I've been posting stuff on the moral bancruptsy of the Democratic Party. Some people on the progressive wing think the party can be salvaged but I don't think so -- it will destroy itself I believe and out of the cinders something else will rise -- maybe a social-democratic type party with real chops. Though the left will often savage itself over sectarian politics -- so hope in that end is also bleak.
So read the article below in that light.
If you look at the Ed Notes masthead you'll see Educate, Organize, Mobilize -- in that order. Don't skip the educating and organizing and skip to Mobilizing without passing GO, something the drooling left seems wont to do all too often.
I've seen a lot of that in MORE activists who will race to any rally that touches on social justice but when you want to talk about the crappy policies on bulletin boards -- ho, hum.
Some of us in MORE (and I hear in the Chicago Teachers Union too) have been pushing back against what we see as endless campaigns that often go nowhere instead of focusing on their own schools and localities.
So the leftist Jacobin mag has an article telling people in the left to quit the marching and focus on organizing which according to people who follow these things has caused some people on the left who believe that mobilizing alone can get people active to get very agitated over this article.
If you are someone who delves into these issues arising on the left jump into this one.
If you don't know about DSA -- Democratic Socialists of America -- this is an interesting piece written for activists.
Don’t March, Organize for Power
The socialist left needs more organizing and less mobilizing.
--- Jacobin https://jacobinmag.com/2017/07/march-single-payer-medicare-health-care-democratic-socialists-of-america-unions With the sudden and unexpected expansion of socialist organizations like Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the wake of the 2016 elections, socialists finally have the opportunity to debate basic strategy. A nationwide socialist movement with tens of thousands of members and supporters has emerged. Considering what we should do now is a vitally important question.
It’s also a difficult one. Despite its recent growth, organized socialists remain marginal, with no real mass base. To change the direction of American politics and challenge capitalist hegemony, we will need to reach out not only to self-identified progressives but also to a broader layer of politically disillusioned workers.
We will need to choose battles where we can genuinely affect outcomes despite limited resources. We will need to find ways to engage in coalition politics while carving out space to the left of the Democratic Party’s newly invigorated progressive wing. We will need to win measurable victories that grow our constituency, develop class consciousness, and build toward a broader fight.
We should use these criteria to judge Dustin Guastella’s recent Jacobin article, which called on socialists to spend the next year organizing a “Medicare for All March on Washington.”
We should praise Guastella for starting a conversation on strategy. But his proposal itself leaves something to be desired. Why should socialists spend months planning a national march? What do we hope to achieve?
It should go without saying that single payer will not be enacted under the Trump administration. Republicans oppose it, and neither the socialist left nor the much-larger progressive left can change their minds.
One could argue that a march would put single payer on the Democratic Party’s 2020 agenda, but the issue is already playing a central role in that organization’s internal life. More than half of the Democratic congressional delegation and several leading presidential contenders, including Kirsten Gillibrand, already support it. It will almost certainly take center stage in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.
A small organization like DSA has little chance of exerting meaningful pressure on the federal government to pass major legislation; if single-payer does go into effect after 2020, it will be thanks to groups like Our Revolution and National Nurses United (NNU).
The socialist left needs to focus on local organizing, not national mobilizations.
Why March?If DSA decides to pursue single payer, we should consider how a march would help advance the cause. Washington, D.C. has seen thirteen such events already this year, and three more are planned.
Each has required a major investment of time and resources on the part of its organizers, and some, like the Women’s March and the Climate March, have attracted hundreds of thousands of people — far more than DSA could hope to mobilize. While some have shaped the national mood, none has significantly altered the political landscape. Most have made headlines for a day or two and then vanished without a trace. Why would the Medicare March be any different?
As Guastella himself acknowledges, marches only work when they demonstrate the power of an organized mass movement, proving that a mass base has unified around a particular demand. Put differently, organizing work must precede any successful march, and that work takes years, not months.
Today’s left, however, often goes in reverse, organizing a march in the hopes that it will spark a mass movement. Guastella appears properly skeptical of this strategy, but he nonetheless proposes it.
Socialists do not yet have an organized a base in the United States. A march on Washington without a supporting movement amounts to a meaningless publicity stunt. Politicians and the ruling class will have no reason to listen to its demands. Democratic operatives may stop by for a photo op, but we are unlikely to meaningfully influence their political calculus.
