Whether a little known socialist runs for Oakland mayor as the working class socialist candidate is not that important in the bigger scheme of things. The factors that lead to that decision, however, are.
My plan to run for mayor was based on the situation over a year ago, in other words well before the invasion of Ukraine. At that time, the threat of the MAGA movement seizing political power throughout the US was clear. I wanted to do everything I could to sound the alarm, and I thought a campaign for mayor would be one small way to do so. Here is an explanation of my thinking back then. I think I was right at that time.
Invasion of Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drastically altered the landscape.
On July 18, the NY Times carried an article entitled Putin Thinks He’s Winning The article explained that as a one man dictator, Putin is far more capable of handling/suppressing dissatisfaction than are capitalist democracies like the U.S. Therefore, Putin thinks he can play a longer game, continue his occupation of Donbass and the eastern coast of Ukraine (down to Crimea) and continue a low scale war over years. The article says Putin thinks over time the ruling circles in Kyiv will split, leading to a Putin-friendly regime there. Dissent due to hardship can be suppressed. The Times article writes: “In Mr. Putin’s thinking, apparently, the bad West [the “West” that is hostile to Putin] is declining and doomed while the good West is slowly challenging the status quo with a raft of nationally oriented leaders, such as Viktor Orban in Hungary, Marine Le Pen in France and even Donald Trump in the United States, ready to break with the old order and fashion a new one. Mr. Putin believes that the war against Ukraine and all its consequences, such as high inflation and soaring energy prices, will nourish the good West and help people rise up against the traditional political establishment.”
What is actually in Putin’s mind may be speculation, but this scenario sounds entirely possible – and dangerous.
A significant reason why what could be called MAGAism may strengthen as a result of this war and its consequences (inflation, etc.) is the disastrous failure of most the left in the “West”. This left has actually taken a stand that at the very least gives cover to the fascist aligned Putin. They show no interest in what socialists, anarchists, feminists and others in Ukraine have to say. They have actually aligned themselves with the far right, including with outright fascists!
This crisis in the “Western” left was a long time coming.
At the height of the war in Syria, some of the left in effect supported Assad and Putin. Most of the rest of the left ignored this betrayal. That was a warning. Now that it’s openly revealed, it’s easier to deal with. Today, the fact that the majority of the left in the West has aligned itself behind Putin – either openly or covertly – has brought the healthier elements of the left together into Ukraine support groups. This gives us the opening to reconstitute a genuine socialist movement on healthy footing. Whatever small contribution I can make towards this is more important than being the socialist candidate for mayor.
Liberal Democrats in Oakland
There is one thing I will regret: Here in Oakland, the real estate interests are pressing for the privatization of a huge chunk of the Port of Oakland in order to build high end condos, hotels, etc. The scheme is hiding behind a plan to build a new stadium for the Oakland A’s baseball team. It is know as the Howard St. Terminal project and it will accelerate the gentrification/whitification of Oakland. Oakland’s entire Democratic liberal political establishment supports this plan. My plan had been to use my campaign to (1) sound the alarm here in Oakland as far as the immense dangers that a renewed MAGA movement plus global climate disaster mean and to raise the necessity for a working class political party; and (2) be the only candidate who opposes the Howard St. Terminal deal. In so doing, I had hoped to put the liberal candidates on the spot.
But on the spot or not, these liberals won’t change. They will continue along the lines of “vote for me and I will set you free.” They will continue to boost the Democratic Party. They will continue to support the Howard St. Terminal deal. It would have been enjoyable getting under the skin of those liberals, but the opportunity to help rebuild a more health socialist movement is far more important.
Dangers and Opportunities
The fascist-linked Putin’s invasion of Ukraine affects workers the world over. By affecting us all, though, it also opens the opportunity to reconstitute what remains of the serious socialist left. As they say, every crisis is also an opportunity.