Statement: "Progressives for Obama"

Vote for ObamaThis piece (published in Nation), its arguments and assumptions is worth a close study and sharp debate for many reasons -- including that they articulate views and assumptions that are widely expressed among a certain kind of left progressive. And it represents a set of views that revolutionaries need to understand and be prepared to engage.

Progressives for Obama

written by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Danny Glover & Barbara Ehrenreich

 

Published on March 26 by Progressive Democrats of America

All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country. We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grassroots participation, drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle-down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.

As progressives, we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that has failed so far to deliver peace, healthcare, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.

During past progressive peaks in our political history–the late thirties, the early sixties–social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.

We intend to join and engage with our brothers and sisters in the vast rainbow of social movements to come together in support of Obama’s unprecedented campaign and candidacy. Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.

Progressives can make a difference in close primary races like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon and Puerto Rico and in the November general election. We can contribute our dollars. We have the proven online capacity to reach millions of swing voters in the primary and general election. We can and will defend Obama against negative attacks from any quarter. We will seek Green support against the claim of some that there are no real differences between Obama and McCain. We will criticize any efforts by Democratic superdelegates to suppress the winner of the popular and delegate votes, or to legitimize the flawed elections in Michigan and Florida. We will make our agenda known at the Democratic National Convention and fight for a platform emphasizing progressive priorities as the path to victory.

Obama’s March 18 speech on racism was as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials for overcoming the divide-and-conquer tactics that have sundered Americans since the first slaves arrived here in chains.

Only words? What words they were.

However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches. It was the industrial strikes and radical organizers in the 1930s who pushed Roosevelt to support the New Deal. It was the civil rights and student movements that brought about voting rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson and propelled Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy’s antiwar campaigns. It was the original Earth Day that led Richard Nixon to sign environmental laws. And it will be the Obama movement that will make it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.

We should not only keep the pressure on but also connect the issues that Barack Obama has made central to his campaign into an overarching progressive vision.

•  The Iraq War must end as rapidly as possible, not in five years.

All our troops must be withdrawn. Diplomacy and trade must replace further military occupation or military escalation into Iran and Pakistan. We should not stop urging Barack Obama to avoid leaving American advisers behind in Iraq in a counterinsurgency quagmire like Afghanistan today or Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor should he simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan.

•  Iraq cannot be separated from our economic crisis.

Iraq is costing trillions of dollars that should be invested in jobs, universal healthcare, education, housing and public works here at home. Our own Gulf Coast requires the attention and funds now spent on Gulf oil.

•  Iraq cannot be separated from our energy crisis.

We are spending an unheard-of $100/barrel for oil. We are officially committed to wars over oil supplies far into the future. We instead need a war against global warming and for energy independence from Middle Eastern police states and multinational corporations.

Progressives should support Obama’s sixteen-month combat troop withdrawal plan in comparison to Clinton’s open-ended one, and demand that both candidates avoid a slide into four more years of low-visibility counterinsurgency.

The Democratic candidates should listen more to the blunt advice of the voters instead of the timid talk of their national security advisers. Two-thirds of American voters, and a much higher percentage of Democrats, oppose this war and favor withdrawal in less than two years, nearly half of them in less than one year. The same percentage believe the war has had a negative effect on life in the United States, while only 15 percent believe the war has been positive. Without this solid peace sentiment, neither Obama nor Clinton would be taking the stands they do today.

Further, the battered and abused people of Iraq favor an American withdrawal by a 70 percent margin.

The American government’s arrogant defiance of these strong popular majorities in both America and Iraq should be ended this November by a powerful peace mandate.

The profound transition from the policies of the past will not be easy, and fortunately the Obama campaign is lifted by the fresh wind of change. We seek not only to change the faces in high places, however, but to save our country from slow death by greed, status quo politics and loss of vision. The status quo cannot stand much longer, neither that of politics-as-usual nor that of our security, energy and economic policies. We are stealing from the next generation’s future, and living on borrowed time.

