHE: and the living standard of the North will also not go down because of further cheapening of consumption goods.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: It already has gone down. You are living in a dream world.

                    FROM CHE: This makes the analysis clear that labor peace policies bought by the ruling classes here will continue.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Labor peace in the US has been nurtured for decades by class collaboration of the labor leadership, the media and conservative ideological hegemony. All this was taking place during a drastic decline in the standard of living and a huge growth in debt. That period is now ending.

                    FROM CHE: Obama’s re-election further confirms this. Rich will be taxed a little extra. This will keep blunting the class struggle in the North. The deadlock will continue.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Okay. You finally said something accurate.

                    FROM CHE: If we have to move from this deadlock we have to work for developing an international class consciousness largely for the benefit of workers of the South.

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: Funny that Lenin never believed anything like that. He held out hope for revolution in the advanced industrial countries like Germany.

                    FROM CHE: Just three links will show you the super-exploitation of the South (all talk of war on terror and Taliban etc is bullshit):

                    FROM DAVID BERGER: No one is denying super-exploitation of the South as you put it. The problem is your clear Third Worldism (in a new disguise).

              • Joe Vaughan

                “Our job is to completely open our borders …”

                “Our” borders? What are you doing inside those borders when all true revolutionaries should be, as you put it, “where production is happening”? And why are you saying “we” and “our” to an audience your theory obliges you to regard as frauds and parasites?

                When “we” open “our” borders, as you put it, doesn’t your alleged paradigm mean that “we” are just inviting workers from other countries to join the ranks of those American parasites who do not deserve the name of worker?

                How is that helping “the South,” where you say “production is happening?” If production is not happening here, what is there here for real workers and why lure them in? Or are they so many pawns in some imagined master strategy that demands their sacrifice?

                If it’s all just a matter of South versus North, how do China, North Korea, and India fit into the paradigm anyway? Are they no different from Eritrea, so crucial in the north-south dialectic of Italy and Europe in general? Or are we not interested in Eritrea because not much production is happening there? In that case, what happens to the master-paradigm of North vs. South?

                • Che

                  Workers of the North are workers exploited by the capital. Plain and simple. They have right and duty to fight against their capitalist ‘masters’. They are not parasites. They are exploited by the capital. It is only that rate of exploitation in the North is much lower than the rate of exploitation in the South. So it is the responsibility of leading revolutionary organisations to build strong anti-war movements, protect immigrants and work for ending racism in their country. At the same time it is their duty to fight against the right which can adopt two opposite strategies: (a) promise to increase welfare to the workers at the cost of immigrants (present Europe overtures, because austerity measures are much harsher here) (b) cut in social wages to increase their manufacturing (right in the US tried doing it, remember Romney’s 47% comment, but workers understood and voted against the right forces, in this regard vote for Obama is progressive). But at the same time workers in the North have been infected with the virus of opportunism and Lenin has this remedy: ” The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism, to utilise the experience of the war to expose, not conceal, the utter vileness of national-liberal labour politics.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/oct/x01.htm In this regard vote to Obama is highly unfortunate. Occupy movement in this sense is highly progressive and so is the election performance of Stein and Sawant. But class struggle demands objective conditions and we have to see how the surplus value is flowing and who are creating them. The system is based upon appropriating the surplus value in increasingly few hands. My provocative commentary is to only bring focus on to this plane. You guys are vanguard of the workers and I salute you. Who are parasites have been better told by this blog: http://economicsofimperialism.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-city-of-london-parasite-of-world.html And my thinking is influenced by ‘imperialist rent’ and ‘unequal exchange’ of dependency school, and by ‘the surplus’ concept developed by Paul Baran, and some recent theories built in the direction of globalisation. And I must tell you anti-corporate and socialist rhetoric are not going to be enough in the coming days. One has to analyse the impact of globalisation on class consciousness of the workers of the North very carefully. We need more analyses and theories not less. Older theories are only to inform our current praxis. We cannot be dogmatic. So criticising ISO or even unions in bed with democrats is not going to help much. The least that is needed is polemics and ad hominem. One has to listen to the masses in these times. And anti-war movements and immigrant rights should be on topmost priorities because most of the surplus value is undoubtedly being created by workers of the South. North America, Europe, Japan, Oceania are the North, rest of the humanity belongs to the South.

                  • Joe Vaughan

                    I don’t see how China and India can be classed unequivocally with Eritrea as “the South.” Or are they too part of the North? This is only one of many things in your comments that are very confusing.

