Socialists and other leftists in the US have always played an important role in helping build the unions and build other working class organizations. Today, socialists are more or less irrelevant. The ending of an independent role of socialists inside the unions is directly related to the death grip that the bureaucracy has over the unions. But if and when a workers movement develops, the socialist left will play a role. And as for now: It certainly matters as far as building support for Ukraine and countering the far right (Marjorie Taylor Greene and her type), who support Putin. Unfortunately, Jill Stein and many like her are in line with Greene, and apparently so is the majority of the Green Party.
That’s why we should not ignore what’s happening on the left, including in the Green Party. In 2016, Jill Stein ran as the Green Party candidate for president. In 2020, Howie Hawkins was their candidate. The two of them differ over the question of Ukraine.
I attended the Zoom discussion between Jill Stein and Howie Hawkins last night. The main takeaway, which I will next explore more in depth, is that Stein seems headed down the road already traveled by Medea Benjamin and another trailblazer: Tulsi Gabbard. While Howie Hawkins must be respected for his lonely battle inside the Green Party, I think he is being unrealistic in thinking that he will get anywhere. No amount of facts, reason or appeals to working class solidarity has had any effect on the Trump supporting workers. It will not have any effect on similar types who are nominally on the left.
It only gets in the way to hold out hope for the likes of Medea Benjamin or Jill Stein or the organizations which they lead. Being unwilling to cut ties with them results in reluctance to be really clear on what these Putin-influenced people really stand for.
Stein’s apologism for Putin
Last night, Jill Stein presented the classic Putin apologist line. She started by stressing how much we should fear nuclear war. This implies buckling to Putin’s saber rattling regarding nuclear weapons. She spent most of her time criticizing the US and no time explaining the crimes Russian troops have committed in Ukraine. She blamed “NATO expansion,”, but ignored the fact that the Eastern European countries have joined NATO on their initiative, not NATO’s, because they fear Russian expansionism. This includes the newest member, Finland. She criticized Russia’s “illegal and murderous” war, but blamed the US for it. That criticism was completely nullified by her support for the conditions which would allow the invasion (a word she never used) to succeed.
Howie Hawkins’ reply
Howie presented the standard defense of Ukraine. He stressed the views of workers and the left in Ukraine and the importance of listening to them. He affirmed Ukraine’s right to self determination and explained that the war there is a war of national liberation just as was the Vietnam War. In that war, we did not call for “negotiations”; we called for US troops out now. He also called for support for US arms to Ukraine. There were a couple of points he raised that were questionable to me. Among those were a call for negotiations to satisfy Russia’s security concerns, as if any negotiations between these two capitalist powers can resolve anything.
In some ways, what was left unremarked was the most significant.
For one thing, I had had the impression from Howie that the Green Party is closely divided on this issue. This referred to a vote on whether or not to participate in the Rage Against the War Machine event, which did involve a close vote. However, according to Stein, the Green Party had supported her general position on Rage Against the War Machine by a vote of 88-7. This apparently is partially untrue; the vote was in support of Stein’s general position on “peace in Ukraine”. The comments of the participants in last night’s event certainly seemed to confirm that Green Party members overwhelmingly support Stein’s cover for Putin.
In fact, one speaker from the audience criticized both Howie and Stein because neither directly supported Russia! This same individual denied the reality of the Bucha war crime. Stein, who was nodding her head in agreement while he spoke. She then commented and in effect agreed with him about Bucha. This is no different from denying the Holocaust. Unfortunately, Howie did not comment on this vulgar lie, this defense of war crimes, by Stein.
Equally serious was Stein’s calling for people to get their news from Ben Norton’s “politicaleconomy” site as well as another Putinist web site, Consortium “News”. She said that the mainstream news “will colonize your brain”. There is no difference between these attitudes and that of the Trump/Greene fanatics who get all their “news” from sources like Alex Jones’s infowars and Fox “News”. Again, Howie failed to point this out.
