Following Up, or Down By S. Artesian

15 March 2017 — Anti-Capital

An audio version of this article is available on SoundCloud

The editors over at The North Star are inviting readers to submit responses to ten (10) smoldering sub-sections of the single, eternally burning question for our movement:  What Is To Be Done?

As much as this may sound like virtual Leninism, it isn’t; nothing Lenin did was virtual.

Indeed, TNS claims a pedigree, with papers to prove it, of being a departure from “Leninist orthodoxy.”

TNS finds its inspiration, mainly, in the work of the late Peter Camejo, former Green Party candidate for vice-president (part-time), and investment adviser (full-time).  “Socially-responsible investing” was Pete’s shtick (as some would say on the Street), and he supposedly did it well.

Here are the Big Ten:

1. What is Trumpism?

Is Donald Trump a fascist? What are the class forces that constitute his base of support both at the top and the bottom? Under what circumstances can we see a break with bourgeois democracy? A massive terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11?

2.War and Peace 

What are the prospects for new wars that were perhaps not fully anticipated when Trump campaigned as an “isolationist” determined to keep the USA from disasters like the invasion of Iraq? Are the threats against China and Iran to be taken seriously? Does the CIA intervention against Michael Flynn indicate that the “Deep State” is anxious to maintain the New Cold War against Russia that begin under Obama and that Hillary Clinton supported?

3.The working class and the trade unions 

Trump has begun orienting to a wing of the labor movement that might be enticed by his protectionism and support for pipelines that supposedly will provide jobs for construction workers. What kind of strategy will be necessary for a counter-mobilization, especially in the context of a labor movement on the defensive overall?

4.Class versus Identity

It has been argued that Trump defeated Clinton because she alienated white workers with “identity politics”. Is this a valid concern? Is there a way to resolve the contradiction between these supposed opposites on a higher level?

5.Tactics 

Since the viral video of Richard Spencer getting punched and the Berkeley black bloc intervention, there have been debates about whether this kind of “antifascism” helps or hinders the left. Is there a place for property destruction and street fighting in the broader movement? Does a “diversity of tactics” represent a compromise between those who favor mass action and those who seek opportunities to fight the police? Is there a legitimate need for preventing people like Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking in public?

6.Deep State 

Does the CIA move against Michael Flynn indicate that the USA is plagued by a deep state that might even stage a coup to sustain its goals? Was the resignation of Flynn a mini-coup? How does the premise of a deep state relate to traditional Marxist understandings of the state as found in Marx and Lenin?

7.Electoral politics 

Despite the recognition that Jill Stein received in the 2016 election, has the Green Party reached an impasse? Will it ever be able to constitute itself as an independent radical party when so many key players continue to straddle the fence between the GPUS and the Democrats, as was indicated by Stein’s fundraising for a recount that clearly served DP interests? Can the GPUS become a membership party of the sort that Howie Hawkins and Bruce Dixon advocate? Or, is the Sanders campaign indicate the wave of the future with the prospects of an ongoing Political Revolution transforming the Democratic Party?

8.Prospects for socialist organizing

The DSA has enjoyed significant growth after Trump began pushing through his reactionary policies. Is it possible that for many young people, it is the only alternative to the sects that continue to see themselves as the nucleus of a vanguard party? With the parallel growth of the influence of Jacobin, is this the wave of the near-term future? Are there possibilities for grass roots groups like Philly Socialists to network with other such groups to begin the process of building a new revolutionary left?

9.Prospects for broad left formations 

Is there a basis for an American Podemos, Die Linke or Syriza?  Leaving aside the failure of Syriza to meet the expectations of the international left, do such parties still offer a way forward for those trying to build significant anti-capitalist parties that contest for electoral power as well as build mass actions?  Does a failure to spell out an explicitly revolutionary socialist program in and of itself mean that such groups are preordained to become class collaborationist?

10. Class consciousness 

The entire premise of Marxism and socialist revolution has been based on the revolutionary potential of the working class. In the USA today, are there any sectors of the working class that are ready to break with the capitalist system in the same fashion as those who joined Eugene V. Debs’s party over 100 years ago? What will be required to transform the simmering discontent with the status quo into a fighting spirit that will be willing to go all the way? This is the question that will face the left for the foreseeable future given the dynamics of class formation in the USA.

Always willing, eager even, to add my $.02, particularly where it’s not wanted, I thought I’d take a stab at some answers.

“Is this a dagger that I see before me,The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.”

Q1a: Is Donald Trump a fascist?

A: Precisely to the degree that Bernie Sanders is a “socialist,” that is to say that using or obscuring the label isn’t the issue.   The issue is what forces are being expressed, “quickened”– by Trump.  Is capitalism fascist?  Not always, but sooner or later, right?  Now we’re getting to the sooner.

Q1b:  What are the class forces that constitute his base of support both at the top and the bottom?

A: Bit of an oxymoron, no?  “base of support…. at the top”?  Anyway Trump’s “base” is the base the Reps have been courting for 50 years– the South, the panicked petty-bourgeoisie ever so eager to carry the bourgeoisie’s water.  The degrees of separation between David Koch and Steve Bannon don’t prevent the former from accommodating to the latter.

Remaining questions in section 1 are speculative and not worth the time..

Q2a: What are the prospects for new wars that were perhaps not fully anticipated when Trump campaigned as an “isolationist” determined to keep the USA from disasters like the invasion of Iraq?

A: the same as they were when everyone thought Hillary would win.

Q2bAre the threats against China and Iran to be taken seriously?

A: Sure.  Watch the price of oil….when it tanks again, you can bet something’s going to happen.

Remaining question in section is speculative.

Q3:  What kind of strategy will be necessary for a counter-mobilization, especially in the context of a labor movement on the defensive overall?

