A Ron Paul Strategy for Socialists

by J.B. on March 15, 2013

It seems to me that one of the most surprising turns of modern American politics is the incredible impact of Ron Paul’s presidential runs within the Republican primary popularizing and legitimizing libertarian ideology. His first run in 2008 seemed quixotic and faced great odds, but it gave him free face time on morning shows, a chance to debate more moderate Republicans on television, and served as a lightning rod around which scattered libertarian-minded activists and peaceniks could gather. His second run in 2012 showed him leading the pack in Iowa in some polls, and the Republican party faces a major challenge of reincorporating its rebellious right wing (just look at Rand Paul’s recent filibuster or the collapse of sequester negotiations).

Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders

The fact that the socialist left doesn’t try something similar by running explicitly socialist candidates in Democratic primaries boggles my mind. I highly recommend that socialist groups consider pooling resources to run a challenger in the next Democratic presidential primary.

There would be such enormous benefits to such an action:

  1. Serve as an immediate point of unity and common project. There’s a lot of talk on The North Star about a potential basis for unification of leftist tendencies. An explicitly socialist primary challenger could serve as something that both highly reformist groups like the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and revolutionarily-oriented groups like Socialist Alternative and Party for Socialism and Liberation that aren’t entirely opposed to elections as a tactic in all circumstances could get behind. Socialist-leaning Greens and progressives could quickly rally behind such a candidate. Combining the activist abilities of the revolutionary groups with the funding resources available to older more reformist groups could provide the necessary resources to get a candidate on the ballot and into the debates. Post-Occupy, there are many populists, socialists, labor activists, and progressives looking for another common project that can bring diverse currents together into the formidable force that Occupy temporarily was. The state has made it clear that in-the-streets action will for the moment not be tolerated. A primary campaign may serve as a way to continue to push the 99% vs. 1% messaging in a more mainstream and “acceptable” way in order to build functional organization and train activists who could be used to later take things back to the streets in a more effective way.
  2. Break through the media barrier to force the contrast between the mainstream corporate-funded Democratic Party and the real needs of the people into the spotlight from a leftist perspective. When Obama is equated with socialism and the left in the popular media, and where the right is free to take on all economic criticism of the administration, then the frame of discourse is constrained to the point where working people think centrist Democratic politicians are the best they can get. A forceful campaign by a primary challenger, no matter how successful, can put the real left alternative in front of people’s eyeballs and remove some of the populist cover employed by the Democrats. A truly socialist primary candidate could push Transitional Program-type ideas like a shortened working day, nationalized health care, nationalization of energy, easier union organizing, legal support for workers’ control, and funding for the unemployed to form cooperatives into the national spotlight. A political campaign may not be a viable way to take power at the moment, but it could be a powerful messaging and recruitment tool.
  3. Begin the process of rehabilitating and explaining the word “socialism.” If 36% of Americans feel favorably towards socialism, doesn’t it make sense to do something of a high enough profile to help them understand what that word means and push their imaginations towards a new frontier? For the rest of Americans who feel unfavorably towards that word, a principled defense of the idea that is visible enough to reach average people could go a long ways towards defusing some of the anti-communism and red-baiting which serve as a barrier to social change in America. Simply running a candidate within the mainstream political system will serve to make the word more acceptable and less frightening to Americans.
  4. Provide the nucleus for a truly mass party. If we are ever to see socialist change in our lifetimes, then socialist parties need to get much, much bigger, and quickly. They need to embrace a full range of ages, races, ethnicities, and geographic locations, and break out of the small sect mentality that keeps the left isolated and impotent. Ron Paul’s early forays into national politics weren’t terribly successful at gaining actual political power initially, but they proved invaluable to libertarian activists in broadening the audience for their message and creating a political force that almost looked like it might capture Iowa in the last Republican primary and is reshaping the face of American conservatism. A successful socialist candidate could lead large sectors of the working class out of the Democratic Party and into a new type of politics. Some socialist groups will cling to ideals of purity and intimate smallness and opt out of any such truly mass party. But they will swiftly be rendered insignificant by the socialists who are actually willing to attempt a party of the masses, for the masses.
  5.  Allow a large payoff for a concentration of resources. By focusing on the primaries, activists can concentrate their resources on areas like Iowa and New Hampshire, thereby allowing an outsized impact for our small resources. Primaries allow for a national spotlight without having to conduct a national campaign.

Now, I can imagine several objections to this plan:

  1. It won’t be revolutionary enough. Particularly if groups like CPUSA and the Democratic Socialist of America were involved, the rhetoric of the candidate would be radical but still reformist in content. I don’t see this as necessarily a bad thing. If you expect the American people to go from neoliberalism directly to communism, then I’m afraid you’ll never see a successful leftist social movement develop. The idea behind such a campaign would be to begin a process that could eventually lead to a party that enacts revolutionary social change. But this won’t happen immediately. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of people need to be brought into the process of struggling against the capitalist orthodoxy of the two major parties, building working class organization, and theoretically envisioning the way forward. As the process develops, hopefully the organization will move in a more radical direction, particularly if genuine radicals are involved from the beginning, take key roles, and conduct constant education and agitation throughout the process. But we can’t start at a truly revolutionary mass party at this moment. We need something we can bring large numbers of regular people into first.
  2. This will simply divert resources into the Democratic Party and facillitate co-option. This is of course a powerful objection, but not a fatal one. If we ran the right candidate, preferably someone with a track record of involvement in a radical socialist organization and the labor movement, that individual could use the entire campaign to target and expose the betrayals of the mainstream Democrats. At the conclusion of the campaign, he/she wouldn’t need to endorse the winner, but could condemn the winner and urge the formation of a new party. Co-option should be a concern from the beginning, but I believe the benefits of a primary campaign outweigh the risks.
  3. It won’t be successful. Of course it won’t be, if by successful you mean the next Democratic candidate for president will be an avowed socialist. Ron Paul never won the primaries. He shifted the terms of a debate, galvanized a movement, and helped put his son in a position where he may be a serious contender for the next president. Why can’t socialists avail themselves of the same benefits of the primary system?
  4. We can never get enough agreement to launch this project. I find this hard to believe. I can think of at least four good-sized socialist organizations that would not find something like this out of the range of possibility. We don’t need absolutely everyone who calls themselves a socialist to come on board, just enough to get the project rolling.
  5. We simply won’t have enough resources to get on the ballot. This is probably the most serious objection, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable. There’s tremendous energy on the left right now to power the necessary ground work, and at least some socialist organizations have sufficient financial resources to at least begin a fund-raising campaign. Particularly if we can tap the pockets of some disgruntled progressives and former Democratic Party activists, I think we could at least get onto the ballot and into the debates in Iowa and New Hampshire, even if a nationwide campaign proves cost-prohibitive.

Dissatisfaction with the economic and political system has rarely been higher in our nation’s history. The ideas of socialism are starting to regain popularity in the mainstream of society. This is the perfect time to raise the message to a national platform, and the Democratic primaries would be a way to do this that would allow for a tactical concentration of resources and reach hundreds of thousands of potential new activists.



J.B. studies and works in Baltimore. He’s an open minded socialist perpetually rethinking his political beliefs, but he’s decided they lie somewhere in the broad space between anarchism and social democracy. He has few definite answers, but he does have hope that a society fundamentally based on cooperation and equality can be at least partially realized in his lifetime.

  • Robert Gahtan

    I think your contribution is excellent.

  • Nik

    How is this in analysis? It avoids the actual material conditions in favor of an opinionated stance, and then avoids allowing any dissension by painting everyone who disagrees into a corner of too extreme for the good ol’ U.S. of A. Come on now.

  • verna safran

    It worked in Canada, with the NDP (New Democratic Party) forming a sizable
    leftist contingent of their Democratic Party. I know Americans don’t like to get
    any ideas from other countries that are successfully combatting their problems
    (health care, education, day care, tax structure, for example) but we might take
    a look at how Canada is managing to elect NDP candidates.

    • K

      Except that’s not how the NDP was founded. It was founded as a merger between socialist and labour group that had long since broken with the Liberal Party, which would be the party most similar to the Democrats in the U.S.

      • Ben Campbell

        Not to mention that the NDP has been drifting right for several decades now, to the point where under Thomas Mulcair there is presently little to distinguish them from the Liberals.

        • J.B.

          Nik, I really don’t think everyone who disagrees with this is too extreme to live in the country, and I’m sorry if you got that impression. There are very good reasons why leftists want to steer entirely clear of the Democratic Party. Although I don’t think this is a realistic strategy considering the number of activists, students, oppressed ethnic groups and working people caught up in the Democratic party, I certainly respect people who hold this position.

          K and Ben are right about the origins of the NDP, but I think the thing to bear in mind when looking at mass working class parties like these in other countries is that countries like Canada have a parlimentary system of government which makes it MUCH easier to organize third parties and have them taken seriously in the public sphere. Like it or not, in America the primary system of the duopoly is sort of like our parliament. Many of the faction fights that would manifest as different parties under a parlimentary system look like primary challenges and faction forming within the duopoly (see the battle between mainstream conservatives, libertarians, authoritarians and tea partiers in the Republican party today, or the long primary fight between Obama and Clinton). This isn’t to say that the situations are directly analogous, and that all we have to do is enter the Democratic party and run primary challengers, imagining somehow that we’re participating in an invisible parliamentary system. In the long run, I agree that this approach would not work. But one thing I do think the CPUSA is right about is that in the present historical moment the people we need to build an independent socialist movement are bound up in the Democratic Party. Their conclusion is that we all just need to join the Democratic Party and support it no matter what. I disagree with this, but I don’t disagree that we need to figure out a way to start reaching those people getting them to consider another point of view. Some tactical entrance into primaries, particularly the media circus of the Democratic Presidential Primaries could be a good way to start this process.

  • Dave R.

    There’s been self-described socialists running in Democratic primaries for as long as I’ve been around. I’d prefer not to reveal my age. Let’s just say I have a fully formed memory of seeing the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show in early 1964. I’m also from Cleveland. Ever hear of Dennis the Menace Kucinich?

    • J.B.

      Well, in the last Primary season we did have Kucinich, and we had Mike Gravel as further left alternatives than the standard fare. But the latter was an incoherent joke, and the former is much more likely to speak in “progressive” terms than “socialist” terms. Kucinich cares about peace, love and understanding, but talks a less passionate talk about class, race and social democracy. Furthermore, Kucinich has a reputation at this point as a vanity candidate and protest vote, but not the potential nucleus of a movement. I doubt anyone on the Left other than people who already support him are talking about mobilizing behind his candidacy again. We need a fresh face with a strong and explicit Socialist message. Someone with the charisma and intelligence to bring in new people, like Kshama Sawant has been doing in Seattle.

  • Mike Sanchez

    I agree with the main thrust of the author’s analysis. The logistics of winning over progressive supporters of the Democrats to socialist politics has been under-theorized by the American radical left and I applaud you for voicing a perspective that I’m sure will be controversial on the radical left.

    • J.B.

      “The logistics of winning over progressive supporters of the Democrats to socialist politics has been under-theorized by the American radical left”

      This is a good way of putting things. I think the primary process deserves to be seriously considered as one tactic for accomplishing this goal.

  • Dave R.

    And did I mention I used to chow down with Bernard Sanders on occasion at the Burlington Greasy Spoon back in the day when Bernie was an elector for the Socialist Workers Party in Vermont? Nice guy. Never tucks in his shirt. Votes for lots of bad things.

  • Pingback: The North Star: A Ron Paul Strategy for Socialists: How Social-Democrats Could be a Political Force in America | frsfreestates()

  • http://rdwolff.com Deran

    CPUSA and DSA? Kooky to think that either of those organizations would support any sort of activity outside the Democratic Party.

    Aren’t there already groups like MoveOn and Working Families Party to fill this political space? The mythical “Leftwing of the Democratic Party”.

    Better a more radical and independent socialist org, that the CPUSA, CC and DSA members can also participate in.

  • MX

    This is absolute garbage, do you realize that the Democratic Party is killing revolutionaries across the world through neo-liberalism and imperialist policies? We should openly collaborate with the enemy, are you daft?

    This is the difference between a real revolutionary and an opportunist. There you have someone willing to fight and die to have his message heard, here you have a petite-bourgeois that thinks electoral politics can trick the public into action.

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

      Moralism is a poor guide for political strategy and an
      even worse substitute for argument. You fail to
      understand the difference between collaborating with
      the enemy and disrupting his institutions from within.

      • David Berger

        Okay, does this mean, Comrade Binh, that you are for running candidates in Democratic Party primaries? Yes or no.

  • Ben Campbell

    The problem with this article is not that it is “collaborating with the enemy.” That is a ridiculous moralistic judgement — we all “collaborate the enemy” every day; we can’t separate ourselves off from the structures of capitalism.

    Rather, the problem with this article is that it is a complete fantasy. The author is correct — it won’t be successful. But not only in the sense that such a candidate could never win (of course not), but that such a candidate could never break through the “media barrier” in the first place! The author of this piece seems to think that the corporate media would be willing to give a “socialist” candidate some sort of assist! In reality, the Democrats would use all means at their disposal to crush such a candidate before his/her campaign got off the ground, from bad media coverage to excluding from debates, etc. To force our way through these obstacles would require enormous organizational strength and popular support (which we don’t have) — and if we did have it, why would we bother with such a strategy?

    I could go on about how impractical this “strategy” is, but the most worrisome part is that it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Democratic Party is. Democratic Party primaries are not some equal opportunity contest that for some reason “socialists” have neglected to participate in. Rather, everything about the Democratic Party primaries (and the associated media spectacle) is geared towards selecting a candidate who is acceptable to the corporate plutocracy that controls that party. Even someone as centrist as Howard Dean was mercilessly mocked, as was Kucinich. Entry into debates often requires achieving a certain level in the national polls, which is subject to change based on the whims of the Democratic Party higher-ups. The author of this piece should take a look at what has been said on this issue by the likes of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo — hardly ideologues; there are good reasons why they felt that trying to go this route was simply hopeless.

    “Socialism” is not going to grow if we are desperately looking for assists from the Democratic Party and the corporate media.

    • J.B.

      Yes, like I said this is probably the strongest objection. I will look up some of Nader and Camejo’s thoughts on the subject. However, I would like to note that the same kind of criticism could probably be leveled against pretty much *any* strategy the far Left adopts at this point. The system is totally rigged, the powers that be are only getting more powerful, and we live in a country that is still highly susceptible to red-baiting, racism and union bashing. How well has Ralph Nader’s strategy been working? But we still need to act, and a Primary strategy could be a step towards a country where we have larger numbers and can contemplate more effective action for breaking the current power lock.

      I would mention that in regards to the media spectacle surrounding the primaries, the media is mostly looking for a good story that will bring in eyeballs and advertising dollars. A charismatic candidate running a good campaign could be that good story. I would also mention that Ron Paul came in for quite a bit of abuse in the media himself in the early days, and that Howard Dean mostly was mocked because he made a complete fool of himself after losing Iowa.

