“…our reading of changes in public opinion suffered from one-sidedness.”
EDITOR NOTE: It appears that President Barack Obama’s first full year in office has even his Marxist sympathizers a bit worried…The following passage comes to us from the CPUSA main convention discussion document: U.S. Politics at a Transition Point.
Student Warning From A Former Marxist sympathizer: Communism and Socialism are one in the same beast. Neither will ever solve the world’s problems. Organizations such as the CPUSA are not your friends, they do not care about you, nor do they care about ”the people”. Their struggle as pure materialists involves teaching you to hate both your God and your country so as to deny the first and control the second. Avoid these like the cancer they are…
The story follows:
Observations a year in
It seems like every political pundit is critiquing President Obama’s first year in office — not surprising. But I will take a different tack, comparing how we saw Obama and the larger class and social forces a year ago with how things look now.
First, the broad coalition that elected the president a year ago still hasn’t yet fully regrouped, notwithstanding some very promising initiatives and struggles. We believe it will, but our earlier assessment didn’t take into account that the transition from an election mode to a post-election mode would be uneven and bumpy.
By Election Day 2008, people were exhausted and felt that they had done their part. They were ready to hand the ball off to the president and the new Congress. We didn’t appreciate this dynamic enough. Our view was not grounded in realism. To transform the coalition that elected Obama into a powerful political force will take a strenuous and sustained effort. And we are in the early stages. Success in doing this will have to be decisive to winning a progressive agenda.
Second, our estimate of the balance of forces and trends in Congress was too general. Democratic majorities there don’t necessarily translate into support for the president’s agenda — let alone a people’s agenda. There are diverse views, and progressive Democrats, while undeniably more influential, are not yet dominant. A more fine-grained analysis on our part was necessary.
Third, we resisted placing the administration and its individual members into neat political categories before they had begun to govern. At the time, that was correct, because such categorizations easily lead to narrow tactical approaches, which is especially bad in a moment of political fluidity and crisis. A year later, it’s appropriate to look more closely at the various trends, although it shouldn’t turn into a daily preoccupation.
Fourth, we exaggerated the magnitude of the defeat of right-wing extremism. Although the right no longer had political initiative nor set the agenda, it was still a major player in the nation’s political life. While Blue Dog and centrist Democrats are a drag on progressive politics, it is the extreme right in Congress and elsewhere that mobilizes a mass constituency, shapes public opinion, and employs racism and other forms of division and demagogy with the aim of obstructing and derailing the Obama presidency.
Though the election was a major defeat for the right, it retains a significant mass base, has connections to some of the most reactionary and powerful corporations, and possesses a dense network of think tanks and political action committees — not to mention the Republican Party. It also has a loud and insistent voice in the mass media and in the military and other coercive institutions. A comeback — a return to power — isn’t out of the question.
Fifth, our assessment didn’t give enough weight to the fact that the state is anything but a neutral institution standing above society and negotiating between competing interests. Rather it is a class based, historically determined set of institutions, procedures, policies, and personnel that, taken together, are resistant to any kind of radical (anti-corporate, anti-capitalist) restructuring, no matter how necessary. In recent decades, the interpenetration of big capital — especially finance, military and energy capital — and state/government structures has reached unprecedented levels.
This reality isn’t reason to stand aside from struggles within these structures, to yield this ground to capital. On the contrary, the terrain of the state is a crucial site of class and social struggles. Any serious movement for social change has to attach high priority to this. The securing of positions — elective and otherwise in the state apparatus — at every stage of the class and democratic struggle, and especially at this and subsequent stages — is imperative.
As we saw in last year’s election, millions of people were drawn into action and changed the terrain on which contesting political coalitions fight. No struggle over the past decade mobilized so many in such a sustained way as did the campaign to elect Barack Obama.
Thus, struggles within state structures are absolutely imperative, but with this caveat: their success in the longer term depends in large measure on the degree to which they symbiotically combine and coordinate with popular actions at the grassroots.
Sixth, our reading of changes in public opinion suffered from one-sidedness. On the one hand, we correctly noted that right-wing and neoliberal ideology resonates less and less with tens of millions of people, who are increasingly skeptical about “free markets” and unregulated capitalism.
But the problem with public opinion polls is that they don’t necessarily capture what Antonio Gramsci called “contradictory consciousness.” The same people can like a public health care option and even approve of socialism, but also be suspicious of big government; or support withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and at the same time want the Obama administration to eliminate al Qaeda in Afghanistan by any means necessary; or favor a second stimulus bill while opposing a larger deficit.
Most people (and social classes for that matter) don’t have a consistent worldview; rather, they have a worldview that is eclectic, contradictory and sensitive to changing circumstances and experience, not simply reducible to their place in a system of social production. For those who desire progressive change it is essential to better appreciate the complexity and fluidity of popular consciousness.
Finally, the struggle brings home the importance of the 2010 elections. The stakes are enormous.
Will the struggle for democratic reforms be deepened or reversed? Will the costs of the current crisis be placed on the shoulders of Wall Street and the wealthy, or working people and especially people of color?
Will we begin a sustained attack on global warming or remain stuck in a fossil fuel/carbon-based economy? Will racial and gender equality take new strides in the direction of freedom, or will a 21st century Jim Crow assert itself? Will the next decade be a decade of peace, or of violence and plunder? Will the stockpiles of nuclear weapons be reduced, or will the nuclear threat grow?
We could go on, but the point is obvious: the outcome of the midterm elections will have a major bearing on how each of these questions is answered. That so, the aim of the people’s coalition is clear: to increase the Democratic advantage in the Congress, including the number of progressives in the House and Senate, while at the same time defeating the Republican right.
The objective of the Republicans will be the opposite. They will throw everything into the 2010 elections, including lots of money and endless demagogy.
Three outcomes are possible. One is that the Republicans will make big gains; another is that neither party will pick up or lose any significant number of seats; and the last is that the Democrats will increase their majorities in the Congress. The latter is possible, but only if a health care bill passes, the unemployed find work, an to U.S. occupation is in sight, and, above all, an enormous bottom up mobilization of old and new voters is organized this year.
The genius of candidate Obama was his ability to find a narrative and vision that captured the political imagination of tens of millions. In last fall’s off-year elections, Democrats came up woefully short in this regard and too many voters stayed home. If this happens in 2010, the fight for progressive reform will be slow going. New faces, new voices, new voters, and new leaders are necessary to transform the political landscape in a more fundamental and enduring way.
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