Here I Go Again

After more than a year later, it’s back!

Hopefully, this will be kept up regular like , but today might seem to be a little underwhelming. For this post, I want to highlight a couple of organizations that may breath new life into the left.

The first one is an American organization called the Campaign for a United Socialist Party (CUSP). As the name implies, it’s a campaign to bring together all of the (“non-psychotic”) socialist parties in the United States under one banner. The way it sounds to me is similar to Venezuela’s United Socialist Party/Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela.

They have released an open letter that is more or less agreeable, and which I’ll half-quote below. The remaining letter can be read at their website.

Talking about Occupy Wall Street is like beating a dead horse at this point, but it’s a dead horse that haunts everything we do, making it seem small and laughable in comparison. So we begin where Occupy left off: it’s painfully old news that Occupy Wall Street, perhaps the largest protest against wealth inequality in US history, has lost its mass character. Its remnants may object that Occupy is not “dead,” but it has certainly lost the numeric force that made it so critically important. And yet it truly signaled a change in the US political landscape, a change that is still with us, but a change which most of the (admittedly tiny) organized leftist forces have not even come close to fully utilizing in advancing our message and our cause. So the dead horse is still with us, though far more important than its corpse is its disembodied spirit. It seems to be looking for a new body…

According to a November 2012 Gallup poll, 39% of the US thinks positively of socialism. This should be rocking our worlds. That is over 120 million people. Make no mistake: it is the basis for a new mass party, one which the Green Party, whether you like them or not, will simply never unleash or capture, since their branding and demographics are inherently based more on the progressive activist milieu than the instinctual class anger of millions.

Now what do these 120 million people mean by socialism? Who knows? It could be anything from Sweden to guillotines, or both; they’ve only recently entertained the word. But more importantly, who cares what they mean, or if their idea is imprecise? Shouldn’t these 120 million people be consolidated into a struggle-and-electoral party, where they can find strength from each other, instead of being left to drift and scream in isolated futility at their reactionary televisions? Even better, by getting ourselves into one place, we who have more defined ideas could finally link up with the masses the way we’ve always wanted to.

It’s true that such attempts have been made in the past: Solidarity, Socialist Party USA. They are certainly worth something, and should be part of the new process. However, declaring a new inclusive group (which everyone else is supposed dissolve into) at any random historical moment is a bit different from a persisting effort for an electoral-activist front (requiring no dissolution) in an unmistakable era of global revolution and rage against capitalism. In this context, such a unity effort could signal to the tens of millions of socialists waiting in the wings that the left is finally getting its act together, and it’s time to get involved.

This could be big, especially considering the American left has been rallying more than they have in decades. It is time to put away the factional differences and try to propel American society into a direction where it won’t destroy itself and it will take on a more responsible, social character than it has now or that it ever has. That can only come through movement wide solidarity; socialists of all stripes working side-by-side.

Whatever our factional differences are, if we are to remain true to a vision of socialism, we’ve got to commit ourselves, in some way, to participating in the political system. We’ve got to bring a certain floor of relief to the working classes and all oppressed peoples in this country, where as right now everyone is plunging into a hole. We’ve got to look at our history and examine what has worked and what hasn’t worked. And what has worked, we need to tweak and build on because it obviously hasn’t worked well enough.

I’ve been fond of this quote from the late Irish revolutionary Seamus Costello, and think it applies here:

I favor guerrilla tactics in parliament in the same way I favor them in other respects. I also favor them in local bodies and local government elections. They have proved successful there. And I see no reason why, with a few TDs or a few MPs of the right caliber, pursuing the right policies, why they can’t destroy the confidence of these institutions and bring them tumbling down in ruin.

For us, the “institutions” could be the banks, the oil companies, major industries, corrupted government halls. Those institutions we can bring to ruin and build them back up; build them back up for our communities, for all workers, for all people.

People want socialism. This shows in the favorability toward the concept of “socialism,” to, more concretely, a socialist (a Trot at that!) placing in a run-off race for Seattle city council. At this time now, more than ever, socialists can get elected and start us on a path toward equality, but we all need to be united, and work toward some common ground, or else it’ll never happen.

Che Guevara reminded us that to be a proper revolutionary is to have absolute and unabiding love for the people. We can show that love by pursuing policies for the people, and going toward a society of an emancipated people, instead of using that time and energy trashing one faction or the other. Again, to do this, we all need to be united. The CUSP project signifies that we (or at least some group of people) are ready to set aside the decades long squabbling over events in the past that had little to nothing to do with us or the current movement, and work toward something substantial, concrete and something we can build upon.

***

The second organization I want to put out there is more along my own political views, which is a rather libertarian flavor of Marxism and socialism. It’s a new (around two years) one built upon the ideas of Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, and the idea of participatory economics. Parecon, for short, is certainly an intriguing set of ideas out there. I disagree with some of the criticisms they have of Marxism and Marxists, but it’s a generally strong idea and hope this can be a generally strong organization, as well. It’s been somewhat celebrity plastered; there are endorsements from Chomsky and a few other professional activists, but it is what it is and I suppose you can’t bash them for trying to get some big names to promote the idea.

This is from their Key Goals:

IOPS is anti capitalist, anti racist, anti sexist, and anti authoritarian. It centrally addresses economics/class, politics, culture/race, kinship/gender, ecology, and international relations without privileging any one focus above the rest.

IOPS seeks to transcend 20th Century market and centrally planned socialism with a new participatory society – or participatory socialism – that combines classless economy, feminist kinship, intercommunalist culture, and self managing polity.

IOPS flexibly explores and advocates long term vision sufficiently to inspire and orient current activity but does not advocate or seek to implement detailed blueprints that transcend movement needs and knowledge.

IOPS sees social strategy and especially tactics as largely contingent on place and time and therefore continually revises shared views in light of new evidence including regularly updating analysis, vision, and strategy.

Those are things are agreeable, especially the idea of a feminist kinship and self-managing polity.

Right now, the organization is waiting to hit a couple of key goals before they schedule a national convention: number of active members and number of chapters. They want to hit their goal by 2014, and you can go to their site here to check it out.

I will be participating (looks like maybe starting, actually) in my local chapters of IOPS, and encourage you to look at their program. If you agree, start one up or join a local chapter.

This does make me a little nervous, though. Organization is good, but action is better. Dual power politics and revolutionary reformism makes me excited. Though, I am fearful this may devolve into thumb twiddling and impractical dreams. One thing that drew me to Parecon, though, is that it can be implemented and it is probably one of the first real attempts at trying to jumpstart a new kind of economic order that fulfills social needs and tries to eliminate oppression as much as possible.

With all that said, check out their slick site, with the videos. It is an international thing, not just American, which is also part of the appeal.

Later on, maybe, posts could be in the offing that touch on my agreement with those ideas: dual power and revolutionary reformism. It’s with that, I am interested in a society that at once fights for reforms that will help the working class save their homes, educate their kids without taking on crushing debt, fix them when they need fixing, help us preserve the environment for everyone to enjoy in awe; but will also move ahead beyond that, toward a society where class ceases to exist and everyone is free to do labor that pleases them and that will contribute to the community.

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