Stein channels Russian fascist Dugin
All of this has to be taken in the context of Stein’s speech at the fascist connected Rage Against the War Machine” (RAWM) event. There, Stein said that the war in Ukraine “is not a right or left issue”. This is a repeat of the Russian fascist ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin and his “Fourth Political Theory”. That theory holds that there are four political views: (capitalist) liberalism, communism/Marxism, fascism, and Dugin’s views which bring fascism and communism together. (For more, see Alexander Dugin – Alchemist of Traditionalism, mysticism, and fascism.) The effect is to infiltrate fascist ideas into the “left”, and Stein showed that’s partly succeeded. At the RAWM event, Stein also spouted all the left fascist memes attacking “Wall Street and the war profiteers” – exactly what fascistic politicians like Josh Hawley have done. It should have been clearly explained that Stein has channeled Dugin and that her position is essentially the same as that of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Trump. This makes Stein far more aligned with people who are far right / neo fascist politically than the any principled socialists.
Which way for Stein and Green Party?
Stein seems headed down the road already traveled by Medea Benjamin and another trailblazer: Tulsi Gabbard. While Howie Hawkins must be respected for his lonely battle inside the Green Party, I think he is being unrealistic in thinking that he will get anywhere. No amount of facts, reason nor appeals to working class solidarity has had any effect on the Trump supporting workers. Nor will it will have any effect on this same type which is nominally on the left.
Ultimately, Stein is helping bring the Green Party into alignment with the “left”-appearing far right (including outright fascists). There is no apparent widespread resistance within that party to this direction. And the Green Party is not alone. From Code Pink to various self-proclaimed “socialist” groups, all too many are headed down that same road.
New Socialist Movement
A new socialist movement must be built from the ground up. Such a movement cannot be built alone by the few socialists who have stuck to the principle of international working class solidarity. To truly build such a movement, what’s required is at least the beginnings of a mass movement of at least some significant section of the working class. We cannot wait for the Jill Stein’s, Medea Benjamin’s Noam Chomsky’s or various self proclaimed “socialists” to regain principles. Nor can we wait for those who are unwilling to cut ties with them and their groups. Doing so just holds us back. That’s because holding out hope for the likes of Medea Benjamin or Jill Stein or the organizations which they lead, or being unwilling to cut ties with them, gets in the way; it makes people reluctant or even unwilling to fully expose the decay that has set in.
Principled socialists can and must start by laying the groundwork, including by clarifying the historical questions involved and trying to understand the present confusing state of affairs and what might come.
Categories: socialist movement, Uncategorized, United States, war
for some (is it most) on the left the height of sophistication in political analysis is to blame the US. anybody at all will be defended if they are on the other side. that these sophisticates accept putin’s war crimes should be shocking but it has gone on all this year so one is used to it. they are the current version of the left in the West who thought Stalin’s gulags were just fine.
This American “left” is a sad sight to behold. You can be sure that their motivation has nothing to do with the workers of the world. It’s all about justifying their own existence, and you can’t do that by saying things that even partially overlap with what the establishment is saying. So they just mindlessly repeat that the main enemy is at home even when that is not the case. So sad to see so many people so anxious about their place in the world. Or rather, it would be sad if it were not also infuriating, the hypocrisy of applauding Putin’s dictatorship from the safety of their American soapbox.
Howie replied,” the war there is a war of national liberation just as was the Vietnam War. In that war, we did not call for “negotiations”; we called for US troops out now.”
The Paris peace talks between Hanoi and Washington that began in 1968 stalled immediately for the same reason negotiations had gone nowhere since 1965 – Hanoi demanded that the bombing end first. This became the main demand of one wing of the antiwar movement, that included the cpusa and a few second-tier union leaders – “Stop the Bombing, Negotiate Now”. Ironically, Kissinger had been negotiating secretly with Le Duc Tho since 1969..
