Tag Archives: elections

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

Advertisement

For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

fahrenheit-e144138127674444567221

The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!

17 May

 

It is rigged by Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the military-industrial complex, etc, which own most everyone who runs for president in the two major parties.

To guarantee that only acceptable, bought-and-paid-for candidates survive the primary process, the political party operatives throw up huge roadblocks, ones which require astronomical amounts of money to surmount, assuring that only candidates who have establishment money at their disposal are able to proceed toward the nomination.

Additional safety checks are superdelegates, made of up elected officials, lobbyists, and establishment political hacks, plotting a primary schedule that works to run up victories by well known candidates versus unknown ones, setting convention rules that almost guarantee insurgent candidates can neither win a nomination or control the party platform

The result is that the ultimate winner is always someone they have a hook in.

Their worst nightmares are Trump and Sanders, as they have hooks in neither.

Normally, the electorate cannot be won over by a gadfly leftist or a populist demagogue. This year, however, the electorate is very pissed off, affording traction where such was a political unlikelihood,

A socialist insurgent is close to toppling Hillary and a populist demagogue defeated all the establishment candidates on the Republican side.

The establishment is now in full panic mode, and throwing the kitchen sink at Trump, while praying Sanders stops attacking Hillary.

Charles Koch endorsed Hillary over Trump, signaling the establishment to start circling the wagons around her.

Nearly every candidate who has sucked at the teat of Wall Street is now being yanked into the denunciation of Trump, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Wall Street is collecting its favors.

Yes the system is rigged. And the only way to unrig it is to blow it up, which simply means defeating the system’s candidate.

We must defeat Hillary Clinton.

 

Source: The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!

 

 

tumblr_ny80njrq9d1skpw0so1_500

 

 

The “System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Progressive News, Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.com

fahrenheit-e14413812767444456

6403676065_a8289e217a

 

Author’s Notes:

I am unaware of any other blog with the Armory’s mission of radicalizing the animal movement. I certainly hope I am not alone, and that there are similar sentiments being expressed by comrades unknown to me.

If you know of other blogs dedicated to animal rights and the defeat of capitalism, please comment with a link.

• Be sure to follow the Armory and share it with your Facebook friends and email contacts, as well as on Twitter, Google, and all other social media platforms. Our influence and effectiveness is dependent upon you!

Natasha Sainsbury, of Good Karma Graphic Design, has joined Armory of the Revolution as Editor, and is responsible for the transformation of the blog’s appearance. Visit and follow her blog V Kind.

If you are not already subscribed to the Armory, please do so before you leave.

There’s a button to Follow us in the upper right sidebar.

• Be sure to visit Armory of the Revolution’s new commissary and bookstore: The Supply Depot

You will find recommended reading on Animal Rights, revolutionary theory, politics, economics, religion, science, and atheism. There is also a section of supplies for animal liberationists, hunt saboteurs, and social revolutionaries. This is all brand new, and we will be adding lots more merchandise in the near future!

Feel free to comment. I encourage open discussion and welcome other opinions. I moderate comments because this blog has been attacked by hunters and right wing trolls. I approve comments that are critical as well as those which agree with me. Comments that I will not tolerate are those that are spam, threatening, disrespectful, or which promote animal abuse and cruelty.

MOVING A GENERATION TO THE LEFT! The Afterbern: what’s next for the American left? 

16 May

 

Only an autonomous, radical organization can make sure that the encounter of struggles in the Sanders campaign develops in a revolutionary direction.

One of the most significant political stories of the year is the meteoric rise of a little-known, 74-year-old, self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” senator from the small state of Vermont. Although he may win many of the remaining contests, it seems extremely unlikely that Bernie Sanders will clinch the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, his bid for the presidency has dramatically, perhaps irreversibly, changed the political landscape in this country.

At this point, the question for socialists is not whether or not to support Bernie’s campaign, but rather: what do we do now? What, if any political possibilities have emerged, and how can we seize these opportunities to advance revolutionary politics? To answer that, we first need to determine exactly how Bernie has changed the political situation in the United States.

Source: ROAR Magazine by Salar Mohandesi an editor of Viewpoint and a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Sanders campaign did not emerge from nowhere. All movements exist within wider micro-systems of struggle, and the complex entanglement and overlapping of recent social movements made his campaign possible. Without Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, the mobilization of teachers and nurses, immigrant movements, and many other struggles, there would never have been a Sanders campaign. Sanders has benefited enormously from the hard work of these earlier struggles. He has tapped into existing networks to raise an army of volunteers. He has, for better or worse, adopted much of the political language of these other movements. No one in these movements foresaw Bernie’s spectacular rise, but they all prepared it.