      This isn’t to say that an effort like this would be easy by a long shot. I just don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility, and is definitely worth putting on the table.

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

      “The author is correct — it won’t be successful. But not only in the sense that such a candidate could never win (of course not), but that such a candidate could never break through the “media barrier” in the first place! The author of this piece seems to think that the corporate media would be willing to give a ‘socialist’ candidate some sort of assist!”

      There’s nothing in this piece that indicates J.B. is naive on this point. Media attention itself is part of the terrain of struggle. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) certainly didn’t get an assist from the corporate media, and most Marxists took the same “it will fail” line on OWS beforehand because they couldn’t imagine what a bunch of kids with camping gear sitting in a park in the middle of the financial district could possibly accomplish besides a few arrests.

    • Joe Vaughan

      “Socialism is not going to grow if we are desperately looking for assists from the Democratic Party.”

      Very true, but the point of the article is to raise the question of why, if the so-called “libertarian” Ron Paul–let’s pass over the appropriate obscenities for now–can apparently have a major impact on U.S. electoral politics, can’t an avowed socialist do the same thing?

      The answer might not please the author of this article, but the question is worth examining.

      Part of the answer may lie in the fact that libertarianism is not a spontaneous political movement, but rather–not unlike the Nazi Party, though obviously with very important differences–a scheme hatched by the ruling class to recruit mass support against the real interests of most of its supporters. Its fruition is the Tea Party–a Republican billionaire franchise with no life of its own.

      Hitler did not arise spontaneously from the masses: as a demobilized ex noncom he was hired by a post-World-War-I German army intelligence unit to spy on and infiltrate a tiny far-right party that seemed to offer a chance for re-establishing an authoritarian social order to replace the discredited monarchy. The whole thing, in the beginning, was masterminded by General Ludendorff.

      This had stunningly unanticipated consequences, but a good case can be made that in the long run the Krupps, the Bechsteins, and their class–if not the traditional military officer class, who at the beginning thought that they were pulling the strings–were the true winners of the alleged fight against fascism, for which the Democrats have falsely claimed so much credit for three generations.

      Hitler really did do their dirty work for them, just as the Republicans and Democrats are doing now.

      Socialism, and a leaning toward socialism, in contrast, are and always have been ruled out of court by the Democrats and the ruling-class factions they represent. No need here to co-opt the word “socialism”–all we need is the insipid refrain of “liberty.”

      Like the Republicans–maybe even more so–the Democrats are ideologues of a fuehrerless and immobilizing post-Facism–a fascism of mass paralysis, not mass action– that now holds American workers as helpless as insects injected with a spider’s venom. This is really the only ideology of the United States.

      Apart from the contribution of the intellectually non-existent Ayn Rand and the elaborate but completely artificial economics of von Mises and Hayek, which are nothing but masks, Ron Paul comes straight out of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ councils of the ‘sixties South, with overtones of what used to be called “isolationism.” This is what makes him apparently independent from the “mainstream” of the Republican Party. It hearkens back to the Democratic Party fascist Solid South of the last century. But everyone knows that the assimilation of the Klan and all it represents is at the heart of Republicanism since Nixon and Reagan. Paul is only another expression of this.

      The fact that the likes of Glenn Greenwald have managed to whitewash Ron Paul into some sort of “progressive” is one of the biggest laughs of the 21st century.

      That’s what makes it significant that characters like Sawant and even the much-sallied Sanders are able to muster electoral support around the word “socialism.” In a word, nobody’s paying for it and Massa hates it wholeheartedly.

      The author makes a deep error in equating the manipulated and unspontaneous Ron Paul franchise of Republican Southernism with the strange upwellings of electoral socialism in places where by rights it should not be occurring. That, however, does not make the latter any less important–or less problematic. Probably, it underlines its importance. We should pay careful attention to this. It really is something new in our time.

  • Ben D

    This is probably right. The political system in the US is so limiting and the elections are such a manically central part to US politics such that people who care about politics at all are thinking about them a lot. The options of non involvement in electoral politics is a poor one. I found other activism to be in a lull during the ever lengthening campaign season. Each competing group running their own small radical presidential campaign is also obviously silly. What would differentiate a united larger radical campaign is that it would be able to promote the general ideas more effectively. What do most radicals think about certain issues? What is socialism/anarchism/whatever? I wonder if a successful state campaign could be a launching pad like Socialist Alternative is trying with Ty Moore but bigger, a coalition of left groups running somewhere or something. This gets to questions of organization as well. How can we have a radical campaign that is more than a one off thing, that isn’t a limited by being a means for each group to try to build themselves. That speaks to national structure of some kind that represents the general radical politics that need to be out there that everyone feels like they agree with enough to be a part. That probably means agreeing to disagree on contentious issues and not bringing up ancient ones that don’t matter anymore really. I think most historic revolutions that we all look to for wisdom would be shaking their heads if they saw the current state of things. A new thing can come from discussions and ideas like this, from networking in the struggles, directly out of the next occupy, but it has to be concretely built by people like us somehow. I’m not really sure how.

    • J.B.

      “The political system in the US is so limiting and the elections are such a manically central part to US politics such that people who care about politics at all are thinking about them a lot. The options of non involvement in electoral politics is a poor one. I found other activism to be in a lull during the ever lengthening campaign season”

      Yes, unfortunately we have to start with the conditions we find ourselves in, not the ones we wish we were in. And in America those conditions include the political fixation on elections and the bondage of vast sections of the working class to the Democratic Party.

    • http://rdwolff.com Deran

      For the purposes creating a nationwide socialist coalition, why not make use of the Peace and Freedom Party? Their current national party building effort, the Peace and Freedom Alliance, is to focused on creating a coalition of existing socialist political parties, which seems like a not very strong basis for building a new socialist party.

      And as far as working with the Democratic Party’s left, I worked on jesse Jackson’s ’84 anbd ’88 campaigns. A lot of socialists did, and then when Jackspn ended up hitching his political career to the Democratic Party, a lot socialists were very alienated and burnt out on working with the Democrats. To a lesser degree Obama’s “progressive” promises, and his regressive policies have alienated many people from electoral and activist politics gernally.

      Although, Occupy Wall Street, was a pleasing experiment. I was glad to see people want to get active and organized, instead of isolated and inwardly/personally focused.

  • http://www.spp-forward.com Marlon Pierre-Antoine

    I agree with Ben Campbell’s critique & Ben D’s alternative. Entering the Democratic Party is crossing the class lines, big time. Might as well enter the GOP at that point – at least they can boast of Lincoln as an historical member! Entering the Democrats, even for critical purposes, equals endorsing the Dems in the minds of wide layers of “regular” people (I did not know socialists were not regular people as well.) The brilliant entryist/wrecker strategy, no matter how eloquently stated, will filter and filter to the point where by the time it reaches the de-politicized majority of our class, it’ll be socialists = left-wing Dems. If a worker supports socialism passively, he or she would be signaled to stay in with the exploiters.

    As for the alternative, well.. Socialist Alternative is off to a good start in my opinion, although I might have an issue with this or that secondary issue. The direction we ought to be moving in is that of an independent (from the Democrats) left-wing party with a working class content. That is the kind of vehicle that would galvanize working people: indeed, yesterday I was surprised to learn that even the local Move to Amend chapter here is excited by the very idea of it! I would say the goal would be to build an anti-capitalist workers party, but if it manifested initially as a broad left party with a less-than-crystal-clear class character (but with a working class basis in there) that would still be a great step forward. That’s the kind of strategy we ought to be implementing now.

    • J.B.

      “If a worker supports socialism passively, he or she would be signaled to stay in with the exploiters.”

      This is certainly a danger to keep in mind. I think a big part of addressing this concern would be to keep it constantly in mind when constructing the messaging and organization of the campaign.

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

      How is entering the Democratic Party “crossing the class line” any more than entering bourgeois parliament?

      The author of this piece is not arguing for Trotskyist-style entryism, he’s arguing for a concerted propaganda effort, one that won’t last long because the effort would be centered on the Democratic primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa. The notion that walking into a school room of primary voters in Des Moines to talk socialism among the delegates leads inevitably to voting for whatever war criminal is the nominee that year and life-long allegiance to the party is fatalism.

      • PatrickSMcNally

        I can not imagine what you might mean by “Trotskyist-style entryism” in this context. Trotsky’s concept of entryism in the “French turn” was that his followers were to join parties of the Second International in order to take advantage of the more liberal attitudes in such parties which allowed the formation of factions. The Trotskyist factions then set out to polemicize against Norman Thomas and the more traditional leaders of the Second International with the avowed aim of engineering a Left-wing split that could be used to form a Fourth International. That sounds like what is being argued for here.

        But things don’t work the same way with regards to the Democratic Party. Whatever one’s view of the “French turn” strategy (and there have been criticisms of it) it doesn’t have bearing on attempting to work in the Democrats. As Trotsky noted in the 1930s, there were many people who really were radical Left and who were then streaming into the Second International at a time when the Third was sinking. There is no such comparable phenomenon here today. Yes, most workers, women, blacks, gays, et cetera generally do vote Democrat and that is a long-term problem. But there is no such major radicalization that is bound up with a significant surge in membership for the Democrats, as was the case with the Second International in the 1930s. Most of those who are voting Democrat are just following the standard lesser-of-two-evils argument without any specific radical turn being signified by their vote.

      • David Berger

        PHAM BINH: How is entering the Democratic Party “crossing the class line” any more than entering bourgeois parliament?

        DAVID BERGER: If your project is basically social democracy: to build some kind of a countervailing force within capitalism (and I believe that that is the true motivation behind all this), then there isn’t much difference. However, social democracy is utterly bankrupt in our era, and it hasn’t had all that much to recommend it since it betrayed the working class in 1914.

        Anyone who thinks that at this point in the history of capitalism, we can get a repeat of what happened in Scandinavia after WWII, or New York City in the 1940s, is nuts. (If you want to bring up Venezuela, I think that a whole ‘nother discussion. In any event, that option is not available for the USA.)

        PHAM BINH: The author of this piece is not arguing for Trotskyist-style entryism, he’s arguing for a concerted propaganda effort, one that won’t last long because the effort would be centered on the Democratic primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa. The notion that walking into a school room of primary voters in Des Moines to talk socialism among the delegates leads inevitably to voting for whatever war criminal is the nominee that year and life-long allegiance to the party is fatalism.

        DAVID BERGER: What this ignores is the process of DP primaries. What happens when your candidate loses? One of the premises of being a part of the primary process is backing the candidate that wins. One of the questions that will immediately come up is: will your socialist candidate back the winner after the primary? This is the trap that Camejo fell into. He backed Jesse Jackson in ’84 and then ended up supporting Mondale.

        If you answer is that question is “No,” you will not support the winning candidate, then you are open to the charge of insincerity and opportunism. If your answer is “Yes,” you have followed the logic of capitalist politics, which I think is the point of all this, and jumped into the swamp.

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

          You insist that we abide by the enemy’s rules when we fight on the enemy’s terrain. I don’t think that makes any sense, strategically, politically, or morally.

          Unlike you, I’m not afraid of working in swamps or pigstys for revolution. That’s what Lenin told us we had to do if we wanted to be effective revolutionaries and not politically pure phrasemongerers. You are welcome to disagree.

          • David Berger

            PHAM BINH: You insist that we abide by the enemy’s rules when we fight on the enemy’s terrain. I don’t think that makes any sense, strategically, politically, or morally.

            DAVID BERGER: What I insist is that entering into the Democratic Party is unprincipled opportunism and political suicide for the Left.

            It’s not a matter of “abid[ing] by the enemy’s rules.” It’s a matter of how the people you are trying to reach, rank-and-file Democrats who could be won to a socialist party, will perceive you politically. My opinion is that a socialist group that enters a Democratic Party primary with their candidate, loses the primary, and then refuses to support the winning candidate, will be seen as opportunists. Would you dare to announce that strategy in advance?

            Of course you don’t think it makes any sense as you are, in my opinion, hell-bent on working with the Democrats, inside and outside their party.

            PHAM BINH: Unlike you, I’m not afraid of working in swamps or pigstys for revolution.

            DAVID BERGER: A long time ago, Lyndon Johnson referred to the Democratic Party as a “big house,” and the socialist cartoonist Lisa Lyons drew a wonderful drawing of LBJ and Bobby Kennedy , wearing lingerie, in a brothel. That’s what the DP is. You want to go in there, just know that you are trodding a well-beaten path.

            PHAM BINH: That’s what Lenin told us we had to do if we wanted to be effective revolutionaries and not politically pure phrasemongerers. You are welcome to disagree.

            DAVID BERGER: I can’t believe you are using Lenin to justify going into the Democratic Party. Awhile ago, Pham, I suggested you should consider a career in standup. This confirms it.

            By the way, Lenin never tried to join the Cadets. And if you think that competing in DP primaries makes you an effective revolutionary, you are welcome to try.

            _____

            FROM ANOTHER THREAD (I’m reproducing two posts in their entirely.): http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=4428

            DAVID BERGER: Okay, Pham, thanks for finally being honest about what your strategy is: entry into the Demicratic Party.

            BEN CAMPBELL (January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm): Come on David, Pham said nothing of the sort. Also, please note that these type of hyperbolic one-liners do not advance the conversation, and in fact violate the commenting policy. In the future this type of “one-liner” comment will not be approved. Engage substantively.

            _____

            DAVID BERGER: It’s obvious now that I was right. There is a tendency here at North Star which believes that entry into the DP is a reasonable strategy for socialists.

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

              There’s all kinds of tendencies at The North Star. How terrible.

              • David Berger

                I have no problem with a multi-tendencied website. My problem is when people conceal their politics and motives. It’s been obviously for months that entry into the Democratic Party was a strategy you advocated, but you concealed it.

                Witness this exchange, from above:

                _____

                DAVID BERGER: Okay, Pham, thanks for finally being honest about what your strategy is: entry into the Demicratic Party.

                BEN CAMPBELL (January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm): Come on David, Pham said nothing of the sort.

                _____

                DAVID BERGER: Actually, it’s obvious now that that was exactly what you were saying. Why didn’t you bother to disabuse Ben?

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

                  If there’s one thing I can’t be plausibly accused of, it’s trying to conceal my political views. If my orientation was towards the Democratic Party as you claim, I’d join Jacobin.

                  • David Berger

                    PHAM BINH: If there’s one thing I can’t be plausibly accused of, it’s trying to conceal my political views.

                    DAVID BERGER: Considering the fact that you have basically concealed the fact that you support running candidates in Democrawtic Party primaries, you can quite plausibly be so accused.

                    PHAM BINH: If my orientation was towards the Democratic Party as you claim, I’d join Jacobin.