                    It seems to me that the world of class conflict is far more complex than a simple opposition between North and South and that you yourself admit this when you abandon your original claim that the only duty of the North’s corrupt working class (meaning specificaly the working class of the U.S.A.) is to bare their breasts to the sword of justice of the South and die.

                    You now say, “Workers of the North are workers exploited by the capital [who] have right and duty to fight against their capitalist ‘masters’.” This is very different from saying that “our…only task” is to open “our” borders etc

                    It also brings into play the very substantial question of the relationship of the United States to “the North.” How does that work? This is another point that is totally unclear.

                    Etc., etc.

                    In my own opinion, I have posted too many comments in this thread, so I am now going to stop.

                    Good luck in achieving some clarity in your thinking.

                    • Che

                      You are interested in revolution thats why your analysis is still in the domain of orthodox Marxist doctrines. Anyway, this is my last post on this website largely made by occupy activists. Good luck in your revolution:
                      http://anti-imperialism.com/2012/09/18/understanding-and-changing-an-interview-with-zak-cope-author-of-divided-world-divided-class/

                    • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

                      There is a long established, non_”maoist”, analysis from Lenin onward of what could be called the labor aristocracy or, in a more ideological vein called the imperialist working class, but this labor aristocracy is a privileged *caste* of the class within those imperialist countries, and to the extent that they exercise political hegemony over the whole class, engender the consciousness of the “imperialist working class”.

                      But this hegemony is precisely what is now crumbling in the imperialist world, under the weight of the crisis of stagnation and decline in further development in the “advanced” – we might want to call them “de-developing” countries, the highest expression of the contradiction of the relations and forces of capitalist production. That, together with the failure to offer any way forward for the majority of the human race, no mater how many middle class people are enriched in the BRICs etc., is the complete historical condemnation of this system.

                      Loud and clear.

  • Pingback: Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

  • sam w

    I’m perplexed by the ISO’s abstention from the Sawant campaign. They helped build Dan LaBotz’s 2010 Senate campaign. What gives?

    • MB

      What gives is that the ISO was not approached to take part in the campaign until about two weeks prior to the election. There was no serious attempt at coalition building on the part of Socialist Alternative; it was either a mishandling of the task of coalition building or an attempt at taking advantage of the ISO’s resources to party-build the SA.

      We were active supporters of the effort to build and launch the Labor Party in the US in the 1990s; we actively supported and campaigned for Nader/Camejo in 2000 and 2004; we were, as you mention, part of a coalition of left organizations supporting Dan La Botz SP campaign in 2010; we spearheaded the organization of a broad Socialist Contingent at the 2009 AFL-CIO sponsored rally in Washington, DC in which Socialist Alternative participated. The ISO has no problem in building coalitions, and as a member I would be thrilled to begin the conversation of forming electoral coalitions. But this is simply not what SA was doing. The author of this blog seems far more interested in lambasting the ISO than taking this possibility into consideration.

      • PM

        What is this, junior high? The SA kids didn’t send the ISO kids an invitation to their party soon enough? Grow up already. Is the ISO so insecure that it requires a formal invitation from another socialist group in order to collaborate on a political project that, in the long run, could have some great results for working people in Washington? Really? Look, coalition building goes both ways. Sure, maybe the SA is new at this and learning as they go, making mistakes along the way. Two weeks is short notice indeed. But two weeks is also plenty of time to write an article for Socialist Worker, get some leafletting done, some emailing, some outreach. And I commend the ISO for its participation in coalition work in the past—which is why it is so mystifying why you guys didn’t agree to it in this case. Fortunately, you have a chance to redeem yourselves. Sawant is running for City Council and, according to the article I posted above, “recruiting a slate of Socialist candidates to run for Seattle City Council and mayor next year.” Maybe an ISO’er or two will be up for that. Maybe someone from Freedom Socialist Party. Maybe an independent socialist or two. Let’s drop the junior high bullshit and start working together, comrades.

        • sam w

          In any case, it would be nice to see these issues being discussed by ISO and SA members in their own (and each others’) publications and meetings, as well as those of the broad Left. Commenting on blogs is not enough.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

            From what I gather, Socialist Alternative approached them privately for an endorsement about it so as not to cause any embarrassment by writing a public open letter “targeting” the International Socialist Organization, which would force them on the defensive and jeopardize an endorsement as well as future possibility of collaboration between the two.

            Until the left learns how to engage in debates and discussions in an open and honest manner through its existing Web sites, newspapers, and publications, blogs will have to fulfill some of this need for the time being. It’s regrettable but we can’t wait for the left to grow up.

            • sam w

              Agree completely. But, in addition to utilizing blogs, the pressure needs to be kept on the various socialist groups to be having these public debates.