The Bush Administration has replaced the cold war with the “war on terrorism,” led by the same military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against. The reality and public fear of terrorism today is no less real than fear of communism and nuclear annihilation a generation ago. But we simply cannot continue multiple military interventions in many Muslim countries without increasing the vast number of violent jihadists against us, bleeding our military and our economy, becoming more dependent on Middle East oil, creating unsavory alliances with police states, shrinking our own civil liberties and putting ourselves at permanent risk of another 9/11 attack.

We need a brave turn towards peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Getting out of Iraq, sponsoring a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, ending alliances with police states in the Arab world, unilaterally initiating real energy independence and moving the world away from the global warming crises are the steps that must be taken.

Nor can we impose NAFTA-style trade agreements on so many nations that seek only to control their own national resources and economic destinies. We cannot globalize corporate and financial power over democratic values and institutions. Since the Clinton Administration pushed through NAFTA against the Democratic majority in Congress, one Latin American nation after another has elected progressive governments that reject US trade deals and hegemony. We are isolated in Latin America by our cold war and drug war crusades, by the $500 million counterinsurgency in Columbia, support for the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela and the ineffectual blockade of Cuba. We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, policies that rejected Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico’s right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry opposition. The pursuit of NAFTA-style trade policies inflames our immigration crisis as well, by uprooting countless campesinos who inevitably seek low-wage jobs north of the border in order to survive. We need balanced and democratically approved trade agreements that focus on the needs of workers, consumers and the environment. The Banana Republic is a retail chain, not an American colony protected by the Monroe Doctrine.

We are pleased that Hillary Clinton has been responsive to the tide of voter opinion this year, and we applaud the possibility of at last electing an American woman President. But progressives should be disturbed by her duplicitous positions on Iraq and NAFTA. She still denies that her 2002 vote for legislation that was called the war authorization bill was a vote for war authorization. She now promises to “end the war” but will not set a timeline for combat troop withdrawal, and remains committed to leaving tens of thousands of counter-terrorism troops and trainers in Iraq amidst a sectarian conflict. While Obama needs to clarify his own position on counterinsurgency, Clinton’s “end the war” rhetoric conceals an open commitment to keep American troops in Iraq until all our ill-defined enemies are defeated–a treadmill that guarantees only the spawning of more enemies. On NAFTA, she claims to have opposed the trade deal behind closed doors when she was first lady. But the public record, and documents recently disclosed in response to litigation, prove that she was a cheerleader for NAFTA against the strong opposition of rank-and-file Democrats. The Clintons ushered in the Wall Street Democrats whose deregulation ethos has widened inequality while leaving millions of Americans without their rightful protections against market shocks.

Clinton’s most bizarre claim is that Obama is unqualified to be commander-in-chief. Clinton herself never served in the military, and has no experience in the armed services apart from the Senate armed services committee. Her husband had no military experience before becoming President. In fact, he was a draft opponent during Vietnam, a stance we respected. She was the first lady, and he the governor, of one of our smallest states. They brought no more experience, and arguably less, to the White House than Obama would in 2009.

We take very seriously the argument that Americans should elect a first woman President, and we abhor the surfacing of sexism in this supposedly post-feminist era. But none of us would vote for Condoleezza Rice as either the first woman or first African-American President. We regret that the choice divides so many progressive friends and allies, but believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a Clinton presidency all over again, not a triumph of feminism but a restoration of the aging, power-driven Wall Street Democratic hawks at a moment when so much more fresh imagination is possible and needed. A Clinton victory could only be achieved by the dashing of hope among millions of young people on whom a better future depends. The style of the Clintons’ attacks on Obama, which are likely to escalate as her chances of winning decline, already risks losing too many Democratic and independent voters in November. We believe that the Hillary Clinton of 1968 would be an Obama volunteer today, just as she once marched in the snows of New Hampshire for Eugene McCarthy against the Democratic establishment.

We did not foresee the exciting social movement that is the Obama campaign. Many of us supported other candidates, or waited skeptically as weeks and months passed. But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vascillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish. Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign. For more information, go to Progressives for Obama.com.

