U.S. Elections: György Lukács debates Progressives for Obama


"What role do groups like Progressives for Obama play in maintaining the 'great legitimacy' of elections in the U.S.? Is there any responsibility here?

"Is this 'great legitimacy' something we should tail or something we should be fighting to overcome? If the latter, then how is this possible while actively encouraging support for the Democrats?"

The following essay appeared as part of our ongoing Kasama discussion of these presidential elections (and revolutionary strategy generally) -- this round was specifically kicked off by the decision of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back) to call for "voting against Romney" (and specifically voting for Obama "especially" in states where the election is close).


by Red Fly

Carl Davidson wrote here on Kasama:

György Lukács, 1917

I've been reading György Lukács' chapter, "Class Consciousness" from History and Class Consciousness and I think he has some compelling things to say about your strategic orientation that you should consider, Carl. Let us go through a bit of it together.

Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher Jr. write, in their recent joint essay "The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him":

This is what perpetual electoral lesser-evilism amounts to in practice: a denial of the working class' historical mission and a tailing of bourgeois consciousness. Instead of organizing for the conquest of hegemony through the development of working class consciousness, which in its historically clarified form is critical and revolutionary (and thus necessarily independent), what takes place instead is an impotent mirroring of bourgeois consciousness and its reified institutions, in which the basic parameters of the bourgeois setup are reaffirmed over and over, but with a "clean" conscience. Reality transforms into its opposite: the perpetual re-creation of an unreal politics, a fake politics, a "politics" which can only ever confirm the non-presence of real politics. This substitute for politics -- an imposter posing as politics -- assures confinement in the prison house of bourgeois consciousness because it is itself the direct reflection of the falsity, the essential nullity, at the heart of its mystified vision of reality, which is not a reality of politics at all, but of narrow and naked self-interest.

At the heart of all real politics is the struggle for truth defined as the consciousness of the totality of social relations and institutional reflections these give rise to. But bourgeois politics is a consumer spectacle in which truth is unlocatable--not actively denied but simply without dimension. There is only ever "the middle class," which is just another way of saying there is no class. There is only ever "our national interests," which is just another way of saying there are no antagonistic interests, between nations in the "Homeland," or anywhere else, since in the self-conception of the "Homeland" there are no other nations at all, merely a big backyard dotted with innumerable imperial clubhouses/military bases, cruise missile fuckhouses for Team America's imperial pleasure. There is only ever "American freedom," which is just another way of saying there is no debate about the meaning of this concept, no attention given to the profound unfreedom of billions that is the condition of its possibility for a relative few. There is only ever "American values," which is just another way of saying their are only the values of the bourgeois camarilla and its factions.

A fight for another kind of system? No. Voting for Democrats is a fight to avoid a fight for another kind of system.

Bill Fletcher Jr. (left) and Carl Davidson

Carl and Bill Fletcher write:

Carl's vision is based on "a long-term progressive electoral strategy that is focused on winning power." From this strategic perspective, nestled deep within the enemy's reified institutional camp, I think it's impossible for the proletariat to ever recognize the totality of this system. Social relations will remain reified through a constant renewal and legitimation of bourgeois power.

Another, I think much more promising, vision is based on removing obstacles to the proletariat's self-understanding through forging an independent path at distance from the ruling class and its institutions, by helping the proletariat not to recognize its self in the alien power of bourgeois institutions, but in the power of its role in the process of production.

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  • Guest - carldavidson

    No, i simply divide our task into two, mass democratic tasks and socialist tasks--they overlap some, but are distinct.

    The first aims at uniting a progressive majority, largely around a platform of a popular front vs finance capital, much like the one i outlined for PDA above.

    The second aims at uniting the militant minority around 21st century socialist and the paths to it--this entails serious propaganda, policy and theoretical work, as well as the task of revolutionary education and recruitment among the advanced.

    That's why I bother with creating and institutionalizing things like the Global Studies Association, working conferences like the Left Forum, organizing a socialist track at the USSF, the Online University of the Left, as well as trying to build my own organization, CCDS, and working on Left Unity, including my participation in this project.

    I take socialist tasks quite seriously. It's not just something I tack on at the end of an agitational leaflet or speech: 'The police are beating us and the bosses are screwing us in xyz case! That's why we need socialism!' It's relatively harmless, but really misses the point of what we really need regarding socialism--and you have to get clear on socialism to understand its successor, communism.

    I don't know if Lukacs would find it opportunist or not. But I don't think Gramsci or Lenin would, the two I look to most on matters of organization. I've been want to look into Lukacs, so I'll work on it.

  • Guest - carldavidson


    I agree. I don't think there is a 'The Masses'. It's more like ten different clusters of 10 percent each, rougly speaking, with different values, lifestyles, identities and interests, all contending, merging, and conflicting. I don't think there is a single 'mass mainstream' anymore, if there ever was one. But its still important to find way to assemble a mosaic that's a counter-hegemonic progressive majority, or at least a very large minority.

  • Carl writes:

    <blockquote>". But its still important to find way to assemble a mosaic that’s a counter-hegemonic progressive majority, or at least a very large minority."</blockquote>

    I don't agree.

    Ultimately, we need a vast alliance for overthrowing this system. But I don't see any reason to assume that we need such a majority at each point -- or that our communist politics and presentation should be confined (at each point) by the requirement of such majority alliances.

    Far more valuable to assemble (at the beginning) a revolutionary movement and a partisan base -- often in opposition to the winds among the majority -- and start to exert a coherent, distinctive and radical politics.

    We don't be able to ally directly with the vast intermediate of society at most points (some points perhaps, but not most).

    We need to "unite the advanced" (in this strategic sense through developing a communist pole and a fusion with those interested in revolutionary politics) in ways that can then (in different circumstances) "influence the intermediate."

    As for developing a broad alliance for our purposes: I don't assume it will necessarily be an absolute majority (in the sense of needing to pass some mechanical 50.1% of the population) -- but will need to be broad enough to act as a material force, and coherent enough to defeat other forces in the field (and push some adversaries into "neutrality").

    And I think the conditions and terms of those future alliances are not necessarily even visible yet....

    We need to train our core forces to <em>think</em> in terms of winning millions to a revolutionary pole....

    But the assumption that we can form some majority movement now, really becomes a call that we should subordinate ourselves to the political movements of the liberal imperialists (which is a call for our self-annihilation as a political force, not a strategic plan for success.)

  • Guest - carldavidson

    Yes, now we get to the differences.

    I have no idea whether we'll have a numerical majority at any or every given point. That's formalistic.

    --But our strategic aim is to unite the many to defeat the few. That means, to unfold it a bit more, developing the progressive forces, winning over the middle forces, and isolating, dividing and crushing the backward, batch by batch.

    --The tactical orientation is to wage struggle on just grounds, to our advantage and with restraint.

    --In dealing with forces you are in a common front with, seek common ground, isolate differences and solve problems one by one.

    There's more wisdom in those three condensed CPC formulations than all of R Palme Dutt, the 6th Comintern, Trotsky, and the anarchists put together, to my way of thinking.

  • There is no disagreement over "our strategic aim is to unite the many to defeat the few."

    But you are seeking to "unite the many" BEHIND the few.

    You portray our difference as a matter of whether to "go to the masses." But in fact the difference is that you want to "go to the imperialists." (Their framework, their terms, their aparatus, their issues, their system.)

    Bourgeois candidates "unite the many" all the time... and we need to prevent that kind of unity, help obstruct it. Help shatter that unity that gives the Democratic party its cohesion. And we need to prepare to do that now in ways commenserate with our current strength and forces.

    Unite the many -- yes, of course, eventually -- but for what? On what basis? In what framework?

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    One should distinguish between majority support for a revolution versus majority support for a specific party which eventually comes to lead that revolution. In the Russian Revolution &amp; Civil War there was no question that the whole of Russia was bursting with the demand for revolution. In some regions this brought workers and peasants into backing governments made up of Mensheviks, Right Social Revolutionaries, Popular Socialists and other splinter groups. These groups then attempted to offer an alliance to the Whites in the same way that Allende tried offering Pinochet a high-level appointment. The triumph of the Bolsheviks was brought about by the fact that Generals Kornilov, Denikin &amp; Wrangel, Admiral Kolchak, Ataman Semyonov, Baron Ungern-Sternberg and other White officers approached the Mensheviks et al in the same that Pinochet responded to Allende.

    So did the Bolsheviks build majority support or not? That really depends on what one means. When it was a question of choosing between Bolshevism or counter-revolution, the vast majority of Russians clearly chose Bolshevism (if only just by default). But a more lucid delineation of what politics were supported by Russians at different points will show that much of it was at most in a common orbit with Bolshevism. The Bolsheviks won because they were the group that was most organized for leading a triumphant civil war against the Whites. But there was still much support for Right SRs and other such types among the Russian populace.

  • Forgive me Patrick -- but I think it is a terrible method to bring every controversy "back to the Bolsheviks." I have spent years studying that history, and am certainly equipped to play that game.

    But at a very deep level, i think it is methodologically wrong to treat the Bolsheviks as some treasure trove of "how things should be done" -- so that if we compare ourselves to them, we can evaluate what we need to be doing.

    The Russian revolution was long ago and far away. It was a very different country and a very different world in a very different time. there are things to learn -- but really <em>privileging</em> and <em>freezing</em> that one specific and narrow experience will not (ever) produce the creative insights need.

    So, I could engage your argument (by pointing out that the Russian Revolution was deeply marked, precisely, by its minority nature, just as the German KPD failure at revolution was marked by their confinement in a specific social base) -- but I really don't want to encourage a dead and deadening scholastic method.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "those they think will do them the least harm"

    It is certainly true that most ordinary thinking people will vote this way. But breaking out of that mode is an absolutely central step towards the potential growth of any real revolutionary socialist party. At the time when Lenin counseled a vote for the Labour Party in Britain it was not an issue of British workers voting for Labourites as the party who "will do the least harm" to them. There were then real hopes among British workers that the Labour Party might really be it, and refusing to recognize such hopes would not have been wise for the early Comintern.

    But here and now? As you say, most people who go out to vote for Democrats are simply holding their noses while they do it. Even among the Republican voting base, the phenomenon of Alex Jones and the like represents a similar wave of disillusionment. This is not the time for socialists to be declaring "I hold my nose with you in solidarity!" This is a time to be patiently urging people to see other possibilities. The fact that most people are not going to sign on as real supporters anytime soon is beside the point. No potential revolutionary movement can have a chance of getting anywhere if it does not accept from the onset that the majority of people (no matter what their ethnic background or gender or anything such) are not going to rush out to join up.

  • Guest - carldavidson


    You ask: Unite the many on what?

    First you have to talk to them. We came up with the items in the PDA platform that way. Each item, taken singly, could unite a majority of workers and the oppressed around here. We try to find what people are willing to fight for, vote for or otherwise take action on, seeing it as their own--and then using the CPC to find ways to put it into legislation to fight over.

    When I say 'unite the many, I'm looking horizontally, not vertically. If some 'high road' capitalists want to look to the popular front vs finance capital and war, so much the better, But the main task is to unite the base which, as we have noted, is diverse and fragmented, at least as best as we can, and find or elect the handful of politicians who will speak for them over the 1 percent. In fact, the more you have united the base horizontally, the more likely you'll be to break off a few 'high roaders' higher up.

    As for uniting the many BEHIND the few, I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean Team Obama, no, you're ignoring our key points. If you mean organizing them behind PDA, the CPC and, such as it is, the socialist left, yes. of course.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    While there are many things which can be said in criticism of the KPD, the main difference between the situation in Germany from 1918 and onwards versus Russia was that the military officers chose to bide their time while Ebert et al pulled things in. The analogue to the situation in Russia, transplanted over to Germany in 1918-9, would have been if General Ludendorff had carried out a coup d'etat at the end of November 1918 where Ebert, Noske and others were assassinated. This was exactly what the Whites did all across Russia whenever they had the chance, and this was what blew up in their faces.