        • redfred

          “There was no serious attempt at coalition building on the part of Socialist Alternative; it was either a mishandling of the task of coalition building or an attempt at taking advantage of the ISO’s resources to party-build the SA.”

          This is so petty. To automatically cast aspersions on a group that tries to reach out is also mean-spirited.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

        So because Socialist Alternative did not approach the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the way that you wanted and when you wanted, the ISO was right to withhold its endorsement and is justified in refusing to cover the Sawant campaign’s smashing success in the pages of Socialist Worker?

        That is a petty, sectarian, and a completely un-serious approach, and one that does not bode well for the ISO’s future as part of the left in Seattle where activists in the Green Party, Solidarity, the Freedom Socialist Party, and Occupy had no problem endorsing and even campaigning for Sawant months before the ISO rejected endorsing Sawant.

        Where was the ISO at the Jill Stein-Sawant event? Standing outside, handing out flyers denouncing Socialist Alternative for mishandling the task of coalition building or attempting to take advantage of the ISO’s resources to party-build the SA?

        The reality is the ISO had and has no excuse for its sectarian refusal to support a “rival” group’s initiative that was a much greater success than any ISO initiative in recent memory.

        Try not to make the same mistake twice, for all of our sakes.

        • MB

          “So because Socialist Alternative did not approach the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the way that you wanted and when you wanted…”

          What, you mean in the spirit of genuine collaboration? Yeah, I guess that’s the reason the ISO declined to endorse a campaign. I’m sure you can phrase it in a hundred or so ways that make it seem petty. But I wouldn’t expect Socialist Alternative or any other group to sign on to a propaganda election campaign run by the ISO in which they were excluded from the process of making any decisions regarding any aspect of the campaign. Because that isn’t really collaboration. Deliberately or not, it amounts to using the resources of other groups to build your own.

          In general, anyway, in terms of movement strategy in the current period, the ISO doesn’t tend to put much weight on running socialists for office. You know this, I’m sure. What would have quite certainly been a sectarian maneuver would have been to run an ISO candidate against Sawant in the election. But combine this strategic disagreement with the lack of an attempt at real and sustained collaboration other than in the 11th hour, and you have a maybe pretty okay reason to decline giving an endorsement. It still may have been the wrong decision, and you can certainly argue that, but to say the whole thing was based on pettiness and sectarianism is disingenuous.

          In any case, the ISO has worked with SA and other left groups in the past, continues to so in the context of other activities, and will do so again.

          • PM

            “I wouldn’t expect Socialist Alternative or any other group to sign on to a propaganda election campaign run by the ISO in which they were excluded from the process of making any decisions regarding any aspect of the campaign.”

            How then do you explain the support Sawant received from the Green Party, Solidarity, the Freedom Socialist Party, and Occupy?

            “Deliberately or not, it amounts to using the resources of other groups to build your own.”

            Rank, undiluted sectarianism. God forbid groups should help each other. Your view of coalition work is as immature as it is obsolete. If a socialist movement is to take off in this country, this sort of attitude must wither away.

            • Aaron Aarons

              An election campaign by those who claim to be revolutionary socialists is basically a propaganda activity (with a secondary aim of getting a sense of the level of mass consciousness among the specific electorate involved). The principled way for a group that claims to be revolutionary socialist to relate to an election campaign by another group with which they have serious differences (if they don’t have serious differences, they shouldn’t be in separate groups!) is to call for a vote for that campaign’s candidates while explaining what they believe to be important that is left out of or, worse, politically wrong in that campaign.

              OTOH, those who believe that actually winning elections is a way to bring about socialism, communism, or anything of the sort, or even to seriously slow the capitalist march to destruction, are part of the problem.

          • http://withthesuniriseup.wordpress.com JM

            “In any case, the ISO has worked with SA and other left groups in the past, continues to so in the context of other activities, and will do so again.”

            I look forward to the ISO constructively working with the Seattle left then in forming a slate for 2013 :)

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

            Have you or anyone in the ISO reached out to SA about their call for a left slate in the local 2013 elections yet? Time’s a-wastin’ and actions speak louder than platitudes.

            • redfred

              I know this is an old thread and I am just reading all this tonight, but I am picking myself off of floor out of shock over the childish, immature, petty and sectarian manner in which the ISO is responding to this.

  • David Berger

    FROM Che: David, I am sure you do not know who I am.

    FROM Che: Probably not. Your peculiar brand of Third Worldism is unfamiliar to me.

    FROM Che: I am also not interested in your all points.

    FROM Che: Probably because you can’t deal with them.