* * * * * *

Some initial responses

Zerohour wrote: article:

 

1] There is no self-criticism of the left’s support for the initial Clinton candidacy which was also portrayed in glowing terms. No analysis as to why leftist movements did not, or could not, influence any significant political or ideological shift during those years. Why would an Obama candidacy be different? What are the changes in objective conditions and the relations of forces that would make him more susceptible to popular pressure?

2] They tacitly admit that there is no powerful left movement in this country and are hoping his campaign can generate it. They don’t call for people to abandon their existing work, but to make the Obama campaign part of it. How does one resolve the tension of participating in both a politics of political independence and one of electoral dependence?

3] They seem to believe that this is the historical moment when we can actually have a social-democratic [my phrase not theirs] president [”And it will be the Obama movement that will make it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.”] Again, what is the configuration of power at ruling class levels that would allow this to be manifest?

4] “Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign.” Possibly true. I have engaged in more open discussion with my co-workers about political vision than I have in the past, and not just around the “safe” topic of hating Bush. At the same time, how do we mobilize these people to see that their desires for a better world will not be realized with Obama or the next president? All he has to do is pass one progressive measure [if he gets elected] no matter how limited, and people’s thinking can become even more invested in him. The dynamics of electoral thinking are much like those of gambling: if you win $100 at the slot machines the first time out, you will keep playing, even if you lose well beyond your winnings. The rationale? It happened once, it can happen again. But it doesn’t. It’s a sucker’s game where the house will always win in the long term. Redflag wrote:

People in this conversation

  • Guest - repost of Mickey Z.

    This article was posted around in response to Mike Albert's Znet posting of "Progressives for [insert Democratic Candidate Here]"
    -------------

    Every four years, much of the (so-called) Left gleefully drinks the Democrat's Kool Aid. Such liberals spend three years droning on about social justice (as everything gets progressively worse) and then they throw their support behind whatever corporate-funded millionaire the Democrats nominate. This trend is no longer surprising or even noteworthy.

    This year, however, Lefty Inc. has managed to take things to a depressing new level of denial and acquiescence...thanks to the presence of a multi-racial carnival barker named Barack Obama.

    Exhibit A: The lead article on the March 29 edition of Z Net was called "<a>Progressives for Obama</a>."

    Written by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover, this piece begins: "All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama." From there, the authors go on to declare that Obama's campaign is, in reality, a "sudden and unexpected new movement" and is not only "just what America needs" but also proves that the (<i>insert drum roll here</i>) "future has arrived."

    Get out your barf bags, the Limousine Left is at it again.

    For the sake of clarity—and sanity—allow me to provide just a few minor details about Obama's "social movement": He's funded by Wall Street. He voted for every Iraq war appropriation bill he faced. He refused to be photographed with San Francisco's mayor for fear it'd be interpreted that he supported gay marriage. He voted against single payer health care. He supports the death penalty, the Israeli war machine, and the fence on the US-Mexican border. He voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and to reauthorize the Patriot Act. (<i>Somebody stop me...I could go on for days</i>.)

    Of course, Tom Hayden's by-line attached to mainstream misinformation is hardly breaking news. It also shouldn't surprise anyone that "Progressives for Obama" appeared in pseudo-Left outlets like <i>The Nation</i> and the <i>Huffington Post</i>. But why the hell did Z Net post this absurdity? Sure, I realize the folks at Z Net fully embraced the vacant Anybody-But-Bush strategy in 2004 but (as far as I know) they never publicly mistook John Kerry for Emma Goldman. However, prominently posting "Progressives for Obama"—the kind of self-serving propaganda best confined to Democrat Party press releases and Michael Moore web rants—is shameful.

    Let's be clear: The state of global affairs is nearing the point of no return. Barack Obama is part of the problem. Anyone who votes for Barack Obama is part of the problem. Anyone who dedicates valuable space on a popular website, misleading visitors about Barack Obama, is part of the problem.

    If this article had appeared just three days later, I would've appreciated the "April Fool's Day" scam. Instead, as always, the joke's on us.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Why this guy, MickeyZ, is taken seriously is beyond me. Once you get by the nasty insults and local color, there's not much there.