While Sanders has in some ways channeled these movements, he has not facilitated their “recuperation,” as many socialists originally feared. Instead of defusing and containing radical ideas, his campaign has helped proliferate them. Radical activists, many of whom often appeared antagonistic to both his campaign and the entire electoral process, not only pushed Sanders to the left, but forced him to use his candidacy as a tribune to popularize and combine many pre-existing, seemingly separate demands: a $15 minimum wage, an end to mass incarceration, universal healthcare, free education, de-criminalizing marijuana, legalizing thousands of immigrants, and banning fracking, to name only a few.

These pressures also led Sanders to issue a whole spate of political statements that no presidential candidate would dare to utter in the United States. He publicly denounced the history of American imperialism on national television. He advocated for the rights of Palestinians in a country where almost no one in public office would even use the word “Palestine.” Like the Black Panthers, he has called the police an “occupying army.”

To be sure, most of these ideas are commonplace for most on the far left, and they do not on their own constitute socialism in any recognizable sense of the term. Indeed, Sanders himself is not a socialist. He never refers to the vibrant history of socialist struggles in this country, even though he once made a documentary about Eugene V. Debs. When he does speak of socialism, he points to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal or modern Denmark. Like all social democrats, he wants a more equitable and robust social welfare state, not the abolition of the capitalist mode of production.

 

nov_police_board_mtg_1

 

All that said, in proliferating the messages of radical movements, even if articulating them in a social-democratic framework, his campaign has had an undeniable impact on millions of Americans, above all young Americans, who were unfamiliar with such ideas, too afraid to embrace them, or had dismissed them as impossible. A recent Harvard poll showed that young people’s political attitudes have already changed considerably just over the past year, and the polling director, John Della Volpe, has pinpointed Sanders as one of the primary causes. “He’s not moving a party to the left,” he concluded, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

In addition, Sanders has helped draw lines of demarcation. Although most of his usual targets, such as “billionaires” or “Wall Street,” remain either terribly obvious or hopelessly vague, he has publicly named the “capitalists” as an enemy class, identified “capitalism” as the problem, and advocated “political revolution” as the solution. He has argued, before millions who are only now beginning to seriously think about things like “capitalism,” that problems in this society are not personal or isolated, but systemic, and that the only way forward is to radically and collectively overhaul that system.

On its own, this argument is banal, but the fact that it’s resonating with millions is remarkable. The same Harvard University poll revealed, for example, that 51 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 do not support capitalism. Of course, it’s not clear what respondents understand by the word “capitalism,” but it’s a very good start, especially in a country like the United States.

 

12510377_10153183452645947_4196062297715554860_n

 

TRIGGERING MASS MOBILIZATION

At the same time, the completely unexpected success of the Sanders campaign has forced many people, organizations and institutions to drop their veneer of neutrality to savagely attack him. But their assaults, increasingly wild and extreme, have in turn allowed millions of Americans to see them for what they really are.

Although most Americans have not trusted the mainstream media for some time — a recent poll revealed that only 6 percent of Americans have confidence in the press — the media’s overt bias has prompted many people, above all the youth, to politicize their distrust, with many now regarding much of the mainstream media, especially seemingly objective newspapers like theWashington Post or the New York Times, as little more than the propaganda arm of the ruling class. Seemingly progressive and reliable political figures and pundits have now outed themselves as reactionaries. At the same time, the Democratic Party has revealed itself to be one of the most significant impediments to meaningful social change in this country.

Even more important than circulating radical ideas, calling for systematic transformation and revealing enemies, the Sanders campaign has triggered a kind of mass mobilization. Millions of Americans, many of whom have never voted before, are now attending rallies, joining marches, donating to the campaign, making telephone calls, knocking on doors, leading grassroots teams. While commitment to a bourgeois election is in itself no sign of radicalism, it does have the potential to create future opportunities for socialist politics. In mobilizing people, especially younger people, in this way, the campaign has helped connect activists from different movements, draw newcomers into existing political networks, and train a new generation of potential organizers.

Compositionally, these radicalized Sanders supporters are a very diverse group. In many contests, especially open ones, Sanders has split or won the female vote. In fact, although the mainstream media would never make mention of this, Bernie’s strongest support seems to come from young women. In Iowa, for example, 84 percent of women under 30 voted for Sanders. In terms of racial diversity, he remains the favored candidate among Native, Arab and Asian Americans. Nationally, some polls indicate he splits the support of Latin@ voters with Hillary. He won Hawaii, the most diverse state in the country, by a landslide.