                    DAVID BERGER: The only difference, in my opinion, between your political position vis-a-vis the DP and theirs is that they’re honest about it. They openly support working within the party. You put forward this malarky that socialists can run candidates in a DP primary, lose, refuse to support the winner and thereby recruit to socialism.

    • Ben D

      I wasn’t offering anything as an alternative. I actually do think that you could try both as one organization. A successful intervention let’s call it, into the DP campaign would require decent organization of some form decent politics of collaboration and radicalism. This could both run independent candidates in local elections and try to fuck with the DP primary in national presidential elections. Could we win a congressional seat? As and independent or as a democrat and then publicly break? If you are never defending the DP policies and are instead opposing them while promoting and radical alternative I don’ think that is any betrayal.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    http://www.newprogs.org/unified-progressive-platform-ratified

    This is the platform of the New Progressive Alliance… take a gander. If you like get on board be an organizer. i’m a NPA organizer in Montana… little by little ~ our movement is growing and our platform maturing.
    NPA is a year or better old looking to get older.
    i don’t think much of the Ron or Rand Paul campaigns ~ there’s never been a Libertarian govt of success and never will be unless its something like Somalia’s.
    i think that the presentation to Organize is of imperative value . Primary to Win. At least build clout that we can hold politicians to or better that they can live up to and with EASILY. i don’t want to spend time writing Feinsteins that War is unhealthy.
    Organize; that’s what this letter speaks to, thank you,
    Rachael Corrie Day tomorrow Mar 16th

    • J.B.

      I like what the New Progressive Alliance is doing, which is in part where I got the idea to try to introduce this tactic to the Socialist left. The unified platform is a solid document. However, I think the problem with the NPA from a socialist perspective is that it lacks a unifying socialist ideology and a long term vision for social transformation that takes us ultimately beyond Capital. It’s basically a reformist Social Democracy platform. I’d love for there to be an NPA candidate in the next Primary. But I’d also like there to be a more explicitly socialist candidate. Both perspectives are sorely lacking in the national discourse.

  • http://southeastutah.blogspot.com Christian

    It is good. I have two concerns though.

    #1) I have a hypothesis that the success of Ron Paul, his ability to operate, and to be considered a legitimate part of the Republcian party is because most of his beliefs fundamentally support the capitalist system and the “freedom” of owners of businesses to do whatever they want. Just because he is socially more liberal, and is probably in favor of a foreign policy with less insanity to it, doesn’t mean he really diverges with the foundation of ruling class ideology, or vision.

    I’m not sure a socialist in the democrats would have as much success, as their ideas would be more hostily recieved by the party leadership and actively resisted at many levels. This is a concern I think is worth raising, though I’m not against giving the project a try.

    Another question is unity with organizations that have operated undemocratically in the past and in their litterature cite undemocratic societies as examples of “socialism”. The Party of Socialism and Liberation, CPUSA, RCP, etc… are examples of such organizations. If someone says, “hey, you guys say dictatorships are good sometimes, why should I vote for you?” And they say, “Well, we do like certain societies that are considered to be authoritarian, and I see nothing wrong with the grandson of a former ruler of North Korea being appointed as chief executive despite his youth, lack of political experiance, or democracic participation of his consituients in the process” And then people say, “Ah ha! I knew it.”

    I think I would agree with those who decide not to vote for such a candidate. I certainly don’t trust anyone to oversee the expansion of democracy in this country who is fine with mockeries and suppressions of it in other ones.

    Perhaps a good, post / non stalinist way to move forward would be to say somewhere in the points of unity something like, “We believe that authoritarian forms of government, personality cults, the lack of political freedoms and the lack of self organization of working people are antithetical to marxism and the goals of a socialist project.” That sets the bar as being for a non-stalinist, “socialism from below”, which would exlude some, but I think might be worth doing.

    Perhaps such a formation would have to choose to either orient itself to stalinist organizations or the soft anarchisty political “occupy” milleu. The former can be effective organizers in certain campagins, but at best they are unreliable. The same can be said for latter. But what is different is I see those with illusions in stalinism to be more likely part of a dying, grey left that inhereted bad politics from long ago. Today’s generation, with its own political problems, is at least genuinely looking for the right ideas and doesn’t need to make excuses to justify any foreign perversions of good politics..

  • J.B.

    “We believe that authoritarian forms of government, personality cults, the lack of political freedoms and the lack of self organization of working people are antithetical to marxism and the goals of a socialist project.”

    Yes, something like this would be important. I worry, however, that it might also feed the anti-communism of American culture which makes it so difficult for the Left to function. We need to be able to critique the anti-Democratic aspects of Real Existing Socialism without denying its achievements and the possibilites which it opened for the world.

    • Joe Vaughan

      Any socialist who understands what you are talking about can “critique the anti-democratic aspects” etc. as long as s[he] is talking to you or your equivalent (if you have one). The discussion may not be comfortable, but it is possible.

      The problem comes when you try to engage people outside the magic circle of those who are at least willing to read Lenin and Trotsky and struggle with terms like “entryism.”

      As far as the American fake (i.e. liberal) left is concerned, only when you have prostrated yourself before the fraudulent altar of “non-violence”–which in practice means 1) the absolute acceptance of all currently existing inequitable property relations and 2) corpse-like obedience to the violent authority that preserves them–will you be permitted to make your case for socialism. By then, this will be nothing more than another sugary appeal to Sweet Jesus or some other form of spigotuality.

      You may be permitted to endorse gay marriage–after all, what Nice Couple should be denied their right to a dream house and the perfect riding lawnmower? But that will be the limit.

      You will then be dismissed with a wink as an “idealist.”

      Sawant got a big chunk of votes without having to go through this sheep-dip. So why should socialist Democrat politics–even if possible–be a priority? At the very least, the way to build a seriously socialist “constituency” in electoral politics seems to be running socialists as socialists and repeating the Sawant experiment with similar results as many times as possible if this can be done.

      Now may be the time for the left to–forgive me– “play the piano with all ten fingers,” even if that means some kind of activity within the Democrats. Why not, if it’s really helpful–though I have a hard time imagining how it could be.

      Even so, it’s lousy advice to socialists when you hold the likes of Ron Paul up as a model. This isn’t because of his racism, his compulsive lying, his uninteresting and trivial philosophy and economics, or the depravity of his subhuman stinker of a son.

      Rather, it’s because his career is a textbook illustration of how a “mainstream” American political party exploits the appearance of dissent to create a staged “Maverick” narrative for the appeasement of idiots. Why imitate that?

  • Nik

    I don’t actually have a huge problem with people who think they’re going to run in primaries and whatnot, it was the wording of the argument about what certain Leftists would think that bothered me, and the fact that this was placed in analysis. It’s strategy, not analysis, and strategic weakpoints and strengths are easier to debate than analytical ones. What Ron Paul has done, overall, is made people pay attention to his social issues and avoid economics and we can’t do that on the Left and be honest. If you want to see a successful Right, look at Golden Dawn and the fact that they build things outside of elections for the people they want to appeal to. That’s what the Left can do. One thing the Right has done here is held rallies and such. The majority of Left events are over single-issues or historical celebrations. The Left needs to start putting together events that are specifically for the purpose of being Left anti-Capitalist with that being the focus and attracting people to them, instead of raising their profile via primaries.

    • Ben Campbell

      Sorry, “analysis” is just the default category around here. We will probably be making changes to the categories (or removing them) so in the meantime don’t make too much of them.

  • Nik

    Good deal.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    I’d favor it in primaries were there were no decent challengers to Blue Dogs/DLC types. In other words, I’m not interested in spitting resources away from PDA candidates for Congress. PDA, together with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, while not socialist, are also not anti-socialist, but a needed voice for a popular front vs finance capital,

    This proposed tactic could server to unite a militant minority for education and organizing. But we also need candidates that unite a progressive majority to win seats where we can.

    We also need to split and crush the GOP.

  • PatrickSMcNally

    Libertarian ideology has been funded by the Koch brothers and others on a massive scale. This has no bearing on the things which a Left-wing needs to accomplish. The most one can say about Ron Paul is that his prominence reflects an element of desperation among layers of the capitalist class. Ron Paul promotes fantasies about the gold standard and illusions about how the economy of the expanding colonial settler-state operated in the 19th century. Most major capitalists are aware that this is all pseudo-economics and pseudo-history, but there has always been a tendency to promote such nonsense as a way of feeding illusions to sectors of the public which relish dreaming about how wonderful capitalism in the 19th century really was. To some degree the rise of Ron Paul reflects the way that as conditions worsen it is harder to sell snake-oil without becoming obligated to act as if it were real economics. But that does not mean that Paul’s rise is someone a rebellion of any kind.

    The tasks of a socialist Left are so far removed from what Ron Paul has been doing that it is meaningless to make analogies. But if one was going to follow such an analogy, then it would make more sense to look at the formation of the John Birch Society (which Ron Paul himself regards warmly). Examining how Robert Welch got things going there from 1958 and onward would be more consistent, even though I don’t believe that this offers very much to the Left.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    [ Rachel Corrie, International hero of heroes]

    … well at least one person is familiar with NPA thank you JB; but first a kewl pc from Cntr Pnch:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/15/the-progressive-movement-is-a-pr-front-for-rich-democrats/ ~ quite pertinent to the topic at hand.

    also: NPA http://www.newprogs.org/unified-progressive-platform-ratified

    This is the platform page link, you can get to the home pg from here. This platform will expand over time ~ it evaluates candidates; ones we can get on the same page at the same time, profided they endorse it.
    Working with what we have is quite possibly at hand with the NPA. If you read the Counter Punch link the term Progressive might have had some rethinking, but, on the other hand if we are to circumvent the DuapolyParty we will need to strategize.

    One method is to drain them dry; force them to use up lots of money! ~ (not that they’d give us the money ’cause we’ve got Progressive in our name); we’d offer some clear muddy water for their Capitalist think tanks and we’d offer Damn fine candidates that are All Socialist All the Time Who can Win ~ we know because they endorse our platform… And they know we Socialists have their backs in the name of NPA. We must think WIN not just Primary; (and if it’s not NPA, if we survive there will be another NPA of some kind until we get it Organized and get into office).
    It’s all about getting elected by the people / IE getting into office. The alternatives are: submit to soft tyranny, Facism, take up molitov cocktails and have a bloody revolution or Get Socialists into to Office, till we control it all ~ (then we can nationalize the Energy Cartel, Transporation, Health Care, Big AG and Banking for starters) . I’d love to have 300 Dennis Kucinichis’ in office.
    It won’t happen with PDA or DFA or pitch me with a fork Move On ~ ~ ~ i think at one time ppl, me incl, thought that this was going to mount up to be a Occupy! (hot potato the next day! and ever since).
    Getting on TV is a not that difficult as a strategy ~ most cities have Public Broadcast Svc ~ i did a full year of once a week TV programs in Billings, MT for $400/ 52 programs called} The Wobblies, exploring economic /social justice and living wage ~ sponsored by the IWW (mainly) of Montana/Bozeman ~ we need to get what we’er talk’n ’bout here into ppl’s living rooms for one thing. (this is just a possible strategy).

    I love Chess, but ya know it’s also a time consumer that has little to show for all the time consummed. i kinda feel the same about endless dialogues on Lenin and Marx when Obama-Crypto-fascist is practicing Mao’s the only real power comes from the barrel of the gun/drone/NDAA/ he does this a Commander in Chief not the Pres. Oh Yes, Obama’s really playing a chess game with the Repugs/Wall St ~he’ll checkmate ‘um??? Neo-lib style. My point is we need to be really active ~ strategizing, leafletting, doing Tee Vee programs, certainly communicating as we are here,
    Some issues and solutions are germain to our ideals as socialists. One of those is Stopping the Israhell monster. End the Occupation (aidtoisrael.org) If Americans Knew are working hard to prevent $8 million a day $30 Billion in ten years from leaving the pockets of Americans (especially Native Americans/poor and incapable) and that’s just the tip of the moneyberg that goes to Israhell. The materials are there, Get Them, it’s one way we can Organize.
    and ck out NPA ~ we need Organizers in every state.

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

    “One of the premises of being a part of the primary
    process is backing the candidate that wins.”

    This is the DNC chairman’s point of view. Such a view has no bearing on this discussion.

    • David Berger

      PHAM BINH: This is the DNC chairman’s point of view. Such a view has no bearing on this discussion.

      DAVID BERGER: Cute, but no cigar. You quoted me, but you omitted the bulk of my argument, which dealt with the opportunism of this “view.” So let me repeat it here:

      DAVID BERGER (previously posted above): What this ignores is the process of DP primaries. What happens when your candidate loses? One of the premises of being a part of the primary process is backing the candidate that wins. One of the questions that will immediately come up is: will your socialist candidate back the winner after the primary? This is the trap that Camejo fell into. He backed Jesse Jackson in ’84 and then ended up supporting Mondale.

      If you answer is that question is “No,” you will not support the winning candidate, then you are open to the charge of insincerity and opportunism. If your answer is “Yes,” you have followed the logic of capitalist politics, which I think is the point of all this, and jumped into the swamp.

      DAVID BERGER: Do you really think that what will essentially be a raid on their party will be accepted by the DP rank-and-file and advance the cause of socialism?

    • PatrickSMcNally

      A vast number of workers will suspect you of being a “wrecker” (as Dear Old Uncle Joe would say) if you ran for DP nomination and then refused to support the winning Democrat. In this election if a white candidate had tried that then you can be sure that many black voters would have suspected you of being a Republican operative. That just does not lead to spreading the right message.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    On matters of elections, it helps to examine the US situation without blinders. Obviously, we don’t have a European-style parliamentary system. Our two parties have no discipline to a platform in any substantial way. In fact, we are much closer to reality when we work on the assumption that we have a six-party system under two labels. From right to left: the Tea Party, the multinational GOP, the Blue Dogs, the DLC ‘New Democrats,’ the Old New Dealers (AFL-CIO centrists) and the PDA/Congressional Progressive Caucus (the closest we have to Social Democrats).

    I think our task, so far as Congress is concerned, is to grow the PDA/Congressional Progressive Caucus, while defeating the Tea Party, the multinational GOP and, in many cases, the Blue Dogs.

    That will serve to shift the political terrain from center/right to left/center.

    In that context, we can grow a Left Front, first winning municipal and state seats, and when we gain the clout, win a few in Congress too.

    Just keep in mind that while we are not going to get socialism by elections, we certainly, in this country, must get there by going THROUGH the process, along with mass movements and street heat. When we arrive at a insurrectionary moment with dual power a practical matter, then we should shift to a different set of tactics, and hopefully be prepared to do so.

    • Patrick A.

