“Progressive” Democrats: Learning from the past

The place was West Palm Beach, Florida and the date was mid November of 2000. Jane McAlevey had been sent there by the AFL-CIO to organize against the Bush team’s election fraud, the same fraud that resulted in his becoming president. She got a message from her bosses, regarding a mass march being planned against this fraud.

The Bush “recount” in Florida in 2000. He “won” by under 500 votes, but the whole vote was a fraud. The Democrats and the union leadership refused to mobilize to stop this fraud.

“The Gore campaign has made the decision that this is not the image they want. They don’t want to protest. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to seem like they don’t have faith in the legal system…” McAlevey carried out the orders and helped sabotage any movement in the streets even though she disagreed with the strategy. (From her book, “Raising Expectations [and Raising Hell])

We all know how well the strategy of having faith in the legal system worked out. George Bush became the 43rd president.

Trump with his nominee for Supreme Court, Brett Kananaugh

Trump moving towards one-man rule
Fast forward to July, 2018. Trump is in office. He’s totally taken over the preferred party of the US capitalist class and, through that, the Republican-controlled congress. With his nomination of Kavanaugh, he’s on course to take over  the US Supreme Court, assuming that nomination is approved as is almost certain. However, he’s also in a tight spot, with the Mueller investigation closing in and the mainstream of the US capitalist class increasingly agitated. they’re even beginning to reveal his role as a money launderer for the Russian mafia – something that has been public information for over a year but largely hushed over up until now.

Can he afford to lose control of congress through losing the Republican majority? It seems the answer is “no”. He, himself, seems to be getting ready to use any means, “fair” or foul to prevent that.

Trump speaking in Montana this July. We need to take his words seriously.

Consider what he said at his July 5 speech in Montana. “A vote for the Democrats in November is a vote to let MS-13 run wild in our communities…. Democrats want anarchy, they really do, and they don’t know who they’re playing with, folks.”  If we have learned anything about Trump, it’s to take his words seriously. Here he is, already justifying a possible rerun of Florida 2000, but on a national scale.

It’s far from certain that that will happen, but we can’t discount the possibility.

If it does, what will be the results? It seems most likely that there will be mass protests across the United States. In this case, it seems unlikely that even the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party will be able to squelch it this time. Nor will the union leadership be able to. In fact, they might actually join in, but they will do so in order to prevent such protests from being really effective. Consider one question:

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.
No hint of struggle.

Shut down the jobs
Will such protests try to shut down the major work places? Will there be a campaign to encourage workers to walk off their jobs? There certainly should be. If so, the union leadership, representing both “their” employers and the Democratic Party, will oppose anything of the sort. There will be an all-out campaign to keep any protests politically safe, legal and non-disruptive. Where will the “progressive” Democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez stand?

Ocasio-Cortez having friendly chat with self-described center-right Margaret Hoover

The recent PBS interview with Ocasio-Cortez is an indication. It’s not just that she walked back her criticisms of the racist State of Israel. Maybe more important was her entire attitude towards the interviewer, Margaret Hoover, who described herself as “center-right”. Throughout the interview, Ocasio-Cortez tried to find common ground with this center-rightist. At one point she completely agreed that she’d be “learning” from her fellow Democrats, and maybe some Republicans, when (if) she gets to Washington. Key was her comment that she does not intend to be “antagonistic” to the representatives of big business. In the context of her cozying up to Hoover and her expressed desire to “learn” from these representatives in Washington, this can only mean that she will try to get along with the representatives of the enemy, rather than confront them.

The photo of Sanders yucking it up with Pelosi and John McCain is a visible reminder of the same thing from him.

Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi and John McCain enjoying each others’ company at the Trump inauguration

So, what will these “progressive” Democrats do when confronted with the next crisis? Is there any reason to think that they’ll do anything but try to make any protests safe and legal, if they can’t stifle them altogether again?

This means that the more the working class and the socialists within the working class tie ourselves to the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, the more difficult it will be to break free of their influence the when a new crisis emerges. And even if there is not a crisis around the coming elections, something else is sure to happen, including a possible Trump war on Iran.

Oakland Mayor Libby “Yuppie” Schaaf
Her main campaign donors are people like Haas Fund manager Amanda Feinstein, airbnb exec David Owen, and other corporate executives and corporate lawyers. Many Oakland city council members have the same donor record. It is a real shame that East Bay DSA did not choose one or more candidates to run in the Oakland race as working class representatives.

Up until now, Oaklandsocialist has been urging that DSA and the socialist movement in general run its own candidates for local office. We’ve said that such candidates should run as representatives of the working class (not some nonsense about representing “all the people”) and that they should tie the local issues to the necessity of building a mass working class party. It might be too late for that to be done now. But we have to prepare for what can happen in November.

  • Defend free elections, without supporting any of the representatives from the corporate-controlled Democratic Party!
  • Link the question of voting rights with the issue of mass incarceration; for voting rights for all, regardless of criminal status.
  • Mobilize in advance to defend the polling places in areas where it might be challenged. Such challenges could come, for example, by the racists and chauvinists mobilizing in some areas to try to stop people of color from voting.
  • Fight for equal access to the vote in precincts where the majority is people of color.
  • Publicly warn in advance about the danger of attempts to deny equal access to voting and/or tampering with the vote count and prepare to hit the the ground running should this happen.
  • Explain the connections between these issues and the need for the working class to organize independently, as a class, and that this means the working class building its own political party – a mass working class party.
  • Prepare for a mass movement to disrupt capitalism if there is open fraud or voter suppression in the coming elections. This includes organizing for workers to shut down their work places.
  • No illusions in either the NGO’s or the union leadership, both of which are representatives of the Democratic Party.

DSA, with its 40,000+ members can and should take the lead in this. For starters, every branch should call public meetings to discuss the dangers we face under Trump. Where the branch won’t call the meeting, those members who are interested can and should as concerned DSA members.

Unfortunately, it’s all too “American”. But will the working class stop it this time?

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