You are here

reformism

A blueprint for a party of an old type

By Scott Jay - Libcom.Org, November 27, 2016

A Blueprint for a New Party recently published in Jacobin Magazine is more of a strategy for campaigning for Democrats than a path to strengthening social movements.

These are desperate times. The victory of Donald Trump promises a rightward turn in US policy as well as an emboldened far-Right in the streets. Immigrants will be among the first attacked by Trump’s promise to expel them en masse, but they and others will also continue to see an increase in daily harassment, racist attacks and organized vigilante violence.

In response to these horrors, Jacobin Magazine, which enthusiastically promoted Bernie Sanders as a route to rebuilding the Left, has published an article by Seth Ackerman which provides what he calls “A Blueprint for a New Party.” Having put all their eggs in the Sanders basket for the past year, Jacobin and Ackerman now lay out the possible next steps for what the Sanders campaign supposedly promised all along–a newly formed independent third party to the left of the Democrats. Ackerman describes this, at the end of the article, as a Party of a New Type.

What Ackerman provides is a lengthy history and analysis of attempts to build third parties, in particular the US Labor Party, and challenges to attaining and keeping access to the ballot. What he does not provide is much a of a picture of how this Party of a New Type is going to be built, or by whom, or why anybody would want anything to do with it. It is not even clear what sort of politics it would have or what–if anything–it would do besides run candidates, although it may not even run candidates, apparently. How it would even build the membership and resources to eventually run candidates is left as an exercise for the reader, as they say in a graduate seminar.

Before we proceed, imagine for a moment that instead of the Left enthusing over Bernie Sanders for the past year they had focused on organizing among working people and oppressed people in defending themselves from the daily onslaught of capitalism. Imagine what a stronger position we would all be in now, as the newly empowered far-Right seeks to assault the lives and dignities of immigrants, women, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, and others. Instead of talking abstractly about the possibilities of a New Party, we would be talking about how to stop deportations, racist attacks and sexual assaults. There are people around the US who have been doing just that, who do not call themselves Leftists or read socialist periodicals, who have been working on protecting their family members and neighbors from being deported or being beaten by the police.

Ackerman’s proposal seems less interested in these problems and instead focuses on the question of whether or not an electoral party should seek its own ballot line, to which he boldly answers: “Sometimes.”

The centre-left’s narrative on climate change has convinced no one

By Alex Randall - Red Pepper, November 2016

The election of Donald Trump reflects the unraveling of the centre-left across the West, and with it a fragile consensus on climate change. For two decades parties of the centre-left have created narratives about climate change that they do not really believe. They have done this to try and convince their fragile coalition of supporters and to try to bring they’re political opponents on the right into the fold. These attempts have failed.

The centre-left long ago abandoned ‘typical' green messaging in the way it talks about climate change. You don’t hear Obama, Clinton or Justin Trudeau talking about polar bears, sinking Pacific Islands or even climate change as a human rights issue. The go-to arguments of the centre-left (and to some extent centre-right politicians like Germany’s Angela Merkel) are these:

  • Climate change will create war, terrorism and migration—it’s a national security issue
  • The solutions to climate change could create millions of jobs in manufacturing and industry—in areas hit most by industrial decline
  • Tackling climate change is an opportunity for economic growth—there is money to be made by entrepreneurs

How did the centre-left end up making these arguments? And why does no one believe them?

Repairing America’s Aging Pipelines

By staff - Blue Green Alliance, August 2016

Repairing the US nation’s aging natural gas pipelines has the potential to create and support quality, family-sustaining jobs and drive billions in investment. The BlueGreen Alliance’s RECAP campaign was developed to accelerate the repair and replacement of this network to create hundreds of thousands additional jobs while addressing the urgent threat of climate change.

By tripling the rate of repair for leak-prone sections of the nation’s natural gas distribution system, the U.S. can create more than 300,000 good, family-supporting jobs across the economy, save consumers $1.5 billion in charges for lost gas, and prevent the emission of 81 million metric tons of climate change pollution—the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road for a year. The economic benefit would be Gross Domestic Product $30 billion higher in a decade versus a business-as-usual 30 year timeline.

At the very least, these jobs are an alternative to construction of new, unneeded, climate destroying gas pipelines.

Read the report (PDF).

After Bern: An Open Letter to the Newly Disheartened

By unknown - It's Going Down, June 8, 2016

Several years ago, I worked as an after school program teacher. In the 3-4 hours I spent with kids before their parents arrived, instead of playing outside or relaxing after a long day at school, I helped administer tests, monitored performance, oversaw homework, and handed out worksheets. The school I worked at didn’t have much money; neither did the kids or the people who worked there, and due to low test scores we were threatened with being taken over by the state. Administrators wanted to get these scores up and looked to the after school program to raise performance. The kids of course, had other ideas.

