Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Groundhog Day of US electoral politics: the CPUSA and the 2012 elections

Gone are the days when "Greek drama" meant an 8AM Comparative Literature lecture by Franklin Proaño on Oedipus [as I used to pronounce it: Oedipidus], or a mild summer morning in bed with a salacious novel by Mary Renault or Gore Vidal.

In addition to today's "Greek drama" we have the quadrennial U.S. melodrama of bourgeois presidential elections.  Or perhaps I should describe them as capitalist Wall Street elections: contests to see which candidate of one of two ruling class parties will grab the big brass ring.

For communists a capitalist election can be significant for several reasons.  It offers a kind of social x-ray of relations between all classes in society.  It offers a wider field of permissible political discussion with coworkers and prospective subscribers to the communist press.  It also offers a chance for communists to run their own electoral campaigns, where we promote our program to meet the world economic crisis and working class immiseration.

Sadly, a closeted skeleton of the working class vanguard is that some communists and communist organizations support candidates of the class enemy in elections.  This has always been one of the "Seven Deadly Sins" for Marxists, a particularly malignant type of capitalist class influence in ranks.

Typical for decades in the United States of this tendency in the Communist Party USA, a latter-day Frankenstein creation stitched together from labor union opportunist, middle class reformers, pacifists who oppose all wars until they are endorsed by the United Nations; identity politicians; liberal-left postmarxists; and myriad assorted race-baiters, semi-syndicalism romantics, and ancient leftovers who thought Deng Xiaoping had a few good ideas, and who possess first editions of Virgin Lands by Leonid Brezhnev, purchased on the date of publication.

These are the senior citizens who show up for Dennis Kucinich, admire the cinema of Michael Moore, and think the DPRK should mind its manners instead of its independence.  Their idea of revolutionary socialist literature is a novel by Barbara Kingsolver or the latest op-ed piece by Robert Reich or Paul Krugman.  Oh, and they think the Republican Party is to the right of the German-American Bund.

In presidential election years the CPUSA spends most of its time trying to corral radicals and activists skeptical of voting in general and voting for Democrats in particular.  This is usually accomplished by promoting the idea that electing Republicans means Tea Party fascism is just around the corner.  After all, who wouldn't prefer Obama's drone kill lists to the NSDAP? 

Now, by "corral" I don't simply mean preventing skeptics from bolting, abstaining, or voting for a Jill Stein or a Ralph Nader.  I mean putting skeptics to work, convincing them to willingly canvass for votes for the best of all possible candidates.  In other words, the ward-healing Boss Tweed routine redux

An laundry list of US revisionist talking points

All these unfortunate methods are on display in a recent CPUSA online article by John Case entitled "The danger of a Romney election." 

Case begins with with a generally politically correct Marxist summation of the moment:

The latest jobs figures show that the persistent warnings against austerity by Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and other top economists continue to come true with Cassandra-like vengeance. Hopes of recovery aroused by winter bumps in private hiring have been dashed again. This seems to have happened every summer since the 2008 crash.

Private sector revised job figures show an average of less than 90,000 per month since January - less than what is needed to accommodate increases in the workforce. Unemployment officially inched back up to 8.2 percent.

Workforce participation rates are still at all time lows. Statistical anomalies created by the warm weather induced error into earlier reports; reduced exports and a slowdown in manufacturing aggravated it. Uncertainty about Europe and gasoline did not help and constitute a grave risk for U.S. markets, according to the latest statements from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Result? The underlying horror story of mass unemployment and underemployment, public layoffs and assaults on economic, labor and civil rights, on vital services, on health and education continues to unfold. Extremist agitation on the ultra-right, an anti-science movement, racism and nativist groups all threaten a heightened atmosphere of violence, intimidation and repression.

The respect and credence Case shows toward Keynesian and empiricist liberal economists like Krugman and Stiglitz exemplifies the CPUSA's desire to treat and be treated seriously by liberal remnants [one is almost tempted to call them liberal revenants], washed- up movementarians in academia, some portions of the non-know-nothing labor leadership, and the Democratic Party.

The really sinister nub or revisionist reasoning begins with the following paragraph, one sentence in length:

If Republicans, with complacency from Blue Dog Democrats, take the White House and/or the Senate in November, the situation will become a lot worse.

Worse for whom, Comrade Case?  Is it not a fact that the last three Democrats in the White House were, in all essential features, Blue Dogs?  Whether a particular president happened to be from the South was and is today secondary to a shared program and shared actions; Blue Doggery is the only bourgeois politics that exists today in any party: austerity, foreclosure, union-busting, attacks on democratic rights, and a gluttonous series of was abroad.

A glass of hoc

The anxiety Case and his party feel on behalf of the electoral prospects to their president  is clearly exemplified in this but of history the author uses:

Do not forget the repressive consequences of the 1968 Nixon victory over a divided Democratic Party. The defeat of the recall of anti-labor Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin will embolden the right further. The vote was close, however, and on the plus side two of the recalled Wisconsin state senators who helped gut Wisconsin workers' rights to collectively bargain stayed recalled and Democrats took control of the state senate.

It takes a lot of confidence in the opportunism and/or historical ignorance of party members and party press readers for Case to refer to the "repressive consequences"  of Nixon's 1968 electoral victory.  Let is ask Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, the NLF, MLK, and Che Guevara about the non-repressive salad days pre-Nixon.  What's that?  All dead?  Are you sure?

