Intro: Video Socialism at the Ballot Box (plus a short note on tactics)
I highly recommend watching this video. The comments of both Alan Akrivos of Socialist Alternative and Jen Roesch of the International Socialist Organization were encouraging in their nonsectarian tone and attitude. It seems to me that we are at a pivotal juncture for the US left. There is an opportunity for us to get ourselves out of the old habits and patterns of the past and build anew. (Watch to the discussion at the end. I found the comments of Dan LaBotz particularly useful. This victory belongs to all of us.)
Flowing from the mobilizations of the recent past — Wisconsin, the struggles of the ILWU and at Republic Windows and doors, recent fast food strikes and protests and, most importantly, Occupy — the electoral campaigns of Kshama Sawant and Ty Moore mark a real change in the political situation. Polls show high positive attitudes towards socialism amongst the US population, particularly young people is something we have to take seriously. The US left has an opportunity to become a real force amongst workers and oppressed people, but we have to overcome the sectarian habits of the past. This is a test. Will we pass or fail.?
Of course, election campaigns are a tactic and not the end in themselves. Electoral campaigns must necessarily be combined with mass movements and not just pay lip service to them. At the risk of stating the obvious, perhaps a couple of next steps occur to me. Let’s build a true united front campaign around the fight for a $15/hr minimum wage.
Sometimes you have to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. My former group, Socialist Action, did this in the antiwar movement, when they helped initiate the National Assembly (later UNAC) antiwar conference in Cleveland. There’s always a risk involved but audacity is required to get ourselves beyond business as usual.
Perhaps, some of the groups on the left (ISO, SALT, others) could think in terms of a national or regional fightback/economic justice activist conference(s)? There has already been such a conference -the Emergency Labor Network– but perhaps with more forces on board such a conference could help shift things in the right direction?
While we are on the question of tactics, I recently read a piece by Solidarity leader Joaquin B. arguing for the Left to adopt the organizing model of the Philly Socialists. The PS just completed their annual congress and are in the process of forming branches in different parts of the city. Their approach isn’t traditional, but “tradition” has served us that well. They do a lot of “serve the people” projects in the spirit of the Black Panther Party — community gardens, teaching English skills to immigrants, etc.
Certainly the Trotskyist tradition hasn’t had a positive take on serve the people organizing. What I would argue is that elections, serve the people projects and mass political struggles are not necessarily counterposed but potentially can be parts of a rounded revolutionary orientation.
“The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement…” The Communist Manifesto