The kids wanted to do anything but be in another 3-4 hours of school. Once, we did an activity where they made posters about how they would change the school for the better if they had the power to do so. Almost every kid in the classroom of about 20 drew the school on fire. The natives, as they say, were restless.

When I did attempt to implement instruction the kids would goof off, talk back, or sometimes exploded by flipping over their desks or walking out of the room. The stress of almost 10 hours of schooling was too much for many of them, who also had to go home to blue-collar families that were often struggling.

In order to better manage this chaotic and stressful situation, bosses and specialists gave us a set of tools which by all accounts were completely, ‘democratic.’ We would start by “making agreements” with the kids and creating “buy in” for activities and completed work. In order to further create an environment of law and order, I often would appoint student helpers from the class that worked as an auxiliary police force in exchange for special privileges or candy.

In many ways, this classroom environment mirrored the creation of the United States. A powerful elite helped to manage and shape a unruly population of indentured servants, slaves, and indigenous people. But to do so, it needed a police force. In order to get there, it gave privileges to some (what became white people) while curtailing them for others (everyone else).

The colonial powers used anti-Blackness and white supremacy, I used Skittles and extra hall passes.

But government is much more than carrots and sticks, politics involves overall the spectacle and myth of democracy. For instance, in our training sessions we were told, “Get them to create a set of agreements around rules and behavior in the classroom, but make sure you shape and guide these rules. Obviously, don’t let them get out of hand.” Meaning, we were to help give the appearance of the students shaping the guidelines for their behavior, however at all times we (who were ruled over by the administration and them by the US government) in actuality were there to create the physical framework. But moreover, we existed to guard against school and thus government authority being attacked by the unwashed young masses hell bent on doing zero work and collectively singing J-Lo songs.

Lastly, in the eyes of the school powers that be, the ultimate goal of such a project was that the kids would essentially grow to govern themselves, but always how we wanted them to be governed. To keep them from agreeing to actually set the school on fire, we had to make them think that they were the ones organizing their day to day activities which they hated so bitterly. In short, we had to make them appear as the chief architects in their own immiseration.

Labor in the Age of Climate Change: Any just transition to a green economy must take place on labor’s terms — not capital’s.

By Stefania Barca - Jacobin, March 18, 2016

Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?

I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.

Fortunately, history is rife with examples of this kind of green-red synthesis — labor environmentalism is as old as the trade union movement.

For much of its existence, labor environmentalism focused on the workplace and the living environment of working-class communities, linking occupational health and safety with the protection of public and environmental health.

In the 1990s, labor environmentalism began embracing the concepts of “sustainable development” and the “green economy.” More recently, as climate change has intensified, “just transition” (JT) has become the idea du jour. JT is based on the notion that workers shouldn’t bear the brunt of the shift to a low-carbon economy, whether in the form of job losses or destabilized local communities.

To this end, blue-collar unions — particularly those in heavy industry, transport, and energy — have forged so-called blue-green alliances with environmental groups across the globe. These convergences demonstrate a growing consensus around the need to tackle climate change, advancing union involvement and sustainability as the means to that end.

Yet important cleavages exist within this consensus, especially when it comes to the just transition. Some groups simply push for job creation in a greened economy. Others, refusing to abide market solutions, have adopted a radical critique of capitalism.

How this schism shakes out will decide whether labor unwittingly bolsters capital — or confronts capital and climate change.

Paul Krugman’s Sorry Salvation

By Dan Fischer - CounterPunch, March 8, 2016

Paul Krugman has been writing about “salvation”. When it comes to global warming, the normally hard-headed economist puts aside his skepticism and awaits the fall of solar panels from heaven. Or rather, from Democratic politicians and polluting industries that dominate their climate policies. In a 2014 piece “Salvation Gets Cheap,” Krugman contended that thanks to price drops in renewable energy, small policy changes could put salvation “within fairly easy reach.” In last month’s “Planet on the Ballot,” Krugman argued that electing Hillary Clinton president would mean “salvation is clearly within our grasp”.

“So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be.” The progressive pundit offers countless feel-good predictions along these lines. A deeper look at Krugman’s words, however, reveals a disturbing indifference to the loss of millions of lives, livelihoods, and homes. Currently, an estimated 400,000 people die each year from climate change, 98 percent of them in the Global South, according to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, a study commissioned by twenty governments. Krugman looks away, instead seeing salvation in pathways that increase global warming far above today’s already genocidal amount.

While he mocks conservative climate change deniers, Krugman himself is in denial about the necessary solutions. A fast-paced transition, while technologically possible, is not compatible with economic growth. This presents a problem for Krugman, who has spent his career defending a capitalist economic system requiring infinite growth. “All that stands in the way of saving the planet,”the Nobel prize winner declares in “Salvation Gets Cheap,” “is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests.” Unfortunately, his own columns offer a vivid illustration. Krugman’s liberal climate denialism has five basic steps.