    FROM Che: The wages of the US workers are either stagnant or have seen slight rise or have reduced slightly based upon different reports. Please see this although I do not agree with Andrew Kliman on all accounts certainly not on his MELT theory:
    http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/economic-crisis/lies-damned-lies-and-underconsumptionist-statistics.html

    FROM Che: I presume there’s some point here, but I don’t see it. The fact is that there has been a decline in the standard of living of the American working class over the last 30+ years. There has also been, over the past several years, a slow rise in working class militancy.

  • Matt Hoke

    Thanks, good article.
    Didn’t read all the comments. One thing I’m kind of torn about. It’s true that the Greens exist, and it might be sectarian to dodge them, but I think Sawant’s success came out of the fact that she was an unapologetic socialist, not a vague left-of-Democrat progressive.

    Given that (I agree) it’s wise to bypass the national/presidential elections for now, wouldn’t it often make sense to just try to set up a local socialist electoral alliance in the city where you live? I honestly believe that the middling, non-systemic nature of the Greens will prevent them from ever becoming the mass alternative we desire. There’s just something about them that’s too liberal and “respectable” for them to ever really catch or click.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      “I think Sawant’s success came out of the fact that she was an unapologetic socialist, not a vague left-of-Democrat progressive. … I honestly believe that the middling, non-systemic nature of the Greens will prevent them from ever becoming the mass alternative we desire. There’s just something about them that’s too liberal and ‘respectable’ for them to ever really catch or click.”

      I hear your point. However, the national vote totals for unapologetic socialists (SWP, PSL, SP, SEP) versus “vague left-of-Democrat progressives” indicates that this is a more complicated question than it appears at first. The late Camejo recognized that the Green Party is fluid enough to be a vehicle for pro-working class politics on a mass scale, and I think comrades like Howie Hawkins would agree with that assessment. Even Socialist Alternative’s (SA) call for a slate of left/Occupy candidates to run for office will probably necessitate an alliance with the Greens because they have ballot access while SA does not, and certainly this proposed slate is not going to list “SA” as its party preference.

      The idea of local socialist alliances is a good one but there is little stomach for that from the existing groups, at least outside of Seattle given the failure of this May 1 initiative to gain any ground what so ever: http://spnyc.org/home/2012/04/20/may-day-actions-2012/

  • David Berger

    FROM CHE: You are interested in revolution thats why your analysis is still in the domain of orthodox Marxist doctrines. Anyway, this is my last post on this website largely made by occupy activists. Good luck in your revolution:
    http://anti-imperialism.com/2012/09/18/understanding-and-changing-an-interview-with-zak-cope-author-of-divided-world-divided-class/

    FROM DAVID BERGER: Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

  • Aaron Aarons

    The problem with ‘Che’ and his comrades of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, et al., is that they present such a simplified, binary, caricature of the reality of global stratification that they make it easy for those who are willfully blind to keep on pretending that the bulk of the workers in the imperialist countries are exploited proletarians and producers of surplus value.

  • Pingback: Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy : AntiCapitalists

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

    One thing I neglected to mention that is really important about the 2012 election is the fact that, compared to 2008, Obama lost almost 9 million votes while the Republicans lost 2 million and Obama still beat them by about 3 million votes. That gives you some idea of how exceptional 2008 really was and the scale of the dissatisfaction with the electoral system on both the left and right ends of the spectrum and these figures ought to be in the forefront of our minds as we wade through all the election post-mortems that focus so narrowly on demographic groups’ turnout figures.

  • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

    “It is only that rate of exploitation in the North is much lower than the rate of exploitation in the South.”

    I don’t have time for a point-by-point rebuttal of Che’s confused mass of marxism – and I mean that literally and sincerely, and not as gratuitous insult, much less address the main point of the article here.

    Just to say that the rate of exploitation is the ratio of surplus value (unpaid labor) to variable capital (wages); under conditions of relative surplus value extraction and higher organic composition of capital characteristic of the so-called “advanced” capitalist countries (this is what objectively makes them “advanced”), the wrkers there are objectively *more*, and not less, expolited that their underdeveloped world counterparts. Even as their wages are higher in absolute terms.

    Make a materialist reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic and learn how to think logically. Lenin did, and marx *re-read* that work of Hegel’s.

    • Arthur

      Lenin also mentioned that none of the Marxists in his time had understood Hegel and consequently none understood Capital. Have you actually studied Hegel’s Logic? Seems an implausible recommendation to people who plainly haven’t got much of a clue.

      PS On another side issue, please don’t blame Mao for “Maoists” claiming the western working class is a labor aristocracy.

