“The Democratic Party’s yearslong unity behind President Biden is beginning to erode over his steadfast support of Israel in its escalating war with the Palestinians, with a left-leaning coalition of young voters and people of color showing more discontent toward him than at any point since he was elected.
From Capitol Hill to Hollywood, in labor unions and liberal activist groups, and on college campuses and in high school cafeterias, a raw emotional divide over the conflict is convulsing liberal America.” reports the NY Times.
The article reports divisions all up and down the Democratic Party apparatus – from elected Democrats to liberal Democratic Party groups like Move On.Org. The environmentalist Sunrise Movement, which had mobilized for Biden in 2020, is now calling for a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine. The Times further reports: “Hundreds of former staff members who worked for the presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts this week signed open letters urging them to introduce a similar cease-fire resolution in the Senate,” they report. Even the AFL-CIO leadership is feeling the pressure as it is reported that Mark Dimonstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, made an impassioned speech at its most recent conference call. Dimonstein reportedly called himself “an anti-Zionist Jew”.
It seems that years of frustration may be breaking through the barriers. Clearly, this is in part a culmination of the Black Lives Matter movement since the issue of racism is so clearly associated with Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. A new youth movement seems in the offing. We should keep in mind its context:
Like the movement of the 1960s, a new youth movement will likely occur at the time of a serious division within the Democratic Party. That will spur the movement on. But unlike those years, a new youth movement will occur at a time of major economic insecurity for all generations, but for younger workers first and foremost.
A new youth movement will take place with the gains of the black revolt, the gains of the women’s movement and the LGBTQ movements.
It will also take place with an unprecedented political crisis of US capitalism. That crisis will most likely be expressed in a few weeks in a government shutdown. In the 1960s, and even in the BLM movement, the US capitalist politicians had a certain amount of flexibility; they were able to make both economic and political concessions to the movement, the better to control it. Because of the twin economic and political crises, this seems to be almost impossible this time.
Where will such a movement lead?
During the movement against the Vietnam War, the overwhelming trend was to limit it to that single issue. That was a huge mistake since once the war ended there was almost nothing left of that movement. Also, while workers in the main did turn against the war, and while that was felt to an extent within the unions, the anti-war movement was overwhelmingly based on college campuses. Instead, that movement should have linked the issue of the need for a radical working class party with the war.
At that same time, there was the black revolt. Some of its main leaders did start to make those links. Martin Luther King started to connect the economic issues with that of white supremacy. He was assassinated. Fred Hampton made similar ties. He was assassinated. At the same time, the government “anti-poverty programs” bought off another layer of activists.
A real hope developed around the protests against the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s. That movement, which started to link up workers and youth in the “Battle of Seattle” collapsed overnight when 9/11 hit.
Then we saw the BLM protests after George Floyd was murdered. However, the liberal NGO’s managed to control that to a great extent.
In almost every case, the leadership managed to keep a new youth movement focused on one single issue. This served to ensure that no political alternative to the Democratic Party developed. Today, all the other issues will naturally tend to arise. Socialists should do all in their power to encourage that, to link up all these other issues. We should do all we can to encourage an open discussion on what is the next step forward for this newly developing movement.
How, through what channels and around what issues can a new youth movement develop and make links with important sectors of the working class? Groups like Move On and various NGO’s will try to lure a new movement into Democratic Party politics. “Reform the Democrats” will be their theme. That is a complete dead end. How can it avoid the pitfalls of being lured into the Democrats?
Both the Green Party and Cornel West will inevitably try to make hay off of this movement. Neither of them has ever played a role in building such a movement. Further, their defense of Russian imperialism must also be exposed. The same is true for groups like UNAC, ANSWER, etc. That is one of the issues with which genuine internationalists will have to grapple.
For the first time in 50 years, I voted for a capitalist politician, Joe Biden, in 2020. I did so because I felt that stopping Trump was the order of the day. I am not sure at all about 2024. In any case, as was true in 2020, the order of the day is how to build a new movement and build a new, working class political party with socialist politics can develop out of this movement in the streets. We should note that we have an enormous advantage over those in the past who talked about or even hinted at socialism due to the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Many of the decks are cleared of the detritus of the past.
(Note: the above is written in a hurry and on a tentative basis, and some important points may be left out or may need further development, but I think that the main conclusions are correct.)