      The Congressional Progressive Caucus is already the largest caucus in Congress with 71 members. The Tea Party caucus is 49 members and is arguably the more effective caucus. I don’t agree that the growth of the CPC will automatically shift politics in U.S. society. It depends on how that growing influence is used in the context of the myriad of problems facing the U.S. economy and society. If they use it, as they usually do — to mobilize the support of progressive workers, middle class people and youth for the corporate leadership in the name of Democratic Party unity — then it offers no hope really.

      • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

        71 out of 435 is still a small minority. And in face of the ‘myriad problems of the economy,’ the Congressional Progressive Caucus has submitted the ‘Back to Work Budget’, which is now drawing fire from the reactionaries and stirring up debate everywhere. It’s an excellent example of a platform for a popular front vs finance capital. Read it over.

  • Louis Proyect

    I think our task, so far as Congress is concerned, is to grow the PDA/Congressional Progressive Caucus,

    Carl, you are watching too much MSNBC. To use phrases like “to grow the …” is a cable news cliche, like “at the end of the day”, “the optics of the …”, “the 800 pound gorilla in the room”, “punching above his weight” is all you hear on the Chris Hayes show. Surely you can do better than that, at least stylistically. The politics of course is hopeless.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    I’ve been talking about ‘growing’ our movement and its organizations since the 1960s. Not my fault if MSNBC borrowed it from me….Practically, though, here in Beaver County, PA it means we’re looking for a decent center-left candidate to take down our current Tea Party Congressman, while we’re expanding PDA and CCDS.

    • Louis Proyect

      I think the generally accepted term is “to build”, like to build the antiwar movement, etc. I remember the first time I heard the term “to grow”. It was at Mobil Oil in 1980, shortly after I had dropped out of the SWP, where I was working as a consultant. Some suit from Mobil Oil was explaining their hopes for the new Employee Savings Plan I was helping to design: it would help employees “grow their savings”. I made a mental note to myself that the use of the verb was weird. A plant grows, a child grows, etc. But when a mom breast feeds her infant, she is not “growing her baby”. All I know is that this peculiar use of the verb to grow was incubated in the corporate world and then diffused to the political world, and then finally to TV news talk shows. So that’s the whole story.

      • Joe Vaughan

        People do talk without smirking about “growing vegetables.” I agree that “growing a party” sounds phony and commercial–wouldn’t use it myself; indeed find it annoying–but is it really necessary, objectively, to wage war against such trivialities when there are more substantial grounds for disagreement?

        There’s a noticeable tendency on this site for the principals to deliver moralistic judgments that this or that turn of phrase is not sufficiently Serious or “contributes nothing” and should be forbidden, particularly when anyone has had the nerve to speak out against anything that one of the principals–however little they may agree among themselves–have decided to pronounce ex cathedra.

        It makes me think of the politics inside a medieval Benedictine abbey–or in a condominium board of directors–or maybe a particularly political graduate department in a university, where the graduate students are always demanding that other graduate students should be expelled or disciplined for minor infractions of an ever-changing standard of professional decorum.

        Maybe this is what it’s like inside a sect.

        • Louis Proyect

          People do talk without smirking about “growing vegetables.” I agree that “growing a party” sounds phony and commercial–wouldn’t use it myself; indeed find it annoying–but is it really necessary, objectively, to wage war against such trivialities when there are more substantial grounds for disagreement?

          No.

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

          Who exactly are “the principals” are you referring to?

          • Joe Vaughan

            Fury said to a mouse
            That he met in the house.
            Let’s both go to the law,
            I will prosecute you.
            Come, I’ll take no denial
            We must have the trial
            For really this morning
            I’ve nothing to do.
            Said the mouse to the cur
            Such a trial dear sir
            With no jury or judge
            Would be wasting our breath.
            I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,
            Said cunning old Fury :
            I’ll try the whole cause,
            And condemn you to death.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    …damned if ya do an damned if ya don’t ~ ‘Growing the whatever’ is a matter of symantics… and for sure we are in up to our necks in political hacks and selfserving neo-libs but you must work your local politics as you see fit… and first. And damned the far away bloggers. On the other hand it’s to bad that the best tool is PDA (gawd spare us) this is the Progressive group that could not would not support Cindy Sheehan in her bid to topple Pelosi HELLO. You’ll need to know when to jetison them.
    Growing a party or parties to go nose to nose with the duopoly Party is mas importante.
    Good luck in your endeavors to replace a T-klaner.

    • Brandy Baker

      That’s the thing: a liberal group like PDA will be the first to backstab the movement before they would work against the machine because of “electability”, “going with a winner” and all of that lowest common denominator BS. Liberals are not our friends in electoral politics, anyone who thinks so has no experience working in electoral politics.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    In my book, many liberals, progressives and other folks on the non-socialist left are our allies in the task at hand, developing a popular front vs finance capital and war. That’s why PDA back Elizabeth Warren for Senate, and endorsed 12 candidates for the House. It’s rather choosy about who it endorses.

    The only socialist we have in Congress is Bernie Sanders. And the only way we’ll get more is by developing (there, Louis, I’ll use a bigger and more bureaucratic word than ‘grow.’) base organizations that are capable of getting a majority of progressive and socialist-minded voters to the polls on election day. Step one in that process is working with PDA, the WFP or in some cases, the Greens. I’m up for running Left Front socialist candidates on a state and municipal level, avoiding the spoiler role as much as possible.

    As said before, I’m interested in working with the defacto American six-parties in two parties system, not a parliamentary system that doesn’t exist here. Otherwise, don’t bother with electoral politics for now. you’d just be wasting your time. Organize some new trade unions. We’re in dire need of those as well.

    • Brandy Baker

      Yeah, and look what Elizabeth Warren is doing now: she wants to nuke Iran.

      Who’s wasting their time here?

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

      Sanders ran against both Democrats and Republicans in the House race even though, from the two-party state’s point of view, he was a spoiler. Sanders’ strategy is totally at odds with the strategy of Progressive Democrats of America who, as far as I know, have never endorsed and will never endorse someone running against a Democrat.

      • David Berger

        All very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of bourgeois politics. But, are you persisting in asserting your unique approach: that to run a candidate in a DP primary, lose and then refuse to support the winner is a viable strategy for socialists?

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    i have a certain history with PDA starting with PDA Los Angeles ’04 and even before; My last Postion was Co-State Coordinator Montana ~ I was FIRED ’09 ~ shocked but not disappointed i started my own program of Peace & Justice Forums, anyways i wouldn’t bet on anything but backstabbing when you get out of the local arena. PDA is TOP Down like MO. For the most part i was involved in the Social Justice / Impeach Bush/Cheney/ End the War ~ not something wholeheartedly embraced by any of PDA puppet masters. And never forget that trying to change the Dem party from the Inside is like Becoming a Priest to change the Catholic Church.:)
    Another thing i deplore about PDA is they Always support the Israel Firster and that is NO Waaaaaaay in Hell for me ~ i don’t care if they have wings ~ NO to All RogueStateIsreal FirstersZionRacists ~ Like E Warren and Grayson and a whole mess of them. If they aren’t moral enuff to see that Gawd is not A Real Estate Agent then you can NOT count on them for anything solid ever IMO.

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

      Another thing i deplore about PDA is they Always support the Israel Firster … Marcy Winograd of PDA in LA ran a creditable set of primary campaigns vs. Jane Harman. Winograd faced tons of hostility from pro-Israeli activists in the DP.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Our PDA experience differs radically from yours, Darwin. We haven’t experienced any ‘top down’ stuff–other than reminding us that PDA is an independent PAC to elect people to Congress, and encouraging us to do more work. If we want to get behind local candidates we do it on our own, which we do.

    And we got no flack whatsoever from working with our local peace group to put up a billboard on a local commuter highway to cut off military funds to Israel. Plus Keith Ellison (D-MN) and PDA guy and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is hardly warmly received at AIPAC.

    PDA chapters vary. Several in Virginia are almost all black. Ours is mainly very working class, almost to a fault. But as long as you don’t undermine the tax status of the PAC, I’ve found that PDA, which has no official ties or discipline to the Dem structure, gives you a very long leash.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    I’m sure there’s much to oppose in Warren’s approach to foreign policy, but hyperbole on the matter doesn’t help anyone. On balance, I think she doing a decent job taking on the Banksters.

    • Brandy Baker

      The bankers have nothing to worry about from any of the Democrats besides some posturing for the sake of theatre. The Democrats aren’t afraid of you all because you will keep campaigning for their “progressives” no matter how bad they are. There’s no repercussions from the PDAers.

      I’m sorry, this is too easy. And pointless.

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

      As a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success. I believe Israel must maintain a qualitative military edge and defensible borders. The United States must continue to ensure that Israel can defend itself from terrorist organizations and hostile states, including Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others. I also believe firmly that a two-state solution is in the interest of Israel and the United States. Lasting peace, however, requires negotiations between the parties themselves, and although the United States can and should aid in this process, we cannot dictate the terms. Unilateral actions, such as the Palestinians’ membership efforts before the United Nations, are unhelpful, and I would support vetoing a membership application.

      Iran

      Iran is a significant threat to the United States and our allies. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders have consistently challenged Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. The United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well. Iran must not have an escape hatch. http://www.liberalsforisrael.org/elizabeth-warren-on-israel-and-iran.html

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    I always liked to use the term ‘grow’ precisely because of its organic flavors, rather than ‘build,’ which is good for physical and mechanical structures. Social entities are somewhere in between. ‘Party-building is our central task’ was an exception, but then it didn’t turn out too well. Around the same time, I was struck by Gramsci’s use of ‘organic’, and liked the implications.

  • Nik

    Having been to Beaver County, I can assure you I won’t hold my breath while you “build” your organizations. Better to focus on organizing instead of “building.”

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Organizing is exactly what we do here in Western PA. Go to http://beavercountyblue.org and http://bcpeacekinks.net if you want to read reports on it, and other aspects of our ‘public face’ here. We’re making steady progress.

  • Nik

    The money men and bosses dropping crumbs for us to scramble around chasing isn’t progress.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    One’s view of ‘Dropping crumbs’ has a lot to do with where you’re standing. On the first Saturday of every month, about 100 old pickup trucks and such appear in the lot of the church on my corner. It’s all low-income white workers arriving for the food pantry, hoping to supplement the food stamps of the elderly and out-of-work families in the nearby hill and hollows. The all-white Baptist church has a quite progressive youth group that lends a hand, both here and at a cafe cultural center, Uncommon Grounds, in the nearby mostly Black former steeltown of Aliquippa. Here’s a link to a link to a local revolutionary rapper also involved. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z5ebdjxVhE So yes, people need socialism, where the last become first, and the first, last. But in the meantime, they need their ‘crumbs’ too. Don’t look down on them for it.

  • Nik

    A necessity doesn’t make a political strategy.

  • Nik
    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      This contrarianism reminds me of Christopher Hitchens. sounds very ‘left’, but be careful with how it may end up.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Indeed a necessity is not a strategy, but strategic thinking does well to be grounded in them. In my view, the strategic orientation for today is a popular front vs financial capital. It first segments capital into speculative and productive, and aims at the Banksters. The main alliances are the working class, the oppressed nationality movement, the masses of women and youth, and soldiers and veterans. But it also segments proctive capital into two, high road and low road. As a multi-class formation, it can also find some high road allies, especially in green manufacturing and clean energy startups. Our tasks are to develop the progressive forces, win over the middle forces, and isolate and divide the right, crushing our adversaries batch by batch. Obviously, there’s much more to it, but that’s it in a nutshell.

  • Nik

    Funny, I think about the progressive movement the same way. It has nowhere to go but right in its attempt to grab more attention.

  • David Berger

    “It seems to me that one of the most surprising turns of modern American politics is the incredible impact of Ron Paul’s presidential runs within the Republican primary popularizing and legitimizing libertarian ideology.”

    Does anyone but me find it weird that a socialist would be interested in emulating the poltical strategy of a right-wing racist member of the Republican Party?

    • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

      Yes,
      if you find yourself in a room with a Repug a Dem and a Libertarian and you have a gun with 3 bullets ~ shoot the Libertarian w/ all 3.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    Clearly E Warren has been better than expected in the Banking field ~ definately a lot better than my Senator, Jon buoy Tester, who got on the Banking cmmt and now gets lots of gifts from the Banksters thanks to Max AIG Baucus.
    My Point about PDA is there moral terpitude opens the door for the Israel FirsterZionist no problem… Once they get in their very hard to extricate and they don’t change their spots. It’s like saying it’s ok if they’re KKK supporters just as long as they are good on everything else!

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    The KKK has mass rallies. Does that mean we should not have anti-racist mass rallies? Same tactic, no?

    • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

      No.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    PDA has a whole issue organizing team around the Mideast, the ‘End Wars and Occupations IOT.’ It hardly makes them the darling of Zionists. As for PDA/Congressional Progressive Caucus members in Congress, Jan Schakowsky is is a member of ‘Peace Now’ in a heavily Jewish district. In the view of some, that makes her a Zionist, even if she’s regularly under fire by the Zionist Likkudniks in the Temples in her district. And she works rather well with Keith Ellison, our PDA guy who’s the only Black who is also a Muslim in Congress. Warren’s take on the Mideast is still flawed, but we need a little nuanced thinking here.

    • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

      i’m all for organizing, being organized and activists agitating . Follow your heart not a banner and all will go well. If PDA is working for you and your comrades ~ hang in there, Do well, set your own goals; An active cell is better than an in-active or zero cell.
      Whatever IOT that is anti-war and for economic and social justice is great.

      maybe you can send this link to our misguided what ‘operative’ E Warren: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/mar/17/my-neighbourhood-palestinian-israeli-video i don’t care how good she is on the banking cmmt she supports a racistrogueterroris Jewish State in lockstep with the US and that is Wrong to the core… it cancells out everything.

  • Brandy Baker

    The same type of nuanced thinking that gave us “Progressives for Obama”.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Yes, exactly. Remember, it was ”Progressives for Obama’ not ‘Leftists for a Progressive Obama’. Our aim was to defeat McCain, while maintaining unity with the Black community and progressive labor activists. It served us well. Unless you think an Obama defeat by McCain and the right would have been better for us and our allies.

    • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

      The moral is to not continue buying into the lesser of two evils and create our own candidate ~ Jill Stein fit that for me. If you want to change the way the game is played you cannot continue to play along with the game makers.
      Obama-Crypto-fascist is worse than the GW Crime Family so who’s to say Canary McCain would have been worse.
      ‘… better for our allies': oh a Lucy can you ‘esplain dat ? i thought we elected presidents for the USA USA USA not our allies? but even so do you mean our alli Isreal?

  • Nik

    There are so many things wrong with your projection of Progressiveness as a force for good that it’s beyond belief.

    • Brandy Baker

      Nik,
      Under Obama, Black unemployment is through the roof and brown people halfway across the globe are being droned. But apparently, this is not as bad as if McCain were doing it becuase blue drones are better.

      • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

        i love the sound of RED Drones in the morning !
        i’m think’n i’d rather have a lying country bumpking hayseed (bush) or a canary mcCain, lying ne’re do well, reality challenged psychopath, than a lying Wall St whore and commander in chief wanting to kill his own with impunity.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    That’s a rather odd thing to assert. Masses of people have won many decent things over the years, and the left radicals have always been a small minority among them. So who were they if not the progressive forces? They certainly weren’t the reactionaries, or even the wavering middle. You can use words however you like, I suppose, but it seems we lack a common ‘universe of discourse’ here.

    In fact, even under socialism, the communists will be in a minority. That’s why we need the united front, as well as the party and the army.

  • Nik

    Brandy,

    I’m with you. That’s what the progressives need to own, and they need to stop taking credit for things they had nothing to do with, but it’s ever a curse of liberals to keep their heads buried in the sand while calling out for unity.

  • Morris

    Bernie Sanders, the great “socialist” hero begins his speeches with “the US is the greatest country in the history of the world,” while not explaining what is so “great” about massive poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.

    If those such as J.B. and Pham Binh have an orientation toward the Democratic Party, then they should be advocating “growing” Progressive Democrats of America. There is a big difference on working in the Democratic Party, and entering a bourgesoie parliament as an independent or a member of a left party.

    It’s amazing how many have forgotten that it was during Democratic administrations that trucking and financial deregulation, NAFTA, Welfare Reform, were enacted. The North Star is long on criticism and short on solutions.

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

      Let’s hear your solutions.

      • David Berger

        The solution is, as always, working with, in and around the working class. All this talk about elections obscures the fact that the task of socialists is precisely that.

        The electoral strategy of the group around here I’m going to call neo-social democrats alleges a strategy that includes:

        (a) running in Democratic Party primaries, losing, and refusing to support the winning candidate;
        (b) running in DP primaries, winning and … I presume blocking with Democrats, etc., to “govern” through the capitalist state;
        (c) running independent candidates as an organizing strategy;
        (d) running independent candidates, winning and … I presume blocking with Democrats, etc., to “govern” through the capitalist state.

        Only (c) corresponds to a socialist strategy. (a), (b) and (d) are social democracy.

        To paraphrase the National Rent-a-Car commercial: “Good luck neo-social democrats. Good luck.”

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

          Your name isn’t Morris.

          • David Berger

            You are being dishonest. Time to deal with your politics, Pham. You put ideas out and people are going to take you seriously and either praise or criticize them. If you can’t stand the heat, get 0ut of the kitchen.

        • J.B.

          I’m not sure what’s wrong with an all of the above strategy. One segment of the left doesn’t typically rise alone. Why would it be bad for the progressive Democrats to get stronger, and the independent Socialist left to get stronger, and Social Democarcy advocates to get stronger? Which of those kinds of strategies above you choose to use is going to depend on the political terrain of your particular area, and the amount of resources available to you. I contend that the Democratic Primaries are one area where A and or B would be worth considering. In places like Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis or Wisconsin, C and D are more viable. I simply can’t imagine a Socialist left growing without being part of a broader movement that grows more reformist tendencies as well. A seed shift in American political consciousness will require a variety of strategies at a variety of times, from a variety of perspectives. If this sort of tactic doesn’t appeal to you, then there are plenty of other tactics you can use for developing entirely independent organizations, which will play a vitally important role as well.

          • PatrickSMcNally

            No one would dispute that during an era when a future socialist Left grows that one should expect to see a splurge of reformist tendencies. The question is over whether or not working within the Democratic Party actually offers a strategy for advancing revolutionary politics, and if so how. Attempts by some Democrats to sound reformist are the flip side of Ron Paul talking as an antiwar candidate. If the economy worsens then one can expect to hear more reformist-sounding jargon.

            But the fact is that since the decline began in the early 1970s, capitalism has moved steadily away from all forms of substantive economic reformism. We have Dick Cheney willing to express a support for gay marriage rights before even barack Obama came out for it; the military happily expresses pride in its gay recruits; George Bush was willing to appoint a black woman like Condoleezza Rice to one of the highest offices in the country; on all non-economic fronts capitalism proceeds with reform. But in the economic domain we’ve had nothing but steady rollback for the last 4 decades.

            This is not just a casual fluctuation of policy. It is part of an embedded long-term trend within capitalism that is occurring on a global scale and will not be reversed by any of the capitalist parties. Communicating this fact to workers in order to pave the way for the eventual emergence of a real socialist party is at the heart of any real Leftist activity. How can running as a Democrat while proclaiming oneself a socialisr advance such an aim? I’d say that the inconsistency is too sharp for this to work.

            Since some have brought comparisons with the Euopean parliamentary systems it is worth pointing out that even here the essential problem is much the same. Yes, because of a parliamentary system France has been able to have both nominally Socialist & Communist parties. Britain has had a Labour Party. That has just created a different form in which workers have been stabbed in the back. While I wouldn’t be opposed to either a parliamentary reform or a graded-voting system where candidates are ranked by preference, people should not attribute too much to this.

            • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

              In my view. working among Democratic voters in primaries and general elections is a matter of tactics, not strategy. The strategy is for a popular front vs finance capital and war.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    First: i detest the term ‘greatest country on earth’ omg ~ i so wish i didn’t hear that Bernie says that ~ that’s almost an automatic Strike Three in my book!!! ~ i seriously have offered that debat to the former mayor and lap puppy for liberalism in Billings. i heard him say “we’re the greatest country on earth” that at then end of a talk at the local UU, and i wonder where in the world have you been dude…
    Anyway you are right Morris there is a big difference between the status quo dance and the dance of veils but not much. However you don’t have any evidence that rubbing elbos with Red and Blue slime (wish i didn’t have to use those colors in the perjoritive) will bring about ‘what kind of results’ what are the goals of working inside the party?
    Working inside the party, i get it; Some sort of clandestine #Occupy the Democratic Party/DNC/DLC and no one will notice?
    But if the PDA chpt’s there have cohesive coherent units Go For It ~ i’m not for destabilizing units that are Organizing. By all means ~ if you and they are agitating for better Social Justice and Economy ~ more power to you !
    Did Bernie really say that ??? plz say no.

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

      Judge a man by what he does, not what he says. Or we have learned nothing from Barack Obama, the man with a silver tongue and a silver drone?

      • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

        IE Obama-Crypto-fascist

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Bernie Sanders is the one who founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, together with Ron Dellums, DSA member as well as a Democrat. The CPC has currently produced the ‘Back-toWork’ Budget, now under attack by both the GOP and the center-right Dems.

    The beginning of wisdom about these matters is to see, as I noted above, that we really live under a six-party system with two labels. Once you awaken to that, your tasks before clearer.

  • http://revunity.org Matthew Andrews

    Bernie Sanders cut a deal with the Democratic Party to run unopposed for the Senate. I live in Vermont and I can assure you the Democratic Party supports him 100%. I can’t understand the point of view that one can be both imperialist and socialist. Let’s leave these blatant ideological contradictions to the far right. As someone earlier said, at least the far right gets big money for selling out. Part of what makes Bernie Sanders possible is the entire state of Vermont has a population of 626,000. You can’t just scale a model up and expect it to fit New York or California.

    For a bit of perspective, read what Liberty Union candidate, Peter Diamondstone wrote about Bernie Sanders in 2006:

    Not only has Bernard Sanders voted for HR 921, giving full support to Israel for its genocidal war on Palestinians and Lebanese, but Sanders has now opposed the resolution H con.R 450, calling for an immediate cease fire by both sides. Taken with Sanders’ cosponsorship of the so-called Iran Freedom Support Act, calling for another US dominated “regime change” of a democratically elected government in Iran, 53 tears after the last one, it seems that Sanders has blown his cover as a “peace candidate,” and is now openly a “chicken hawk.”

    Those who made excuses for Sanders’ vote on March 21, 2003, for the following resolution: “Congress expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the Nation== (1) to the President as Commander-in-Chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the on-going Global War on Terrorism,” can no longer expect those excuses to hold water.

    Even Sanders’ long time supporter, former Socialist Party presidential candidate in 1980 and 2000, David McReynolds, has now crossed over, and sent the following message to the Bernard Sanders Blog:

    “…. I regret, very much, because of your vote of support for the Israeli actions I would hope any friends and contacts of mine would not send you funds, nor give you
    their votes. That, too, is a kind of political pressure. The kind that politicians listen to…”

    David McReynolds, 7/23/06

    That was McReynolds’ response to Sanders’ support of Israel’s new war on Gaza and Lebanon, but since then Sanders has also even refused to support a cease fire.

    The late Will Miller, former long time friend of Sanders, 20+ years teaching philosophy at UVM, member of ch.57 Veterans for Peace, and non-violent socialist, has written about Sanders support of war and violence as a tool of US policy from 1990 to 1999..To read about, “Bernie the Bomber,” go to Will’s posthumous website,

    http://www.uvm.edu/%7Ewmiller/bbbw.html .

    Comradely,
    Peter Diamondstone

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

      So let’s replace him with a real socialist then, yes?

      • Brandy Baker

        Yes.

  • http://revunity.org Matthew Andrews

    At least Rand Paul had the decency to filibuster John Brennan’s confirmation to head the CIA. An insider of Bush’s torture regime and Obama’s drone program. Where was the “socialist” Sanders?

  • Nik

    Instead of replacing him with a socialist, why not replace socialism with capitalism. Electing senators isn’t going to do that.

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

      If you know of any examples of mass-based socialist movements in bourgeois democracies that did not elect officials and successfully replaced capitalism with socialism, please share.

      • David Berger

        If you know of any “mass-based socialist movements,” as opposed to social democratic or stalinist sell-outs, that cooperated in the governing of capitalism, please share.

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

          MAS in Bolivia, Chavismo in Venezuela, and hopefully SYRIZA in Greece soon.

          • David Berger

            These are examples of social democratic parties. Socialist parties do not prop up capitalism.

            But let’ s not argue about semantics. It’s obvious that your goal is a party that will participate in the governing of capitalism.

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

              The Bolsheviks helped the Tsar govern. They were in the Duma for years propping him up.

              • Aaron Aarons

                Running in an election for a parliament in order to use both the campaign and possible seats in said parliament as a forum to attack and expose the government is not the same, by a long shot, as being part of the government. That is so obvious, and made explicit so many times by Bolsheviks and other revolutionary leftists, that it is hard to believe that even Pham Binh could make such a statement.

                • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

                  One can even be part of government, and put the post to good use. We’re not put in any straight-jacket by whatever the RSDLP did or didn’t do, We should be so lucky as to have the problem as to what to do in government posts.

                • David Berger

                  This was precisely my point in the long quote about which describes exactly what the Bolsheviks did in the Duma. They were not there to prop up the Tsarist government. They were there to undermine and help overthrow it. To state as Pham Binh did that, “The Bolsheviks helped the Tsar govern. They were in the Duma for years propping him up.” is a lie.

  • Nik

    I don’t know any measure of success, because if you wait long enough it all winds up failing. I do know running into the same brick wall over and over is more likely to harm your head than the wall.

    • Brandy Baker

      Right, those who support dems on the left are definitely in the majority view: we don’t have to explain anything to them, they need to explain to us why things are worse and they keep doing the same thing.

  • Nik

    Someone explain to me what electing socialists, especially in the U.S., is going to do. In the early 20th century, countries had a chance to increase lifespan, literacy, and economic output through government policy. How is that going to happen here now? What would it mean if it did happen? Do the people who have the shortest lifespans, the lowest literacy rates, and the most health problems in the U.S. care about electing socialists? What solution is there to their problems that comes from electing someone?

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

      In other words, you don’t have an example.

      Putting socialists and revolutionaries into elected office as part and parcel of mass movements has been proven to be effective in Venezuela and Bolivia. There’s no changing the world without taking power.

      • David Berger

        Do you really think that the USA is equivalent to Bolivia and Venezuela and that a political strategy that is defensible there is defensible here?

        Wow!

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

          The only one talking about equivalence here is you.

      • Aaron Aarons

        “Putting socialists and revolutionaries into elected office”, where they became managers of the capitalist state, has, in almost every case, meant subordinating mass movements to the limits of capitalist legality and has thereby often undermined the ability of the workers and oppressed to prevent the rise of fascism. This happened, e.g., in France and Spain in the 1930’s and in Chile in 1970-73.

        In other places, supposed “socialists and revolutionaries” were only given a minor role in the capitalist state, making them complicit in the crimes of that state and eliminating any subversive potential of the movements they dominated. This happened in France after WWII, when ‘Communist’ government ministers shared responsibility for the Setif massacre in Algeria and for military action against their supposed comrades in Vietnam. And, of course, it would be hard to count the number of times ‘Labor’ governments in Europe, Australia, etc., have acted to directly suppress, or at least divert, domestic and foreign threats to capital.

        In almost every case, “putting socialists and revolutionaries into elected office” has helped stabilize capitalist rule. In cases that didn’t end with counter-revolutionary coups or the complete absorption of such alleged “socialists and revolutionaries” into the normal functioning of the capitalist state, the latter were discarded when they were no longer needed to keep the masses under control.

        • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

          This is just weird. How in the world thinking that electing a few socialists to political office in this country is going to have the force or impact to ‘stabilize capitalist rule’ is silly. Capitalism’s relative instability is caused by far larger forces than anything our teeny forces could put together in our widest dreams in the next decade.

          We should be so lucky as to have a few more Kuciniches, Barbarba Lees or John Lewises to put into office, or eve a few socialists. Far for ‘stabilizing’ capitalism, Barbara Lee’s solitary vote against invading Afghanistan was a clarion call for the antiwar forces.

          If you want to do politics with the big kids, it’s well past time to set aside subjective moralizing or grandiose notions of our ability to confer legitimacy on a system that already maintains considerable legitimacy all on its own. Our task is to find the cracks in it hegemony, and fashion the instruments that can help to widen them.

  • Brandy Baker

    People like Sanders, Dellums, the former Congressman Kucinich, etc are specifically kept around so that leftists will stay in the Democratic Party. Their base can ooh and ahhh over their leftist rhetoric, but their efforts, (i.e. the Progressive Caucus) have absolutely no effect because they are not willing to step outside of the system. These anti-war dems if they really wanted to make change would have said to the Democrats: “If you support this, we’ll register as Independents and you will, as a party, go right back into the minority.” That will never happen because the progs do not want to lose their positions and they think by just being there, they make a difference, they don’t.

    Playing with the Democrats is a losing game and it keeps us from building the movements that we need, you can see the denial in some of the arguments here as this article has attracted social democrats/dem partisans/Obama supporters.

    Finally, running in Dem primaries, I am not sure that will give us the visibility that the author claims. The mainstream media treats the far-right much better than the far-left. They ignore us and paint people like Sanders as “far-left” (sigh).

