I’ve been investigating the various strategies for dealing with the upcoming Trump government.
The best was the simplest: “Get active, because leadership will emerge from the struggle!” Kenneth Williams said that on my radio show, “Workers Beat” Saturday at 9.
Another guest on the show, historian Max Krochmal who was talking about his new book, Blue Texas, offered a lot of encouragement when he pointed out that Texans have organized successfully under much more difficult circumstances than we face today.
Here’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt advised in the depths of the Great Depression, “Do something. If it turns out to be wrong, do something else. But, above all, do something!”
Several Strategies Are Being Offered
So far, I’ve had opportunities to check out strategies offered by the Communications Workers of America, Our Revolution, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, Communist Party USA, and just about everybody I know. I like all of them and none.
A Union Idea
The CWA held a webinar on the topic of the upcoming Senate confirmations of Mr Trump’s cabinet nominees. They explained how terrible they are, of course, but we knew that. Their idea is to get the Democrats to delay the confirmation while we use our union networks, social media, and informal communications to rouse the population. In the short term, it sounded pretty good.
The Bernie Sandinistas
For over the weekend of January 7, I sat through about 7 hours of education, planning, and organization with Our Revolution in Dallas. I missed the first 5 hours. I was a little bit surprised to hear them talking almost exclusively about winning elections and conducting successful lobbying campaigns. Only one person mentioned street actions, and I actually had whispered the idea to him before he spoke.
I don’t think it’s because they were excluding street actions, I think it’s because lobbying and election work are what originally brought them together and, for many of these young activists, it’s the only kind of political work they’ve ever had.
At the end of the second day, I asked if I could make a proposal. I proposed that we support activities around the coming MLK birthday. It passed unanimously, enthusiastically, and with no discussion. Then they went right back to talking about elections and lobbying.
The Bernie people, where I live, are the largest, youngest, and most optimistic group in local politics. I was delighted to see them setting up a regional structure and electing officers. I understand that we’re going to be something of a model for organizing Our Revolution nationwide. I have high hopes.
“Indivisible” Plans to Copy the Tea Party
I saw some of this on Rachel Madow, and there were two guys at the Our Revolution meeting promoting a pamphlet and web page called “Indivisible.” It is apparently made up of former congressional staffers who had firsthand experience with the obstructionist tactics of the Tea Party during the Obama years. They recommend that Democrats do the same thing to Mr Trump.
One of the presenters said, “If we want to preserve what we are used to, our top priority needs to be… Use obstruction and delay to minimize the damage that we know is coming.” He explained that the one thing the Tea Party had going for them was the fact that they were organized.
One could drive a truck through the hole in this argument: Tea Party success came from their access to big money, not their organizational genius.
Our role in this strategy is to lobby the Democrats to get them to act like Tea Partiers. I’d say it’s a whole lot better than doing nothing.
Democratic Socialists Are Fired Up
The Democratic Socialists of America, an offshoot from the old Socialist Party during the Vietnam War, have always wanted to take over the Democratic Party. They still do. Bernie Sanders got them close in 2016, so they are growing in numbers and enthusiasm today. If Bernie’s, and labor’s, candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, gets the job, it will add even more credibility to this venerable political strategy.
Meanwhile, DSA activists are moving faster and with more certainty than just about anybody. Whether or not one agrees, long term, that the Democratic Party is going to transform into a working people’s party, anybody who craves action would do well to follow DSA.
Communist Party, USA Has Been Changing
I read a series of articles on People’s World, which is “sort of” associated with CPUSA, and sort of not. The writer recommended fighting the Trump government on all fronts and with all strategies. That makes a tremendous amount of sense, but doesn’t winnow down the opportunities very much. If you recommend everything, is it very much different from recommending nothing?
But CPUSA and its worldwide network justly claim to have more experience fighting fascism than anybody. Their basic text, Dmitrov’s “Against War and Fascism,” is the best exposition of what fascism is and how to put together a united front against it. Those are lessons from the 1930s, of course, and not directly applicable to today. I don’t think CPUSA thinks fascism has come to America, but they point out that there are certainly trends in that direction.
Historically, the communists would have put a lot more emphasis on workers and the working class. They would have had a clear aim of eventually taking power through class struggle. Nowadays, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between them and the larger, more socially acceptable, less red-baited, legitimized-by-Bernie, DSA. Both of them say what Kenneth Williams said at the beginning of this article: “get busy!”
My Two Cents
I’ve been thinking through this strategy thing a lot. It’s the reason I started this blog.
I think there are things missing from all of the suggestions above. They don’t start with a solid analysis of what’s wrong, they are basically short-term solutions, and they tend to pine for the “good old days.”
What’s actually wrong is that American capitalism is at the end of its rope. It can’t deliver the goods any more, hasn’t been able to for some time. It isn’t fascist yet, but it’s going that way and the only thing that can stop the process is you and me.
The good old days weren’t that good, and nobody but nobody wants to go back to them. Americans want to go ahead to something better and they won’t settle for anything less.
Voters haven’t turned racist or backward, they’re just desperate. A lot of them voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama — anything other than what we have!
As I said in an earlier article, there are no long term solutions for those of us caught in this system.
That’s why we need long-term plans for fundamental change. The goals are in Bernie’s book — things like free education, decent health care, democracy, and all the many fine things he explained so well. I think Bernie has set the goals very well, the argument should be over how to achieve them. For that, we have to organize everybody, and we organize through successful struggles.
Each of us need to adopt long term goals like those Bernie set down. We need to recognize that elections and lobbying are not the only way to struggle and that, in fact, real change is more likely to come from organized economic activity than from generous politicians. That means that fundamental fights over economic benefits weigh more heavily than purely social questions. It means that workplace organizations mean more than idealistic social groupings.
We have to analyze our own resources and opportunities so we can pick the struggles we join, even if we have to skip some of them.
Then we have to get busy and organize. Leadership will emerge from struggle.