Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Post-Election Reckoning: New Hypotheses for the Road Ahead

Post-Election Reckoning: New Hypotheses for the Road Ahead
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This article is available in Spanish at Ajuste de Cuentas después de las Elecciones: Nuevas Hipótesis para el Futuro

Hypothesis No. 1. One cannot understand this election unless one begins with a recognition of voter suppression:  Since 2008, the Republican strategy has increasingly focused on voter suppression.  The weakening, if not evisceration, of the Voting Rights Act was one significant piece of that. In the lead up to 2020 the Republicans, under Trump, have pushed this further by undermining the basic right to vote; making it more difficult; encouraging intimidation; undermining the U.S. Postal Service, long voting lines, fewer polls in Black neighborhoods, and so on.

 1.1 Thus this election was about racism and revanchism:  The politics of this race do not make any sense unless one factors in racism and revanchism, the seeking of revenge. The Trump message of allegedly keeping America great, was a message against traditionally marginalized populations, including but not limited to African Americans, non-immigrant [email protected], women, and immigrants from the global South.  Trump continued to stoke fear among whites, while also playing to “colonial mentality” among some populations of color. His message to [email protected] immigrants seemed to imply that a vote for him was a vote for them having the chance of becoming ‘white.’ But the election was about a broader sense of revanchism. There was anti-communism aimed at Cuba and Venezuela.  It was also a revanchism aimed at shifting gender roles.

There is a right wing movement

Hypothesis No. 2. There is no doubt that there is a right-wing mass movement:  Much of the U.S. Left has attempted to deny or equivocate on the existence and strength of the right-wing populist movement.  One can no longer debate this. This movement exists and it has an armed wing. Along with overtly fascist groups in its core. It is a movement against the 20th century victories of progress. The fact that anyone could be convinced that Biden was a socialist not only illustrates the irrationality of the movement, but also should remind us that Sanders would not have had it any easier had he been the nominee. The right-wing movement sees any progressive reforms as equaling socialism. While many on the Left have fallen into the trap of thinking or wishing that were true, we must be in touch with reality and recognize that reforms under democratic capitalism do not equal socialism.

2.1 The Trump vote was a vote against reality:  This is one of the most difficult conclusions from this election. In the face of the worst global pandemic since 1918-1919; one in which the total incompetence of the Trump administration has been on display, millions were willing to live in absolute denial, many of them continuing to believe that COVID-19 is nothing more than a bad flu. This rejection of reality translates into other areas including, but not limited to, racial relations, foreign policy, and the environmental catastrophe. This is a movement whose slogan really should be the closing line of the comedian George Wallace who would say:  “That’s the way I see it, and that’s the way that it ought to be.”

2.2 Every vote must be counted: In the context of massive voter suppression, every vote must be counted, whether the vote was offered in person, through the mail or in drop-boxes. There is no Constitutional reason that a vote count should be stopped.

2.3 There is no monolithic [email protected] vote; there are [email protected] voters: The election results illustrate that there is no cohesive [email protected] vote. The Puerto Rican vote in Florida, for instance, bore absolutely no resemblance to the Cuban or Venezuelan vote. The reasons that various populations have come to the U.S.A. and the class character of many of those who have arrived here, have helped to shape their politics. Trump played to the fear among many Floridian [email protected] immigrants regarding socialism and communism. That did not work so well with Puerto Ricans. They also played to social conservatism among [email protected] voters in Texas. Though this was shrewd politics on Trump’s part, we on the Left must not fall into the trap of believing that there is a monolithic population out there. That said, the Democrats made a significant error in their work in Florida and Texas in not putting greater resources into reaching and mobilizing [email protected] voters.

Assessing the Democratic party campaign

Hypothesis No. 3. The main problem in this election was not the Democratic Party leadership; the strategic situation has become far more complicated:  There are already those on the Left who believe that the main problem in this election was the leadership by the Democratic Party establishment. While there were many errors made, including the matter of polling (which needs to be studied in order to understand the errors), and insufficient support and vetting of statehouse candidates, (no gains were made) to a broader array of mass initiatives, the explanation for why there were not greater victories in the election cannot be dropped simply on the D.P. The factors noted above are far more significant, especially the power of right-wing populism at the base.  That said, there must be major changes made, including a DP rural organizing project, continuous outreach, stronger organization at the county level, and support of electoral efforts among traditionally marginalized groups (including but not limited to African Americans and [email protected]). Though the D.P. platform was probably among the most progressive in D.P. history, the party must champion a progressive, populist message that is both anti-neo-liberal but also anti-right-wing populist. This is a critical fight to wage within the D.P., and it’s one that will strengthen the Bernie-inspired forces at the base over the Third Wave centrists.