      • Aaron Aarons

        If one had to understand Hegel in order to understand Marx’s Capital, the latter wouldn’t be a very useful work. But I presume that neither Marx nor the best later writers in the Marxist tradition were incapable of explaining their ideas, including whatever insights they might have gotten from reading Hegel, without requiring that their readers read Hegel first.

    • Aaron Aarons

      If the value of a commodity is the socially necessary labor time it takes to produce it (including amortization of the labor time it takes to produce the means of production), then the question is whether the value produced by the worker, i.e., the socially necessary labor time contributed by said worker, is greater than the value consumed by said worker. If not, then it’s hard to see how that worker can be considered to be “exploited”.

      Moreover, suppose a commodity is produced by, say, the combination of the products of 100 hours of work in Bangladesh at $0.25 per hour and 10 hours of work in the U.S. at $10 per hour, and that both kinds of work are necessary to produce the commodity. Is there any way that one can consider these U.S. workers to be more exploited than the Bangladeshi workers, even if their employer keeps a larger proportion of his gross income as profit than does the employer of the Bangladeshi workers who sells his product to the U.S. employer?

      Any theory that comes to such a conclusion, even it can be mathematically coherent, is not a theory of revolution but an ideology to justify privilege.

      • Brian S.

        @Aaron Aarons:What I think this touches on is an element in Marx’s system that seems to me both theoretically and empirically problematic: that is, what determines the “Value of labour power”.This of course is its “cost of reproduction” – but this is not simply the cost of physical necessities of life for the worker and family but includes in Marx’s phrase an “historical-moral element”. Thus the value of labour-power in a developed capitalist country is much higher than in a third world country because of this element. So the relatively highly paid US worker is still exploited (because the value of their labour power – ie their wage – is less than the value of their product) even though they earn much more than their Bangladeshi counterpart. But once you get globalised circuits of production in which these different types or labour are completely intermingled this solution becomes both theoretically and morally weak. You could try to calculate a “global average” value of labour power but I’m not sure where that would lead even if it were possible.
        I would just note that while I think this is theoretically interesting, I don’t attribute the political significance to it that others here do – I don’t think you can read political behaviour off simply from abstract structural forces like “the rate of exploitation”.

        • Arthur

          We do need to come to grips with the vast gap between standards of living between developed and developing countries.

          Characteristically the pseudo-left actually opposes imperialist capital export from the developed to the developing countries, which helps raise the organic composition of capital in the developing countries.

          Only the most extreme reactionaries actually demand a reduction of living standards in developed countries (with moralising about the lower levels elsewhere being merely a threat that it could be done). Obviously anyone on the left seeks to raise the level of the poorest countries to that of the developed countries (and then continue further).

  • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

    OK it turns out I have a bit more time.

    Checked out Sawant’s district and sure enough, it fits the profile of one of these one-party (Dimocrat) “progressive districts”. Even if the repus run a candidate, they get no more than %15 or abouts. Within the tactical scope of electoral politics – and we do know how this fits into the revolutionary socialist strategy, basically to set up a revolutionary socialist faction and use this as a big bullhorn, plus expose the machinations of the bourgeoisie, spy on them, etc – I’ve always advocated that we focus on these districts, scattered about the USA, and run unity candidates with the intent to WIN the majority and the seat, and blow out all those useless “pwog” Dimocrats. And that includes Barbara Lee in Oakland! The Far Right thinks they are all communists anyway (see that Watts idiot in Florida), so we might as put some real ones in there!

    Successful candidates should be prepared for some jail time. What, you thought this was the Greatest Democracy on Earth? :-)

    This would also be the best site to link this with incipient “dual power” movements like Occupy or whatever else comes along.

    The “Che-Berger debate” reflect different aspects of all that is outdated and in the way for the socialist left. Old-fashioned conception of the contemporary world vs. hardened incorrigible sectarianism. I leave it to the reader to guess which is which.

    And what is up with all the gratuitous insults? Not the mark of serious socialists.

    • David Berger

      FROM Matt: The “Che-Berger debate” reflect different aspects of all that is outdated and in the way for the socialist left. Old-fashioned conception of the contemporary world vs. hardened incorrigible sectarianism. I leave it to the reader to guess which is which.

      FROM David Berger: Sectarianism is as sectarianism does. I’m a very active member of Occupy Wall Street. What are your creds these days?