    Now in fact, Ludendorff did participate in the 1923 attempt which launched Adolf Hitler on the scene. But that was after the main storm of 1918 had already passed. If Ludendorff had attempted to overturn the German Social Democrats in the way that Admiral Kolchak and other Whites in different parts of Russia did, then in all likelihood this would have ignited civil war across Germany which would have probably ended in the triumph of a newly formed KPD. The KPD made many other errors, but the fact that this outcome did not occur was not primarily because of that.

  • Again, Patrick: I think your approach to history involves a methodological error... among other things that you greatly overestimate your hindsight ability to what was right or wrong in complex situation.

    There is a close connection between the overestimation of our ability as "monday morning quarterbacks" and a formulaic and dogmatic view about how to develop the best policies for the future.

    In both cases it assumes a world that is much simpler, and much more easily knowable, and much more linear in its interplay of action-and-effect -- than is in fact true.

    The idea that you can replay hundreds of historical examples in your mind and <em>know</em> what <em>should</em> have been done is an illusion.

    We can and should draw large overall lessons, we can and should identify key acts of brilliance and stupidity -- but we can't rummage through history like we are some omnipotent god seeing the rights and wrong over every place and time. It is simply a dogmatic misunderstanding of how the world (and politics) works.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    By the way, just for the record, there is no 'Progressives for Obama' this year. Before 2010, we renamed the web sites Progressive America Rising (although for technical reasons, we kept the url). The Obama campaign itself may or may not make use of the phrase to name something, but it's not us.Both Fletcher and I are working through PDA and other independent forms

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    I know it's a cliché, but it's still true: Voting for a "lesser evil" is still voting for evil. Carl's point that we have to deal with the working class where it is rather than where we would like it to be is surely true, but what is the proper approach to unpacking that question? There was a period in my life when I did fall into the belief that voting for a lesser evil (Democrats) would slow down the reactionary onslaught; that a little bit would be salvaged.

    It took more slaps to the face than it should have, but I put such illusions behind me two decades ago. In retrospect, indulgences in the politics of lesser evilism is a politics of defeat. Let me join Red Fly in expressing respect for Carl's many good works and deep understandings, and I'll add Carl has defended his position on Obama with well-thought-out, lucid ideas. Nonetheless, it's the wrong approach.

    Carl writes of his experience that people are much more open to political discussion during electoral seasons, and that provides an opening for education. Agreed, but education for what? Since when has indulging illusions constituted education?

    An independent socialist candidate is not going to win, but running such a campaign — advancing an openly socialist platform — is an opportunity to raise working class consciousness. I don't have the patience to do that, but if others do, I'm for it. To oppose Obama's war-mongering, austerity, Wall Street bailouts, violent attacks on progressive organizations and assaults on civil liberties, and then call for a vote for it, is not "realpolitik," it is announcing that the present-day capitalist nightmare is all that can ever be and surrendering to it. For an independent Left, it is committing suicide.

    And is Obama actually the "lesser evil"? On social issues, one could easily argue that he is, but only because Romney and the tea partiers who lead him by the nose want to take us straight to the 15th century. But in the larger picture, an Obama re-election means progressives remain asleep. When a Republican does it, there is much protest. When a Democrat does the same thing, it's hit the snooze button. I am not attempting to make an argument that we should want things to get worse so that more people (theoretically) will get angry; I am pointing out that the "lesser evil" is not so clear-cut.

    No election has ever brought the working class a thing. Every advance has been because of masses of angry bodies in the street, enough to put some fear into the bourgeoisie. When we go home, the advances begin to be taken back. Romney as president makes my skin crawl; a horrifying thought that should make any thinking person physically ill. But I am not going to vote for Obama's imperialist wars, military machine, stepped-up assaults on progressives and slower implementation of the Republican corporate agenda because Romney is so loathsome — we should be well beyond casting votes based on personalities. Just because the bourgeoisie would like us to commit suicide does not mean we should do so.

  • Guest - jp

    what is missing here is that for 'any thinking person,' obama too should 'make their skin crawl', and the thought of him as emperor should be 'a horrifying thought that should make physically them ill'.

    there is an underlying and seemingly impervious belief that democrats are at least better than republicans. it's demonstrably false in innumerable areas [o's health insurance industry giveaway, prominently], and much of what passes for lesser evil is just projection of this irrational belief. historical 'what-if' scenarios are rife with this, like 'gore would not have invaded iraq', or 'obama won't tear down social security/medicare'.

    of course there exist areas in which the d's are less worse, as nader says, than the r's - that's what keeps the left from rejecting the system. to secure these blessings of liberty, you merely need to forget your brothers and sisters around the world slaughtered each and every day.

  • Guest - jp

    '... The great fallacy, here, is that Democratic presidents in general, and Obama in particular, somehow create “space” for progressive activism. Movements create space for themselves, by acting. Only charlatans preach that progressive movements must install preferred personalities from the menus of the ruling circles before they can find space to move...'

    - http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/fletcherism-and-fakery-guarding-obama%E2%80%99s-left-flank

  • Guest - carldavidson

    First of all, JP, the left and progressive movements are not yet in a position to 'install' anyone. At best, they may help 'tip the balance' between one ruling class faction and another, as we did here recently when we took out our Blue Dog--not that his successor was all that much better. Still, when you have every union in the state lined up on one side of the race, and the entire Dem establishment on the other, we figured out how to make a difference even without ever endorsing the Blue Dog's opponent.

    Second, do you really think, say, that the CIO could have done just as well under Hoover as FDR? Who knows? But I tend to doubt it.

    Third, here in PA we're faced with one of the more backward 'Voter Suppression, Voter ID' laws in the country. Would you just let it pass with a verbal denunciation? Or would you hit the streets and the ballot box to throw out the Republicans that are imposing it?

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    Fighting voter suppression is definitely a real enough issue and should not be disparaged. Still, that is not the same thing as giving support to the election of a Democrat. To the extent that voter suppression is a broad enough issue to be broadcast to Democratic voters, it should also be broad enough to broadcast it to everyone without making the message into an appeal for any specific candidate. When it becomes an issue of holding out actual support for a candidate running for office, then the question needs to be reevaluated as it is no longer just a fight against voter suppression.

  • Guest - jp

    previously posted on kasama, but as predicted, lost in the verbiage:

    jp said
    August 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

    relevant analysis is here:

    the debate here is mainly a repeat of arguments from 4 yrs ago, with the difference that the claim of obama ‘opening up space’ for the left [among other things] has been conclusively shown false – but is mind-numbingly repeated regardless.

    i can only add productively htis point not-yet-made: that when you hear repeated bluster that Democrats fight disenfranchisement of voters, turn to critical thinking mode.

    IN FACT the d’s have been actively and effectively disenfranchising voters every step of the way anytime they fear voting results. since 2000, vast sums of $ and human effort have gone to preventing ballot access for 3rd parties around the usa. you could look it up.

    for those who have expressed an interest in electoral activity to promote socialism, this fact must be dealt with before proceeding.

    Pennsylvania is one of the very worst states in ensuring the disenfranchisement of anyone not willing to vote for either of the two parties of slaughter and slavery [the slaughter in particular being ok if the slaughter is other people's families on the other side of the world].

    of course, this fact will soon get lost, like the others, in the barrage of words intended to Maintain All Illusions. who benefits from this maintenance of illusions?

  • Guest - jp

    for clarity of discussion, please substitute this edit for my above post:

    previously posted on kasama, but as predicted, lost in the verbiage:

    jp said
    August 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

    ...the debate here is mainly a repeat of arguments from 4 yrs ago, with the difference that the claim of obama ‘opening up space’ for the left [among other things] has been conclusively shown false – but is mind-numbingly repeated regardless.

    i can only add productively htis point not-yet-made: that when you hear repeated bluster that Democrats fight disenfranchisement of voters, turn to critical thinking mode.

    IN FACT the d’s have been actively and effectively disenfranchising voters every step of the way anytime they fear voting results. since 2000, vast sums of $ and human effort have gone to preventing ballot access for 3rd parties around the usa. you could look it up.

    for those who have expressed an interest in electoral activity to promote socialism, this fact must be dealt with before proceeding.

    Pennsylvania is one of the very worst states in ensuring the disenfranchisement of anyone not willing to vote for either of the two parties of slaughter and slavery [the slaughter in particular being ok if the slaughter is other people's families on the other side of the world].

    of course, this fact will soon get lost, like the others, in the barrage of words intended to Maintain All Illusions. who benefits from this maintenance of illusions?'

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    In Wisconsin there has been an attempt by the Government Accountability Board to keep both the SEP and the Greens off of the ballot. The GAB is made up of people appointed by Jim Doyle (D) and Scott Walker (R). So does one vote Democrat to try to put a stop to such dirty tricks? The issue of defending the right to vote or the right of new parties to get onto a ballot after the requisite number of signatures has been obtained should be a trans-party issue.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    The subtext of voter ID/suppression is racism and chauvinism. It's embedded with an irrational fear of hordes of illegal Mexicans and illiterate Blacks overwhelming the majority of whites who vote GOP. To see it blatantly, all you have to do is follow the comments in the online opinion blogs of local papers like our Beaver County Times--or just strike up a conversation in a bar frequented by white workers.

    The Mexican part is simply fantasy, while the Black part is real enough, especially when Blacks are on the same side as a large minority of whites. Why you can't seem to work to defeat and throw out those who constructed this reactionary scheme is beyond me. It seems like maintaining your electoral 'virginity' by giving these guys a chauvinist pass. At best, I see it as an ongoing reflection of the grip of anarchism among those who should know better.

  • Guest - jp

    the usual carldavidson/ronald reagan argument - ignore the opposition argument and restate your position ad nauseum.

    Why you can’t seem to work to defeat and throw out the democrats [or at least not support them] who have been hard at work suppressing voters is likely explained by your political promiscuity.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    If you'll read my post, you'll see that we did help 'throw out' our local Blue Dog Dem Congressman. As for your argument, what have I ignored? There's plenty I've disagreed with--like a rather weird notion that voting for one candidate to defeat another confers my 'legitimacy' of a system is well-legitimized save for a few cracks here and there. Our argument is to build up a pole within and without that arena that widens those cracks until it implodes, like what happened to our Whigs a while back. And I'm long on record supporting the judicious running of socialists, Greens and other third forces on the local and state level. But yes, I am not in favor of throwing out Democrats to replace them with Republicans. The right already has a party to do that, and it won't get a helping hand from me.

  • Guest - jp

    does it need to be said again?

    '...IN FACT the d’s have been actively and effectively disenfranchising voters every step of the way anytime they fear voting results. since 2000, vast sums of $ and human effort have gone to preventing ballot access for 3rd parties around the usa. you could look it up.

    for those who have expressed an interest in electoral activity to promote socialism, this fact must be dealt with before proceeding.

    Pennsylvania is one of the very worst states in ensuring the disenfranchisement of anyone not willing to vote for either of the two parties of slaughter and slavery [the slaughter in particular being ok if the slaughter is other people's families on the other side of the world].'

    one congressman in PA was not the problem - you [carldavidson] are either unaware or worse of the vote suppression that's gone on in your own backyard.

    and it's the d party you support - while calling on others to vote for them because they suppress votes, you deceive by omission of the fact that the d's have done significant damage to voting rights. [if you can only vote for who they allow you to, that's not a right to vote.]

    and this method - deceive by omission of the crimes of the d's - is repeated, mind-numbingly, issue by issue by bloody corpse by bloody corpse by wasted life by wasted life by starvation by starvation by assassination by assassination by interminable torture by interminable torture by oppressed people by oppressed people by all that we are supposed to want to overthrow.

    you carry a rather weird notion that opposing all candidates of slaughter and slavery implies support of one of the candidates. the system is certainly 'well-legitimized' - and you and your method are doing your best to maintain that.