A: Bourgeoisie have practically “super-imposed” voter suppression and attacks on immigrants over an existing “right-to-work” (anti-union) template.  The counter-mobilization has to be a mobilization against all three.

Q4a:  It has been argued that Trump defeated Clinton because she alienated white workers with “identity politics.” Is this a valid concern?

A:  No.  First that’s not why Trump defeated Clinton, as if Hillary herself alienated white workers by being……Hillary, or by being a Wall Street Democrat.  To even talk about Trump’s victory as somehow being connected with “alienation of white working class”  without analyzing how racism is fundamental to that “alienation” is absurd.  Secondly, the support Trump received in Wisconsin, Michigan, etc. was a convergence of support from suburbs with that from rural areas, with voting power heavily skewered toward rural areas.  I don’t know how anyone abstracts white support for Trump’s “bring back the jobs” FROM the handmaiden of that protectionism– racism, anti-immigrant nationalism.

Q4b: Is there a way to resolve the contradiction between these supposed opposites on a higher level?

A:  Sure thing: by having those same workers and labor organizations that pledged to “work with Trump” defend immigrant workers; for example, take actions to block ICE round-ups. Not gonna happen?  Not yet.  Does it have to happen?  That’s the key.  I think the answer is yes.

Q5a:  Is there a place for property destruction and street fighting in the broader movement?

A:  Why is this even a question?  If revolution is the historical necessary to abolish capitalism, then certainly there is that place;  there are those places.  If something else other than revolution can abolish capitalism, then maybe you get a different answer.  Is property destruction and street fighting always the right tactic?  Of course not.   Is it always the wrong tactic?  Of course not. When the police attack, if you’ve got the numbers and the organization, you fight back, right?

Q5b:  Is there a legitimate need for preventing people like Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking in public?

A: This is a different question, and this gets a different answer:  There is ALWAYS the need to prevent Nazis from speaking, demonstrating in public.  Nazis flourish when and where they can intimidate. Mass actions to disrupt fascists are always the right tactic.

Q6– see above response re speculation–

Q7a:  Despite the recognition that Jill Stein received in the 2016 election, has the Green Party reached an impasse?

A: The Green Party hasn’t reached an impasse.  The Green Party is (part of) the impasse.

Q7b,c:  Will it ever be able to constitute itself as an independent radical party when so many key players continue to straddle the fence between the GPUS and the Democrats, as was indicated by Stein’s fundraising for a recount that clearly served DP interests. Can the GPUS become a membership party of the sort that Howie Hawkins and Bruce Dixon advocate?

A:  Answer already provided in the question:  of course not.

Q7d:  Or, is the Sanders campaign indicate the wave of the future with the prospects of an ongoing Political Revolution transforming the Democratic Party?

A: Ah…now we get it.  It’s about a “political revolution” to transform the Democratic Party.  That’s “the wave of the future”?    Note: TNS  distinguishing, isolating “political revolution” from the economic base, from the mode of accumulation, and thereby dismissing the need for social revolution.  Note: TNS is not asking if transforming the Democratic Party is necessary, possible, or even desirable.  This qualifies the relation of TNS  to revolution: it’s exactly like the relation of “socially responsible investing” to socialism.  The relation is that of antagonism, opposition.

 Mitterrand était; Mitterrand est; Mitterrand sera! 

Q8a:  Is it possible that for many young people, it is the only alternative to the sects that continue to see themselves as the nucleus of a vanguard party?

A: Sure

Q8b:  With the parallel growth of the influence of Jacobin, is this the wave of the near-term future?

A: I don’t know what the influence of Jacobin is, but let’s grant the point.  Then clearly, empirically the question has been answered in the positive.  But so what?  What prospect does Jacobin offer for the transformation of that “wave,” for the wave breaking beyond the shoreline?  For doing something other than feeding back into the same-old, same-old?

Q9a: Is there a basis for an American Podemos, Die Linke or Syriza?

A: Reflex answer:  Christ, I hope not.  Second thought answer: Sure thing. If we had a more sophisticated movement, and deeper struggle, we’d have more sophisticated and deeper attempts at recuperation, which Podemos, Die Linke, Syriza are.

Q9b: Leaving aside the failure of Syriza to meet the expectations of the international left, do such parties still offer a way forward for those trying to build significant anti-capitalist parties that contest for electoral power as well as build mass actions?

A: Priceless, hilarious, and pathetic.  Tell me, exactly how is it possible to “leave aside the failure of Syriza” when assessing if such parties “offer a way forward”?  Are you kidding me?  Do we look like we just fell off a truck of pumpkins? Doesn’t the very posing of the question place it right into the “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?” category? How is it possible to assess the prospects for anti-capitalist organization if we ignore the failures of organizations that are not now, nor never were, anti-capitalist?  This isn’t even akin to “socially responsible investing” on the sliding scale of bogus leftism.  It’s right up, or down, there with Madoff-ism.  Right…ignore the failure, have faith… and invest more money.

Q9c:  Does a failure to spell out an explicitly revolutionary socialist program in and of itself mean that such groups are preordained to become class collaborationist?

A.  First off, such groups don’t just fail to spell out an explicitly revolutionary socialist program, they explicitly spell out a non-revolutionary, anti-class based program.   Secondly……….yes.

Question 10: Look, that’s the issue that informs all the previous questions.  TNS wants to be able to justify its open embrace of “political revolution” to “transform the Democratic Party.”  And it wants to point to an “eclipse” of the prospects of proletarian revolution as some sort of quasi-Marxist historical materialist basis for that embrace.  Everything else TNS pretends at, and pretends is the right word, is ……..bullshit.  Just like socially-responsible investing.

March 12, 2017


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Posted 15th March 2017 by InI in category "Capitalism

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