    In 2010, we had 10,000 people at the US Social Forum, at the same time, there was a convention with 600 Teabaggers. Teabaggers were all over the news: 200 journalists –one present for every three Teabaggers. USSF, zip in press coverage. Pat Buchanan gets a pundit gig, there is no left equivalent: and partisans like Maddow and Shultz do not count, they are no where as far to the left as Buchanan is to the right.

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

      The danger in any strategy is that you will get pulled by the forces you are temporarily aligned with in their direction instead of you pulling them in your direction. The far left in this country is positively allergic to:
      1) trying to become popular
      2) taking office within the capitalist state to fight the two parties and the corporations and
      3) making “dirty” compromises and working with, alongside of, and simultaneously against “dirty” opportunist forces like the Democratic Party

      Until we start to get over these three allergies, we’re going to maintain our morally spotless banner of principled irrelevance while the 1% beat the crap out of us and take our lunch money yet again.

      How we deal with the Democrats should be an open and not a closed question because there are times in American history when the current “thou shalt not get near Dems with a 20-foot pole” dogma that dominates left thinking these days would have resulted in sectarian stupidity: the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1963-1964 and Upton Sinclair’s surprise victory for the Democratic gubenatorial nomination in 1934. It would’ve been pretty ridiculous to accuse Fannie Lou Hamer of trying to co-opt the civil rights movement or Sinclair of trying to sucker the left into the Democratic Party since the party bosses got so pissed that he beat their man in the primaries they created a one-time only third party to siphon votes from their own nominee, handing the governor’s mansion to the Republicans.

      Right now, there are no formations that roughly equivalent to either of these examples, but to rule them out a priori as if they cannot and will not happen again would be a big mistake. If we accept Lenin’s dictum that the masses will only learn through their own bitter experience and not by propaganda alone, we have to be keep an eye on opposition movements within the ruling parties and figure out ways to engage them instead of dismissing them as irredeemably ignorant, stupid, bought off libtards/Paultards.

      • Brandy Baker

        I disagree about the far left not wanting to be popular or not making compromises. Far left outfits cheered the anti-Bush/pro-Obama sentiments in order to take a ride on the “Change” coattails, this faded and we got nothing out of it.

        The discourse was not so far to the right in those times and the Dems were not as bought off by corporate money. I would have voted for Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat, campaigned for her all the way had I been around back then.

        Of course circumstances change and practice should be flexible, but it is the defense of current day dem support that is dogmatic, a support them no matter what they do or how little the prog dems can accomplish or how much they compromise.

        In the current political climate, they don’t take our lunch money, we hand it to them.

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

          I think we’re talking about two different lefts. Among self-described revolutionary socialists, the pro-Obama crowd was the minority. The novelty of Occupy for this segment of the left was that it found a way to talk about class (99% vs 1%) that resonated with Americans on a mass scale by avoiding Marxist jargon (the proletariat) on the one hand and liberal obfuscation (“the middle class”) on the other. This left tends to be very Russia-centric, or China-centric, or Cuba-centric in its world view instead of anchoring itself firmly in this country’s revolutionary traditions and context as Chavez did in Venezuela.

          • Brandy Baker

            “This left tends to be very Russia-centric, or China-centric, or Cuba-centric”

            This is just a handful of people; many more are anarchists and independent socialists who were behind Occupy. And amongst those above that you mention, there is a pronounced break away from “Leninism” starting to happen thanks to this site and your work.

          • Aaron Aarons

            “This left tends to be very Russia-centric, or China-centric, or Cuba-centric in its world view instead of anchoring itself firmly in this country’s revolutionary traditions and context as Chavez did in Venezuela.”

            Leaving aside the special situation of Venezuela, with its oil wealth that could finance social programs without seriously hurting capitalist profits, what are “this country’s revolutionary traditions”? There were slave rebellions. There was the raid by John Brown and a small number of men on Harper’s Ferry in 1859. There were the fraggings of officers during the American War against Vietnam, which were objectively and, in some cases, subjectively, revolutionary, but I can’t think offhand of any other unambiguous manifestations (in particular, not contaminated by white supremacism) of supposed “revolutionary traditions” in the U.S..

            The main task of revolutionaries in the U.S. in relation to the country’s traditions is to expose and reject them.

            • http://communism.blogsport.eu negative potentail

              “but I can’t think offhand of any other unambiguous manifestations (in particular, not contaminated by white supremacism) of supposed “revolutionary traditions” in the U.S.”

              Uh, how about a little labor union by the name of the IWW, whose rejection of white supremacy was exemplary, and unequaled by any other organization of the working class?

              For more, see Part VII of Franklin Rosemont’s book “Joe Hill: The IWW & The Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture.”

              • Aaron Aarons

                Yes, the IWW was pretty good. I don’t want to imply that there has been nothing good in U.S. working-class history. But, as you say, their rejection of white supremacy was “unequaled by any other organization of the working class” in the U.S.. And, as the title of Rosemont’s book makes it clear that it was a ‘Counterculture’, as was the Communist Party and other, smaller, left groups. The dominant culture of the U.S. working class, and of most of the U.S. population, has always been national-chauvinist and, somewhat more ambiguously, white-supremacist.

                • http://communism.blogsport.eu negative potential

                  The dominant culture of pretty much every Western working class has been national chauvinist. Despite the efforts of Trotskyists to paint it as a mere failure of leadership, 1914 didn’t just fall from the sky.

                  Pointing out that the working class is national chauvinist as a rule is not some aberration that is supposed to discourage you from organizing. It’s a baseline condition that you accept and try to change.

            • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

              That’s the problem with your analysis, Aaron. You can’t find hardly anything worthwhile done by ‘backward Americans.’ Few of the bitter and hard-fought battles are pure enough for you.

              I use this approach. Divide our country’s history and traditions into two, the America of Empire and the America of popular democracy. In the later, you’ll find a wealth of progressive and even revolutionary activity undertaken by millions.

              If you can’t, then we share little, and shouldn’t be wasting each other’s time.

              • Aaron Aarons

                1) I never used the word ‘backward’ to describe American’s who are defending their unearned privileged positions in the world.

                2) Some “bitter and hard-fought battles” are worthy of praise and emulation, while others were fought in bad causes. Two examples of the latter were the so-called “American Revolution” and the war for Southern independence in 1861-65, both of which were led by slaveholders, although with far less pretense to the contrary in the latter case.

                3) What you call “our country” is, to me, the country I happen to have been born in. I have, in my lifetime, received a share of its largely stolen wealth, but that doesn’t make feel that it is ‘my country’.

                4) The “popular democracy” you refer to has included, in many cases going back to Bacon’s Rebellion, uprisings or mass movements against restrictions on the settlers’ aggressions against the native peoples.

                5) If there has been “a wealth of progressive and even revolutionary activity undertaken by millions”, such activity has never been a dominant aspect of United States politics.

                6) I don’t debate with you to waste my time or even yours, but to contest with you ideologically before whatever audience reads these pages. I presume your motivation for criticizing me here is the same.

                • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

                  You didn’t use the word ‘backward,’ but in assessing a political spectrum of radical forces, progressive forces, middle forces and backward forces, what word (or words) would you use?

                  For instance, I think much of the US working class is held back by two notions. One is that millions think they are ‘white’ when no ‘white race’ exists. It’s a social control construct that ties them to their exploiters.

                  (Which is also why the white-skin and great-nation privileges are not in their class interest, any more than the worm on the hook is in the interest of the fish.)

                  The second is cynicism. That’s the little cop in your head that tells you the rich are in charge, that you have no power and nothing can change. Only the first is true, the second and third are wrong, and demonstrably so.

                  There’s more of course, but those two will do for starters.

                  Of course the outlook of the imperialists is dominant. That’s what it means when you’re the ruling class, when you’re hegemonic. But our job is to find the cracks in the ceiling, widen them, and develop a counter-hegemonic force out of the classes and strata at hand.

                  If you think the majority of us, the American people, are benefiting from imperialism and living too high off the hog for any radical left insurgent outlook to develop, and we can only develop a small ‘fifth column’ for the third world until the system crashes from solely objective factors, you’ve painted yourself into an ideological corner, and unlikely to get very far, if anywhere at all.

                  • Aaron Aarons

                    Sorry for the delayed response, but here goes:

                    1) ” […] in assessing a political spectrum of radical forces, progressive forces, middle forces and backward forces, what word (or words) would you use?”

                    It is your presumption of such a linear spectrum of forces that I reject, along with the terms “backward” and “progressive”. For example, are the indigenous people of Oaxaca who are militantly resisting the construction of wind farms on their lands by large corporations “backward” for resisting “progressive” development and even, probably, “green jobs”? I don’t know, but I’m on their side. Are you?

                    My more general reason for rejecting the label “progressive” is the same as the reason for rejecting the abstract concept of “progress” without specification of the goal to which progress is being made. Failing this, one opens oneself to ruling-class mindfuck like “you can’t stop progress”.

                    2) “I think much of the US working class is held back by two notions. One is that millions think they are ‘white’ when no ‘white race’ exists. It’s a social control construct that ties them to their exploiters.

                    “(Which is also why the white-skin and great-nation privileges are not in their class interest, any more than the worm on the hook is in the interest of the fish.)”

                    ‘Whiteness’, a purely social construct, not only ties ‘white’ workers to their ‘exploiters’ but also ties them to the best-paying and safest jobs, and. along with imperialist-country citizenship, the opportunity to consume a wildly disproportionate share of the total of the world’s productivity and natural resources. In other words, they are tied to their employers as (very junior) partners in the ripping off of the value produced by the world’s proletariat.

                    (more to follow)

                  • Aaron Aarons

                    If you think the majority of us, the American people, are benefiting from imperialism and living too high off the hog for any radical left insurgent outlook to develop, and we can only develop a small ‘fifth column’ for the third world until the system crashes from solely objective factors, you’ve painted yourself into an ideological corner, and unlikely to get very far, if anywhere at all.

                    I don’t see the struggle inside the imperialist metropoles as being something separate from the various struggles against imperialism from outside. I don’t, however, see any possibility of a party in the U.S. or in any other imperialist country that opposes the ability of imperialism to maintain the international stratification of workers and other proletarians and semi-proletarians by extracting wealth from the neo-colonies — in other words, a party that places the interests of the global proletariat and other oppressed above the particular interests of the domestic working class and petty bourgeoisie — achieving enough support for the bourgeoisie to have to keep it out of power by unconstitutional means.

                    And, no, I don’t want to “develop a small ‘fifth column’ “, but as large and militant one as possible, and I want such a ‘fifth column’ to be an active factor in bringing about the “crash” or incremental collapse of the system of imperialist exploitation and, thus, of global capitalism. It will then be the job of the workers and peasants of the world, as capitalist power is weakened in various countries and regions, to build, with the help of leftists from the other classes, a new society on the ashes of the old.

                    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

                      You’ve turned a poor reading of Lenin into a dogma. The USA today, for instance, is a net debtor nation and importer of capital due to its trade imbalances. And my guess is that we trade far more with Canada and Europe than with the Third World. Read Keith Joseph’s interesting critique, and see how you might answer it….http://ouleft.sp-mesolite.tilted.net/?p=1076

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      My argument is not based on “a poor reading of Lenin” because it is not based on any reading of Lenin. The fact (presumably true) that the U.S. “is a net debtor nation” ignores the fact that the debt is denominated in U.S. dollars and thus doesn’t require any actual wealth for its repayment. And the possibility that the U.S. “trade[s] far more with Canada and Europe than with the Third World” is, aside from being little more significant than that New Jersey probably trades far more with New York or Pennsylvania than with Germany, also ignores the fact that imports from the “Third World” are priced much lower than they would be if they had to come from rich countries, thus greatly lowering the apparent value of trade with “Third World” countries and thus of the loot obtained from them.

  • Nik
  • Nik

    Of course I don’t have an example, just like you don’t have an example, and nobody has an example. Can you give examples of capitalism’s success? Sure, if your opinion is that it is successful. Could I bring up the Paris Commune or Spain as a measure of success? If I want to, but then you stretch the timeline out and it doesn’t pan out. Who knows where Venezuela will end up? We know where Cuba is now. It’s a juvenile argument to ask for proof of success in social conditions that don’t allow success.

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

      I gave examples: Venezuela under Chavez and Bolivia under Morales. Of course we don’t know where either will end up; it depends on the struggle, on who wins and who loses.

      I didn’t you for proof of success, I asked for an example. You’re welcome to deride contesting capitalist state power, but is there any other way to wrest power from the hands of neoliberal forces and stop them from wrecking what’s left of our social safety net?

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    I believe Sanders voted with Rand Paul vs the CIA chief.

  • Nik

    Sure. Dual power is one I could think of. Organizing workplaces is another. Running for local offices as a socialist and not a Democrat. Holding events that aren’t about party-building. Visiting jails. Fighting for schools.

  • Nik

    I think elections are certainly not the way to become popular, and are probably a quick way to become unpopular since the Left has no way to deliver on their promises if elected. Random historical events from the early 20th century are meaningless today, in a world of spectacle. My thing is that until we learn to abandon the formulaic adherence to things that may have worked in the past, and start using modern opportunities to organize, we’ll be stuck in the crypts.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Speaking to one of the key points in this thread, there are plenty of examples of people running in a Dem primary, losing, and refusing to support the winner.

    Harold Washington’s two campaigns in Chicago come to mind.

    In the first one, those he defeated in the primary supported the GOP candidate, Epton, who was a shill for the Dem machine. In the second, Harold defeated both Daley and Vrydoliak in the primary, and they went on to run against him on the Unity tcket and the Solidarity ticket respectively. So the Dems were split in three, but if you wanted to vote against the old Democratic machine of Daley and Vrydoliak, the onlt way to do it was to vote Democrat, which had become the instru…(Click title for more)ent of the Rainbow coalition.

    ‘Theory is grey; life is green’ –Lenin’s favorite quote from Goethe.

    • PatrickSMcNally

      The example you give is of a confirmed Democrat, Harold Washington, refusing to support a winner. That is pertinent to someone who really is committed (as Washington was) to working through the Democrats over the long haul. The issue here is something else. It is over whether or not a “French turn” way of politics could be used by socialists go into the Democratic Party, work for awhile within it while building up recruits to a socialist pole, and then breaking from it after a relatively short while to form a larger socialist party, without creating backlash effects that would out-weigh the expected gains. Washington’s case is inapplicable here.

      • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

        Harold was the primary winner. The losers, the regular Dems, refused to support HIM. They split from the party instead, albeit temporarily.

        • PatrickSMcNally

          So are you saying that white racists who were angry at seeing a black man voted in are somehow supposed to be an example of what a socialist Left could do?

          • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

            Hardly. I’m only making the point that there is nothing uncommon or inherently radical about running in the primary, losing and then refusing to back the winner. One should make those decisions on wider and more strategic concerns.