  • Guest - jp

    correction of this paragraph:

    and it’s the d party you support – while calling on others to vote for them [d's] because they [read: the republicans] suppress votes, you deceive by omission of the fact that the d’s have similarly done significant damage to voting rights. [if you can only vote for who they allow you to, that's not a right to vote], [as if this should need explaining.]

  • Guest - carldavidson

    You can oppose all candidates of 'slavery' if you like, JP. It's usually called 'abstentionism' in this day and age. You abandon the arena to the bourgeoisie, since you think fighting them there only helps them. But it could be another position.

    In fact, it may be helpful to spell out the various positions on the US left, for the sake of clarity and to avoid reductionism.

    1. Transforming the Democrats into something close to a social-democratic labor/people's party. This is typically the position of the CPUSA and the DSA, who hope to get there via a combination of skill alliances with the unions and other liberal groups, combined with mass pressure from below. (I think this one is truly illusory as strategy, even if we agree on tactics in one or another case).

    2. Imploding or otherwise breaking up the Democrats by sharpening the conflicts within it in a protracted way, especially building up a left pole as a 'party within a party'. Then regroup the best pieces of it together with 'outside' groups like some Greens, and form a new popular front vs finance capital and/or labor party. (This is the strategic position of many in CCDS, some in PDA, and some in FRS0 and DSA. It's a long shot, but conceivable.

    3. Never voting for any Democrat on principle. At the extreme this is the position of the Sparts and most Trotskyists, but they subdivide. Some will vote Green even if they are 'petit-bourgeois' (ISO), some will only vote of a labor party, and still others will only vote for a 'revolutionary' labor party. If these parties don't exist, they do propaganda work 'calling' for them, and they mesure others by their 'calls'. On the far edge, some in WWP/PSL will support radical Dems in a few cases, like Cynthia McKinney, in primaries, but not the general. Except for the later, there is little organizing here, mainly debating and 'position taking.'

    4. Some argue that they are not against electoral politics 'in principle,' it's just that the best combination of forces has yet to emerge. These include some Maoists, who point to the insurgent third party races of the Black Panthers. Should something like that pop up, they might get into it. Until then, 'keep your distance' and do something else that's militant and direct.

    5. Some engage in elections as revolutionary education, party-building an recruitment. The SWP is a master of this, no matter how small their forces, with Peter Camejo, when he lived, was one of the best. The CPUSA did it a few times, but not whole-heartedly--and the SPUSA and PSL are doing it this round. The Greens largely do this too, although they have the additional goal of getting enough votes to get permanent ballot status. The socialists would like to do that, too, but are too weak.

    6. Many anarchists are against elections in general as giving 'legitimacy' to the state, and they are opposed to all states. They only approval of voting in local communes, and then see federating these communes to make larger entities. So they attack voting, and urge things like burning voter cards.

    7. Some anarchists agree generally with the above, but are more pragmatic. If one of their local projects would be helped by passing some measure or election some local official, they might bend the rule and do it, case-by case.

    There's probably a few I've missed, and some can be nuanced and tweaked a little. None of them are new, and have all been around for at least 100 years or more, even if some of the phrasing changes from time to time. But that's the big picture. None of them are happy with the Dems, or the two party system.

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Re post 30: The Whigs did die out, but were promptly replaced by Republicans. Still a two-party system. Given the winner-take-all, single-seat electoral system firmly in place, there can only be two parties. That would exist even without the extra push by Republicans and Democrats who unite for purposes of ballot access. But that's a subject for another debate.

  • Guest - jp

    i note once again failure to engage the posted argument re: d's vote supression activities

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "Imploding ... the Democrats" is an illusion. For one thing, the Whig Party flew apart at a time when there attempts to form third parties such as the Free Soil Party. The latter was formed after the Wilmot Proviso had been rejected by Democrats and the Free Soil Party then drew upon both disillusioned Democrats and Whigs. Later on the the Free Soil Party merged with the Whigs to form the Republicans, but this was not arrived at by working within the Whigs as a "party within a party." Otherwise there would have been no need to form a separate Free Soil Party.

    Besides, capitalism today is a different animal. For all of the viciousness wrapped up in slavery and everything else from the 19th century, capitalism was still then a very dynamically growing system. That is much less so today, and this has to affect how much one can expect to see a reenactment of the process which gave rise to the Republican Party out of the Free Soilers &amp; Whigs.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    JP, the Dems these days, as a general rule, usually do better the larger the turnout.

    But I've fought many of Daley's voter suppression tactics first hand, in the streets, in Chicago--when the they aimed against other independents, Dems and against the Greens. I was in Mississippi in the 1960s, and faced all sorts of violence from the Dem segregationists trying to suppress the right to vote. I know this question very well.

    So what's your argument? That we should oppose voter suppression no matter who's behind it? I agree. That we should not bother fighting the GOP efforts because the Dems have done it too? No way. Which position do you take?

  • Guest - Miles Ahead

    I’m the first to admit, I am having trouble wrapping my head around some of these arguments—coming from what I see as the two most obvious angles, e.g. vote for the lesser of two evils, or boycott the elections altogether because they all stink. So new? (Another thing—not tailing after the intermediate.)

    But here is how I am looking at this time, place and condition.

    Primarily there is a battle going on in the ideological sphere—and in the minds of the majority of people in the U.S.—it comes down to the over the top reactionary ideology and actual platform of the Right vs. the more progressive-and potentially radical-leaning, which includes the youth, oppressed nationalities, as well as those who have fought (and died) for certain rights in the past.

    And things are becoming more blatant and desperate. More and more people are learning and understanding the differences in ideology and outlook—not simply summing things up as Dems. vs. Repubs. But of course, the Democrats are trying their utmost to say they are the representatives of progress—which has been made easier for them by the outright reactionary ideologues on the Right.

    Three of the most obvious attacks – brought to the forefront and revisited by the total reactionaries—is the war on women, voter suppression (which has more to do with Jim Crow and racism than voting) and immigration. It is difficult to tell people outright—none of this matters in terms of electoral politics, when for starters, the Republican convention is so in your face, and has scheduled the following keynote speakers: Mike Huckabee, Sheriff Arpaio of AZ, and Ohio Sec’y of State Husted, who’s in charge of the election purges in that state, and who is an admitted member of the tea party.

    As far as a ban on abortion (and the attempts to overturn Roe vs. Wade since 1973 when abortion was legalized)—under any and all circumstances including rape or incest, this has been part of the Republicans’ platform since the ‘70s and reiterated now in 2012 (even with the debacle around Akin)—but few people were paying much attention to that fact until very recently.

    Meanwhile, where are the Democrats, really, in terms of say voter suppression? One example, Eric Holder, head of the Dept. of Justice, has done nothing except to call it a “poll tax.”

    But not everyone who will cast their vote for Obama sees the Dem Party as their saviors. And there is growing resistance to these attacks on the ground—in some meaningful ways, not just through the “ballot box.” And I think we can look to #Occupy (or the Arab Spring, even Wisconsin), more of a grassroots movement, as to why many people are looking at the elections differently.

    Rather than getting swept up in the lesser of two evils, or abstaining (or even by innuendo like Progressive Labor in the 60's proposing that we vote for a Geo. Wallace to speed things up in terms of a rev. situation), I think we have to look at this as a time and opportunity to fight further for revolutionary ideas/politics and continue to plant a revolutionary pole—to draw deeper lines of demarcation. More and more, many thousands are becoming ripe for and open to those possibilities and to rev/rad politics—even though for some like the Dems it’s politics as usual with their attempts at co-option.

  • Guest - jp

    very simple point:
    you don't oppose vote suppression no matter who's behind it
    you did not in PA, because it was advantageous to their defeat of the republicans
    and it was democrats doing the suppression
    your stump speech deceives by omission
    and that's your model
    one in which you can't tell the truth

    supporting everything you oppose
    to achieve your goal
    is certainly a novel approach
    kind of homeopathic

  • Guest - carldavidson

    What in the world are you talking about, JP? Where have I ignored voter suppression by the Dems in PA? Since I moved back to this state, I've opposed every ballot restriction, no matter who was behind it or who it targeted.

  • [Moderator note: this is not the place for summation of individuals and their political arc. Just leave it at the door.]

  • Guest - Aaron Aarons

    I think the most important point to emphasize in relation to U.S. national elections is that they are elections to choose the executive committee of an empire that negatively impacts the lives of billions of people who don't even have the formal right to participate in that choice.

    We need to recognize that, in an imperialist country, pro-imperialist politics will dominate the electoral arena and every other arena. If we are in solidarity with the oppressed of the world, we have to be ready and willing to be rejected by the majority of our own countrymen and women, who only oppose particular manifestations of imperialism that seem too costly or senseless, such as the wars against Iraq that were conducted mainly at the insistence of the Israel lobby, but who will not reject patriotism/national chauvinism as long as imperialism continues to offer them some advantages.

    In other words, the 'many' we need to unite is the majority of the oppressed of the world, <i>against</i> the 'few' that probably includes the majority of the population of the United States.

  • Guest - Dick Reilly

    Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report:weighs in and takes no prisoners: .Worth the read: "Fletcherism and Fakery: Guarding Obama’s Left Flank" - http://blackagendareport.com/content/fletcherism-and-fakery-guarding-obama%E2%80%99s-left-flank

  • Guest - dickreilly

    Apologies to all for the repost of Glen Ford's op/ed for BAR. Still waiting for Davidson, Fletcher et al to respond.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Ford's main goal is to take out Obama, no matter what the cost or consequence. It's a view with no legs in the Black community or among progressive-minded workers. He thinks there is no right danger worthy of concern, that it's just a 'bogey man' created by us. Our entire 5900 paper is a response to him. Read it again if you like. Others can reply to him, or agree with him, but I've already made my case.

  • Guest - Contrarian

    I agree with Ford. Obama is, by far, the greater evil. His defeat would be a major victory, and would reenergize the left. We should run deregister to vote, stay home, vote for third parties, or demonstrate in the streets against the vicious Obama attacks on the people (mortgage foreclosures, Social Security/Medicare/Medsicaid cuts, war expansion, drone killings, openly authorized assassinations not even Hitler dared to publicly do, etc). We should use the election to energize the people. It would be great if there were even sit-ins and civil disobedience to block the polls and prevent the re-election of right wing reactionary President 1%. Defeat Obama (as well as his pale twin Romney) now!

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    The 'twin evils' has a old and unfortunate history. Look it up re Germany circa 1928-32. And your line here, Contrarian, simply provides a 'left' cover for a victory by R/R and rightwing populism. To your credit, you don't even try that much to cover it up, save with a little bluster. The discussion has indeed provided a good deal of clarity on our differences, if not much else.

  • Guest - Pete M

    It appears that i have created a small storm here since Carl's quoted reply was in response to my post.

    It also seems that the discussion has degraded back to the Veal Pen box that we are confined to. Unless we can break out of the confines of this small space we can never hope for meaningful change.

    I have little sympathy for the Amerikan people and believe they are getting what they deserve. My concern is not with the Homeland but with our Imperialism and it's bloody consequences.

    The question then is how do we stop the wheels of imperialism form grinding on. We must find a way to bring the wars home, an old tactic that needs new ideas and methods, the old ones failed.

    The Boycott Movement is just one way to stop the machine, mass uprising is another both have the advantage of nonviolence at least from our side.