At best, a march will attract a few thousand people and garner a day’s worth of media attention. It will not advance its central demand, and it will quickly fade from memory. But achieving even this level of success would require a substantial investment of time and resources from an organization that enjoys little funding outside member dues. It is hard to imagine how demobilizing and dispiriting this project will be for the activists involved, many of whom are new to politics. In fact, a failed Medicare March may do more to depoliticize young socialists than to inspire them.
Why Health Care?But these arguments miss Guastella’s point. He’s less interested in winning the fight for single payer and more interested in associating DSA, and socialism more broadly, with the ongoing struggle. As he writes:
Medicare for All is the only demand that meets the needs of most workers and has received a warm reception among voters across the political spectrum. The prospect of free health care at the point of access is more popular than ever … Simply, a march would give socialists the opportunity to vocally and aggressively lead on a major working-class demand.Guastella argues that socialists should identify with single payer because people like single payer. If they identify us as “leading” on that issue, perhaps they will like us, too.
It’s an understandable impulse. The socialist movement remains small and weak despite its recent growth. The movement for single payer, and the progressive Democrats who have taken it as their signature issue, appears large and strong. If socialists go all-in on single payer, perhaps some of that strength will rub off on us. A march may not win single payer, but it could help the DSA’s brand.
As seductive as that idea is, it suffers from a number of basic problems.
For one, the fact that single payer is popular among the working class does not mean that an ineffective march will inspire workers to join the DSA. Working-class people already know that they need health care; they just don’t know how to get it. Spending months organizing an action that won’t move people closer to a universal-health-care system won’t make them sympathize with the DSA, it will simply show them that the organization can’t help.
The national march proposal sharply contrasts with the strategy of serious single-payer advocates like National Nurses United. The nurses’ union has focused on California where passing single-payer legislation seems possible. Further, it has used health-care activism to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party’s conservative and progressive wings and committed to an electoral strategy that can build on those gains by primarying the Democrats who oppose single payer. These tactics have attracted a large and effective activist base, including local DSA chapters.
Pursuing the same goal with less effective tactics will not attract new people to socialism. Rather, serious activists will join the serious organizations doing real work for single payer, not a socialist movement more interested in jumping on bandwagons than winning fights.
Which brings us to a broader point: for the socialist movement to succeed and grow, it must distinguish itself from the Democratic Party.
In one sense, we can easily accomplish this task: many socialists live in large cities controlled by progressive Democrats — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, and San Francisco — that are nevertheless still riven by inequality, segregation, mass incarceration, and a seemingly endless housing crisis. The DSA is perfectly positioned to show how poorly these Democrats serve their working-class constituencies. The party can build an oppositional base around the demands progressive Democrats have no time for.
Of course, from another perspective, it’s immensely difficult to build a movement around issues that have been beyond the pale of mainstream political thinking for fifty years. Far easier to follow Guastella’s suggestion and identify ourselves with the progressive Democrats, adopting their chief demand and providing organizational support for their campaigns. Progressive Democrats have grown in popularity since making single payer their central policy plank.
If the DSA adopts the progressive Democrats’ platform, however, the organization risks being dissolved into the Democratic Party. The mainstream liberals are more likely to coopt segments of the emerging socialist movement than to allow it to share in the Democrats’ success.
This is not to say that we should avoid collaborating with progressives on shared objectives; coalition work creates useful alliances and leads to real gains. For example, the DSA’s work on the New York and California single-payer campaigns has helped grow the organization.
But the socialist movement must articulate the necessity of anticapitalist politics. Choosing an issue that makes the socialists indistinguishable from the Democrats’ welfare capitalism leads away from that goal.
Why Not Organize?In her book No Shortcuts, Jane McAlevey distinguishes between organizing and mobilizing.
Leftist organizing — the work it takes to build a labor or tenants’ union — addresses itself to the apolitical, the disillusioned, or those actively hostile to the Left and attempts to persuade them to join organizations and take collective action for their own betterment. Mobilizing, in contrast, seeks out those who already agree and asks them to make their support visible.