            It may be very proper to run a left candidate vs a center candidate, lose, and then back the center guy or gal running against some Tea Party jerk, especially if you have key allies, like the unions or the NAACP, that want you to lend a hand.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    precisely! Working INSIDE the party without a mandated outline of goals is in reality just a bunch of Progs on a lilly pad croaking for the system. i don’t see the CPC as doing anything substantial ~ how many DO NOT support Israhell? and say so?
    This isn’t the same as Working to get your Socialist choice on the ballot better still in the congress. (As per Carl Davidson’s endeavors)
    A little something special on the other moral eunuch in the Topic photo: Bernie Sanders… http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Nov06/Smith15.htm
    When i was involved with PDA ~ something-justice IOT – a nat’l group plotting to Impeach Bush ala D Kucinich ~ Bernie wanted nothing to do with Justice or Impeachment ~ whereas Conyers was and still is a fn’g Fish.

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      Too many here have strange ideas about ‘working INSIDE’ the Dems. You talk as if it’s some centralized, well organized mass organization, like a union local, with regular mass meetings and such.

      The reality is very different. What you really do is start and develop your own organization, with its own platform, with the participation of working-class Democratic voters at the base. You hardly ever even go to a regular Dem meeting, and often, they never even have them. If your group is strong enough, you can file for one of your own to run in the primary. If not, you get behind one who will agree with most of your platform and who is based among your close allies, the unions and the minority, and work to defeat the more backward people, in the primary and in the general. I’ve done this stuff for year, and I’ve never even taken part in a meeting of regular Dems.

      In you do your work well, everything you do–your lists, your meetings, your literature and website, all belong to your group and the workers within it. It DOES have mass meeting, events and takes part in mass actions, like antiwar efforts and other social protests. You’ll find some of the regular Dems coming to your meetings more often than those of their own, if they have any. You are building up a counter-force and counter program, on the working class side of the fault line in the Dem base.

      As for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, it’s current ‘Back to Work Budget’ is a perfect example of how to oppose the anti-job creation budgets of the Ryan GOP and the conciliated Senate Dems. It’s a platform for a popular front vs finance capital. The ‘Back to Work’ Budget is not likely to pass, but its an excellent standard to educate and develop a progressive majority, while exposing what’s wrong and backward with the ‘deals’ being proposed by the upper crust of both parties.

      I don’t even particularly like electoral politics. I can think of lots of things I’d rather do. And while I know we don’t get socialism by elections, I also know we must proceed THROUGH them until we exhaust them in the eyes of the masses.

  • jon in seattle

    Anybody advocating working within the Democrats has to explain in their premise why this time it will be different from past attempts to work within the Democratic Party: from labor’s marriage to the Democrats to the co-optation of the movements of the 60s to the Jackson and then Kuccinich campaigns.
    However, it is true that the melding of what should be working class organizations (from the unions to organizations of the oppressed from the NAACP to NOW) is a key conservatizing influence on politics in the US. How we break that conservatizing influence has to be part of any serious thinking.
    Myself, after spending years talking 3rd party politics to my union and getting burnt with the infighting and dysfunction of the Greens, I’m open to considering how “next time” playing with the Democrats will somehow be different. Convince me, or I’ll be abstaining from electoralism again.

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      Why is it different this time?

      First, the country is in a protracted and deep economic crisis, and the upper crust is only offering austerity vs austerity lite.

      Second, the six parties under two labels have never been more divided and at each others throats, at least since the 1960s.

      Third, the electorate itself is changed. One could argue, as Mike Davis has done, that 2012 was ‘the last white election.’ In the next ones, the minorities are likely to be the majority of voters.

      I could go on, but that should do for starters…

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

      This article does not advocate working within the Democratic Party in the sense of the Jackson and Kucinich campaigns.

      • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

        We would be lucky to do as well as either of them, even if they couldn’t go the full distance.

        • Louis Proyect
          • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

            The ‘Back to Work Budget’ of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is the basics of a ‘Green New Deal.’ It has about 80 votes out of 435 at the moment, and unless the crisis gets much deeper, which is possible, I don’t see it getting much more. Too many institutional forces opposed to it, even though it would save capitalism at the expense of Wall St and the militarist and carbon-burners, while strengthening the working class and it allies. So the answer is yes, theoretically, but practically, it’s a very tough slog.

      • David Berger

        You’re right. Supporting a DP candidate openly would at least be an honest act. What you are advocating: entering a DP primary, losing, and then refusing to support the winner, is politically dishonest.

        Are you going to announce that this is your strategy in advance? And should your candidate win, are you going to support that candidate on the DP line, the same line as every other imperialist, capitalist pimp?

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

          Thou shalt not lie to the bourgeoisie. It’s a commandment I’ll have to remember.

          • David Berger

            DAVID BERGER: Are you going to announce that this is your strategy in advance? And should your candidate win, are you going to support that candidate on the DP line, the same line as every other imperialist, capitalist pimp?

            PHAM BINH: Thou shalt not lie to the bourgeoisie. It’s a commandment I’ll have to remember.

            DAVID BERGER: What you need to remember is: “Thou shalt not lie to the working class.”

            If you are

            (1) running a candidate in a DP primary; and

            (2) you are committed not to support the winning candidate should your candidate lose; and

            (3) you have not disclosed this to the people who are voting; then

            (4) you are engaged in political dishonesty towards those working class people who are voting and wh0, presumably, you are trying to recruit to a socialist party of some sort.

            But I don’t think that really bothers you Pham.

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

              Who said anything about non-disclosure? Certainly not me. For someone who accuses everyone else of being politically dishonest, the least you could do is engage the arguments as they are actually presented rather than make stuff up.

  • David Berger

    PHAM BINH: Putting socialists and revolutionaries into elected office as part and parcel of mass movements has been proven to be effective in Venezuela and Bolivia. There’s no changing the world without taking power.

    DAVID BERGER: Do you really think that the USA is equivalent to Bolivia and Venezuela and that a political strategy that is defensible there is defensible here?

    PHAM BINH: The only one talking about equivalence here is you.

    DAVID BERGER: Well, Comrade, if you’re talking about a strategy for Venezuela and Bolivia that’s also applicable to the US, there must be some kind of equivalence?

    …..

    DAVID BERGER: It’s obvious that your goal is a party that will participate in the governing of capitalism.

    PHAM BINH: The Bolsheviks helped the Tsar govern. They were in the Duma for years propping him up.

    DAVID BERGER: Okay, I get it. You’ve actually launched your career in standup and this is part of your act.

    Here’s a sample of how “[t]The Bolsheviks helped the Tsar govern”:

    ____________

    The names of Bolshevik candidates could only be released a day or so before a vote, to prevent them being arrested or sacked. Despite this, all the candidates put forward to the electoral colleges from the workers’ curiae were Bolsheviks.

    The Bolsheviks put forward three key demands at this period; the democratic republic, the eight hour day and the confiscation of the landed estates. This was a programme for the destruction of the tsarist regime based on a revolutionary solution to the land question.

    In addition to the three strategic demands, the Bolsheviks argued for a whole series of partial reforms: freedom of assembly, freedom for trade unions to organise, freedom of speech. But the Mensheviks raised only these partial demands – not the full programme of revolutionary democracy. Instead of winning them votes, as they expected, the Mensheviks’ half hearted reformist programme lost them support among militant workers.

    Being a revolutionary delegate in a reactionary parliament was no easy matter for workers elected straight from the shop floor. Badayev in his book, Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma, talks of the nervousness they felt when they had to speak:
    “Each of us experienced great difficulty when making his first speech in the home of the Tsarist autocracy. It was a great strain to talk down the howling of the Black Hundreds, to fight against the continual interruption of the chairman, and, having described the political and economic enslavement of the working class, to challenge its oppressors.”

    Lenin summed up the difference between the future of the workers’ representatives and the other parliamentarians: “Some leave the Duma rostrum to become ministers, others, workers’ deputies, to become convicts.”

    The Bolsheviks used parliamentary procedure to the full to make the case for revolutionary socialist politics: they put questions to ministers; they framed Bills that had no chance of being passed. That was because they understood that the Duma – like all capitalist parliaments – could not change much: it had to be used as a soapbox to address wide layers of the working class.

    In April 1914 the deputies brought the Duma to a standstill by obstructing the budget. Each deputy was expelled from the chamber, but only after defending themselves at length and having to be physically removed by Duma guards. Outside Pravda organised strikes and demonstrations in their support.

    The MPs regularly formed the organising centre for collections for strikers. Using their immunity, the MPs would regularly address the strikers, demand to see and protest to the management, and denounce the police to their faces for their brutality.

    Not surprisingly this activity focused the hatred of the tsarist regime on the Bolshevik fraction. Within weeks of the outbreak of war in 1914 the police raided an underground Bolshevik conference and arrested the five remaining Bolshevik deputies. They were stripped of their immunity and charged with treason, having in their possession the Bolshevik declaration against the imperialist world war. All were sentenced to hard labour terms in Siberia, terms which were mercifully cut short by the outbreak of the 1917 February revolution.

    http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/2284

    _____

    DAVID BERGER: Just like you distorted Debs’s relationship with the Democrats, you’re distorting here. This is gross political dishonesty.

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      Pham Binh may have odd ideas about HOW to run in a Dem primary–as a socialist rather than as a representative of a pop front vs finance capital–but his understanding that we must proceed in a long march THROUGH these institutions is quite appropriate. How you think you are going to educate the working class and its allies to overthrow capitalism by avoiding the electoral system we have is what is truly bizarre.

      Here in Beaver County in Western PA, more than half of the workers vote GOP, save for African Americans, who vote 90% or more for the Dems. The progressive-minded white workers all vote for Dems, mainly because they hate the GOP more. They have few illusions about the Dems, and could probably teach all of us some things about them. But only 2% would go third party at this point, even though a candidate like Kucinich could win both the primary and the general.

      There is the politics of self-expression and then there’s the politics of strategy. In the first, running a campaign like Dan LaBotz did in Ohio and getting 2% in not so bad, if your aim was to gather up the names of the 25,000 people who gave him a vote and organize them. But if you want to the latter, ie, to unite a majority to win, or at least sting a right winger, in the primary or the general, you would do well to take PDA’s approach, try to find a pop front vs finance capital candidate.

      I work off the model that the Dems are going to implode along the lines of the Whigs in the 1850s, and shatter into four or more groupings. I’d like to be well positioned among the best elements of that breakup to make a new left party that would include them and others on the ‘outside.’ In non-insurrectionist conditions, I don’t see anything else that makes sense.

      But if you’re self-satisfied and happy with the politics of self-expression alone, go for it. Just stay out of the way of those of us trying something more challenging.

      • David Berger

        Carl, at this point I’m less concerned about Pham Binh’s strategy vis-a-vis the DP and more concerned that lies about historic events to try to prove his points. Given his knowledge if the history of the Bolsheviks, to use their actions in the Duna to justify entry into the government is falsifying history. And he’s done it before.

        • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

          He interprets the Bolsheviks in the Duma differently than you. So what? Many do. I recall the old SWP pamphlet, ‘Lenin as Election Campaign Manager,’ which was fairly interesting and first got me thinking about the matter long ago. In any case, whatever your interpretation of that period, it doesn’t mean all that much to us now. Save as an ‘appeal to authority,’ which should not be our method. Better to study the history of our own electoral system, going back at least to the implosion of the Whigs. Another useful period is the rise of the Nonpartisan Leagues in the Midwest, as well as Foster and Browder’s tactics in 1936, and the Progressive Party in 1948. There’s much more to learn from these, positive and negative, than the Duma.

      • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

        Organize.
        ..and as you state Carl the Demorats will likely splinter, some to bilges, some to warves, some turning into pigeons but if We are ready to accept the ‘fallout’ that aren’t such capitalist rats we can garner a modestly powerful entity.
        That day may not be that far away when the Socialists immigrate out of the Demorat pty comes to fruition. i dare say a war with Iran or China would prompt some exidus. Not that that is worth it at all just could be the catalyst… But for sure being ready for them is propitious.

        • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

          If the Dems were only ‘capitalist rats,’ why bother? But they include among their voters almost all African American voters, a majority of other oppressed nationalities, and the more progressive minded workers of all nationalities. PDA serves as our political instrument to connect with where these people see their political lives engaged. They don’t have to stay there, but that’s a starting point if you want to be engaged. It’s not the only point of engagement, but a fairly important one.

      • Louis Proyect

        Carl: “I work off the model that the Dems are going to implode along the lines of the Whigs in the 1850s, and shatter into four or more groupings.”

        And we work along the model that radicals should be creating something like the Republican Party, or more accurately the Free Soil Party or even before that the Liberty Party.

        Alan Maass: Many of Nader’s best-known liberal supporters in 2000 have turned against him this year, and he’s bound to get a smaller number of votes–maybe much smaller. Still, how do you think people will look back on these campaigns?

        Peter Camejo: I think Ralph Nader’s two races in 2000 and 2004–because the one in 1996 was just a token race–will be seen very much like the launching of the Liberty Party in 1840. It is the beginning of a voice that says we are no longer going to vote or support parties dominated by money that rule over and against the people. In the same manner, the Liberty Party said that we will no longer pick between two candidates who both support slavery–we will vote for candidates who are opposed to slavery.

        The Liberty Party had a much smaller vote than Nader got–even percentage-wise. Their total vote was 7,000 in their first race. But everyone traces the end of slavery to the appearance of the Liberty Party–as the break that began to create a current that would fight for control of the government to end slavery. It created a crisis for the currents that were still inside the Democratic Party. Many of them later joined with the Liberty abolitionists in the creation of the Free Soil Party and other formations, leading to the Republican Party.

        Nader’s break is the beginning of the idea that we should organize political forces to demand that the people take over the government, and not leave it in the hands of money. I think Nader’s name will be remembered for a long time as a force for democracy and for the rights of the people. And the people involved in lesser-evil campaigning–those who opposed his running–their names will be forgotten in history.

        No one can remember the names of the Whigs who told the abolitionists not to launch a third party. No one can name a single name among the people who were against the abolitionists, or remember any of the articles or anything that was printed against them. All they remember is the abolitionists.

        It’s the same for the National Woman’s Party organizing for the right to vote–when it said it wouldn’t support candidates who belong to a party that opposes the right of women to vote. The conservative wing of the suffragettes opposed them, and said they couldn’t do this–that they would help the Republicans and hurt the Democrats.

        But absolutely no one remembers those arguments. What people remember is the courage of the suffragettes who led the National Woman’s Party. Nader will be remembered in the same way.

        full: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Oct04/Maass1031.htm

        • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

          It’s precisely because ‘no one remembers’ that the period is worth studying, including all the local circles of young workers who made up much of the Free Soilers and then the GOP. not to mention where the nearly 100 locals of the First International placed themselves in regard to electing Lincoln. Then there’s the ‘Radical Abolitionists’ who met in Syracuse, including Brown and Douglass, who had their own differences with the Liberty Party and Garrison’s wing of the Abolitionists.

