18 October 2011

Socialism: the opposite of a mass movement?

Well ahead of the Republican party, the Socialist Party USA has chosen its challenger to President Obama for the 2012 election. In defense of the Republicans, however, nominating their candidate involves consulting many more people. As Darcy Richardson reported last weekend, it took just 32 votes to put Stewart A. Alexander at the head of the SP-USA national ticket. A bid to exploit the remaining celebrity of antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan by making her Alexander's running mate was thwarted when party leaders insisted that their ticket consist entirely of dues-paying party members. Alexander hopes that his head start will allow him to build momentum by capturing the nominations of other left parties, especially the Peace & Freedom Party -- the one to which Sheehan belongs. Presumably, he hopes to improve on his party's performance in 2008, when it only appeared on eight state ballots.

Alexander claims that the SP-USA is "the true representative of the left," but his nomination was immediately criticized from his own left. His party has been called "ragtag rightists" whose determination to field national tickets is deemed "conservative" by a rival organization, America's Socialist Party. The ASP contends that running a national campaign is a waste of resources that could be better dedicated to organizing on the local level. They are determined not to run a national campaign until they already have the numbers to secure ballot access in all 50 states. At the same time, ASP (or its blog) condemns SP-USA for letting a secretive clique choose its candidate instead of cultivating the Occupations and including occupiers in an "open-air convention." For its own part, ASP claims to be establishing relationships with occupiers, but their involvement with the mass movement begs a question: What if the occupiers want a presidential candidate now? Is the ASP going to tell them no? On one hand, their emphasis on building the support necessary to get past the usual election-law obstacles is admirably practical. But I'd think that any socialist or would be mass movement of the left would find the legal obstacles themselves problematic if not unjust and place some emphasis on overturning them as soon as possible. If anything, ASP's attitude in accepting the conditions set by election law could be described as "conservative" from the perspective of anyone hoping for more immediate political change. If there is a groundswell of disaffected public opinion to be gathered by a left or socialist campaign next year, which party is in a better position to make the most of it? I make no judgment between the parties on the basis of their platforms, which I haven't read. But I will say that both risk missing the movement they've hoped for all along by indulging in their all-too-typical sectarian squabbling. If the occupations have any true political potential, it's imperative for sympathizers to help the occupiers find their own voices and build their own electoral force rather than sell them someone's old party line.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see many problems here. First and foremost is the "catch-22" situation. In order for socialists to bring any real change to the political/social structure, they must get people elected. But in order to get people elected there must be changes made to the political/social structure.

Next, one has to question why there are so many different "socialist" parties, squabbling over leadership of the left. If they can't even unite into one solid socialist movement, how can they expect to have a chance at any meaningful political organizing? It seems apparent that what is really going on are factional groups who all want to be "the boss of socialists". This is no good and, unless they can eliminate their egos from the equation, there will be no socialist revolution.

We must learn from the many failures of socialism in the past century that a "vanguard party" lead by "glorious leader" will NOT last and will accomplish very little. If we are to offer a better future to the American people and to the human race, then we must act as a group - as an organized labor movement, made up of the working class, whose purpose is to create a national democracy by the working class, of the working class and for the working class.

The wealthy/capitalist must be offered a place in this society, but dictated on the terms of the majority (ie, the working class), not on the terms of the minority (ie, the wealthy/venture capitalists/entrepreneurs). And if they are not willing to accept these terms, they must be either forced into exile or dealt with accordingly.