    I don't have many years left and the we can slowly change the game ploy has lost its appeal.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    This has been quite enlightening, seeing the various views of the American people, and the Working class within it, in their majority, come out. I would only assert that all views dismissing them as counter-revolutionary or endlessly backward, are wrong, as are strategies and tactics flowing from that assessment. I won't argue the point, since it has been made elsewhere many times, going back to the days of our split with the Weather Underground. you're free to go there, but I 'wouldn't wish that swamp on anyone.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    I think where Carl Davidson's argument really begins to unravel is when he starts talking about a "popular front against finance capital". I think he is smart enough to know what he's doing and shouldn't necessarily be given the benefit of the doubt; he is tailing reactionary populism.

    Obviously it's detached from reality; finance capitalists have raised millions of dollars for the Obama campaign. (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/07/wall-street-elites-open-wallets-for-obama-dnc/) But it's an important question to ask? If our "democratic task" (as a precursor to our "socialist task") is to form a "popular front against finance capital", why bother with the Democrats at all? I think the folks we would really need to be forming a "popular front" with in that case would be the fascists; they've always blamed "parasitic finance capital" (and relied on a racialized fear of finance capital, ie. anti-Semitic ideology) going back to Proudhon, who was arguably the originator of fascist ideology via Valois, Sorrell, etc. The German fascists, for example, boasted during their earlier years that they were far more radical than the Bolsheviks, who were being sold out and manipulated by Jewish finance capital. This tradition is alive and well, we saw it recently when the moderators of one of the largest "Occupy Wall St." pages displayed an openly anti-Semitic graphic.

    There is no "popular front against finance capital", it's a political delusion. It's not inherently anti-Semitic but it tails reactionary populist ideology which is historically rooted in anti-Semitism. So it's ironic to hear Carl Davidson make claims about the need to not be agnostic in regards to the racial prejudices of working-class euro-americans. What sort of damage does it do if we go to the euro-american working-class and tell them that they need a "popular front" with their supervisor against "finance capital"? (Something that most euro-american workers falsely associate with Jewry) That plays into all sorts of reactionary protectionist ideology and Fordist nostalgia about "international finance" leeching off of "productive American labor". (In fact the tendency that Davidson represents is happy to tail the reactionary consciousness of euro-american workers with their whole "green job creation" schtick - we just need to create more jobs, americans are having our jobs taken away, the capitalists are sending too many jobs overseas, if only we invested more in construction and 'real' productive capital, we'd all have jobs...)

    I agree with Carl Davidson that the Republicans are whipping the majority of euro-american and male voters into a racist and misogynistic frenzy. Obama is polling with 94% of the Black vote, 51% of the female vote, 2:1 of the Latino vote, and 52% of the youth vote. Romney has 53% of the White vote, 47% of the rural vote, and 49% of the senior vote. Romney also is polling with a startling 0% of the Black vote.

    So on an empirical level what Carl Davidson is saying is true. However he's creating an imaginary "popular front" where one does not exist. This election cycle, the bourgeoisie is deliberately pitting the white against the Black and Latino, the male against the female, the rural against the urban, and the old against the young, for the purposes in generating mass-interest in (and ideological support) for one of two almost identical candidates. This is the perfect example of the short-sightedness of the bourgeoisie; they are fully prepared to fling the US into full-fledged race and gender war in order to raise voter turnout and thus enthusiasm for the bourgeois social order. The fact that there is a growing tendency within both the Republican voting constituency and establishment to veer into the reactionary right is irrelevant. That force has always existed in US society, and will continue to grow regardless of any "tactical fronts" we make with "progressive Democrats". The reactionary fascist forces will not be defeated in a polling booth and to suggest they will is counter-revolutionary. These are people who stockpile arms, bomb abortion clinics, shoot migrant children crossing the border, lynch queer people, and donate money to Zimmerman's defense fund. And most of them are voting for Romney as a "lesser of two evils", they see him as a "Republican in Name Only", a Massachusetts liberal, a pawn of "Zionist bankers", etc. And they are a highly volatile force that the neo-conservative leadership of the GOP is only interested in manipulating for votes; the neo-cons are essentially riding a bull, releasing a cork on a bottle in the hopes they can shove the genie back in on a later date. And they care about these people as much as Obama cares about Trayvon Martin's parents, that is to say, not at all. Do you really think Dick Cheney (and his lesbian daughter) care about whether queer folks are allowed to get married? Do you really think Donald Rumsfeld ever lost any sleep about first-trimester abortions? Do you think George Bush was worried about "American jobs" when he was drafting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act? Do you think a hypothetical president Romney is seriously going to be thinking about America's "Anglo-Saxon heritage" when he meets with the presidents of China.

    Actually what Carl Davidson is doing when he talks about the "reactionary right take-over" is he's buying into GOP propaganda, while simultaneously ignoring the very real popular character of fascism. This is what the GOP wants its constituency to believe; that its the only hope for older white workers and farmers in "traditional families" against feminism, multiculturalism, and the "gay agenda". Most of these same people would rather have someone like Ron Paul as their president, and as I said will be casting a "lesser evil" ballot for Romney. If Romney were to be elected president, there would be a wave of fascist terrorism, but likely directed against the perceived betrayal of the Romney administration. An Obama victory could be good for the radical left, but not for the reasons Carl Davidson believes - but because it would offer the potential objective conditions to strip a new generation of the progressive strata of the working-class of all remaining illusions about bourgeois democracy and US imperialism.

    But communists don't get to choose the objective conditions under which they operate, as Carl Davidson has stressed. The question becomes a subjective one; where to we place our energy. In a totally fantasized "popular front" with the PDA, or in actual day-to-day work to win the masses over to communism and build a new mass-party of the working-class?

  • Guest - Carl Davidson


    The progressive component of a popular front vs finance capital are already emerging. What would you call OWS? It's target is Wall St. It seeks to unite the 99% vs, the 1%, which is a multi-class alliance, ie, popular front. Take the People's Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It favors taxing the rich and a financial transaction tax on Wall St gambling in derivatives and such, but to the benefit of all subaltern classes, starting with those most in need of work.

    Our proto-fascists and rightwing populists, on the other hand, want nothing of the sort. They are campaigning AGAINST any 'safety nets' at all, against taxing the rich, and against any regulation of finance capital.

    As for Wall St money, the latest numbers show that it has shifted to Romney/Ryan in a huge way. Obama has gotten a chunk of it, to be sure. These guys know how to 'hedge' if nothing else. But they a clearly, in the main, in the GOP camps this round.

    The GOP, moreover, is doing all it can to depress the vote in progressive sectors, while energizing the vote with the most rabid means in their base. There latest effort, advertized on Drudge, is a 'documentary' asserting Obama's real father is Frank Marshal Davis, a Black CP member, complete with pornographic pictures of his mother. That it goes against their 'birther' nonsense does bother them a bit, because the real subtext of that is that Obama is Black. Then a slightly milder version is D'Sousa's very slick hollywood-quality film now hitting the major theaters, '2016: Obama's America' which tries to make Obama out, because of his 'anti-colonialist' father and his childhood acquaintance with Frank Marshall Davis, as a 'socialist', suggesting he's a Manchurian candidate pawn of the Weather Underground and radical Black nationalists. Rightwing churches are unloading bus loads of their members to watch it.

    The important thing to see is that that racist and anti-communist tirade is only aimed at Obama for starters. Combined with Voter ID, it's an assault on far wider sections.

    Far from 'buying into' GOP propaganda, I'm opposing it. I suggest the rest of the left would do well to do likewise. If you think this is all 'Bogey Man' stuff, a la Glenn Ford, I'd suggest your viewpoint has illusions of a 'left' nature. The threat is real. The question is what do you want to do about it.

    The truth is concrete. We do best to seek it from facts, rather than preconceptions of what we think ought to be.

  • Guest - Contrarian

    The threat IS real. The election will be very close and there is a horrible danger that Obama, the more effective evil, will squeak through. It is therefore urgent to aim massive exposure at the vile evil deeds of the Obama regime, targeting them as the main enemy, with the hope of getting enough people to stay home to defeat him.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Carl, once again you're confusing the "neo-conservative" leadership of the Republican Party with the quasi-fascistic base. Michael Savage gets an entry in Goldberg's " 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America", and David Klinghoffer wrote a National Review editorial in 2006 essentially calling Savage a con-artist and comparing him to Lonesome Rhodes from "A Face in the Crowd". During the 2008 election, the McCain campaign denounced Ann Coulter, after she, among other things, called John Edwards a "faggot" and called "Dreams of My Father" a "dimestore Mein Kampf". If the book "Game Change" is to be believed, McCain was reluctant to go after Wright and Ayers in the first place, and Steve Schmidt and McCain both viewed Palin as a dangerous, uncontrollable element who sank their campaign. NewsCorp fired Glenn Beck after went on an anti-Semitic tirade. Romney and all the other top Republicans are asking Todd Akin to resign. Etc. etc.

    "Our proto-fascists and rightwing populists, on the other hand, want nothing of the sort. They are campaigning AGAINST any ‘safety nets’ at all, against taxing the rich, and against any regulation of finance capital."

    Who on Earth are you talking about? What sort of right-wing populist supports finance capital? The Tea Party movement, before it was co-opted into GOP astroturf, began AS a rightwing populist protest against the bail-outs.

    "The progressive component of a popular front vs finance capital are already emerging. What would you call OWS? It’s target is Wall St. It seeks to unite the 99% vs, the 1%, which is a multi-class alliance, ie, popular front."

    Occupy Wall St. is not a popular front. It's a "big tent" protest movement that was mostly a fad and has now mostly disintegrated into numerous competing factions. It also illustrates my point, the Occupy Wall St. movement attracted as many reactionary populists (including straight-up Neo-Nazis, but also "libertarians", militia types, disillusioned Tea-baggers, 9/11 truthers, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, Zeitgeist nuts, Alex Jones/Jeff Rense types, etc.) as it did liberals, communists, and anarchists. The Occupy Wall St. movement was fun while it lasted, but to compare it to a popular front is absurd. In fact the most courageous and historic moments of Occupy Wall St. came about when it manifested itself as a purely radical left movement, when the communist and anarchist elements among the masses sidestepped the informal liberal and right-populist leadership. And now, as I've said, whoever runs the Occupy Wall St. Facebook page now openly displays anti-Semitic cartoons.

    "here latest effort, advertized on Drudge, is a ‘documentary’ asserting Obama’s real father is Frank Marshal Davis, a Black CP member, complete with pornographic pictures of his mother. That it goes against their ‘birther’ nonsense does bother them a bit, because the real subtext of that is that Obama is Black. Then a slightly milder version is D’Sousa’s very slick hollywood-quality film now hitting the major theaters, ’2016: Obama’s America’ which tries to make Obama out, because of his ‘anti-colonialist’ father and his childhood acquaintance with Frank Marshall Davis, as a ‘socialist’, suggesting he’s a Manchurian candidate pawn of the Weather Underground and radical Black nationalists. Rightwing churches are unloading bus loads of their members to watch it."

    Yes but you're missing my point; this sort of thing is just as dangerous for the Republicans as it is for the Democrats. The only reason the Republican establishment is tolerating it is because it's their only chance of winning. Do you really think the McCains and Romneys and Cheneys of the world want to see the an army of Archie Bunkers rioting against Obama for those stated reasons? It would be just as destabilizing for them. They are taking a massive gamble by fanning the flames of reactionary fascism. They know it's their only hope for winning the election.