          Likewise, it would be worth studying Deb’s party, how it grew and fell, the Nonpartisan Leagues, how the CP ran against both parties in 1936, then the Dem convention of 1944, and how Henry Wallace lost his majority there, and whether the 1948 Progressive Party was a good idea, or not.

          Yes, we can look at Nader efforts, but the larger context is much richer.

          In any case, in the end we base ourselves on today’s conditions and relation of forces–that is, if we want to approach this from the politics of strategy, and not simply the politics of self-expression.

          • Louis Proyect

            Yes, we can look at Nader efforts, but the larger context is much richer.

            In some ways the context is identical. The Democratic Party of 1860 was a pro-slavery party. Today it is a pro-capitalist party. Actually, to be more accurate we have a one-party system today that should really be called the Democratic-Republican Party. Both parties are under the control of billionaires and absolutely committed to putting profit above human need. The statements made by the Progressive Caucus are simply intended to foster the illusion that some modicum of “the good old days” of capitalism resembling the Flint, Michigan of Michael Moore’s youth is possible. Both Moore and Davidson are running a scam operation to fool people into thinking this is possible in defiance of the reality of the current stage of capitalism in which the working class must be screwed. When I think about the clowns in the Progressive Caucus, including the ultra-Zionist Jerrold Nadler, I wonder how anybody can take this kind of “lesser evil” nonsense seriously nowadays.

            • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

              This is silly reductionism, Louis. I expected more from you. We all know there is no major socialist party, and the others are capitalist. So what else is new?

              That tells you very little about what’s going on, and the fights among them. That’s why I think my ‘six parties under two labels’ is far more accurate and explanatory.

              From your comments of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s ‘Back to Work Budget’, it’s apparent that you probably haven’t bothered to read it and think it through.

              Too bad. We need a more serious discussion.

              • Louis Proyect

                From your comments of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s ‘Back to Work Budget’, it’s apparent that you probably haven’t bothered to read it and think it through.

                Of course I have. They might as well call for socialism. Reform through the Democratic Party is not going to happen. There are structural reasons for this that should be plain as day to anybody with a smattering of Marxist economics. The post-WWII capitalist expansion ended 40 years ago and there will not be any “New Society” or “New Deal” or new anything. All that is on the agenda from the Democratic-Republican Party is an assault on the living standards of the American people. The only difference between the two factions of this plutocratic party is over the tempo. The Republicans are for going full steam ahead and the Democrats prefer a slower pace.

                Barack Obama:
                I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.

                He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s, and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people just tapped into — he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

                • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

                  You miss the point, Louis. I know the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget is not likely to pass. But unlike socialism, which at this time can only unite a militant minority, it has the capability of uniting a progressive majority, and thus heightening and sharpening the conflicts withing the Dems, and the GOP as well. Moreover, by taking aim at finance capital, in shows where the immediate adversary resides. It’s a pole for organizing and educating.

                  Besides, you have no way of predicting that this is the FINAL crisis of capitalism, from which there is no possible recovery. Have you fallen back into Leontiev’s old ‘General Crisis’ dogma? I think one is theoretically possible, if they did curb the forces blocking a Green New Deal. It’s just not likely. Racial equality is not likely under capitalism either, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to push it to the limit in fighting for it.

                  • Louis Proyect

                    I have no idea what you mean by “uniting a progressive majority”. There has been a liberal wing of the Democratic Party since I was a toddler. Back in the 1950s to mid-60s, it could deliver the goods. I would have opposed it all along but at least one could recognize that significant reforms could be won under capitalism, like Medicare–the system that allows me to not even make a co-payment at my eye-doctor. But the handwriting has been on the wall since the Carter (life is not fair) administration. The bourgeoisie is united on dismantling the welfare state. Sometimes the Democrats can get things done that the Republicans can’t, like Clinton’s assault on aid to dependent children.

                    Your efforts are based on a lie, that genuine reforms can be won by supporting Democrats. Or maybe, to give you the benefit of a doubt, you argue that they are not as bad as the Republicans. “Lesser evil” politics has nothing to do with Marxism, as I think everyone here understands. In your clearer moments, you probably understand that yourself.

                    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

                      You have no idea of what a progressive majority is? That’s odd. I have a very clear idea of who they are in the county I work in–they support HR 676, oppose the wars, support a Green New Deal, especially putting people to work who need it most, women’s rights and debt relief for students. In our mass work getting these measures supported in unions and city and county bodies, we can get majority support on all of them.

                      And again, you’re being needlessly reductionist. We all know most reforms are won via all sort of campaigns and mass struggles, and when sufficient forces are mobilized, it’s usually, but not always, Democrats that sign them into law, even if distorted and temporary. That hardly reduces to a formula, ‘genuine reforms are won by supporting Democrats.’ We’re all grownups here, Louis. You need a better level of argument.

                      As for Marxism not having anything to do with the ‘lesser evil,’ are you kidding? From Marx onward, you can find dozens of examples. I won’t even bother to cite any, they are so well known.

                  • PatrickSMcNally

                    One should distinguish between “crisis” and “decline” as two different concepts here. Young healthy people can go through a crisis in their teenage years or in their 30s or 40s, and then a healthy person may come out of the crisis and appear more dynamic than before. Decline may start incrementally in someone’s 50s and then stretch out over decades as a person is still able to walk but becomes more and more aware of their limitations. Capitalism experienced many crises in its youth, but came out more vibrant than before. Capitalism has also seen crises in the last few decades at times such as 1931, 1987, and 2008, to name a few. But capitalism has been showing clear uninterrupted signs of decline for more than 4 decades now. That does not necessarily signify a final crisis anytime soon. But it certainly does shape the prospects of any hypothetical capitalist reform which touches economic issues.

  • Nik

    The problem is that progressivism is designed to preserve capitalism.

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      Not really. It’s designed to try to meet peoples needs by pushing the system to its limits, and no really knows where the limits are. But even if it were so, so what? It’s still a sea for revolutionaries to swim and work within. The communists are always a minority, even under socialism. But history is made by the masses–left, progressive, middle, center, what have you. That’s why we have the united front, as well as the parties and the means of self-defense.

  • Nik

    It definitely is.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    to whon is attributed the poetry pc “Fury said to a Mouse”

    • Joe Vaughan

      Lewis Carroll.

  • Nik

    Well, that’s the difference with capitalist parties, isn’t it? The voters are not the party and all Democrats are aimed towards one goal, thus making entryism a poor decision all around.

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      ‘Entryism’ makes it sound like there’s something to enter. There isn’t, at least not in any normal sense. The ‘Democratic Party’ is a network of contending clusters and coalitions–with banks, lawyers and media moguls at the top levers of power. In brief, it’s not even a party in the European sense. Neither is the GOP for that matter. So istead of borrowing language from the ‘French turn’ in Europe, study up on our own history and the nature of our own system.

      • Joe Vaughan

        That’s a very good point. The whole mode of existence of an American political party is different from that of parties in the traditional European sense, which is one reason why the United States left, however it may strive to surpass traditional “Leninism” can’t ignore the history of Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution entirely.

        I have to add if anyone is paying attention that I know from past experience that nobody is more aware of these matters than Pham Binh, and that by saying this I am not subscribing to any sort of pile-on regarding “entryism.” This really is an area for exploration as much as controversy, if not more so.

  • Dave R.

    One cannot vote — or tax — the capitalist class out of power. Any semblance of free and open elections will be shut down tight long before revolutionary socialists begin to top the polls. Contesting elections in the imperialist epoch will never be about a seat at the table, but will only be concerned with how to re-set the table, from top to bottom. Elections are excellent opportunities to reach out to the working people and their allies with a message of solidarity, socialism and worker’s power, and to use the electoral podium as a way to organize popular resistance. Dual power, which will include governing structures controlled by the producing masses will be in place as we approach the final conflict.

    • Aaron Aarons

      I think it’s necessary to add to your valid points the observation that “the producing masses”, i.e., those who produce the material goods consumed by the U.S. population, can’t vote in U.S. elections, either because they do not live and work in the U.S. or, in a smaller number of cases, because they live and work here but are not U.S. citizens and not likely to be able, even if they wish, to become such.

  • Nik

    Piggybacking on that, the capital for the “progressive” reforms simply doesn’t exist anymore in capitalism. Capitalist economists and the CEOs and bankers who fund their research realize this and have the media control to spread the doom and gloom message a lot better than progressives do.

  • Dave R.

    As long as you adhere to three simple rules you will be fine. Don’t cross picket lines, don’t vote for Democrats or Republicans and don’t date cops.

  • David Berger

    So much for the so-called Progressive Democrats in Congress. They don’t even have the guts to take a clear stand on social security cuts.

    Nevertheless, it does not bode well that only 34 percent of CPC members have signed on to the Grayson letter. That suggests that some caucus members are prepared to vote for some form of benefit cuts. What’s more, the discrepancy in numbers between the two letters undermines the bargaining power of the signatories to the more moderate one. Consequently, when the White House, Republicans and Democrats negotiate the details of any potential “grand bargain,” they might have reason to question the CPC’s opposition to Social Security cuts—particularly given the caucus’s track record.

    http://inthesetimes.com/article/14715/taking_a_stand

  • Nik

    Keystone XL just passed with overwhelming Dem support as well. Good to know the world will end before the progressives can finish their big plan.

  • Aaron Aarons

    The fundamental flaw in most of the arguments here is that they are based on the idea that socialists should orient toward winning a majority of the U.S. population to their side. Such an orientation means, if taken seriously, adaptation to ‘American’ chauvinism, including to the ‘right’ of workers in the U.S. to maintain their privileged levels of material consumption relative to the workers and the oppressed petty bourgeoisie of most of the world, and at the expense of the global ecosystem. It also means going along with the reactionary idea that “job creation” is a criterion for support for an activity, even if the overall effect of such activity is harmful to the planet and its peoples.

    The point is that socialist politics in an imperialist country should be subversive and should be against the narrow material interests, except perhaps in the very long term, not only of the bourgeoisie of that country but also of large sections of the waged and salaried strata of its population. In other words, it should base its positions not on what is acceptable to the majority of the imperialist-country population (and therefore might win major elections), but on what is in the interest of the peoples of the world, including of the environment life depends on.

  • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

    Hmm… So I’m to go among the unemployed and under-employed workers around here, ad oppose ‘reactionary’ notions of job creation’? We already have an outfit doing that. It’s called the ‘Tea Party. Sorry, but this line died wit the Weather Underground, even if there are a few who would bring it back as some sort of Zombie

    • Aaron Aarons

      The difference is quite clear. Does one start, as I am trying to do, with an understanding of the nature of the imperialist capitalist world order, including the privileged positions of most sections of the U.S. population within that order, and place the struggle against that global order at the forefront of one’s politics? If you do this, your propaganda is based on winning a portion of the U.S. population to such a perspective and your agitation must be based on slogans and demands that are at least consistent with the overall goal.

      Or does one start, as most of what passes for the “left” in the U.S. does, with the question of what propaganda and agitation will win substantial, and eventually majority, support within the U.S. population, particularly the part of that population that relies mainly on wages and salaries for its material consumption, regardless of the effect of such propaganda and agitation on the overall struggle against the environment-destroying, peoples-destroying imperial order?

    • Aaron Aarons

      BTW, it is the right wing that tries to prettify rich people by calling them “job creators”. The reformist left accepts the premise that creation of jobs is a desirable thing in itself, while disagreeing (probably correctly) that policies that favor so-called “job creators” actually create jobs.

      Part of any genuine anti-capitalist politics is the understanding that a harmful or wasteful activity doesn’t become less harmful or wasteful when one person pays another to do it. While it is necessary to oppose capitalist policies that create unpaid unemployment, as well as to oppose, and certainly not advocate for, policies that create socially harmful employment. We should always be exposing and denouncing the capitalist doctrine that more production of material goods and services (i.e., a higher GDP) is in itself a good thing, regardless of the nature of such goods and services and who receives them.

      • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

        There is nothing wasteful or harmful about clean energy and green manufacturing, the heart of the ‘Green New Deal’, the core job creation program being advocated by the CPC, unions and others. If you have a critique of it, make one. But straw men arguments are useless, other than what they reveal about you.

  • VulcanTourist

    The Democratic Party HAD such a candidate once: Dennis Kucinich. They don’t have him now because he got sick of being the ping-pong ball and wanted to be the paddle for a while… so now he’s running his own super-PAC. :-/

    • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

      This a odd Kucinich lost his seat because of GOP redistricting. It helps to get you facts straight if you want a decent discussion.

      • VulcanTourist

        And you think that doesn’t qualify as an instance of “being the ball” in a political game? I knew exactly how he lost his Congressional seat. If you want to split hairs, it wasn’t the gerrymandering that technically lost him his seat: it was his loss to another Democrat in a resulting election. If you had desired a decent discussion yourself, you might have started by offering something I didn’t already know.

        Kucinich got sick of being opposed not only by an opposing party but his own declared party. Time and time again the Democratic Party leadership outright opposed his efforts: preventing wars, impeachment, single-payer health care, ad nauseum. What did his party do to stop the gerrymandering and help him preserve his seat? I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been quietly relieved to have an excuse to exercise influence from outside and get away from all the backstabbing.

        • http://ouleft.org Carl Davidson

          You’re making my wider point, Vulcan. We don’t have a two-party system, and the Dems aren’t a party is any usual sense. Better to see that we have a six party system with two labels. Then it’s very easy to explain what happened to Kucinich when four of the six parties ganged up on him.

  • VulcanTourist

    Now you’re making my wider point: he’s too socialistic for all of them. The common good actually matters to him, and his actions consistently demonstrated it. Nearly all the rest are hypocrites.

  • http://williamsstudiogallery.com Darwin26

    i agree with the pitch by Aaron, but would like to make a note of how close we were to driving a near lethal or lethal blow to the establishment in particular the Health Insurance Cartel.
    When it came up Single Payer/Universal Health Care HR 676 ~ ImprovedMedicare for All it was pushed off the table and the only socilist soldiers were thrown into jail by Max AIG/GE Baucus. Had more ppl pushed harder we might be seeing the Capitalist system crumbling faster… for if we had Medicare for All we’d not need the Insurance Cartel… which is sutured to all the other cartels. They’d still exist for ‘elective’ stuff and as an add on for the rich an famous.
    But my point is that from time to time we have opportunites to cut the throat of Capitalism and we must unify and make it happen. i was livid and beside myself as Baucus jailed the PHNP for demanding Single Payer. It’s a crying shame that more folks didn’t realize the opportunity to crush a corner stone of Capitalism was in our hands. It was evident then as now our lives are controlled by the %1.
    Consummerism is the rule at this point. This is the talk ‘n trade of Capitalism as and it owns the Working Class. Only a war with China which would mean NO Xmas will wake up the Consummers.

    So it

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