Organizing brings new constituencies into the Left, while mobilizing demonstrates existing support. The characteristic culmination of organizing is something like a strike — an action that requires majority support within a specific constituency. The protest is the characteristic culmination of mobilizing, and it draws a self-selecting minority of activists to show up and demonstrate support.
Both forms of activity have their uses, but, as McAlevey points out, mobilizing comes with sharp limits: in the US today, there are not enough leftists or progressives to win the necessary fights. The Left must bring in new people, which means organizing.
Organizing, however, is hard, resource-intensive work that takes years to accomplish, so leftists will always be tempted to take the “shortcut” and mobilize existing supporters. But, the same historical conditions that make marches so seductive — the Left’s lack of local organizations with ties to a larger base as well as its inexperience in building effective campaigns for power — are the very conditions that make mobilization the wrong strategy.
They also happen to be the very conditions that the DSA is meant to — and must — change.
Guastella’s proposal focuses exclusively on mobilization. A futile march on Washington will not interest anyone except the tiny minority of Americans who already support single payer, who already engage in left-wing activism, and who can travel across the country for a protest.
Think LocalA serious DSA organizing campaign would push socialists to build alliances with their local working-class bases. It would engage in the small but real battles on which movements thrive while building mass support for the bigger confrontations ahead. It would be national in scale but local in focus since socialists are not yet powerful enough to push federal legislation.
For example, socialists could lead a national campaign around housing rights. In big cities, that would mean fighting rent increases, advocating for tenants’ rights, and demanding government action to address housing shortages. Elsewhere, campaigns could focus on mortgage debt and housing quality.
In every locality, a housing campaign would directly address an issue every working-class person faces, would challenge the property regime that leaves basic needs to the whims of the market, and would produce tangible wins. Most importantly, it would entail organizing local communities for rent strikes and anti-gentrification work rather than drawing energy toward Washington.
This kind of nationally coordinated, locally focused organizing isn’t limited to housing. In health care, too, we can do important work around specific, winnable issues that supports our understanding of health care as a human right.
Socialists can bring the fight for adequate and just health to the local level. In cities, access to care often follows the lines of racial segregation. We can push municipalities to provide better mental health care and addiction treatment for workers, states to guarantee care to undocumented immigrants, and schools to ensure young women have access to reproductive care. Working on these issues will help build solidarity and bring new people into the movement. Just as importantly, they will lend real substance to our commitment to universal and decommodified health care by winning battles that make an immediate difference in people’s lives.
We need to pick campaigns that bridge the gap between our long-term socialist goals and the realities of working people’s daily lives as well as between national coordination and local organizing.
A march on Washington in support of federal legislation does not meet these criteria. It squanders time, money, and energy. Even worse, it sets up members for defeat and disappointment. Guastella’s proposal actually works against the goal of building a powerful movement that can fight for socialist goals.
At the height of its power in the 1930s, the American socialist movement was deeply involved in organizing the working class into unions. The labor movement recognized socialists and communists as among the most dedicated, astute, and effective organizers, and the millions-strong, racially integrated, rank-and-file-oriented, ideologically progressive unions they built produced gains for their members and the broader working class that we still enjoy.
About the Author
Michael Kinnucan is a Democratic Socialists of America member in New York City. He writes for Current Affairs.
After Boris Yeltsin won re-election in 1996, Time magazine ran a gloating cover story – YANKS TO THE RESCUE! – about three American advisers sent to help the pickling autocrat Yeltsin devise campaign strategy. Picture Putin sending envoys to work out of the White House to help coordinate Trump's re-election campaign, and you can imagine how this played in Russia...
What most Americans don't understand is that the Putin regime at least in part was a reaction to exactly this kind of Western meddling... For all the fears about Trump being a Manchurian Candidate bent on destroying America from within, the far more likely nightmare endgame involves our political establishment egging the moron Trump into a shooting war as a means of proving his not-puppetness.
Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, et al have lost their minds...
........ Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
There is almost too much irony in the current state of affairs where Dems and Republicans are insane over Russia, as Matt Taibbi shows in Rolling Stone. There has been a century old campaign against Russia. One of the guys in my writing group wrote a novel about American army troops being sent to Russia AFTER WWI ended to fight the Bolsheviks. I actually think Trump makes sense here vis a vis Russia and Putin. Of course they interfered in elections here, there and everywhere, same as we do. In fact one of Putin's gripes is that he felt Hillary tried to interfere in his election. Yes, they may have something on Trump. But if someone else were president the neocons would be pushing for the same policy.
