In 2008, the Obama campaign performed yeoman work airbrushing away the years of patronage and support the Democrataic Socialists of America (DSA), the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and various other socialist groups provided Barack Obama’s political career for well over a decade. In 2008, the CPUSA briefly posted its endorsement of Barack Obama for President, gushing:
A broad multiclass, multiracial movement is converging around Obama’s “Hope, change and unity” campaign because they see in it the thrilling opportunity to end 30 years of ultra-right rule and move our nation forward with a broadly progressive agenda.
This diverse movement combines a variety of political currents and aims in a working coalition that is crucial to social progress at this point….
The struggle to defeat the ultra-right and turn our country on a positive path will not end with Obama’s election. But that step will shift the ground for successful struggles going forward.
If you followed the link, you will notice that it currently states: “Page Not Found.” This is because, after the conservative blogosphere started publishing the link, the CPUSA immediately removed the post to protect Candidate Obama’s carefully scripted image as an apolitical moderate.
Last weekend, CPUSA held its annual National Members Conference in New York City and called for communists to enter into a broad alliance with Democrat and even Republican progressives and moderates to protect the progress made under Obama from the fascist conservatives and continue to make progress along “the road to socialism.”
CPUSA national chairperson, Sam Webb, offered a revealing keynote speech, describing a new communist strategy of incremental revolution:
In its formative period, the world communist movement had a disdainful attitude towards transitional forms and stages. The struggle for socialism was direct and compressed in time. It was damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.
The operative slogans were “class against class,” and “No Retreat, No Surrender.”
But things didn’t work out the way that those young militants believed. Revolution gave way to counterrevolution.
In the aftermath of this upheaval in the early 1920s, Lenin argued that the revolutionary process would stretch out over time and go through different stages, with distinct strategic tasks specific to each stage.
He further argued that the new communist parties must search for forms of transition to socialism, springing from a sober estimation of the level of class consciousness and the balance of class and social forces at a particular moment.
Asking rhetorically “So where do we stand now? What is the path to socialism? What is our overall strategy?,” Webb calls for an alliance with Obama and the Democratic Party:
With the foregoing in mind, let me outline the main stages of struggle as our new program envisions them.
The first is the struggle against right wing extremism. This is not a new policy; it goes back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. At that point and since then it became evident that the main obstacle to social progress remains rightwing extremism and its corporate backers. They cast a reactionary shadow over the whole political process then and now.
The election of Barack Obama was a blow to the right, but subsequent events have demonstrated that it wasn’t a decisive blow.
The right still retains considerable power, and initiative to frame the debate and disrupt the legislative and political agenda.
Its overarching goal this year is to regain control of all three branches of the federal government. How dangerous is that? In my view it would set the stage for a period of extreme rightwing onslaught…
By contrast, the decisive defeat of the right would weaken Wall Street and the entire corporate class, give leverage and momentum to the people’s movement and clear the ground for an era that puts people and nature before profits and “free markets.”
But that will happen only if an electoral coalition is assembled that includes the left, progressives, independents and moderates.
Said differently and dialectically, the defeat of the right at the polls next year cannot be achieved on a pure anti-corporate basis, given the existing relationship of forces. The 99 per cent versus the 1 per cent is a good slogan and representation of economic reality, but it doesn’t reflect the actual political balance of forces on the ground at this moment.
The political complexion of the country is more complicated, thus making a broader strategy that reaches out to moderates (Republican as well as Democrats) and independents necessary…
None of this is to suggest that the Democrats aren’t now or won’t be in the future an obstacle to progressive change; in too many instances they are, but they aren’t the main obstacle for the moment.
This election, then, is not about choosing a lesser evil. It is about our nation’s future: are we going to move in a progressive-democratic or rightwing anti-democratic-authoritarian direction (I distinguish this characterization from fascism which has a particular meaning – the open terroristic dictatorship of the most backward sections of the capitalist class – in the communist movement)…
Not everyone shares this view. Some think the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. Others go further and say that the Democrats are worse because they create popular illusions that change is possible within the two-party system. Still others say the electoral process is so compromised by corporate money that participating in it is a fool’s errand. And finally there are advocates of running a third-party presidential candidate in this election.
I can understand these sentiments, but only up to a point. Like it or not, millions go to the polls in spite of their misgivings. They are invested in the electoral process. Voting is a sacred duty. And the Democratic Party is the vehicle of reform for tens of millions, the majority of whom are working and oppressed people.
What is more, labor will throw itself into the campaign to elect Democrats, moderate as well as progressive, albeit from its own organizational base. Four hundred thousand campaign volunteers are going to walk neighborhoods this fall.
Much the same can be said about the racially oppressed. Ditto women and seniors. The majority of youth will also take part in the elections, and like four years ago on the side of President Obama and the Democrats.
A third-party presidential candidate would only help the extreme right as well as isolate the left from the broader movement.
The two parties of the capitalist class have similarities. That is undeniable. But differences also exist at the level of social composition and political policies – policies that can be widened under the impact of a powerful people’s movement, as they were in earlier historical periods.
The past three years have been frustrating to be sure; much the same could be said about the past three decades. But frustration and impatience are a poor excuse for a strategic and tactical policy in relation to the coming elections and politics generally.
Only a very sober and objective analysis should guide our thinking and actions. It is easy to imagine any number of electoral strategies, but the question is: which one is rooted in objective realities and advances class and democratic struggles? Which one positions the popular forces to go on the offensive in the post-election period? Which outcome will clear the ground of neoliberal polices and debris? Which one will weaken the corporate class as a whole?
To skip over the current stage in the name of militant radicalism may feel revolutionary, but in the end it is self-defeating and strategically misguided.
CPUSA executive vice chair, Jarvis Tyner, gave more direct voice to the fear that, if the voters give the government to the conservatives, all the socialist progress of the Obama administration will be lost:
These right-wing nut jobs need to understand, we are not going back. If Obama is elected, of course there will be a struggle; a struggle that the democratic forces could win, I would say. If he is defeated, the movement will suffer a big setback and the country will be pushed backwards.
In my book Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste, I described how the Democratic Socialists of America adopted a policy of running socialists as Democrats to realign the Democratic Party to the left along the lines of a Euro-socialist party. Apparently, the CPUSA now sees the Democrats as at least a partially socialist party well worth entering into an alliance to complete America’s journey down the road of socialism.