2016 and Beyond: Bernie Sanders, American Labor, and the Left

Official Statement - Madison IWW, September 3, 2015

Many labor activists and progressives are taking heart from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Some even fantasize that the corporate- and Wall Street-dominated Democratic Party might allow him to actually win the presidential nomination.

Others hope that the popular outpouring for Sanders will at least push the Democratic Party and Hilary Clinton (or whatever corporate Democrat gets the nomination) to the left.

There is a long history of progressive and populist Democrats running for president in primaries, drawing disaffected progressives back into the party and then inducing them to support "lesser evil" Democrats in general elections.

Meanwhile, in recent decades the Wall Street-run Democratic Party hasmoved steadily to the political right, following only a few steps behind the Republicans in union-busting, offshoring, financial deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, governmental austerity, militarism, imperialism, etc.

It is time for Wisconsin progressives to understand that it was this dependence on the Democratic Party which hollowed out and neutered the Wisconsin labor movement and left it unprepared to mount an effective direct action response to Walker in 2011 or since.

Greens support pension cuts but keep benefits for the rich

By Andrea Bunting - Green Left Weekly, June 20, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The federal government is keen to cut the age pension. Its latest proposal to double the taper rate on the assets test has been supported by the Greens on the basis that this measure will reduce government support to those with significant wealth.

The Greens also hoped that by supporting these pension cuts, the government would rein in tax concessions on superannuation. However, the government has since publicly ruled out any superannuation changes.

So the deal does not reduce benefits given to the rich. It reduces benefits to those in the middle, while providing a small benefit — about $15 per week — to pensioners with modest assets. The poorest pensioners receive nothing extra.

National Seniors Australia has expressed concern that these changes will reduce pensions, while not addressing superannuation tax concessions.

The government provides support for people’s retirement through the age pension and through tax concessions on superannuation. The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) and Mercer have modelled the total lifetime government support for retirement incomes received by those on different levels of income.

Their modelling found that the bottom 10% of earners average about $400,000 in government retirement support over their lifetime. Meanwhile, the top 10% of earners average about $489,000. This group doesn’t even get the age pension.

But the greatest government largesse is reserved for those in the top 1% income range. The modelling showed that the richest 1% receive on average around $630,000 of lifetime government support. Under the new law, lifetime support for some middle income earners has now been slashed to $214,000.

Anarchist Lens: The Green Experiment

By Kevin Doyle - Kevin Doyle Blog, February 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The town of Wyhl is located in south-west Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg, not far from the Alps.  Wyhl and its hinterland is largely agricultural and is also rich in terms of natural beauty.  Even so, in the early 70s, Wyhl was chosen as the preferred location for a nuclear power plant.  The technology had been under development in West Germany since the 1950s but it was really only in the late 60s and early 70s that the German state moved to make nuclear power the cornerstone of its future energy needs.

There was immediate opposition to the proposal in Wyhl and over a number of years planners and politicians were lobbied to oppose the project – all to no avail.  In February 1975, building contractors moved onto land near the town to prepare for construction.  A few days later local activists and farmers occupied the site and prevented preparatory work from progressing.  The police intervened and removed the protestors but the subsequent publicity – which exposed heavy-handed police tactics – drew attention to the struggle in Wyhl.  A short while after nearly 30,000 people – including large numbers of students from nearby Freiberg University – converged on the site and all work was halted on the construction of the power station.  Less than a month after, faced with ongoing protests and occupations, the grand plan to make Wyhl nuclear was abandoned.  In an ironic twist the site for the power plant was later turned into a nature reserve.[1]

The victory at Wyhl is considered to be one of the first major successes of West Germany’s impressive anti-nuclear movement which held sway mainly in the 1970s and 80s.  Other significant confrontations were to follow – such as that at Grohnde[2] and Brokdorff [3] – but Wyhl is noteworthy for the decisiveness of the victory.  How did this happen?  A key factor was local involvement and resistance.  A second feature was the willingness to commit to direct action – such as the site occupations.  A third and vital factor was the movement’s ability to win practical support in large numbers when the West German state opted to use its repressive hand.  This wider support and solidarity was vital to what was eventually achieved.