Here are some previous Taibbi, who spent a lot of time in Russia, pieces:Taibbi: How Did Russiagate Start? Taibbi: Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives Taibbi: Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media Matt TaibbiWhat Does Russiagate Look Like to Russians?
Russia isn't as strong as we think, but they do have nukes – which is why beating the war drum is a mistakehttp://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-what-does-russiagate-look-like-to-russians-w493462
Last Wednesday, former adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton Paul Begala stepped out of his usual milquetoast centrist costume and made a chest-thumping pronouncement on CNN.
"We were and are under attack by a hostile foreign power," he said
. "We should be debating how many sanctions we should place on Russia, or whether we should blow up the KGB."
Begala's is the latest in a string of comments from prominent pols and pundits suggesting
we are (or should be) in a state of war with nuclear-armed Russia.
Former DNC chair Donna Brazile tweeting
this week, "The Communists are dictating the terms of the debate" – and not bothering to delete the error – is another weird example of what feels like intense longing in the Beltway to reignite the Cold War. (Begala wanting to blow up the long-dead KGB is another.)
James Clapper this spring saying
Russians are "genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor" also recalled the Sovietology era, when Russians were cast as evil, emotionless manipulators, cold as their icy homeland. CNN reporter Michael Weiss casting suspicion
on people with Russian spouses is another creepy recent example.
For journalists like me who have backgrounds either working or living in Russia, the new Red Scare has been an ongoing freakout. A lot of veteran Russia reporters who may have disagreed with each other over other issues in the past now find themselves in like-minded bewilderment
over the increasingly aggressive rhetoric.
Many of us were early Putin critics who now find ourselves in the awkward position of having to try to argue Americans off the ledge, or at least off the path to war, when it comes to dealing with the Putin regime.
There's a lot of history that's being glossed over in the rush to restore Russia to an archenemy role.
For one, long before the DNC hack, we meddled in their elections. This was especially annoying to Russians because we were ostensibly teaching them the virtues of democracy at the time. We even made a Hollywood movie on the topic (Spinning Boris
, starring Jeff Goldblum and Anthony LaPaglia!).
After Boris Yeltsin won re-election in 1996, Time
magazine ran a gloating cover story – YANKS TO THE RESCUE!
– about three American advisers sent to help the pickling autocrat Yeltsin devise campaign strategy. Picture Putin sending envoys to work out of the White House to help coordinate Trump's re-election campaign, and you can imagine how this played in Russia.
Former Yeltsin administration chief Sergei Filatov denied
that the three advisers did anything of value for Yeltsin. But even if Filatov is right, American interference throughout the Nineties was extensive.
For one thing, the privatization effort under Yeltsin, much of which was coordinated by Americans, helped lead to a little-understood devil's bargain
that sealed Yeltsin's electoral victory.
Essentially, Yeltsin agreed to privatize the jewels of Russian industry into the hands of a few insiders – we call them oligarchs now – in return for their overwhelming financial and media support in the '96 race against surging communist Gennady Zyuganov. The likes of Vladimir Potanin, Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky were gifted huge fortunes before bankrolling Yeltsin's re-election bid.
How much of a hand we had in that infamous trade has never been explained. But Americans surely helped usher in the oligarch era by guiding Russia through its warped privatization process. In some expat circles back then, you found Americans who believed that by creating a cadre of super-wealthy Russians, we would create a social class that would be pre-motivated to beat back a communist revival.
This may have prevented a backslide into communism, but a by-product was accelerating a descent into gangsterism and oligarchy.
The West also aided Yeltsin during that election season by providing a $10.2 billion IMF loan
that just happened to almost exactly match the cost of Yeltsin's vicious and idiotic invasion of Chechnya. (Yeltsin had been under fire for the cash crunch caused by the war.) Le Monde
called the timely giganto-loan "an implicit vote in favor of candidate Yeltsin."
What most Americans don't understand is that the Putin regime at least in part was a reaction to exactly this kind of Western meddling.