    I'm not trying to have any illusions. I don't think the threat of fascism in the US is a "bogeyman". Fascism already exists in the US, and has for centuries. I just don't think fascism will go away by campaigning for Obama. I don't think Romney and McCain are fascists, they have more in common with Obama and Reid and Clinton and Pelosi than they do with Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee. I think what will actually combat both the danger of militant fascism and the existing order of the haute-bourgeoisie (not just the "financial " haute-bourgeoisie) is an actual socialist movement to raise mass class-consciousness in the US to the level of scientific class analysis and to put that analysis into practice via mass revolutionary struggle. I think we have a lot of work to do in that respect and should be looking forward to the upcoming decades, not election day. I don't care if people vote for Obama as the "lesser evil" but they should do it without illusion. You are promoting illusions. You are brown-baiting the center-right of the GOP, (and thus promoting unscientific and demagogic definitions of fascism that underestimate fascism's actual broad popular appeal as an independent and conservative-revolutionary movement) and you are promoting the center-left of the DNC as allies in a "popular front". What good will come of this? We already know the answer.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    Kali: 'Fascism already exists in the US, and has for centuries.'

    If you really believe this, it's unlikely we share enough of a common discourse for a reasonable discussion..

    Kali: 'once again you’re confusing the “neo-conservative” leadership of the Republican Party with the quasi-fascistic base...'

    I'm not confusing them at all. They are distinct elements but currently allied in an effort to unseat Obama and worse..

    Rightwing populism will rant and rail against Jewish bankers and the New World Order, but do you thing they will rally around a financial transaction tax on Wall St or support restoring Glass-Steagall? Not a change. They guys, in their current mindset, are the 'job creators.' You attribute too much rationality too them. Our point was about their irrationality.

    OWS was only the tip of the iceberg of what could become a popular front vs finance capital, especially when they allied with the unions. I make no claims that it was a full-fledged example of it, More of a clarion call.

    In any case, due to the first point above, I don't think a discussion between us will get very far. We can't agree on the very basics.

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    We have not had "centuries" of fascism in the U.S., nor does it exist today. A bourgeois sham democracy with police-state characteristics is not fascism. If the U.S. was a fascist state, we'd be dead, having this conversation in prison or in exile.

    We're having a debate about today, not the past, so I'll say this in the briefest fashion: When the German C.P. ran around screaming that the SPD was the "twin" of the Nazis and that Germany "objectively" was already a fascist state, they found out in the most deadly way the tragic idiocy of that line when Hitler came to power and actual fascism began. Let's not throw the term "fascism" around casually.

    True enough that the U.S. bourgeoisie is riding a tiger in unleashing demagoguery and all sorts of reactionary bilge from underneath every rock. That is what any bourgeoisie does when it feels its hold on power is threatened; we have ample historical precedents. In the present-day U.S. case, of course the capitalist ruling class is no way threatened to be unseated from its perch. But the demographics, they be changing.

    Financiers, despite their significant tilting toward Romney in this round, have larger interests that align with Democrats (wanting laws forcing corporations to make financial information open, a large corps of lawyers advancing their interests in the intra-bourgeois struggles over money and a cool, steady hand at the head of empire who will work with capitalist allies). Industrialists, on the other hand, have their interests best met with Republicans in power.

    But the national pool of angry White people is shrinking, and it is becoming harder for Republicans to win a national election. They need to suppress the vote and rally their base. Whether or not the Republican establishment believes in birther nonsense or any other far Right bogey has ceased to matter: they have no choice but to ride their tea party tiger. And the tea party was not co-opted; it was a Koch Brothers/Dick Armey/Fox News astroturf creation from the start. Such people are highly skilled at manipulating the frantic hatreds and ignorance of their base.

    I was involved in a long dinner conversation last night on this topic with two fellow radicals. One was in alignment with Carl that we should hold our noses and pull the lever for Obama, quoting Cornell West that a disaster (Obama) is not as bad as a catastrophe (Romney). The other was in alignment with me, saying that we should not give Left cover to Obama even if done with strong criticisms of him. The latter said this was a disagreement on tactics, and I think that statement merits reflection.

    If the choice really was fascism vs. Obama, I would vote for Obama. (I think here of the first post-Pinochet election in Chile: There was a straight choice between a Pinochet candidate and a centrist Christian Democrat. I would have had no choice but to vote that one time for the Christian Democrat, with the proviso that the Christian Democrat would be put under relentless pressure from the Left so that there would not be a fascist next time, and such was the case.) Just because there are elements in the U.S. that would like to institute fascism does not mean we are in fascism. So I will not choose between Coke and Pepsi or between two forms of cancer or between the two camps of the capitalist ruling class.

    Laws like Obama's NDAA potentially could send us down the road to fascism. None of us here are in disagreement that a mass movement is the only force that can stop the U.S. from going down that road. But giving a de facto public endorsement to the candidate who signed the NDAA into law and already personally selects targets for assassination is not going to act as a brake. Tactics have consequences.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    "We have not had 'centuries' of fascism in the U.S., nor does it exist today. A bourgeois sham democracy with police-state characteristics is not fascism."

    I'm not arguing that the bourgeois-democratic US regime is fascist in character, that would be stupid. I'm arguing that militant fascist movements have been always been a powerful force in the US, often at odds with the bourgeois-democratic regime. (But still functioning as its unwieldy paramilitary muscle, due to the settler-colony nature of US capitalism) This is the case of the Klan in the Reconstruction South or for that matter during the Jim Crow era. And right-wing populism in the US dates back to Jacksonianism, anti-Masonry, Bacon's Rebellion, etc.

    Remember that an important component of German fascist ideology was lebensraumpolitik, the notion that Germans needed to conquer and colonize eastward, ethnically cleansing Slavic and Uralic people to build a dominant German imperialism to compete with Soviet "judeo-bolshevism" and the "decadent, cosmopolitan" nature of US imperialism. In fact if you study the anti-American editorial diatribes of German fascist propagandists you will immediately notice a great fondness and admiration for the "heroism" of Anglo-Saxon settlers in North America and South Africa, and the regret that the pioneering spirit of the Anglo-Saxon colonist had given way to decadence, and mostly cited the cultural influence of Jews and "Negros" on US society as the cause. ("The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed, rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to defilement of the blood.", Hitler, Mein Kampf) In fact Hitler was very upfront about the fact that the systematic extermination of Ashkenazim, Romany, Slavs, and other ethnic "undesirables" was inspired by the spirit of prison-camps built for Bantus and American Indians by Boer and Euro-American settlers. This is obvious even from analyzing German pop culture, which was absolutely obsessed with the writings of Karl May. According to Meier's biographer, the Fuhrer himself loved Karl May and referred to Red Army soldiers as "redskins". Bringing it all back to Lukacs, who, in criticizing Nietzsche's irrationalism, famously commented that the will to power was the ideology of the "decadent parasites of imperialism". (Also see Houlb's "Nietzsche's Colonialist Imagination")

    The point I'm getting at is that fascism, like socialism, is a natural product of and response to capitalism (albeit reactionary rather than progressive) and it's absurd and disingenuous to pretend like these are forces in US politics that remained dormant until being awoken by Mitt Romney. If anything they are looking forward to hanging Romney from a gallows pole for being a "Zionist".

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    "If you really believe this, it’s unlikely we share enough of a common discourse for a reasonable discussion.."

    Is it really "unreasonable" to suggest that there is a quasi-fascist character to US politics? If you will allow me to rely on an empiricist argument, ask any small-town Southern sheriff what his opinion is of Black people, Latinos, women, queer people, Jews, etc. It's badges by day, hoods by night, just like in the 50s. And it's no hyperbole to say that without the muscle-power of millions of fascist cops, soldiers, and prison guards, your "progressive" friends like Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi could not live high on the hog. That's just the material reality. The fact that the Barney Franks and the Nancy Pelosis and the Barack Obamas wash their hands of it make them all the more guilty. The Pharisees executed Christ, and Pilate was the one who washed his hands of it.

    "I’m not confusing them at all. They are distinct elements but currently allied in an effort to unseat Obama and worse.."

    In the event of a genuine fascist (popular white-supremacist, anti-feminist, anti-communist) uprising in the US, Romney will ally with Obama, because they are agents of the same class, the imperialist haute-bourgeoisie. Look at the "bipartisan consensus" that already exists among Republicans and Democrats surrounding the "national security" question of radical right-wing Islam. In fact, the only figure in mainstream US politics who dares to defend radical Islamists is Ron Paul, the poster-child for fascistic right-populism.

    "Rightwing populism will rant and rail against Jewish bankers and the New World Order, but do you thing they will rally around a financial transaction tax on Wall St or support restoring Glass-Steagall? Not a change. They guys, in their current mindset, are the ‘job creators."

    No, the "job creators" are Miller-Coors, GM, GE, US Steel, etc. That's the cornerstone of reactionary-populist, protectionist ideology in the US, nostalgic regret that the US doesn't "produce anything anymore", a longing for the days of Edison and Ford. (And this is something you yourself manipulate and engage in with the whole appeal to "green jobs" and construction projects to revitalize the US economy) Yes, reactionary populism in the US is rooted in rugged individualism, meritocracy, social-Darwinism, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, etc. But the cornerstone of this ideology is an unscientific analysis of finance capital as parasitic on industrial capital, i.e. bankers don't get rich off of ingenuity and hard work, they get rich through speculation and gambling. This is the intersection of Tea Party and OWS rhetoric, the notion that "bankers are destroying the economy", "gambling with our money", etc. It goes without saying that this is a fascistic and ideologically anti-semitic rejection of historical materialist criticism of the economy rooted in the utopian jew-hating paranoia of Proudhon, the intellectual grandfather of fascism.

    These are the sort of things you'll pick up if you pay attention to any Thanksgiving conversation in a white American household. Your strategy is based on fantasy and imagined alliances. Bankers are not allying with anti-Semitic neonazis. The PDA is not allying with the communist movement. Romney's campaign against Obama is not some sort of fascist coup in the making. That's just reality

  • Guest - Carl Davidson


    You've backtracked considerably from your original suggestion that the US was fascist now, which is fine. Now we can have a reasonable discussion.

    If you'll read the paper by Fletcher and myself, you'll find a long discussion of rightwing populism and the fascist danger in the US that's always there. In fact, we liken it to the herpes virus--always there, sometimes latent but in times of stress, it emerges in full bloom. We go into its irrationalism, precisely to explain its often unstable alliances with the more reactionary sectors of finance capital. so yes, they can rant and rail against Jews, and form partnerships with some of the banks at the same time. That's exactly what you are seeing empirically in this election.

    But contrary to your notion, what we are NOT seeing is unity between Obama and Romney to oppose them. Instead, we have Romney, himself and via surrogates like Trump, playing into 'birtherism', racist memes in their ads, and worse.

    Our proposal for fighting them in the short run is fairly straightforward. Do what you can to stop them from winning elections this round. There's a lot more to it, naturally, that's only one small step. But that's what caused all the hullabaloo in the first place.

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Kalitramplesshiva writes:

    "I’m not arguing that the bourgeois-democratic US regime is fascist in character, that would be stupid. I’m arguing that militant fascist movements have been always been a powerful force in the US, often at odds with the bourgeois-democratic regime. (But still functioning as its unwieldy paramilitary muscle, due to the settler-colony nature of US capitalism)."

    Thanks for the clarification of your thinking. I am in agreement here, except that the "settler-colony nature" of the U.S. is being given unnecessary weight, although it is a factor.

    Kalitramplesshiva further writes:

    "The point I’m getting at is that fascism, like socialism, is a natural product of and response to capitalism (albeit reactionary rather than progressive) and it’s absurd and disingenuous to pretend like these are forces in US politics that remained dormant until being awoken by Mitt Romney. If anything they are looking forward to hanging Romney from a gallows pole for being a 'Zionist.' ”

    As long as capitalism exists, the potential for fascism always exists, and is always a latent factor lurking in the dark. Romney has not awoken previously dormant forces, and I don't believe anybody here is arguing that is the case. The big bourgeoisie/establishment wing of the Republican Party, which is, pro forma, headed by Romney for the moment, is stirring up those reactionary forces and even organizing them far more effectively than they could themselves, such as in the tea party.