    There's lots of criticisms, and struggle, to be directed at the center in a left-progressive-center coalition, as well as at the left and the progressives, to boot.

    But this doesn't get out of the kindergarten sandbox enough to even play with the big kids.

  • Guest - Nando

    Carl: why don't you speak to the substantive issues here (aside from making a contentless swipe at an author posted in passing).

  • Right... the "big kids".

    My family has a saying about moments exactly like this: <i>the fleas are barking</i>.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    What substantive point does MickeyZ make?

    I don't consider Kool-Aid, carnival barker, barf bags, limousine left, and drum rolls to be substantive.

    Everything else, save the vote for Condi, is addressed in the Hayden, et al, piece, but ignored.

    Besides sticking out your tongue to make fun of it, he has nothing to offer on tactics regarding the election.

    That's why my point about kintergarten and big kids is appropriate.

    I can't believe this is taken seriously.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Replying to ZeroHour:

    On point One: This is an ad-hoc group trying to launch a network, not a party. There's no common basis for self-criticism of the previous four years, nor is everyone involved 'left.' Many are, but others describe themselves as liberals and progressives.

    On point Two. Why 'tacitly?' There is no 'powerful left' in the country and everyone knows it. To answer why would take several books. What we believe is there is a significant multinational, antiracist and antiwar youth insurgency around Obama, and this population is at the center of what could become a powerful progressive movement and a new left. Our grouping is one answer to the question as to how you avoid 'electoral dependence.' We're not part of the Obama apparatus or the Democratic party; we speak our own minds, build our own groups, and GOTV for Obama. We can and do talk to his campaign, but we're not subordinate to it, and often criticize it, when appropriate and useful.

    On point three. Obama is not a social-democrat, although there is some overlap. Obama is a 'high road' industrial policy capitalist and a 'soft power' multipolar globalist--just read his Cooper Union speech the other day. He borrows a few safety net programs from the social-dems. Clinton is a garden-variety corporate liberal capitalist, which got her on the board of Walmart for years. And McCain is an unreconstructed neoliberal capitalist--'state all evil, market all good'--that kind that says 'We're in business to make money, not steel, so we'll gut these plants and speculate in oil futures, and the workers and towns be damned.' Actually, truth be told, Obama's brand of capitalism is best for productive businesses, and does least harm to the working class.

    Obama is running as a candidate of a left-progressive-center coalition, and, both fortunately and unfortunately, speaking to the center more than those to the left. That why we started this effort. The sectors of capital around him are in plain sight.

    On point Four. It's only a sucker's game if you're putting all your chips in the Democratic Party, and not building your own independent grassroots groups with their own electoral capacity. Call it party-building, if you like, although of the mass democratic, nonpartisan alliance variety.

  • Guest - zerohour

    Carl -

    1] Even though Progressives for Obama are not all, or even mostly, leftists, those who are, even on an individual basis, could still offer some analysis of left electoral strategy as it applied to Clinton. I saw no gains affected by the left during those 8 years and a million dead Iraqis later, no serious reflection on what that means for the expectations of electoral strategy.

    2] 'Tacitly' because it wasn't explicitly stated. You may criticize the campaign but how will you influence the opinion of those within it? I'm reminded of something Mao once said about how if you're not winning on the battlefield, you won't win at the negotiating table. What I took from that is that power responds to power, not convincing arguments. What kind of weight do you have, esp,. since we all acknowledge the weak state of the left? You may be independent in terms of specific issues but without the ability to define the agenda, you'll be helping implement policies you don't agree with, by helping him get elected.

    3] "And it will be the Obama movement that will make it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming." This is a vaguely worded statement that reads like advertising-speak suggesting a social-democratic president [not just one who borrows parts of a program], without committing. We all know he's a social democrat, but <b>you're</b> the ones selling him that way, even though you're qualifying it now.

    As far as being in a "coalition", see point 2. Do you really believe you are on equal footing with Democratic Party insiders and capitalist financiers?