The major exception, of course, is older African Americans, and especially older black women. Even if Sanders is favored by many blacks, especially black youth, he consistently wins far fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The reasons are very complex, and I can only indicate a few elements of an answer here: the destruction of autonomous radical black organizations since the 1970s, the subsequent absorption of blacks into the Democratic Party, the rise of a black bourgeoisie whose quarrel is not with the system but with access to the system, the close connection between the black leadership class and the Democratic Party, the role of the black church, the legacy of Bill Clinton and the power of the Clinton brand, high abstention rates among poor blacks, the fact that in some places one out of four black men are disenfranchised, and the justified fear of racist terror, especially in the South, which led many to vote for the most “electable” candidate.

 

tensions

 

 

Another factor might be lack of exposure, or more precisely, differential access to information. A 2014 study found that only 45 percent of senior blacks are internet users and just 30 percent have broadband at home, significantly less than whites with a similar demographic profile. In failing to win the support of many African Americans, especially black workers, the Sanders campaign has highlighted probably the greatest strategic question for all radicals today: determining the political class composition of African Americans at a time when the first black president prepares to leave office.

Bernie’s base is the working class and youth. With a few notable exceptions, most importantly the above-mentioned older black workers, Sanders has successfully pulled together a number of distinct sectors of the US working class: those with college degrees and those without, rural and urban, unionized and non-unionized, white and nonwhite. While many workers — from coal miners to computer programmers, nurses to transportation workers, teachers to fast food workers — have temporarily lined up behind the democratic socialist from Vermont, those under 35 have offered the deepest support, not only casting ballots, but throwing themselves headlong into campaign organizing.

In fact, youth support extends even beyond the working class. Indeed, it seems that age, more than any other factor, determines one’s political proclivities today. In a number of states, for example, over 80 percent of voters under the age of 30 support Sanders. By the same token, the majority distrusts Hillary Clinton. In fact, Clinton’s single most reliable base of support comes from voters over 50. There are a number of reasons why seniors, both black and white, dislike Sanders, even though he’s promised to dramatically expand social security, but I wonder again if lack of connectivity, an inability to navigate the internet, and an over-reliance on mass media — which is strongly biased against Sanders — may play a greater role than is often acknowledged.

This kind of mass political polarization along sharp generational lines has not existed since the 1960s and 1970s. But while the youth mobilization of the 1960s was in part made possible by a self-conscious “youth movement” mediated by music, sex, drugs, consumerism and a belief in the allegedly inherent emancipatory potential of youth, if young people today have banded together around radical ideas, it’s not because of some “youth culture.” It’s because young people lived through an era of fictitious economic growth, then a devastating crisis that dispelled all illusions, leaving them nothing but staggeringly high debt, unemployment, and no future. For them, politics is no fad; it’s become a question of life and death — especially when one recognizes that we are dealing with the first generation to fully recognize the immediacy of ecological disaster, which many are increasingly, and correctly, linking to capitalism.

What we have emerging, then, is a new, diverse cohort of predominantly young people, the majority of whom belong to the working class or a collapsing “middle class,” now open to socialist ideas, clamoring for systematic change, and who are increasingly networked, trained and experienced in organizing. The vast majority of these people are, like Bernie, not socialists in any specific historical sense, but they are willing to fight for major changes. The potential here is enormous, and for this, we have to thank the Sanders campaign — whether or not we like Bernie’s social-democratic politics.

 

10152659_510727029033115_1875105727_n

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The major question, of course, is what happens next. It’s very possible that these young, politicized Sanders supporters will be incorporated into the Democratic Party. If Bernie wins the nomination, the risks are enormous. But even if he doesn’t, which seems far more likely now, he may produce the same effect if he throws his weight behind Clinton at the Convention in July. Or possibly, if Hillary emerges victorious, she may tap someone like Elizabeth Warren to serve as Vice-President as part of some calculated strategy to win over Bernie’s supporters.

It is also safe to assume that the Democratic Party will itself try to make the most of this opportunity by organizing many of these young people into its ranks. All this highlights the great contradiction of Bernie’s campaign: he would not have reached — and radicalized — such a vast audience if he did not run as a Democrat, but in working within the Democratic Party, he has potentially wedded this new audience to perhaps the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the United States.

It is also possible that this energy will dissipate in the following few months. A Clinton victory — or more accurately a vote against Donald Trump — may demoralize a generation already deeply suspicious of the “rigged” political process. And if by some chance Bernie wins but then fails to realize crucial aspects of his vision, that, too, will result in disillusionment, just as Obama disappointed his supporters (though it should be noted that this did not lead them to drop out of politics, but to rally around Bernie). Instead of empowering young people to overthrow the system, the campaign may ultimately lead many to resign themselves to its inevitability.