3.1 This is a moment where we must initiate a mass campaign of “one person, one vote”:  The Electoral College was created in order to support the slave-owning states and to limit the strength of the nation-state. It is an archaic institution that must be brought to an end. In almost any other country on this planet, the person who receives the most votes wins…period. Our reliance on the Electoral College means that, in effect, only certain states really matter. The struggle for “one person, one vote” needs to be a national campaign for the expansion of democracy. This includes alternative methods for allocating votes, e.g., proportional delegates rather than a state committing all of its delegates to the top vote getter, as well as new and concrete efforts to undermine voter suppression.

“Movement building”?

Hypothesis No. 4. We need to think through this election in a wider context of ideas related to strategy and tactics. We can start with ‘movement-building.’

4.1 ‘Building a Movement’ is a flawed concept. But you can find it at the end of nearly every article or speech. It appears so often that it has more uses than aspirin as a cure for our ills. But we need to set it aside, or get a deeper understanding. Why? Because we don’t build them. Mass movements are largely built by capitalist outrages inflicted upon us, and capitalism will continue to do so, whether it’s another police murder, and invasion abroad, or a poisoning of a city water system. At most, we can fan the flames, which is fine but secondary. Our real task is to build organizations and campaigns within mass movements.

4.2 But we need to know the terrain. The ground of the current conjuncture is in motion. Like everything else in the universe, social movements move in waves. They flow and they ebb. You can count on it. What’s important is to know when to cast our nets out, making wide alliances and broad agitation when they are flowing, and when to pull our nets in, gathering new recruits and doing deeper education as they start to ebb. This way, with each wave, riding from the peak of one to the next, we grow stronger or stronger as an organization, gaining many new friends, until we shift the balance of forces for victories.

4.3 ‘Taking to the streets’ has serious limitations. We love street heat tactically. But as strategy it sucks. Why? Because its hidden subtext has one of two flaws. First, it has the aim of mass pressure on liberals in government to do the right thing. This often works, but as strategy, liberals approve of it. Why? Because it avoids the tasks of taking political power for ourselves, of replacing liberals in government with socialists of the AOC and her ‘squad’ variety. Moreover ‘street heat’ is often advocated as an alternative to electoral strategy, rather than a vital part of it. In short, it becomes a variety of militant liberalism.

Second, if ‘street heat’ is held up as strategy, it then becomes what can be called ‘the street syndicalist deviation.’ Its projected means of taking power is mainly through the mass political strike or general strike. It seeks to avoid exhausting existing parliamentary means by bypassing them with embryonic instruments of dual power that will draw the masses away from elections and into local mass assemblies. If the current conjuncture were one of being on the cusp of armed insurrection, this would be useful. But most often, it’s not, and in these conditions, it’s simply the myth of the general strike as a cover to skip the organization of the means to take power in government. Gaining government seats, in and of themselves, are likewise limited. But holding them enables us to sharpen contradictions and wage battles on a much higher level.

4.4 Neither movement-building nor street heat are minor matters. They have been the default position of the left and wider progressive forces for at least 50 years. One major reason is the tax code, allowing exemptions to 501C3-designated groups. The catch is they are not allowed to tell people to vote for this or that candidate, or this or that piece of legislation. They have to pull their punches to the ‘education but no endorsement’ boundary. This amounts to a back-handed federal subsidy to the street-syndicalist deviation, keeping people in their separate silo and always short of forming and instrument that can win elections and place socialists and their close allies in seats of power. We can still form and work with 501C3 group, but we have to escape the cul-de-sac they can keep us without alternative forms of organizations.

Who are our friends? Who are our adversaries?

Hypothesis No. 5. The key question of strategy, ‘who are our friends, who are our adversaries,’ when read closely, demands three answers. The one often overlooked is ‘Who’ is ‘the We’ implied by ‘Our’? Is it simply the revolutionary party? The left more widely? The working class? It can be all of these, but a workable answer is ‘the forces demanding change and a new order.’ Then we divide it into two, the critical force and the main force.

5.1 The critical force is a militant minority, usually young, that takes a radical action, often disruptive, against an injustice, and holds a mirror up to society, stating ‘this is what you have become. Is this what you want to uphold? Or take down?’ Think of the original Woolworth sit-ins, or John Lewis on the bridge, or Vietnam vets taking over the Statue of Liberty, or throwing their medals back at Congress. They can be a powerful expression, even a spectacle that spans the globe.

5.2 But when all is said and done, the militant minority is not yet the main force, the millions of the all the oppressed, alongside the workers and their close allies. Step by step, these come to form an insurgent and awakening progressive majority, one that ceases to be the object of history and begins to find their agency, to make history. They start with less drama, mainly going to meetings, debating, and voting in elections. But they begin to be protagonists. The critical force that unites with them will thrive. If they can’t, they will be trapped in a cul-de-sac and fade away.