    Bearing in mind all the contradictions, including the distrust of Romney, I think fascistic movements are less at odds with the bourgeois-democratic regime than you are arguing. I am using "fascistic" rather than "fascist" because the tea party (the main receptacle for reactionaries and a big tent for them) is a group with the potential to become a fascist group but is not yet; rather it is a contradictory mass of reactionary anger that is easily manipulated. (Of course precisely the type of group that can become fascist). The bourgeoisie's grip on power will have to be far more threatened than it is today before they would contemplate bankrolling shock troops such as outright Neo-Nazis, where the contradictions are of course much sharper.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Fascism is always at odds with bourgeois democracy.

    "‘The Reich of Wilhelm II was a Reich without an ideal. The bourgeoisie ruled with its disgusting materialism and its contempt for the proletariat. The 1918 Revolution, Volksgenossen, couldn't destroy the old system. The Socialist leaders abandoned the dictatorship of the proletariat for the golden calf. They betrayed the nation and they betrayed the people. As for communism, it's proven itself unable to get rid of them, since Stalin renounced Leninist Bolshevism for capitalist individualism. The bourgeoisie, Volksgenossen, continued to monopolize patriotism, to abandon the masses to Marxism, that dog's breakfast. For our part, we've understood that we had to go to the proletariat and enter into it, that to conquer Germany meant conquering the working class. And when we revealed the idea of the Fatherland to these proletarians, there were tears of gratitude on many a Face..." - Adolf Hitler


  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Fascism is always at odds with bourgeois democracy, in a formal sense. But fascism is the class rule of the bourgeoisie, just as ordinary bourgeois democracy is; the difference is that in the former the veneer of democracy has been removed. The bourgeoisie give up some of their own freedom when they hand power to a fascist dictator so that they only do so under the most drastic circumstances when they fear they can not remain in control otherwise. That the fascist base is too ignorant to understand it is being used and is anything but an "independent" movement from below does not alter the facts. Hitler and Mussolini would never have taken power without massive material and other support from their country's bourgeoisies — in fact, both were handed power.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    SD seems to be repeating some old popular myths of the Left here. Henry Ashby Turner's works are worth reading carefully, among them German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, as well as Hitler's Thirty Days to Power. Also the study by Albrecht Ritschl, Deficit Spending in the Nazi Recovery, is significant.

    Some key points to note are the following.

    As Ritschl documents, Germany's economy had begun to recover in 1932 and the recovery simply continued under Hitler. To the extent that there were specific legal measures taken to help the recovery, they were done before Hitler gained Chancellorship. There really was no special need for Hitler to be given the Chancellorship as a way of saving capitalism. That's a popular myth on the Left which has refused to die. If the people who had held power before January 30, 1933, had held on for another 6 months then the NSDAP would have receded. It was already showing signs of decline before Hitler gained the Chancellorship, and it would likely have fractured apart if the economic recovery had gained full speed with Hitler still out of power.

    Turner tracks through all of the maneuvers which occurred in January 1933 that led to Hitler being given the Chancellorship in Hitler's Thirty Days to Power. The biggest blame has to be placed on Franz von Papen. He maneuvered to get Hitler the Chancellorship because he underestimated Hitler and believed that Hitler would act as a pawn in the context of his own power struggles with other figures. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Papen or anyone else was actually seeking to give Hitler the power which he subsequently gained. Papen was actually applying a vulgar Marxist paradigm in reverse. Vulgar Marxism has always insisted that Hitler was the mere bellboy for the bourgeoisie. Papen implicitly assumed something equivalent, and his error had major consequences.

    Turner takes a more general look at things in German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler. To the extent that there is any trace of the German bourgeoisie having backed Hitler, Turner brings that evidence out. But the balance of things shows clearly that there was never any support given to Hitler by German big business that would be commensurate with the thesis that Hitler was the last resort of the German bourgeoisie. German big business was generally always hostile to the Weimar Republic, and much of that hostility took the form of support for a wide variety of Right-wing groups. Some of this unavoidably spilled over to the NSDAP. But there is nothing to suggest that Hitler was ever regarded as the crucial one to support. More support from German capitalists went to conservatives who called for a restoration of the monarchy, which Hitler rabidly disavowed.

    The insistence that Hitler was brought to power because German capitalists had no other choice has long been a trope on the Left. Hopefully it can eventually be dumped, because it just isn't true. One can argue that German aristocrats and capitalists underestimated Hitler in ways which played into his hands at crucial points, but that's as far as the real historical evidence goes.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Patrick's got it right. The notion of fascism as a tool of the haute-bourgeoisie is a vulgar leftist analysis that needs to be laid to rest, for the reasons stated above. Currently, the global-imperialist liberal-democratic bourgeoisie is waging a relentless, prolonged, and global "war on terror" against right-populist Islamist forces. The conservative Prussian bourgeoisie (e.g. von Stauffenberg) waged a ruthless to-the-death struggle against the rise of German fascism.

    This is why comrade Davidson's line bears no relationship to reality. He claims that the conservative wing of US imperialist monopoly finance capital (e.g. Romney) is consciously cultivating an alliance with an emergent US fascism. As evidence he cites Donald Trump's cynical exploitation of the white supremacist "birther" movement. Donald Trump is nothing more than an ex-Reform Party real-estate haute bourgeoisie and entertainment-personality with a bad toupee. His candidacy for President was never taken seriously by anyone in the GOP establishment; in fact, he was deliberately held at a distance from any official GOP campaigning by the neo-con "powers that be". None of the actual top-policy makers in the US bourgeois establishment actually viewed him as a serious contender for the White House. Some commenters have rightfully speculated that he was Obama's "useful idiot". (Not all GOP-leaning swing-voters are rabid fascists ready to join the Klan, notice that the Romney campaign and the McCain campaign before it have kept a safe distance from rabidly fascistic anti-Obama rhetoric, with the exception of Palin who was an Alaskan seperatist "maverick" bull who was inadvertently let loose in a China shop with disastrous consequences for the GOP campaign in 2008) Others have speculated, with equally good reason, that Trump's birther sidseshow circus was a publicity stunt for the newest season of "The Apprentice". None of this is any evidence of a sinister fascist anti-Obama coup orchestrated by the highest escalations of the GOP and Wall St.

    To compare Trump's racist dog-and-pony show to a fascist uprising is cynical and irresponsible. God forbid an actual fascist uprising in the US, thousands would die. And Romney, like von Stauffenberg before him, would fight the fascists to the very end. That's the sordid truth of popular frontism, the conservative Prussian bourgeoisie were de facto participants in the popular front against fascism. It only speaks to how the popular front was a desperate gamble for the Left in highly untenable and undesirable objective circumstances. For someone like comrade Davidson to wish for a popular front scenario where one does not currently exist is highly telling. He's so desperate to imagine a "popular front" with the PDA and 9/11 truthers against "finance capital"...it's somewhat suspect to say the least.

    Regarding my alleged "backtracking" on the fascist character of US society, I've done no such thing. The medical analogy to herpes is simply false. Herpes lays dormant, and then unsuspectingly breaks out. It is a viral infection; a contagion. More importantly, herpes is a minor infliction with no lethal consequences to the organism in question, it only effects the lips and genitals, leaving the rest of the body unaffected. Herpes only became a serious medical issue (and "scarlet letter" social stigma) during the AIDS paranoia and sexual conservatism of the Reagan era, before it was considered a minor medical nuisance. While herpes cannot be cured, it can be treated with salve. (In this case, the "salve" of pupular frontism with progressiv Dems) US fascism is more like spinal atrophy; something written into the "genetic code" of US socio-politics. It effects and degenerates the neuro-musculature and spine. It has the potential to break down the entire body-politic. Fascism, typically viewed as a European phenomenon, emerged as a reactionary and irrationalist response to the development of bourgeois Enlightenment philosophy. It emerged during the height of a specific era, the dawn of colonialism. The gradual emergence of the US as the first colonial-imperialist power played a major contribution to the intellectual development of fascism. Centuries before it was called "fascism", reactionary-populism, of a distinctly US character, was leading the white settler masses of Virginia to rise up to strike the landowning bourgeoisie with the one hand and the Black and Native proletariat with the other. Even today, in the neo-colonial context, the Obamas and Pelosis and Franks may play a significant hand in ruling the US, but the Johannes Mehserles and George Zimmermans, the Ian Birks and Richard Hastes, the anonymous officers that shot Patricia Cook and Manuel Diaz, they are the ones who enforce the rule. This is a significant factor to say the least.

  • Guest - carldavidson


    Our case is R/R as an alliance between a reactionary sector of neoliberalism and the Tea Party far right, and that within the Tea Party, which can be described as proto-fascist, you'll find some real fascists as well. The danger is clear enough for all to see--we can argue over assessments of its strength in various places.

    Here in Western PA there are a dozen '9/12" Glenn Beck groups that meet regularly. One of them in in my county, and they can pull out 200 people to a demo, and have about 10 percent of the electorate. Al little bigger than the left, but not much. In neighboring Westmoreland County, however, they can hold a rally of some 1000, and make a point of having an armed militia group of several dozen show up with weapons in hand.

    All these groups will be voting for Romney, even though R/R only panders to part of their views.

    I've seen some of these things first hand, and talked to some of these people. You can dismiss or discount them as you like, but I don't. Their racism is virulent, and you don't fight it can claiming it doesn't matter all that much, or that those at the top don't really agree with them, but are only using them. Of course. That's the point.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Where did I dismiss or discount? My analysis simply differs from yours. If anything you dismiss or discount t by comparing it to a trivial infection like herpes. (Does herpes assassinate doctors who perform partial-birth abortions, or murder 9-year-old girls crossing the US-Mexican border, or set off a pipe bomb at a MLK Day parade, or attempt a commando raid on the Holocaust Museum, or go postal on a gurdwara or UU church?)

    Yes, some of them will vote for Romney. Although this exact same debate happening right now between ourselves is also happening on the radical right, another fact you ignore, with some arguing for tactical votes for Romney, some arguing protest votes for Ron Paul or other third party candidates, some arguing for total voter abstention, others making making contrarian devil's advocate arguments for electing Obama, etc. (The fact that these arguments exist on both the far-left and the far-right illustrate that politics does not stem from the ballot box) This is what you ignore, campaigning and voting against Romney does not hurt the grassroots reactionary-right. You think those guys showing up to Glenn Beck rallies with guns are going to say "well, Obama won Romney, I guess we should go home and put our guns away and stand behind our President." Get real Campaigning and voting for Obama will only help do one thing: Turn larges swathes of the radical left (and the potential mass-base of the radical left) into functionaries of the DNC, the bourgeois union-leadership, and the NGO-industrial complex. It's not a matter of "voting for Obama". My mom will probably end up voting for Obama, and I understand and respect her point of view even though I disagree with it. It's a matter of political leaders of the revolutionary left advocating liquidationism into the DNC and a legalistic electoral strategy as a means for confronting fascism.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Apologies for the numerous typos, but my point still stands.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    'Liquidationism into the DNC' Hardly. I'm the one being a pest about building your own organizations, both mass and socialist, but so far to little avail. Too many 'Lone Rangers' out there. But liquidationism is abundant in its 'left version as well as its right.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Just as a footnote, confirming my analysis of contradictions within the GOP, here's some important news.


    A race riot almost broke out on the convention floor. Who were the instigators? Anti-Romney elements who were supporters of the right-populist Ron Paul. Who were the targets? Puerto Rican Republicans who support Romney.