The Yeltsin regime, which incidentally also saw wide-scale assassinations of journalists
and other human rights abuses, was widely understood to be a pseudo-puppet state, beholden to the West.
The conceit of the Putin regime, on the other hand, was that while Putin was a gangster, he was at least the Russians' own gangster.
It's debatable how much success Putin really had at arresting the flight of Russian capital abroad that began in the Yeltsin years. But the legend that he would at least try to keep Russia's wealth in Russia was a key reason for his initial popularity.
Russians also have an opposite take on their "aggression" in Ukraine and Crimea, one that is colored by a history few in America know or understand.
When asked about the roots of the current Russian-American divide, former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman, the author of excellent books like Whistleblower in the CIA
and Failure of Intelligence
, points to a 1990 deal struck between Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
The two men brokered a quid pro quo: The Soviets wouldn't oppose a re-united Germany, if the Americans promised not to "leapfrog" East Germany into the Russians' former sphere of influence.
Goodman later interviewed both men, who confirmed the key details. "They both used the word 'leapfrog,'" he says. "The Russians think we broke that deal."
Russia believes the U.S. reneged on the "leapfrog" deal by seeking to add the Baltics, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Georgia and even Ukraine to the NATO alliance.
To Russia, American denunciations of Russian adventurism in Crimea and eastern Ukraine seem absurd, when all they see is NATO leapfrogging its way ever-closer to their borders.
This is not to say that the Russians were right to move into Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. But it's easy to see why Russians would be frosty about America trying to put border states under the umbrella of NATO, or wigged out by Americans conducting war games
in places like Latvia. Imagine, for instance, the response here in the States if the Russians conducted amphibious military exercises in the Baja Peninsula after promising to honor the Monroe doctrine.
As Goodman and others have pointed out, failing to predict the Soviet collapse was probably the biggest intelligence failure in our history. While Ronald Reagan and his cronies politicized intelligence and overhyped the Soviets as a mighty and monolithic force, the on-the-ground reality was that the Soviet Union was a crumbling third-world state besotted with crippling economic and infrastructural problems.
We missed countless opportunities for easier, safer and cheaper relations with the Russians by consistently mistaking their disintegrating Potemkin Empire for an ascendant threat.
It's not exactly the same story now, but it's close. Putin's Russia certainly has global ambitions, just as the Soviets did. But the game now is much more about connections and hot money than about geopolitics or territory. There's evidence that the Russians have tried to burrow their way into America's commercial and political establishment, but by most accounts the main route of entry has been financial.
If indeed Trump was a target of Russian efforts, we'll likely discover that this was not something that was exclusive to Trump but rather just one data point amid a broad, holistic strategy to curry favor and make connections across the American political class.
Still, these efforts are probably far more limited in scope than we've been led to imagine. DNC hack or no DNC hack, Russia is still a comparatively weak country with limited power to influence a nation like the U.S., especially since it's still dogged internally by those same massive economic and infrastructural problems it's always had. Putin's political grip on power at home is also far less sure than our pundits and politicians are letting on.
The generalized plan to create chaos in other industrialized states by seeding/spreading corruption and political confusion – which many in the intelligence community believe is an aim of Russian intelligence efforts – is revealing in itself. It's the strategy of a weak and unstable third-world state looking for a cheap way to stay in the game (and bolster its profile) versus more powerful industrial rivals. Hyping Russia as an all-powerful menace actually plays into this strategy.
But the Russians still have nukes, which is why we have to be very careful about letting rhetoric get too hot, especially with the president we now have.
For all the fears about Trump being a Manchurian Candidate bent on destroying America from within, the far more likely nightmare endgame involves our political establishment egging the moron Trump into a shooting war as a means of proving his not-puppetness.
This already almost happened once, when Trump fired missiles into Syria with Russian troops on the ground
, seemingly as a means of derailing a Russiagate furor that was really spiraling that particular week. That episode proved that the absolute worst time to bang the war drum under Trump is when he's feeling vulnerable on Russia – which he clearly is now.
Rising anti-Russian hysteria and a nuclear button-holder in the White House who acts before he thinks is a very bad combination. We should try to chill while we still can, especially since the Russians, once again, probably aren't as powerful as we think.