    4] No, the game is mainstream electoral politics. If you're betting on an "independent grassroots groups with their own electoral capacity" then you're still in, but you're denying it. Even when gamblers lose at craps, they know they're holding the dice.

  • Guest - zerohour

    "We all know he’s a social democrat" should read "We all know he's <i>not</i> a social democrat..."

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Point 1. Some of us have summed up our work in the 2004 and 2006 elections. I did so in Chicago, where we worked as 'Peace &amp; Justice Voters 2004.' The GOP still won in 2004, but not because of our inactivity. Just because you don't win a round, it doesn't mean you got zero. As Lenin put it somewhere, the measure of victory is when you come out of a battle better prepared and organized than before you went in. In the case of PJVoters, we trained and deputized 1000 deputy registrars, registered 20,000 new voters (8000 in high schools). As a result of the work, we were able to get the city council to vote against the war a second time, and we relied on the same forces we had pulled together to put 'Out Now' on the ballot in 2006, getting 800,000 votes, or 81 to 19 percent in Chicago, 2 to 1 in the burbs. And all this is very helpful for the next steps. Also on the basis of this work, we got Jan Schakowsky in the House and Julie Hamos in the statehouse to take on Blackwater, and the Near West Citizen for Peace and Justice in Berwyn put cutting off the funds for the war on the ballot in the 2008 primary, where it also passed by 70 percent. Other people in other parts of the country can speak for themselves, but if you didn't see this in Chicago, you simply weren't looking. These steps forward happened without much help for the anti-electoral wing of the antiwar movement in Chicago, and sometimes in opposition to them. It's all written up and posted to my personal blog, http://carldavidson.blogspot.com or the CAWI site, noiraqwar-chicago.org. And if this doesn't fit in your notions of electoral strategy, then that's part of the problem, isn't it?

    Point two. I think Mao's point is well taken. I've said over and over for years, if you want to do electoral politics, you have to have something to do electoral politics WITH--otherwise, it's cafe chatter. And by SOMETHING, I don't mean the Democratic Party, even if you pick a few of their candidates to vote for. We did everything in point one and never gave a dime or a name to the Dems, and built our groups, not theirs. What I do mean is taking our existing base community groups and training them and getting them experience in electoral work. When I meet with neighborhood groups, I assert 'You know a majority of your neighbors are against the war. (Heads nod 'yes') But do you know the names, addresses, voter registration status of everyone who for the war, against the war, and undecided in your precincts? Do you have the lists, know the names? More important, do they know you? (Silence, the answer is 'no') Information is part of what makes power, and by taking part in electoral struggle you gain this information, and it thus empowers your group, not the Local Dems. You will also grow the size of your group, and if you have an antiwar proposition or local candidate, you can claim those votes, and begin to get a little 'clout' for you, not the Dems, then you have something to make wider coalition with community allies WITH.' And so on, hopefully you get the idea here. Because of the pitiful state of the left and organized progressives generally, it would be foolish to expect an 'equal' footing in Obama's coalition, or any other left-center coalition, at this time. But we have to start somewhere, and we hardly become stronger by avoiding the tasks.

    Point three. We're not selling him as a social-democrat. We're 'selling' him, if that's the word, as a centrist spokesman in a left-center coalition (left broadly here) that needs a progressive pole to curb rightward drift. In other words, he is what he is, a high-road industrial policy capitalist, as I pointed out above. I press him to be good at that, not to become something he isn't. Why is this term important to you? The social-dems in the US, DSA, are as weak as the rest of us, and divided between Obama and the Greens, and the other branch, SDUSA, such as it is, is with the NeoCons.

    Finally, of course we're in the mainstream of electoral politics, even if we're the small left edge of it. That's the whole idea, but to grow within it to become a progressive majority with a platform that speaks to the problems and the crises, and offers solutions in the forms of structural reform, popular power and redistribution, in a way that moves us forward and strengthens us for battles still on the horizon, but not here yet.