    So next should we form a united anti-racist front with Romney supporters against Paul supporters?

  • Guest - carldavidson

    If any minority nationality is under a chauvinistic attack, yes, you should peak up and denounce it. It this case it means denouncing the racism at the heart of the GOP/Tea Party alliance. It's what Lenin meant by practicing 'consistent democracy' in regard to the national question. It will educate your own base, and Puerto Rican workers will appreciate it, even as they oppose this woman otherwise.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    ...Here's a little item to throw into the hopper:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    I think we've gone well off topic, so I'll be brief as I can be in response to Patrick and Kalitramplesshiva. Yes, von Papen wanted to "use" Hitler, as did Hindenburg, who appointed Hitler as chancellor, without giving him any real power. Both, however, represented Junkers, not industrialists, who generally speaking were monarchists hostile to the Nazis. (Not all Junkers were hostile, for instance, Ludendorff). Not all industrialists supported the Nazis, of course, but many of the largest did — and provided huge sums of money to Nazi coffers. This is well-documented.

    It is correct that von Papen, in particular, made a huge misjudgment in playing with fascist fire. It is not correct to insinuate that the German economy was in a broad recovery. To say so is, to put it mildly, overly generous. Even if there had been an uptick on the eve of Hitler's appointment, Germany was in a very bad state. The year of the greatest GDP increase in U.S. history came during the mid-1930s (I can't recollect which year specifically). I doubt very much that anybody thought the Great Depression was over at the time, and it surely was not — it was merely a natural uptick following a dramatic downturn that did not last.

    German industrialists and Junkers would have much preferred the far Right nationalist and monarchist parties they traditionally controlled, but popular support for them had collapsed. The Nazis were the remaining alternative. Authoritarians and anti-democrats like von Papen mistakenly thought they could ride Hitler for a couple of years, then get rid of him and his entourage. They got their fingers burnt, but the industrialists who reaped enormous profits from Hitler's armaments contracts and viciously anti-worker legislation did get they wanted, even if not necessarily by the means they would have wished.

    Mussolini explicitly was raised to power on his promises to back the power of Italy's big capitalists and landowners with all means necessary, including his blackshirt terrorists. They knew exactly what they were getting, and got it. In Spain, the fascist movement proper was effectively eliminated as an independent player as soon as power was consolidated; there, Franco did accomplish what von Papen and Hindenburg had hoped to do.

    Here in the United States, corporate power is under no threat. Far Right movements have always existed here, that is correct, and while some are organic and some are artificial creations, they have many elements, including fascist. The big bourgeoisie contains many elements as well. Not all of them are the Koch Brothers, but many who aren't don't mind free-riding on their funding of the Tea Party, the Cato Institute and many other organizations in between.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "This is well-documented."

    No it isn't. The fullest review of all existing evidence on this point appears in Henry Ashby Turner, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler. One of the most popular references among Leftists on this matter was the book ghost-written by Emery Reves for Fritz Thyssen and published under the title I Paid Hitler.

    It was published in 1941 while Thyssen was in prison in Germany and based upon notes which Thyssen had dictated after he had gone into opposition to Hitler. For that reason alone this source should have been treated with great caution. Turner reviews the evidence to determine whether the claims made in that book are really true, and comes up with the conclusion that Thyssen did not give Hitler the kind of aid that is implied in I Paid Hitler.

    Thyssen gave out general aid for a wide range of Right-wing groups, and some of this aid almost certainly made it into Hitler's pockets. But the more dramatic assertions made in I Paid Hitler do not match with the historical evidence. Turner goes through a lot of things like this and his book is essential reading for anyone seeking honest clarity.

    "It is not correct ... the German economy was in a broad recovery."

    I did not say that. The recovery became broad during 1933-6, after Hitler had gained the Chancellorship. It had in fact already begun in 1932, and this was already reflected in a decline in the vote for the NSDAP which reached its peak in July 1932. But it proved to be a great stroke of luck for Hitler that he gained the Chancellorship right at the time when the recovery had already started but had not become general. What is clear however are two central points:

    1) The economic recovery would have happened even if Hitler had not been given the Chancellorship.

    2) The decision to give Hitler the Chancellorship had nothing to do with fears that the economy was not going to recover.

    "Papen mistakenly thought they could ride Hitler for a couple of years..."

    No, that wasn't it. Turner gives a much clearer elucidation of Papen's thinking in Hitler's Thirty Days to Power. Papen was motivated by a grudge against Kurt von Schleicher. He determined in early 1933 to get Schleicher unseated from the Chancellorship and pushed by every fair and foul means to accomplish this. That was what drove Papen. There is absolutely no evidence that he was ever thinking in such complex terms of "Dang, I wish that I could get a monarchist party in power but I guess I have to go with Hitler!" Papen was focused upon pushing Schleicher out.

    If Papen had actually been influenced by the level of popular vote for Hitler then he would have joined with Hitler in July 1932 when the Nazi vote had reached its peak. By January 1933 the Nazi Party was already starting to appear as a party in trouble and there was less incentive for anyone to regard joining with a Hitler as a tool to their own advantage. Papen did what he did not because of the levels of pro-Nazi votes but because he expected to push Schleicher out and then he assumed that from there on it would be easy for him to clear the deck. He wasn't planning on riding along Hitler's coattails for a few years. He was expecting a fast coup against Schleicher which would work to his advantage. Papen just very badly underestimated Hitler. It was his own aristocratic-chauvinism working against him.

  • Guest - bezdomni

    Don't encourage people to vote!

    Don't stop them from doing it either!

    Ask them why the vote and ask them to explain how they decide who to vote for in an election.

    This is a period where we need to be primarily *learning* from people, making observations and comparing notes...not attempting to organize or lead a mass movement or pretending that we have any sway over anything substantial at the moment. We also need to be developing better methods to be systematic in doing this kind of work, and learn that it is okay to de-emphasize "activism" (in the traditional sense) in place of doing research and applying the mass line.

    There is so much more to learn and so much more to build before anybody can talk about there being a serious contest for power or crisis of political legitimacy...

    Since Mike says there is not much political work to do during elections, I recommend that we learn how to listen to people better and try to talk in a way that is challenging but not alienating.

    Everybody try going a week where you don't tell somebody what you think about something unless they ask, and when you get the impulse to tell somebody what you think -- ask instead what they think.

    We should also work on building better and more secure means of discussion amongst ourselves...but that is a separate problem.


    Elections are an opportunity to develop a better idea of where the political faultlines are and see how deep they go...so then we keep pushing along these lines when the election is over.

    There are also good opportunities for agitation around an election, since the system tends to expose itself ideologically more often than usual.

    We also need to identify points where the system is actually ideologically weak and carefully plan ways to turn this ideological weakness into political vulnerability.

    If there is seriously "nothing to be done" until the elections are over, then we need to think harder for like..five more minutes.

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    The "there's not much political work to do around elections" line is a an agnosticist line that gives a tactical free pass to the imperialist NGO "fifth column" of progressives for Obama. The masses need to have no delusions about the manner, and the majority of working-class people in the US who already abstain from voting have the right idea...

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Many studies have shown that the non-voters in the US run the same political spectrum, left to right, as voters, with only a few point shift to the left. Don't kid yourself that they represent some 'advanced contingent.'

    For those who think there's not much political work to do in this period, my goodness, look all around you. People are much more engaged in talking politics everywhere. You're only held back by a very narrow conception of tactics. If nothing else, get busy beating back the GOP attacks on the right to vote, and expand the electorate in a progressive direction. Go to the theaters with a flyer exposing the racism of 2016: Obama's America' and invite people to a forum. Emancipate your minds from one-sided, one-note emphasis on direct action, and free your imagination.

  • Guest - bezdomni

    I want to clarify that I was making a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to Mike's comment above:

    "Allow me a distinction: I agree (after literally decades of trying) that “boycottism” is not a particularly fruitful campaign. It will be (hopefully) in future times… And there is work to be done (to the extent that we reach people) exposing the U.S. electoral system (its class nature, its actual functionings, its corruption, its lying claim to represent popular power, etc.)

    But really, the fact is (in my experience), that elections are a very hard time to do revolutionary politics around the elections. It is a moment when a massive billion-dollar hype machine is blowing full force — seeking both support but also to train people in the terms of bourgeois politics. It is (literally) a crazy season.

    I would not argue (so much) for an active boycotts, as I would for conducting radical political work at distance from the madness."

    My paraphrasing was a misrepresentation of the view he is expressing, but I wanted to make a different point that there are opportunities for work to be done in the context of an election -- but that work is primarily to "watch and listen carefully" to what the bourgeois politicians are saying and how people from all classes respond to that, so we can know what to expect and how people are thinking when the timing is better for serious organizational work.

    The elections are important and we need to pay close attention to how capitalism reorganizes itself politically, because this exposes weaknesses that we may not have caught and there is often an interesting subtext in the rhetoric that we should take note of. For example, when Obama is talking about his commitment to Israel's security and his opposition to Iranian nuclear programs -- what he actually reveals is that another war (or at least proxy war) is on the table for his next term in office...or maybe for an "October Surprise".

    Is there any good reason for us to participate in the elections? No.

    But we do need to study them carefully.

    I've always found one of the most appealing things about Maoists (by this I refer to a historical movement in China, not an abstract political tendency) was their systematic methodology for engaging with people -- they went out and seriously studied their society for long periods of time, regrouped and compared notes, developed a political strategy, then went back and organized while they continued to learn everything there was to know about the people.

    You can't serve the people if you don't understand them.

  • Guest - Contrarian

    Tonight, Occupy Chicago held a voter registration card burning in front of Obama headquarters. They are calling fore a similar more widespread one outside polling places on Nov. 6, Build the resistance! Defeat Obama now!

  • Guest - kalitramplesshiva

    Bedzomi - I agree.

    Carl - Non-voters tend to be younger, more working-class, more likely to be Black or Latino, less likely to have a highschool diploma or GED, (much less a college diploma) and tend to be more left-leaning and tend to favor Obama as the "lesser of two evils"...


    The point is not that they are an "advanced contingent". The point is your ceaseless assertion (without proof) that those who are wrapped up in Democratic Party "activism" are the "advanced contingent".

    The possibility that the young workers, students, and national-minorities who, while less comfortable with Romney than Obama, will still abstain from voting, are a potential base for actual organization-building. (As opposed to to DNC volunteers) Mass-line suggests actually grappling with and investigating the reason for why these young people, even though they prefer Obama to Romney, will not go out and vote for Obama. Perhaps there are solid material reasons for this, they understand the fraudulent and inconsequential nature of voting in the US, they understand like Malcolm that Obama is a fox and Romney is a wolf and one does not recruit a fox to help with one's wolf problem. Perhaps their experiences with the bourgeois political framework have left them genuinely apathetic in lieu of revolutionary alternatives. Perhaps thy entertain revolutionary ideas (even crudely) on a regular basis. Your only way of dealing with them would be to recruit them to vote for PDA candidates, you do not practice mass-line in regards to the question of the non-voting and left-leaning majority of working-class, student, and national-minority youth. What you are doing is tailing the Democrats. Sorry...

