Commentaries on current events, political economy, and the Communist movement from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.
Zigedy highly recommends the Marxist-Leninist website, MLToday.com, where many of his longer articles appear.
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Friday, October 19, 2018
The Lemming Effect and the Left
two weeks before the mid-Presidential-term US elections, the number
of Democratic Party political solicitations in my e-mail inbox now
approaches fifty a day. The curious-- “cynical” might be a better
word-- thing is that none mention a genuine issue, none suggest an
argument for a cause. All come with a folksy tone, an easy
familiarity (from Bob, Chuck, Nancy, or Michelle) and all presume
that I’m on their “team’ with cash at hand. The cheap
emotional card is pulled frequently-- “Do you want to wish
President Obama/Michelle Obama/Nancy Pelosi a happy birthday?” or
“You didn’t respond to our request, do you HATE Bob Mueller?”
Some are scolding: “TRAGIC ENDING. I [Nancy Pelosi] e-mailed
yesterday. Barbra Streisand e-mailed. Harry Reid e-mailed. Now I’m
e-mailing again…” And some are foreboding: “This is bad news…”
One of the hilarious best: “Hi Friend,
I just got off the phone with Senator Menendez, and he asked about
you specifically.” Sure, he did...
not a serious issue, an urgent cause, or a principled stand revealed.
the lack of issues, not to mention a program, the Democrats
fundraising tactics are working: ActBlue reports that Democrats
raised $385 million in the third quarter alone, more than they raised
in the entire 2014 midterm effort. Clearly, Trump-hating, even in its
most visceral form, pays off.
the fund-raising orgy comes with a cost to democracy. Over 60
contested house seats sought by Democrats drew over a million dollars
in campaign-fund donations in the third quarter alone compared to
only 3 in the same quarter of 2014. The price of running a
competitive campaign has risen dramatically (Source: WSJ,
Senate Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke, a frequent solicitor appearing in my
inbox, raised $38 million in the third quarter.
date, Democratic House candidates have scheduled $122 million in TV
commercials (Republicans $67 million) (WSJ,
10-16-18). It should be obvious that such fund raising is beyond the
reach of truly independent
candidates. The financial bar is set far too high to forego support
from corporations, other well-heeled organizations, or wealthy
contributors and expect to wrest power from Democratic or Republican
incumbents. Accordingly, democracy is further stifled.
notion of an authentic grass-roots campaign has nearly disappeared
from the arsenal of the two major parties.
posturing as a “people’s party,” the Democrats have largely
substituted emotion for issues. Hatred of Trump and fear of Russia
have served as the catalyst for the 2018 campaign. The Democrats have
crudely sought to fold the two emotions into a brew disconnected from
the sinking living standards, growing insecurity, and uncertain
future of working people. A truly meaningful assault on Trumpism
would necessarily target Trump’s pro-capitalist measures, cast
light on betrayals by the Democratic Party, and underscore the
failings of the two-party system, consequences that Democratic Party
is no wonder that some commentators are describing political behavior
today as “tribal.” In place of principled differences, the two
parties have urged an amalgam of brand loyalty and blind faith.
Stoked by a corporate media with its own interest in masking
class-based issues and promoting imagery of class harmony, personal
invective, anonymous charges, rumors, and internet gossip constitute
the substance of political debate today. We have a reality TV-star
President for reality-TV political theater.
many decades of rightward drift by the two-party monolith, it is
exceedingly difficult to find even a glimmer of hope that either
party can be wrested from its corporate mooring. Yet hope does spring
again and again with large sections of the US Left which attempt to
pry open a door and commandeer the “people’s party,” a task now
embraced by the youthful veterans of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
the last Presidential election, growing dissatisfaction with centrism
found a home with Trumpism, a process that previously fueled the Tea
Party movement for the Right. The Left experienced a similar distaste
for centrism, a counterpart process that fueled the Bernie Sanders
campaign-- a candidacy quickly subverted by the Democratic Party
the election, disenchanted young Democrats found expression in the
nominal political residence of their pied piper: Democratic
Socialists of America (DSA). DSA provided an organization; its
burgeoning numbers provided energy and impact; but it left the
youthful activists in ideological limbo, torn between a slapdash
socialism and a decadent Democratic Party.