  • http://pugetsoundsocialists.org Steve Leigh

    I am a member of the ISO in Seattle. I and several members of the ISO here were ” approached” by SA members to endorse Sawant. What was this ” approach”? When a member of theirs happened to run into one of us , they would ask ” Are you going to endorse the Sawant campaign?” There was never even an email or phone call to say ” Can we set up a meeting to talk about why you should endorse the Sawant campaign?”. This is a common practice of SA. They imply that they are involved in trying to set up a broad campaign of some sort. In reality, all the details have been worked out by them in advance. After that, they try to get others on the left to endorse their initiative and imply that they are sectarian if they don’t. I always got the impression that the real reason for the question was to be able to ” expose” the ISO as being sectarian if we didn’t endorse the SA campaign. I believe that the SA article is another example of this.If they had been serious about getting an ISO endorsement , they would have made a proposal to the ISO. Those supporting the Sawant campaign could argue that it shouldn’t take a formal proposal. However, if an endorsement is wanted and the potential endorser is reluctant, and you are really serious , you will make the effort. In fact, there was never a serious proposal to the ISO until the letter to our national steering committee, which was too close to the election to even consider. SA should know that the ISO is a NATIONAL organization. A serious proposal should be sent to the ISO national office, not just to a local branch. SA rarely is involved in legitimate coalition building—i.e. trying to build a broad meeting around an issue and leaving it up to those participating to shape the coalition democratically. So why didn’t the ISO endorse?—the letter from our National Steering Committee explains it well. There are other reasons as well: In spite of its protestation to the contrary, SA has an electoralist orientation. In the abstract, there is no reason not to be engaged in struggle AND in elections. However , in the concrete reality of a small revolutionary left today, engaging seriously in an election pulls necessary resources away from struggle. As Engels said ” One real step forward in the movement is worth a thousand programs” . SA during the Fall spent virtually all its resources on the election, and therefore put virtually no work into movement struggles, except to show up at rallies to promote the Sawant campaign. The Seattle ISO was engaged in several important struggles , which we felt were more important than any election campaign. We decided to prioritize those. Given our perspective on the election, an endorsement would have been only on paper. The role of elections in building for socialist revolution is a long and important discussion. In short, struggle , especially class struggle is the basis of winning reforms as well as building in the long run for revolution. Elections can aid in the struggle —but our relation to elections must always be based on an assessment of how they will impact struggle. This assessment must always be concrete, and not just based on abstract principles . To dismiss the ISO position on the Sawant campaign as silly or sectarian etc. ignores this theoretically important question. Just as importantly, it ignores the important concrete application of the general principles of socialists and elections. Given the weakness of left-wing struggle in the U.S. today, the priority of socialists today should be on building actual struggle on the ground. The electoral expressions of that struggle need to be seen as just that—-not a substitute for the struggle itself.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      A word of advice: never comment on an article you haven’t read.

      You counterpose struggle and elections like an anarchist. In the era of austerity, the two have to be inseparable in order to be effective. Greece has had 20 general strikes since 2009, a whole lot more struggle than you or I have ever seen, but because bourgeois parties politicians are in charge of their state, the austerity keeps coming despite all the struggle in the streets.

      Keep ignoring the ballot box and we’ll keep getting Wisconsin’d. I’m tired of that. Aren’t you?

    • http://www.appeal-to-reason.info/ Andrew Ray Gorman

      I disagree completely with the top-down way of asking the national organization for an endorsement, rather than locals. If the left operated in this way they would never receive the support of rank and file union members. If that is how your organization operates, then I would recommend some democratic reform internally. Many marches often have the dual support of both local branches and national branches of an organization. It is entirely possible the local may support an action (such as a strike or a candidate) and the national organization may not support, or may not feel prepared to support.

      “SA rarely is involved in legitimate coalition building—i.e. trying to build a broad meeting around an issue and leaving it up to those participating to shape the coalition democratically.” – Then how do you explain their support of union locals, the Freedom Socialist Party, and others? I agree that a coalition requires the democratic input of those involved, but I don’t see a lack of this in this campaign. So your critique seems confusing to me.

      “SA has an electoralist orientation. In the abstract, there is no reason not to be engaged in struggle AND in elections. However , in the concrete reality of a small revolutionary left today, engaging seriously in an election pulls necessary resources away from struggle.” – This, I think, is a bit of false thinking on your part. In what way are electoral actions taking away from “struggle”? They are a necessary part of taking over the apparatus that is a part of our oppression, as well in promoting socialist ideas on the electoral soap box, and helping grow a network of activists.

      If anything, socialists are not putting enough effort into campaigns, and Socialist Alternative is providing a breath of fresh air. No one is saying that electoral actions are the end all solution, at least as far as I can tell from Socialist Alternative. But they do play a role, and if you want the working class to break with the two capitalist parties, ISO support in forming an electoral coalition would be much appreciated.

      I myself am running for office in 2013 for city council, and have sent emails out to the national headquarters of most major socialist organizations. I have yet to receive a reply from any of them, besides Socialist Alternative of which I am not a member, and my own comrades from the Socialist Party (of which I am a former member). So I am not so sure how that top-down approach is better. I know comrades who are members of a million and one different organizations in my state, and if I want to work with them I will do so. You don’t need national endorsements to work with people who genuinely care about making a break with the two parties.

  • Alexander

    Pham. All the general strikes in Greece have been only one day long. Sounds like they need to extend them rather than put all their faith in SYRIZA coming to power. An indefinite general strike until the memorandum is cancelled would be infinitely more effective and possibly create a revolutionary situation.
    Using them as an example for the US forgets that there situation is INFINITELY different than ours. They have a higher unionization rate, fighting unions, a welfare state, and a history of strong leftist organization. We have none of those things. I would rather work for those things and if a chance comes by to run candidates, take it. Also, we won’t get enough candidates elected to do shit.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      “General strike forever” is hardly a viable strategy given the dire conditions of Greek workers, nor can that kind of action be willed into existence.

      The reason they have those things is because the working class has its own party (in fact, several). Continuing to avoid contesting elections here is the best way to ensure we never get one for ourselves.

    • Jess Spear

      “All the general strikes in Greece have been only one day long.”

      Actually, 4 of the general strikes have been 48 hours, 2 in 2011 and 2 in 2012.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Some comrades never let facts get in the way of a “good” argument.

  • David Berger

    Pham Binh: because bourgeois parties politicians are in charge of their state

    David Berger: That’s because it is their state. Do you really think that a left-wing political party can get meaningful control of a bourgeois state?

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Define meaningful.

  • Patrick A.

    An indefinite general strike is definitely possible in Greece at some point, and it could be the means for stopping austerity, which is the key battle line in the struggle. But, still, an indefinite general strike has to have a concrete endgame in the form of a new government based on socialist policies, or it will simply end in the triumph of counter-revolution.

  • David Berger

    mean·ing·ful
    /ˈmēniNGfəl/
    Adjective
    Having meaning.
    Having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose.

    Synonyms
    significant – meaning – expressive – significative

    https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+meaningful&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Definite what you mean politically by meaningful.

  • David Berger

    By a meaningful situation, I mean one in which there is a qualitative change or difference from a previous one. For example, it would be difficult to demonstrate that any left-wing party ever achieved a qualitative shift in its ability to control a bourgeois state or capitalism.

    While situations can be improved or ameliorated, a qualitative change, especially in the conditions of labor and the extraction of surplus value, is difficult or impossible.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Venezuela under Chavez and the PSUV have seen a decade’s worth of serious reforms, economic and political; this is also true in Bolivia under Morales and MAS. Latin America used to be the poster child of the horrors of neoliberal economics. That’s no longer the case.

      • David Berger

        What you are talking about is reforms. Are they important? Yes. But do they represent a qualitative change in class power? Is the working class running the factories? Are councils of workers running society? I think not.

        Now, while you can make a credible case that I’m wrong above, I would love to see you make a case that by running candidates and winning elections you can make a dent in class power in the USA.

        An already-existing party, a party with strength in the working class due to workplace actions, can use elections as part of a struggle, but a working class party cannot achieve power through elections. Nor can a left-wing party achieve meaningful strength through elections, no matter how strong they are.

        If you think power can be achieved through elections in the USA or a major industrial, give us a historical case where it happened.

        • Patrick A.

          It’s not just reforms! The coming to power of Chavez sharpened the class struggle. In 2002, the masses had to mobilize in order to defend the Chavez government from counter-revolution. That was a “meaningful” change in the situation in my opinion. If Syriza came to power, whether through an election or an indefinite strike, it would be a major change in the class struggle. The European ruling class would go bananas. There would be a crisis in Syriza and workers would move into action from below to try and stop attempts at counter-revolution. The need for workers councils (or action committees or whatever you want to call them) would be much more clear and the basis for proletarian democracy would begin to emerge (of course this also depends on the subjective factor, but the underlying logic would be toward proletarian revolution). The European workers movement would be electrified. But, true, electing Syriza is not full-stop socialism and the ABC of Marxism that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machine would still hold true. In that sense, it would not be “meaningful.”

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            A lot of people who use the language of Marxism are, in practice, anarchists when it comes to capitalist state power.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          Now you’re moving the goalposts from 1) whether revolutionaries taking office within the capitalist state can lead to “meaningful” (your word) results to 2) the overthrow of said state and said class rule.

          There has never been a mass socialist movement in a bourgeois democracy that did not win elections and take office.