The German green movement was an important component of the broad anti-nuclear mobilisation in that country.  They played a role in building that struggle and were, at the same time, fundamentally influenced by it.   Local activity, which focused on local issues and which utilised local action, was a key ingredient in growth.  Grass roots participation was also highly valued as was consciousness-raising around the issues and concerns of the day.  In other words before the greens ever became Die Grünen, the political party, they were a coalition of all sorts of practical activists – citizens action groups, campaigners against nuclear power, anti-militarists and pacifists as well as anti-capitalists.[4]  Politically speaking they drew their membership largely from the radical left – anarchist, New Left and Maoist ideas were all part of the mix – but no one ideology wielded a decisive influence.[5]

Two factors were important to the political challenge that the green movement came to represent.  The first was the emerging importance of “environmentalism” and “ecologism” as political issues.  Seen from the perspective of today, environmentalism and concern about the earth’s resources appear to be a mainstream issues, but back in the early 70s, concern about the impact of human development on the earth’s ecology was decidedly new.[6]  Central to this was the green perception that capitalism itself was a key part of problem that the environmental movement faced. Capitalism’s unrelenting demand for growth, its voracious search for new markets and cheaper raw materials were core to its dynamism.  Yet these same elements were directly at odds with the earth’s environment and green movement’s contention that the planet had exhaustible, finite resources that needed to be carefully managed and minded. For this reason significant sections of the Green movement held that social and economic transformation away from the dictates of the ‘free market’ would have to take place if the environment was to be saved.[7]

A second factor was that the early green movement was also about a different way of doing things.  Its evolution – as indicated by protests such as that at Wyhl – emphasised grassroots involvement and participative democracy.  But in practice too there was a commitment to doing things ‘a different way’.  This translated into an anti-professional, participatory and decentralised attitude to party organisation.   Horizontal organisational forms were favoured over traditional ‘top-down’ arrangements, as were internal organisational practices that promoted and maintained grassroots empowerment and participation.

The overall praxis then – maintaining a radical organisational form that encouraged and facilitated participation as part of the process of building a movement for change – was seen as core to the green perspective.

Key protests such as that at Wyhl had been successful because such actions were locally based and relied heavily on the active participation of grassroots members.  However this ‘local’ nature of the early green movement also meant that from early days and in some regional areas, sections of the greens also openly intervened at city and regional level elections.  These initiatives were initially tactical and relied heavily on the emerging movement’s ability to exploit the rivalries that existed between the dominant political parties in West German politics – the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats.[8]  Broadly speaking these electoral initiatives fared well (winning modest, locally valued concessions) with the result that there was increasing openness to using such methods if the opportunities presented themselves.   In the early days these electoral tactics were used in conjunction with (or parallel to) tactics involving direct action.[9]  This parallel approach – using extra-parliamentary action alongside a visible parliamentary presence – was an old strategy of the Left’s and quite viable.[10]

Inevitably, however, the greens moved to consolidate this base of operations and this culminated in the formation of the German Green Party (Die Grünen or The Greens) in 1980 at Karlsruhe.[11] 

What’s Become of the German Greens?

By Joachim Jachnow - New Left Review #81, May-June 2013

On 24 March 1999 the first bombs fell on Belgrade’s power plants and water supply, knocking out the city’s electricity and destroying vital infrastructure, factories, railways, bridges. [1] The German Luftwaffe was back in the Balkans, 58 years almost to the day after the last bombardment of the Yugoslav capital in 1941, its strikes uncannily repeating General Löhr’s infamous strategy of destroying the administrative and logistical centres of an already open city—now described, in the nato jargon of the day, as targets of ‘dual purpose’. Germany’s military resurgence could hardly have been more thunderously announced. Its Air Force flew almost five hundred raids in Operation Allied Force, against what remained of Yugoslavia, already sapped by economic decay, Western intervention and ethnic nationalism—often externally promoted, with Austro-German diplomacy to the fore. nato bombardment not only left dead civilians, burnt hospitals and ruined schools in its wake, but also served to escalate the tragedy it was allegedly intended to prevent, pouring petrol on the fire, intensifying civil-war crimes and provoking the mass flight of civilians. The Green Party leader Joschka Fischer had been right when he declared in 1994 that the engagement of German forces in countries ‘where Hitler’s troops had stormed during the Second World War’ would only fan the flames of conflict. [2]

But Fischer was now Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor of Germany’s first Red–Green Federal government. His predictions forgotten, Fischer and the Green Party leadership saw it as Germany’s moral obligation, if not to storm across Yugoslavia once more, then to drop bombs on its territory from a safe height—and, naturally, for humanitarian ends. The Green rank and file were more reluctant: no Western European party had been so clearly identified with the demands of the peace movement for nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nato. The German Greens had deep historical roots in the opposition to West German militarization and in solidarity movements with anti-imperialist struggles. But after long internal battles, the party had become an established player within the German parliamentary system. That entering the Federal government involved endorsing both nato and the ‘market economy’ was tacitly understood. Green mep Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a long-term associate of Fischer, had been preparing the ground for military intervention since the start of the Yugoslav wars of secession and was now calling for ground troops—a land invasion. Nevertheless, the 1998 Green election manifesto stated that the German Greens would oppose both ‘military peace enforcement and combat missions’; it looked forward to the roll-back, not the expansion, of nato.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.