    Recent polls have also showed, counter-intuitively enough, that even a large minority of Republican voters have a vaguely positive opinion of socialism and a vaguely critical opinion of capitalism. Why are they registered Republicans? Perhaps for reasons of family and cultural background. Perhaps they, especially the younger set, have constant social pressure from family and peers to vote Republican. Surely many have "conflicted consciousness" (I would say false consciousness, but I don't want to use politically incorrect dogmatic-Marxist language here!) rooted in bourgeois-libertarian and anti-federalist ideology. The majority may have baggage from an intensely patriarchal, religiously conservative, and white-supremacist cultural upbringing, but in specific moments of day-to-day struggle will overcome this in important ways.Obviously we are talking now about the euro-american proletariat; (Romney's main constituency) What do we make, for example, of an older working-class white woman, who is very religious, who despises racism and was outraged by the murder of Trayvon Martin, who does not believe gays or "fornicators" or "heathens" are going to hell and indeed believes it is a sin to judge them, who if asked would probably support social welfare policies, decriminalization of pot, an open border with Mexico, etc. but will still vote for Romney on election day in the same mindless way that someone roots for the Redskins over the Cowboys or vise versa? (I'm describing a real person, btw, not an invention of convenience) These people are also of no concern to your strategy, if you tried to engage them you would probably lecture them on the importance of voting for Obama to defeat the religious right. You wouldn't recognize the character of voting in this context, as a symbolic gesture that means little in most peoples' day-to-day socio-political struggles. (In the sense that people even spend more spare time defending the merits of Romney vs. Obama than they do actually campaigning or voting) Most working-class voters (be they the working-class New Afrikan and Latino constituency of Obama or the working-class white constituency of Romney) view voting as a vaccination shot, it's an unpleasant moment of obligatory civil responsibility. The notion of presenting working-class white Romney supporters with a revolutionary approach to politics which rejects both Obama and Romney would be tantamount to reaction in your book. In your mind, a petit-bourgeois white youth who supports Obama has more potential as a revolutionary.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    I've described the pro-Obama Democratic voters around here as the 'more progressive-minded and politically active' sector of the working class and the oppressed communities, not as the 'advanced contingent.' The latter category, in my thinking, is narrower, and includes voters and nonvoters, that are insurgent and seeking systemic change.

    I've repeated made the point that actual voting is the least important part of electoral organizing, but it keeps getting lost here. For example, I don't just try to register people to vote and get them to the polls. Far more important is getting them to be ongoing activists in PDA, in our peace group, or in our organization dealing with fracking and the Marcellus shale, and other projects. It's the expansion of your reach and the growth of your organizational strength that matters. Trying to do this 'at a distance' from the elections puts you at an unnecessary disadvantage.

    You can approach an election by just hustling votes on election day and tailing the Dems, and some on the left do just that, but that's not what I'm interested in at all.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    Kali writes:

    <blockquote>No, the “job creators” are Miller-Coors, GM, GE, US Steel, etc. That’s the cornerstone of reactionary-populist, protectionist ideology in the US, nostalgic regret that the US doesn’t “produce anything anymore”, a longing for the days of Edison and Ford. (And this is something you yourself manipulate and engage in with the whole appeal to “green jobs” and construction projects to revitalize the US economy) Yes, reactionary populism in the US is rooted in rugged individualism, meritocracy, social-Darwinism, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, etc. But the cornerstone of this ideology is an unscientific analysis of finance capital as parasitic on industrial capital, i.e. bankers don’t get rich off of ingenuity and hard work, they get rich through speculation and gambling. This is the intersection of Tea Party and OWS rhetoric, the notion that “bankers are destroying the economy”, “gambling with our money”, etc. It goes without saying that this is a fascistic and ideologically anti-semitic rejection of historical materialist criticism of the economy rooted in the utopian jew-hating paranoia of Proudhon, the intellectual grandfather of fascism.</blockquote>

    I think this underscores a pressing need: a common language around the role of finance in the neoliberal capitalist world order.

    Kali is right that we need to be aware here of the historical roots of the populist critique of finance and its relation to anti-Semitism. But at the same time we can't let this deeply troubling history divert us from a materialist understanding of current epoch.

    Here's what I think we need to be clear on:

    1) The fundamental problem is capitalism, not merely finance capital. Although the crisis manifested itself first within the financial sector, it was decades in the making and rooted in capitalism's contradictions. And so our strategic outlook must be towards eliminating the entire profit system, not elevating "good" productive capital over "bad" finance capital.

    2) At the same time, people's anger towards banksters is absolutely correct.

    First of all, with respect to the term "banksters," I understand this actually came from arch-reactionary Murray Rothbard and he used it to refer strictly to central bankers. This may be a cause for discomfort for some. I think the concern here is unwarranted. Language is not static. Words are successfully re-purposed all the time. The Rothbards of the world actually provide us with a perfect example: they stole the term "libertarian," which was a term used by anarchists, and applied it to a set of principles totally at odds with its origins.

    While I think most of us here recognize the dangers of excessive populism, there's also a (self-isolating) danger in a strictly anti-populist approach. As materialists the question we need to answer is does any given particular expression of populism reflect something fundamental about reality or does it fundamentally distort reality. And in this instance I would argue that the term "bankster", with its explicit linking of finance capital with criminal activity, is very much an expression of reality in this epoch. There's so many examples I could list to make the point here: from the robo-signing fraud, to the rigging of LIBOR, to intentionally misrepresenting deals to their own clients, innumerable ponzi schemes, massive money laundering from drug trafficking, electronic front-running...make no mistake, the banksters are in it up to their necks. Even by bourgeois standards, i.e. by standards they help design and set up, these are some of the most brazen criminals the world has ever known. And to not reflect that in our agitation and propaganda would be to neglect reality. And in neglecting reality in this way we also isolate ourselves from the people and thus risk ceding the critique of finance capital precisely those anti-Semites and fascists that we're so rightly concerned about.

    Our message needs to be, yes, the banksters are criminals. Yes, they've played a large role in making your lives so difficult. But no, it's not a Jewish thing. And they themselves are only the most glaring expression of a system that puts profits ahead of the needs of people. They're simply responding to a system, capitalism, that incentivizes sociopathic behavior and until we replace that system with one that incentivizes cooperation and mutual flourishing, i.e. socialism, we the people will continue to be victims of these bad actors and others like them.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    Another falsehood spread by Rothbardians which you've only lightly touched on is that issue of central banks. Before the Federal Reserve System was created in 1913 there was no central bank, but private banks engaged in fraud all the time. The original establishment of the Fed in 1913 was done precisely to reduce the predilection towards fraud, and this reinforced in the 1930s with Glass-Steagall. When the drive towards deregulation was launched in 1980 this involved repealing most of the regulation measures which had been set up as the basis for a central banking system from 1913 and onward.

    So not only do libertarians falsify the role of capital in general in order to reduce things just to finance capital, but they further falsify the role of banking in order to reduce things just to central banking. The conspiratorial character of such theories is rooted in the tendency to inflate the role of Bernanke (or someone similar) as a master string-puller. But the position which Bernanke is in is better captured by another fellow who commented:

    "Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorceror who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells."

  • Guest - Red Fly

    If someone were to ask me: how should revolutionaries talk about the banks and their role in politics and the global economy, I would point them to this piece, by the World Socialist Web Site (whose work just keeps getting better and better.)

    <blockquote>The bankers’ dictatorship in Greece
    8 September 2012

    Details revealed this week of a letter to the Greek Labour Ministry by the so-called troika—the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and the European Central Bank—make clear that the European working class stand at the crossroads. The financial elite is calling for a fundamental assault on all the gains of the working class in the twentieth century.

    Some 150 years after the first struggles for an eight-hour day, and a century after the introduction of the first five-day work week, the troika is demanding that workers in Greece work 6 or 7 days a week for subsistence wages, or less. To this end the troika wants further cuts to Greece’s already miserly minimum wage (€586, or US$736, per month), plus new powers for employers to sack workers.

    The troika’s letter cynically implies that its measures will combat mass unemployment. In fact, the current record level of 30 percent unemployment in Greece is a direct result of the austerity measures imposed by the troika, which have devastated the Greek economy. The troika’s comments make clear, however, that the capitalist class will accept to re-hire workers only under conditions of virtual slave labor.

    Just before the troika letter was published, Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, called for establishing special economic zones (SEZs) in Greece. Such zones, modeled on cheap labor facilities in poor Asian or African countries, would provide tax-free havens for companies to exploit workers to the bone. Schulz declared that such SEZs would be administered by a “European growth agency”—so that similar zones could be established across the continent after their implementation in Greece.

    The appointment of Schulz, a member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, as president of the European Parliament at the start of this year was greeted enthusiastically in trade union circles. They argued that his stress on economic growth was a shift to the left in European politics.

    In May, Schulz warmly welcomed the election of the new French President, Socialist Party leader François Hollande. Along with the head of the Greek SYRIZA coalition, Alexis Tsipras, they were portrayed by the unions and petty-bourgeois “left” parties as a force for economic growth in Europe that would oppose the austerity politics dictated by the EU and Berlin.

    Just a few months later, these claims have been exposed as lies. In the past weeks, Hollande has closed ranks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to support drastic new austerity measures for Greece—knowing full well the markets expect him to advance the same agenda in France.

    In the second decade of the 21st century, all the ills described by chroniclers of early capitalism are re-emerging in Europe. Earlier this year Le Monde reported on child labour in Italy, where tens of thousands of children now quit school to find work to support their parents. The paper quoted Naples’ deputy mayor: “Of course, we are the poorest region in Italy. But we haven’t seen a situation like this since the end of the Second World War… At age 10, these kids are already working 12 hours a day.”

    In Germany nearly one quarter of the workforce is employed in the cheap-labour sector, and millions must rely on social welfare payments. A recent report reveals that the number of Germans dependent on regular food handouts increased by 300,000 in 2011, to 1.5 million.

    The consequence of the austerity measures demanded by the financial elite and administered by the EU and national governments is mass poverty. Last month Unilever’s chief of European operations, Jan Zijderveld, declared that his company was reconsidering its sales strategy in light of the “return of poverty” to Europe. Unilever is already producing downsized products to sell to low-income customers in Spain, modeled on its operations in Indonesia where, according to Zijderveld, “we sell individual packs of shampoo for 2 to 3 cents and still make decent money.”

    After the liquidation of the USSR, propagandists for capitalism argued that the benefits of the free market would raise the living standards of workers in the ex-colonial countries to those of workers in the West. In fact, the process is moving in precisely the opposite direction. The immiseration of the working class described by Marx, and long derided as a fantasy by his petty-bourgeois critics, is being ruthlessly organised by a small, parasitic and fantastically wealthy elite.

    The reactionary and irrational character of European capitalism—which is preparing an immense historical retrogression to impoverish the population and shovel trillions of euros into the pockets of the financial aristocracy—will inevitably provoke massive struggles in the working class.

    The state of international class relations was most aptly summed up by Marx in A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy: “At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or—what is but a legal expression for the same thing—with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.”

    The key issue for the working class is building a new international political party which has assimilated all of the major experiences of past class struggles and provides a genuine revolutionary perspective. In Europe this requires a struggle against the European Union and all of its constituent states, the seizure of power by the working class and the building of the United Socialist States of Europe as an integral part of the world socialist revolution.

    Stefan Steinberg</blockquote>


    I disagree with the lumping together here of SYRIZA with the French and German Socialists. SYRIZA strikes me as quite a different beast, a coalition with real, contending revolutionary elements, if not exactly a revolutionary party of Lenin's type.

    But in the main, the article is perfect in that it articulates clearly the power of banksters in the current world order, their role as the overall managers of the affairs of the European and world bourgeoisie. It makes clear their goals: the total erasure of the gains of the working class in the 20th century and the total liquidation of working class political power. It relates this to the historic tragedy of the loss of the Soviet Union and how without Soviet Union the bourgeoisie has felt emboldened rip up the social contract (something that needs to be continually emphasized.) It reaffirms the correctness of Marx's vision by noting how the world is resembling more and more every day the world that Marx theorized (which also needs to be continually emphasized--people really are amazed when they understand that Marx saw clearly the world as it is today more than 150 years ago.) And it makes clear that it can only be overcome on the strength of a united international working class seizing political power on a global scale.

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