These possible outcomes have been discussed before. But nothing is predetermined. The far left can have a hand in how all of this plays out, which leads to a third possibility: uniting all of these new socialists into an autonomous revolutionary organization.

Unfortunately, while there is much talk on the matter, including a “People’s Summit” in Chicago and preparations for a far more radical socialist convergence in July with representatives from many of the existing far-left currents in the United States, radicals have not yet devised a coherent strategy. As it stands, the de facto approach has been for organizations to “recruit” young Sanders supporters — or more precisely, wait for these supporters to magically fall into their lap. To my mind, this seems doomed to failure. Even if existing socialist organizations succeed in funneling some Bernie supporters into their ranks, we can’t move forward by dividing this new mass of politicized young people into tiny groups that have outlived their historical conditions. While they might try to rebrand themselves for the 21st century, inherited organizations do not, and in fact cannot, speak to the needs of a new cycle of struggle.

We need new forms of organization that are appropriate to our historical conjuncture. While we should certainly foster a diverse constellation of organizations for different situations, it’s becoming clear that we need some kind of binding element to link these distinct initiatives, campaigns, struggles and movements. The symbolic figure of Sanders may have tenuously and unevenly drawn different segments together, but only an autonomous, radical organization tailored to present conditions can make sure their encounter not only takes hold, but continues to develop in potentially revolutionary directions.

 

12654662_554915841353241_6346508381396606736_n[1]

 

DISSOLVE AND REORGANIZE

I therefore suggest that if American radicals really care about making the most of this upsurge, they should consider dissolving their existing formations to create the nucleus of a new kind of organization capable of playing this role. Such a call may seem presumptuous, but let us recall that the most successful organizational forms of the past — that is to say, those organizations most attuned to the needs of their time — themselves emerged from the liquidation, radical recombination and subsequent transformation of the elements of existing groups, networks and collectives.

Normally, I oppose such calls for “Left Unity” since they usually amount to nothing more than purely abstract and rhetorical statements of solidarity between groups with no real connection to mass struggles. But in this case, we are faced with what is in many respects a kind of a mass movement, even if it’s passing under the guise of an election campaign. Most importantly, this movement is intricately intertwined with other vibrant, more militant struggles in which the far-left is in fact closely involved. This radical ecosystem is the condition of possibility for a new organization. Unity will come, therefore, not from any shared ideological platform, but through common struggle.

Our chances for such a qualitative leap are more propitious than they have been in decades. The established political configuration in the United States hasn’t been this vulnerable since the 1970s. The Republican Party is undergoing a profound structural transformation, and Trump’s impending nomination has provoked defections and a potential mutiny. The Democratic Party is being pulled in two directions and may be headed for a contested convention. Record numbers of Americans are leaving both parties — 43 percent now identify as Independents, as opposed to 30 percent as Democrats and only 26 percent as Republican. Across the board tens of millions of Americans are rejecting “establishment politics,” turning to either Trump or Sanders.

We should also be encouraged by the fact that many of these newly radicalized Sanders supporters may already be prepared to break with the logic of the political system — according to one poll, for instance, one third of Sanders supporters say they won’t vote for Clinton in the general election. But without a viable alternative in the form of an organizational presence, we won’t be able to transform this inchoate #BernieOrBust sentiment into revolutionary politics. And if, against all odds, Sanders wins, it is very likely that only a unified, alternative organization embedded in today’s many ongoing struggles can prevent radicalized Sanders supporters from integrating into a fundamentally unreformable Democratic Party. In short, we need an organization to fuse together the millions of enthusiastic people who may otherwise disperse or find themselves subsumed and then disorganized by the state apparatuses.

With such exceptionally high stakes, the far left, usually so minuscule and ineffectual in this country, needs to devise a shared, coherent organizational strategy. Now, more than ever, we need an organization to continue radicalizing newer generations, keep people engaged in contemporary struggles, unite disparate movements, articulate different sectors of the working class, preserve continuity between waves of struggles, fashion a common project, and, above all, seize power — by which I do not mean simply winning a couple seats in Congress as some purely electoral party, but overthrowing capitalism through a mass revolutionary upheaval that unfolds both against and within the state apparatuses.

There hasn’t been this much interest in radical change, nor this much anger against capitalism in the United States since the 1970s. If we, as committed socialists, miss this moment, the future will never forgive us.

 

7133941047_3f678ab6d9_z

 

The “System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Progressive News, Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.comfahrenheit-e144138127674444566

nwoenemy

%d bloggers like this: