At the initiation of Left Voice, Philly Socialists, and Tempest, an invitation went out to 15 organizations, groups, and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) caucuses. Noting the end of an election cycle and the return of neoliberal Democrats to the White House, this was an effort to bring some informal conversations among socialists into the pages of our respective publications.
The actual prompt was a request for short contributions—not to exceed seven hundred words—answering the question: “What are the main tasks, and challenges, for socialists after the election?” In the end we received eight submissions (a ninth submission came in too late for publication with the others), which we present unedited, below. From the Tempest perspective, we hope this is part of a larger discussion among socialists about the strategies and perspectives that are fit for this moment.
Reform & Revolution
Revolutionary Socialist Network
The postelection period continues the severe crises of U.S. and world capitalism: COVID-19, economic depression, ecological destruction, racism, and police brutality. This has resulted in a crisis of political legitimacy. The ruling class through its state will try to continue its neoliberal nonsolutions. There is great potential for popular resistance. Increasing political polarization has produced a rise of the far right but even more the growth of left-wing ideas and even reformist socialist organization. 40 percent of the whole U.S. population supports “socialism.”
Biden will be the new president despite Trump’s ludicrous attempts at sabotage. The majority of the ruling class supports Biden. It wants more competent leadership for U.S. imperialism. Biden will make many rhetorical gestures and even reverse some of Trump’s executive orders. He will use the congressional stalemate as an excuse not to do more. His administration will likely echo Obama who bailed out the banks and reneged on promises to the basic constituencies that vote Democratic. On some issues of imperialism, he will likely be more aggressive than Trump. Locally, Democratic administrations will continue to repress struggles against racism and austerity.
Popular discontent around the crises of capitalism lays the basis for mass struggle, as shown this year by the George Floyd protests. The pending eviction crisis, unemployment, hunger, and loss of health care will likely spur large numbers into action. Initial government responses will be completely inadequate to the needs of people.
A key danger these movements will face is the pull of the Democratic Party. The vast majority of the broad Left supported Biden’s election, and many will urge a honeymoon for Biden. They will argue that attacks on the new administration will play into the hands of the Republicans.
Acceptance of this attitude will undermine the growth and strength of resistance to ruling class attacks. The more activists understand the true nature of the Democratic Party, the stronger and more effective the struggle will be. The truth is this: the Democratic Party is one political expression of our class enemy. It is run and funded by big business. As Nancy Pelosi said, “We are capitalists!”
Revolutionary socialists need to argue that in fighting for reforms under capitalism we must fight against the Democratic Party and against the capitalist state they manage. The role of the Left is not to advise the Democrats on how to win votes but to confront it as the class enemy. Workers need to organize rank and file led unions and strikes against the representatives of capital, not lobby for nicer managers. Likewise, we must politically organize independently and in opposition to both parties of capital, not support the “lesser evil.”
Strategies of using the Democratic Party as a road to socialism are misplaced. Support of Democratic candidates reinforces the power of that party to derail and weaken class and social struggle.
This argument highlights the need for revolutionary socialist organization. An organization of revolutionaries will be much more effective in moving the struggle forward than individuals will. We need revolutionary organization now to influence struggles today and to prepare the ground for a party of and for the working class to lead in future revolutionary crises.
The goal of socialists today should be two-fold: 1) Bring more people into Marxist organization through recruitment and regroupment and 2) Build the struggles against all the depredations of capitalism. We need to learn from those struggles and use Marxist analysis, strategies, and tactics to make them as effective as possible. These two goals are essential to each other. If the revolutionary Left does not grow in numbers, organization, and political understanding, it will be less able to influence struggles in a positive direction.
The revolutionary Left in the U.S. is organizationally and programmatically weak, but has a large potential for growth. We need to grasp this opportunity with both hands while we participate in building all the struggles that will be necessary for the needs and even survival of the working class and the planet.
As part of this struggle, we in the Revolutionary Socialist Network are a collective of independent local organizations and at-large activists working together to build a revolutionary socialist Left current.