2018: For a People’s Wave

This election cycle, there’s quite the hubbub about a ‘blue wave’. The hope is that in response to the rise of Trump (whose unfavorability polls above fifty percent) and disastrous conditions under one-party rule by Republicans, people will flock to the Democratic opposition for the 2018 midterms.

But is the Democratic Party offering people the alternative they seek? At the time of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court, a large part of the country opposed his confirmation, in no small part due to still uninvestigated accusations against him of sexual assault and attempted r*pe. Yet, the party caved to Kavanaugh, with one vote from Senator Jeff Flake (D) making all the difference. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D) even made clear that he would not take steps to penalize those who supported Kavanaugh’s nomination.

This kind of pseudo-opposition — standard party procedure for the Democrats — is rooted in a coordinated plan rather than a lack of willpower. So long as the country suffers under Republicans, and so long as there is no grassroots opposition, the Democratic machine has your vote in its pocket.

Fundamentally, The Democratic Party can only stand against the public good. Interests most hostile to progressive change — billionaires, Wall-Street tycoons, and war profiteers — control Republican and Democratic parties alike. This is why despite the failures of 2016, the Democratic Party is incapable of adopting even a moderate, social democratic message similar to the one that popularized Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

Both parties support a neoliberal-capitalist agenda, the kind that promotes extreme global exploitation and foments periodic economic crises. Both parties support a militarist-imperialist foreign policy, evident in our government’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia in their genocidal assault against the people of Yemen. And whether they outright deny its existence or offer insufficient steps to fight it, both parties are complicit in oncoming ecological catastrophe brought about by global climate change.

We do live under one-party rule, but it’s not under the Republicans; it’s under both Republican and Democratic wings of a single body that represents the interests of the ruling capitalist class.

It is for these reasons that we need a people’s party: one that rejects the dictatorship of capital and advocates in the interests of ‘we, the people’ — the ninety-nine percent.

Many of us on the left are understandably cynical of any potential for electoral politics to spur a radical reorientation of the state. Nevertheless, we must still use whatever space is available to us to make our voices heard. Organizations such as A Movement For A People’s Party, the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, Socialist Alternative (SA), the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), and the Workers World Party (WWP) to name a few are doing just that by getting their folks on independent party ballots across the country.

Here in New York State, gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins (G) has an extensive, bold platform that calls for 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 (which scientists insist is necessary for survival given our climate crisis), a $20 minimum wage by 2020 (that rises with inflation), and a state-run single-payer healthcare program. Other welcome policies of his include marijuana legalization, a federal job guarantee, and guaranteed public housing.

We have seen what happens when self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ or even ‘democratic socialists’ run as Democrats: they slip towards the party line in order to garner acceptance from those at the top. Case in point, since her primary upset for New York congressional district 14, ‘democratic socialist‘ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has backed down from her condemnations of Israel and praised John McCain as a hero at the time of his passing without mentioning his disastrous legacy as one of the country’s staunchest war hawks. Another ‘progressive’, Andrew Gillum, campaigned in Florida on a program that included, among other proposals, Medicare for All. Since his congressional primary victory, he has backed down from his healthcare dreams and moved on to making thinly veiled threats of intervention against foreign countries via Twitter.

It is no wonder that these supposedly anti-establishment candidates have been fully embraced by the likes of the Obamas, the Clintons, and Michael Bloomberg. As long as these candidates do little more than channel progressive activism into support for a bourgeois party, they pose no significant threat to the status quo and are in fact an asset of it.

People trying to transform the Democratic Party from the inside are fighting a losing battle. No matter what ‘concessions’ the party makes to its progressive base, those really pulling the levers are hellbent against a leftward shift. The DNC even publicly admits that its claims to neutrality are merely ‘political promises’.

Unlike Sanders, Cortez, or Gillum, Hawkins is not a liberal or a social democrat — he’s a socialist. On the one hand, the former are sirens who advocate for reforms and a larger welfare-state in an effort to alleviate the harmful effects of the contradictions inherent to capitalism, pulling us toward the fatal rocks of class-collaborationism and social-imperialism in the process. On the other hand, the latter want to resolve these contradictions by creating a system of collective management in which surplus is directed towards the public good (rather than private accumulation) at the point of production. As Hawkins explains:

Capitalism generates concentrated wealth, which translates into concentrated political power. Liberal social programs are not secure as long as capitalists have the economic and political power. The rollback of New Deal programs in the United States and welfare state programs in Western Europe demonstrate this political reality.

To hell with blue and red waves; let us plant the seeds of revolution. §

This piece was later edited to be published at The Draft like, which one can view here:

2018: For A People’s Wave | Caleb L. Carman

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