As someone interested in the year 1968 and all its ramifications I also take exception to the hand-me-down bourgeois political science notion that Nixon defeated a "divided" Democratic Party.  Have even pseudo-Marxists lost so much of their class clarify?  1968 was a signal year for 68ers and a growing rank of detractors [many of whom started out as defenders of that Annus mirabilis of protest politics].  This was the year internationally that  bourgeois legitimacy, consensus, and normality began collapsing under weight of colonial rebellion, Black struggle, and anti-war mobilization. The old and spoiled "unity" of the Democratic Party pre-1968, seen in retrospect, was an episodic and temporary pragmatic brotherhood of U.S. reformists, ward healers, pork barrel straw bosses, civil libertarians, and Jim Crow lynchers.  Once the glue of post-war spoils based on the American Century and Stalinist peoples' frontism dried and broke-up, the Democratic Party of the years 1877-1968 could not survive.  The remnant we have with us today was reconstituted on a far smaller base to meet the crisis of 1972-1976: a scrap consecrated to the DLC's later vision of neoliberal electoral viability.

The most shameless and friendless group of opportunists and fakers in US political history, the AFL-CIO leadership, remained in the contemporary Democratic Party by virtue of a self-misunderstanding that they remained respected and continued tailing the same old lesser-evil.

Defeats, and more to come

The CPUSA summation of labor's defeat in Wisconsin is used by Case to double-down on voting for Democrats as the unassailable solution to all wars and crises facing the US working class today. They cannot offer an alternative course toward independent labor action because their whole rationale for existence is corking that bottle.

Being on the enemy's chosen field of combat - whether in Wisconsin or nationally - during an election year raises questions of the most basic strategy, questions the CPUSA cannot honestly or consciously acknowledge, much less willingly seek to overcome.    Their approach to loathsome and squalid characters like AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka is indicative; Trumka is the kind of labor leader who makes U.S. Marxists look back nostalgically on the old Samuel Gompers sacre du printemps.

Later than we think

Today the right wing's Achilles' heel is that it has no solution to the depression. Its economic program - like Romney's - is a fraud.

Here Comrade Case is incorrect.  What he calls the right wing [and communists call the U.S. capitalist ruling class] does indeed have a solution to their crisis.  Four decades of union-busting, social austerity, and law and order [all rationalized, defended, and rammed down our throats at each conjuncture by the Democrats, the CPUSA, and its broad left-liberal and protest milieu] have prepared the ground very well for this solution.  Such trends can only continue, provided John Case and his comrades continue acting as Judas goats in the working class: leading us into ambush undefended, unequipped, and unorganized.

The word for such behavior is treason.

The real fifth column

Defeats, fascism, and wars imposed on the working class throughout the twentieth century came as bitter fruit of such misleadership. 

In the 1920s and 1930s in Italy, Germany, and Spain, workers and other exploited producers were without communist leadership and consequently their fight for power was crushed. The petty bourgeoisie, seeing that the working class was incapable of a successful fight for power to resolve explosive and devastating economic crises, plumped for capitalist solutions prosecuted by the anti-labor militias of of fascism.

Today we are again entering the preparatory period for such events. If a mass communist party is not constructed in the United States in time to converge with ascending spontaneous labor and social struggles, a barbaric capitalist renaissance will begin.

The mare's nest

Case empties the the bottle down to the dregs thus:

Re-electing Obama is not sufficient to bring economic recovery or even relief to our people. Only a different class configuration in political power can do necessary minimum reforms to give us a chance. But re-electing Obama is absolutely essential. Now is not the time for hand washing the complexities and tactics away - or failing to triage the most critical questions from those that are less critical. We cannot win everything at once!

This can serve as the perfect summation for the kind of "Don't worry about doing something today to move our struggle ahead: just acknowledge and triage the complexities and leave the maneuvering to the grown-ups."

Judging from the tone of Case's final paragraph, disputes about his party's course in the face of bailouts, the Arab spring, OWS, Libya, NDAA. debt ceilings, drone kill lists and the whole anti-democratic and war-mongering course of the U.S .ruling class as exemplified by Obama's administration, is causing rank and file party friction.

In today's CPUSA division of labor, Case is charged with laying out the Bierstadt -scale visions of opportunism's 2012 get-rich-quick fantasy for the ranks.  Others come along in the watches of the night with the leather sap.  Their job is to marginalize and discourage those who cannot be won to forthrightly cheering Obama-Biden. 
Those who cannot be isolated in silence and inactivity find themselves expelled for non-payment of dues.  Checks are returned uncashed.

Marxism has proven equal to analyzing, prescribing, and predicting in relation to all the crises, struggles, and defeats of the five years' crisis.  Marxism is not a Panglossian amen-corner for the existing, profoundly disorganized and retarded level of consciousness and practical efforts at fight-back of labor today in any part of the world, much less the United States.  Resolving the impasse flowing from labor's subordination to capitalist political perspectives is a the central axis of political work for our movement in the U.S. today.

Wall Street's bipartisan program must be, can only be, countered and defeated by independent labor political action on the basis of a revolutionary socialist and internationalist program.  All the vote gathering in the world, all the devils'-deals and dishonest movementarianism of the last hundred years has only gone to verify this reality again and again.


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