          • David Berger

            From Pham Binh: Now you’re moving the goalposts from 1) whether revolutionaries taking office within the capitalist state can lead to “meaningful” (your word) results

            David Berger: You haven’t demonstrated that such a thing can happen. And rather than get hung up in a discussion of Venezuela and the like, why don’t you demonstrate that “revolutionaries taking office within the capitalist state can lead to “meaningful” (your word) results” in the USA. You haven’t done this yet.

            From Pham Binh: to 2) the overthrow of said state and said class rule.

            David Berger: In my opinion, that is the only “meaningful result” possible in this period.

            From Pham Binh: There has never been a mass socialist movement in a bourgeois democracy that did not win elections and take office.

            David Berger: To what end? And you are playing with words. Yes, the German Social Democratic Party won elections, but what came of it? Would you like to reproduce the experiences of this party?

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              You haven’t demonstrated that such a thing can happen. And rather than get hung up in a discussion of Venezuela and the like, why don’t you demonstrate that “revolutionaries taking office within the capitalist state can lead to “meaningful” (your word) results” in the USA. You haven’t done this yet.

              It has to be demonstrated in practice, not in a comment section. We are a long way off from that moment.

              In my opinion, that is the only “meaningful result” possible in this period.

              The only meaningful result “in this period” is the overthrow of capitalism? That’s the textbook definition of “left” communism.

              Yes, the German Social Democratic Party won elections, but what came of it? Would you like to reproduce the experiences of this party?

              What came of it? The German Communist Party of Karl Liebknicht, Rosa Luxemburg, Paul Levie, and Eugene Levine, for starters. Would I like to reproduce that experience? Absolutely.

  • Alexander

    @Jess. I stand corrected. My main point was escalation was needed.
    @Pham. How is an indefinite general strike not viable in Greece? You confuse me so very much. You heap such praise on reformists but when the working class has the potential to do something revolutionary you dismiss it. You sound much more like a reformist than a revolutionary.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      People are literally dying in the streets from having their benefits and such cut. You think the bosses are going to keep handing out paychecks during an indefinite general strike?

      Please give us some empirical evidence that the working class of Greece is in a position to strike forever. I won’t hold my breath.

  • Alexander

    Wow… You know absolutely nothing about how general strikes play out k? One strike committees are formed, two strike happens and entire is paralyzed, number three happens several days into the strike when workers start reopening essential services under their control. Quite frankly the standards of living for the working class of Greece would likely increase and it would be a massive step forward to revolution.

  • Alexander

    Wow… You know absolutely nothing about how general strikes play out so let me explain. One strike committees are formed, two strike happens and entire is paralyzed, number three happens several days into the strike when workers start reopening essential services under their control, advancing the class struggle infinitely more than a few reformists getting elected to government.
    Pham, you’ve never answered my other point so let me reiterate. The class struggle of Greece and that of the US are COMPLETELY different at this present point. To generalize from their struggle and graft it onto ours without any of the same conditions is a recipe for wasted effort. There is a reason the North Star is tiny, revolutionaries are not going to bite their tongues and follow reformists into electoral campaigns no matter how much guilt is laid on them by articles such as yours.

  • Jacob Richter

    Even if general strikes could be willed out of thin air, they make for poor strategy compared to party-movement building. That conclusion about an American SYRIZA vs. an American KKE is spot-on.

  • Pingback: Dare to Win, Dare to Govern

  • Pingback: Lost Opportunities: the ISO, the Sawant Campaign, and the 2012 Elections

  • Pingback: carpet cleaning high river

  • Pingback: トリーバーチ iphone

  • Pingback: tumi アウトレット

  • Pingback: dakotaバッグ

  • Pingback: 財布ダコタ

  • Pingback: プラダ 財布

  • Pingback: プラダ アウトレット

  • Pingback: プラダ キーケース

  • Pingback: プラダ 店舗

  • Pingback: プラダ アウトレット

  • Pingback: プラダメンズ

  • Pingback: dakotaバッグ

  • Pingback: miumiu 財布

  • Pingback: 財布ダコタ

  • Pingback: miumiu 財布

  • Pingback: 財布ダコタ

  • Pingback: ダコタ 長財布

  • Pingback: ハミルトン ジャズマスター

  • Pingback: ダコタバッグ

  • Pingback: プラダメンズ

  • Pingback: ダコタ 長財布

  • Pingback: プラダ キーケース

  • Pingback: SEIKO 電波時計

  • Pingback: miumiu 長財布 matelasse 5m0506

  • Pingback: プラダ バック

  • Pingback: dakota ダコタ

Previous post:

Next post: