Labor Advocate Online
Who Is ‘Breaking Faith With
by Bill Onasch
Old habits die hard.
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (C of C) emerged during the Gorbachev era as a new, improved version of the staid, not very democratic Communist Party. They have practiced a level of internal democracy never tolerated in the old, or for that matter, present CP. They proclaimed themselves open to new ideas. Many are respected journalists, academics, and leaders in mass movements. Some are my friends. For this reason I pay close attention to what they say.
One tradition of the CP they have carried over is support to the Democrats. No one has been more energetic than they in promoting the "Anybody But Bush" strategy. They obtained an impressive list of signatures to Bush Can Be Stopped: A Letter to the Left, issued last September. Without saying it in so many words the message clearly advocated supporting the ultimate Democrat nominee for President. This was when Dean was looking promising and before Nader announced he was running again.
Well, now that Kerry has the nomination sewn up, Nader is off and running, and a a different Green Party campaign is still possible, a new epistle, After the Primaries—Assessing the Electoral Situation, has been sent to the faithful. It is aimed at keeping in line any Doubting Thomas among the ABB flock.
This is where another, even more unpleasant, tradition of the old CP is manifested—smearing your left opponents as dupes of the class enemy, if not worse.
They acknowledge that Kerry isn’t much good:
Few on the left have illusions about Kerry. His political career has not deviated greatly from the overriding interests of traditional sectors of corporate capital. Kerry's debate with the Republican right on global issues is limited to method, not substance - often criticizing the manner of pursuing Washington's global objectives, but not the objectives themselves. His affirmative votes (now largely repudiated under pressure) on major elements of the Republican agenda have already been noted. His initial responses to charges of being "soft on defense" and being a "tax and spend liberal" have been to ratchet up assurances that he would engage in preemptive attack if deemed necessary and offer a "business friendly" economic program.
They note that it’s hard to build enthusiasm for Kerry as the needed "Anybody."
Such early posturing has sparked renewed concerns about "lesser evilism" and has revived claims that the outcome of the 2004 presidential election will make little or no difference. Many who fervently wish to stop Bush are disheartened by early signs of spiritual deflation and partial retreat from progressive positions that increasingly marked Kerry's early ascent. That impels a fresh examination of the stakes in the election and consideration of how to keep Kerry's "feet to the fire."
So the litany is repeated still again:
On the other hand, given Kerry's record and the prime constituencies to which he must answer - can any persuasive argument be offered that his election would make no important difference? Given Kerry's adherence to that segment of US capital which rejects Bush's unilateralism and seeks a more coherent and predictable global environment, it is highly unlikely that he would pursue preemption and defiance of the UN. Nor would he gut Medicare and Social Security; nor would he release more toxins into the air and water; nor would he pile more tax breaks on the super rich, nor would he undermine voting rights, nor would he load the Supreme Court with right wing ideologues who would close the circle of racism, sexism, homophobia and political repression.
Okay, this is a political argument. I don’t agree with it but I know that many, if not most movement activists accept it with varying degrees of disgust and remorse. It is a proper topic for a fraternal debate.
Unfortunately, the new statement injects a harder line:
Those who claim that there are no substantive differences between the parties and the candidates and who reject the viable means to defeat Bush - break faith with millions who have borne the brunt of his attacks on working people.
So, if you don’t hustle votes for Kerry you are scabbing on the struggles of the labor movement, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, women, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists—to name just some of the victims of your not getting with the program—according to the latest CofC gospel.
Sorry, comrades. This is not a legitimate political argument. This is a throwback to the old Stalinist method of trying to ostracize your political opponents. We had come to expect better from you.
The electoral strategy advanced by the C of C, DSA, CP, and much of the rest of what passes for the left in this country is not some new idea we should give a fair chance. It is the same old, same old that has been peddled in every election since 1936 (with the partial exception of 1948 and Henry Wallace.) Same flies, different lesser evil.
These "viable means to defeat fill in the blank" have not advanced the struggles of the millions. Just the opposite. Lesser Evilism is a diversion of aims and resources that sends struggles into harmless channels set up by our rulers. The mighty streams wind up becoming stagnant pools.
We’re not going to get anyplace in these fights until working people recognize all of our enemies and reject them. We need to learn to rely upon our own independent movements—including a political party of our own. That’s the faith I adhere to.
This faith will not be shaken by pressure from the bosses, union bureaucrats, or the tired old left that, in the absence of new arguments, reverts to old bad habits.