endless numbers of their predecessors, the youthful idealists are
preparing to exhaust their principles and vision on the bastion of
hypocrisy, the Democratic Party. Inexperience may excuse this
illusion, but older veterans of the Left know no similar excuse. They
have witnessed the subversion of George McGovern’s Presidential
campaign, rallied around an exciting 1976 Democratic national
platform, only to see the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter quickly run away
from it. They have observed the Democratic Party leadership wilt in
the face of right-wing reaction, abandoning the New Deal gains piece
by piece. They have supported “insurgents” like Jesse Jackson or
Howard Dean, only to see the dissidents pacified and escorted back
into the fold.
is a long and tortured history of failure, Don Quixote-like journeys
to wrest the Democratic Party from the grip of its corporate owners.
Sadly, many who embarked on these journeys were lost by the Left;
disappointment bred inaction and cynicism.
the socialists (DSA), the US left is a small, largely electorally
irrelevant motley mix, stretching ideologically from center-left
liberals disenchanted with the Democrats to committed
the fact that their endorsements or support will have virtually no
effect on the outcome of the interim elections, the predictable
stampede to support the Democrats has begun. Grandiose exhortations
to stop Trump will serve as coded messages to support Democrats in
the interim election. The ideological bankruptcy that fails to put
promoting third parties, independent candidacies, anti-monopoly
coalitions or advocating for socialism ahead of unconditional support
for Democrats guarantees that the rightward two-party drift will
continue, Trump or no Trump.
support for Democrats reinforces the two-party stranglehold in two
acquiesces to the already prevalent view that there is no other
route to progressive change.
thwarts the development of third parties or actions that will
disrupt the grip that Democrats have upon the Left.
grip is continually strengthened by the insidious material influence
(money!) spread by foundations, nonprofits, think tanks, right-wing
labor organizations, etc. that enables the Democrats to capture the
Left. And of course many reluctantly support the Democrats because
they fear the ire of their allies in the broader mass and labor
decades, Leftists have explained their support for Democrats through
a clumsy, misappropriation of Marxist-Leninist theory. Many have
advocated a “United Front” tactic in the face of what they
perceive as the threat of fascism. Specifically, Republican
Presidential candidates-- Nixon, Reagan, Bush II, and now Trump-- are
seen as harbingers, if not bearers of fascism. It is a bitter irony
that much of the 1968 Nixon-era Republican platform would appear
largely acceptable to today’s Democratic Party leadership.
the fascism of the first half of the twentieth century does not
figure in the crises facing the US today. Fascism was a ruling-class
response to a dire challenge to its rule spawned by disillusionment
from a bloody, but meaningless World War, crushing economic crises,
and, especially, the political challenge from a powerful
conditions simply do not coalesce in the US at this time.
the ruling class in the US (and many other countries) faces a crisis
of the legitimacy of the centrist parties that have ruled throughout
the Cold War until today. Opinion polls in the US (and many other
countries) show nearly non-existent confidence in the long-standing
ruling parties. The Trump phenomenon and the Sanders experience
demonstrate that dissatisfaction, no matter how imperfectly. The
electoral successes of non-traditional parties in many other
countries equally demonstrate a popular desire for a new course, a
can bury one’s head in the sand and refuse to recognize the mass
shift in political allegiance; one can continue to slavishly tail the
Democratic Party or the now-discredited, corrupt parties of social
democracy; one can choose to embrace the myth of containing the
barbarian hordes; but this moment is different, demanding different
Left must discard the unproductive, out-of-touch approach of
defending the left flank of capitalism and begin an earnest search
for a new, independent politics. The growing mass rejection of the
old politics demands it.
Left cannot grow in size and influence if it continues to attach
itself to a rotting Democratic Party.
continuing to support the discredited Democratic Party and failing to
offer a credible alternative will only encourage more people to look
rightward for inspiration and answers.