Michal Harrington of DSA supported both demands, but not at the same time. In his workersvoiceus.org book review of Douglas Green’s biography of MH , Chuck Cairnes writes,” Harrington’s stance on the imperialist assault on Vietnam is particularly revealing because it illustrates typical petty bourgeois vacillations—an inability to make a firm choice between the camps of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, of revolution and imperialism. As long as Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat was in the White House, Harrington counter-posed the moderate slogan “Negotiations Now” against the increasingly popular antiwar demand “Out Now” because he did not want to “actually offend the sensibilities of Democratic Party Liberals or anticommunists in the AFL-CIO.” However, when Nixon, a Republican, became president in 1968, MH abruptly switched and favored an American withdrawal without prior negotiations”.
Why should Americans who are losing their jobs, seeing their cost of living going up, the cost of borrowing going up care about Ukraine and support further Taxpayer dollars being used to support them? When I talk to people they want Europe to pay for the majority of the war support to Ukraine if not all of it. After the Peace Corps statements many Blacks have come out in complete opposition to Ukraine though they’re not openly supporting Russia (a few are).
Those in the peace movement can say OUT NOW until pigs fly, but anyone that I’d a realist knows Putin is going to keep Crimea and he Donbass once a peace settlement is negotiated and is only going to leave once that is secured. Only a devestaing publicly viewed defeat will get him to withdraw unconditionally. We know from the leaked documents that the war isn’t going as well as being stated on msm for Ukraine and the Pentagon has serious doubts about a Ukranian victory.
As I’ve gotten older
Ideologically I’ve become Left-Libertarianism/Social Anarchism/Green Anarchism so i probably shouldnt speak on the socialist movement though i think my “brand” of Anarchism falls within its scope but after the last of the 60s generation of socialists are gone what will remain is a socialism.that sounds and looks more like European social democracy and because of hyper-neoliberalism it will look radical to many.
The green party is an interesting animal because of its decentralized structure that its an umbrella for ecosocialists, green anarchists, socialists, green capitalists, green libertarians, folks that think we need to move beyond the old isms/green movement is a new paradigm, etc that there’s always opposing forces at play within vying for power or influence.
We need a viable 3rd, 4th, and 5th party but I think we only get there if things unfortunately gets worse.
Jimmy Brash folds a lot of issues into one comment, but what he fails to deal with is simply this: The fact is that the fascist-connected Putin has orchestrated an imperialist invasion of Ukraine and that his forces are using all sorts of methods that are rightly considered war crimes, methods that are reminiscent of those of Hitler. To whatever degree his invasion succeeds, to that same degree he will be encouraged to follow up with similar invasions, both in what remains of Ukraine and elsewhere in the region. So, the question is: Do workers have a vested interest in helping defeat this invasion or not?
Brash raises the issue of costs. that is the same issue that all sorts of right wingers raise whenever the US government sends aid to some foreign nation after some natural disaster. By raising this issue, Brash is appealing to all that is short sighted and selfish in US politics.
As for the chances of success in the resistance to this fascistic imperialist invasion: We really don’t know. Yes, the leaked documents have a certain assessment. But let’s not forget that at the onset of the invasion, the Biden administration’s assessment was that the Russian troops would roll right into Kyiv unhindered. And there is one wild card: Nobody knows the real state of affairs of morale in the Russian military, except to say it’s very low. We don’t know if troop discipline might break down totally under the impact of a renewed Ukrainian counter offensive. But in any case, all that is beside the point. the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian people want to fight this fascistic invasion. International working class solidarity dictates that we should advocate helping them for as long as they want to fight.
As for Brash’s brand of “socialism” and the Green Party, etc. – Well, I’m from the baby boomer generation, and I haven’t given up on genuine socialism. In fact, all the world developments convince me more than ever that there is no alternative. And as for the Green Party: It was a dead duck before it was even born and it won’t come to life now. In my opinion, the only way that some life could be breathed into it is if there is a genuine movement for a real working class party. In that case, some capitalists might help fund and promote the Greens in order to short circuit that real, workers movement.