    If you think socialism and revolution is for mass agitation and mass action today, rather than propaganda work and theoretical work, and if you think we're in something other than a non-revolutionary situation, make your case. I'd love to see it. But give me assessments of concrete conditions, the ABC of Marxism, at least where it's grounded, not quotes from the classics, and certainly not from Bob, who's never got this matter right. When I first posted to this site, I said the first thing you folks need to do was get clear on this--the time of day and conditions, non-revolutionary conditions or not. Everything follows from that. They require very different sets of strategy and tactics, and getting them mixed up, either way, makes for a big mess.

  • Guest - zerohour

    Carl -

    I think you've identified the key issue underlying this discussion for revolutionaries: we are in a non-revolutionary situation. I don't think anyone disagrees with you on that. So what are the appropriate modes of political action, that will allow us to accumulate forces, and transform popular consciousness? How can we build a movement in which people are oriented towards the acquisition of <i>real</i> power, the power to make decisions about their lives and their world, to devise institutions for that purpose, as opposed to illusory power, the power to influence short-term decisions within existing institutions? How can we organize so that people can act in their best interests in a revolutionary situation, and perhaps even help bring it about?

    The concern I have is that unless we can build a powerful mass movement, with a revolutionary perspective, any interaction with electoral power becomes a politics <i>for</i> electoral power. Gains made by popular action are used as capital to leverage influence with politicians, which is viewed as the key to build movements. Get used to this for a long period of time and people won't be able know what to do in a revolutionary situation, or even see one. Worse, they might even work to oppose it.

    I disagree what abstention from elections is ONLY appropriate for revolutionary situations, but I am open to an argument for how participation in elections can build towards it.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    OK, now we can unfold a discussion, because we're talking about the same thing, or at least have a common starting point.

    Generally speaking, in my view, our tasks in these conditions divide into two, mass democratic tasks and socialist tasks.

    For some time now, socialism has been in crisis. Many countries and parties considering themselves socialist have collapsed, some have radically transformed, and some new things are on the rise. Generally, the concept is 'essentially contested,' meaning it's a term like 'good Christian.' You have to define it to use it, and even then you have problems. In this sense, our socialist task is primarily theoretical and propaganda work, not mass work, at least in this country. We have to sort through the wreckage, rescue what 's worthwhile, and make new theoretical breakthroughs. This takes time. Some of us have been doing it, and have made some progress, but the process is not complete, if it ever is.

    But this work can't be done in a vacuum or hothouse. It has to been grounded in the struggles of the masses in the pressing issues of the day--stopping war, fighting joblessness, fighting injustice and discrimination of all kinds, curbing the fascist danger. These things can't wait, but we can't approach them simply as reformists either. We have to fight for reforms in a way that enhances the power of the masses to transform society.

    I'd do a long study of Lenin in the period of repression, Gramsci, Bukharin and Dimitrov, even Chou En-lai, the so-called revisionists. We get off track frequently because we focus on the wrong texts, texts that were written for periods of revolutionary upsurge. These don't help us that much today. Better to study the guys who were writing in defensive, non-revolutionary periods, on what revolutionaries could do in those conditions to survive and thrive.

    The key to empowerment is organization. As Chou Enlai put it, organization is how you turn words into deeds. Certainly the organization of revolutionaries, but also the mass organizations, the united front coalitions, the grass roots institutions, such as schools, unions, small businesses and worker cooperatives. Lenin, in his battles with the Otsovists, called this aspect the building of 'strong points' and 'strongholds' among the masses. Gramsci calls it the 'war of position.'

    In these conditions, the task of creating revolutionary consciousness among millions, or even tens of thousands, is a dead end, and will only cause frustration. It's a cellular task, not a molecular task. We are developing revolutionaries among ones, tens and maybe hundreds. The point is to get damned good at it, so when the time comes, you will have something to cast a net much wider WITH. That doesn't mean you don't don't mass education; you do, but it's to extend and defend democracy, train up workers to run their own affairs in the plants and communities, beat back reaction in the electoral arena, and so on.

    In other words, your socialist tasks and your mass democratic tasks are linked, but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.

    If any of this makes sense to you, we can go forward and elaborate how this plays out in the electoral arena, as well as others, such as the marketplace.

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