5.3 Now, let’s turn to the two obvious questions about adversaries and friends. Our adversary is usually defined as capitalism in its neoliberal mode. This is fine, but it’s at a very high level of abstraction. It’s useful to analyze capitalism at various levels of abstraction, as Marx does with genius in Capital. But we’re doing something different. We want to overthrow a particular capitalism as rooted in our country and as its current forms hold us down today where we are. There are a variety of capitalisms in our world, and while they have much in common, they vary from place to place. Our capitalism in the U.S. started as a racialized capitalism from the start, and one that spent at least half its life growing from a settler-colonial slave republic into today’s hybrid of racialized neoliberal capitalism with both global and national dimensions.

5.4 But how does that break down on the terrain today? One certainty is we do not want to fight all our adversaries at once. Where to make the first cut? One prominent feature of our last 40 years and its miseries is the vast expansion of the financial sector, where capitalism often ‘makes money’ while not creating new wealth. Think of financial capital as a globalized cannibal devouring other sectors and as a vampire feasting of the blood of the wealth creators, the working classes, here and elsewhere. So we make the first cut between finance capital and productive capital.

5.5 Productive capital also divides into two, high road and low road. Low-road capital is familiar to us as an adversary. They are the ones who brought us the Rust Belt, exported jobs, the climate crisis, unions at less than 10 percent of the workforce, and flat wages for forty years. High road capital is less familiar but it exists. They want to make money from a stable, skilled and unionized workforce. They don’t mind protecting the environment, and will even try to find ways to make money doing it through green innovation. But they still will drive a hard bargain with their workers for their own profits. What begins to take shape as our key adversary, then, is racialized finance capital and its low road partners here and around the globe. High road capital in many instances – creating jobs for a Green New Deal – can be a tactical ally. Likewise, in the financial sector, a recent ‘Green Bloc’ has taken shape that thinks a green industrial revolution is a wise bet for future long-term investors. Even if most of their kind are wrapped up in the day-trading casinos of pure speculation without investment, they are willing to explore a new venture. To take on the climate change emergencies quickly, they will have to be part of the solution.

5.6 So why does ‘racialized’ matter? It’s not simply that capitalism on this continent started with the expropriation of African labor and natives’ lands, alongside the exploitation of indentured European laborers. It’s that every feature of capitalist production was shaped by ‘race’ – chain gangs for ‘vagrants’ after the defeat of reconstruction, debt peonage for Black and Mexicans and Chicanos, Chinese ‘coolie’ labor on the railroads followed by exclusion, resource confiscation from Native lands, and Jim Crow extending up to the 1960s and beyond. Abstractly, there is only one working class here. But in daily life, racialized hierarchies existed and still exist in major industries and workplaces, not to mention neighborhoods and schools. It’s not the distant past, but the past persisting in various ways, old and new, well into the present day.

The ‘White race’

Hypothesis No. 6. Our adversaries, as Gramsci has taught us, don’t like to rule by force alone. They aim to combine coercion with consent, using persuasion, direct and hidden. In our racialized capitalism, the primary way was through the ‘invention’ or social construction of ‘the white race’ along with all the subaltern ‘color races’ that partnered with it. By ceding undue advantages to European laborers early on, making them ‘white’ as something they shared with the upper crust, the colonial elite was able to form a white united front with labor in the white-skin. So as long as you could maintain the ‘common sense’ that there was such a thing as the ‘white race’ and those with pale European skin were members of it, the ruling elites had a form of social control. They had a form of consent, conscious or unconscious, that could divide the whites from the rest, and even the ‘red’, ‘yellow’, and ‘brown’ against each other as well. The ‘common sense’ of the white race enabled African slavery and Native dispersal to grow and thrive. Even after the 13th Amendment partially abolishing slavery, the ‘white race’ continued its grip in the conflicted consciousness of the masses, and allowed the reformation of slavery in other forms and names up to the present.

6.1 If we abolish the ‘white race,’ don’t we abolish the ‘Black race’ too? It’s a fruitful question often asked. The straightforward answer is ‘yes.’ The descendants of Africans here are no more a ‘race’ than the descendants of Europeans. Biologically speaking, there is only one race, the human. But this opens an important question. What are African Americans? Due to their conditions of bondage and oppression in the Deep South, Africans brought here from diverse tribes, languages, and religions developed into a new and distinct people with their own culture, language, economic stations, and religion. They have been variously called Colored, Negro, Black, and now African American. But just as Irish-Americans are no longer much like their Irish ancestors, the same is true of Blacks and Chicanos. They are all components of the demographic of the United States of America, but they are also distinct nationalities within a multi-national country. Original national ancestry, from here or elsewhere, is not a ‘race.’ And the sooner we can get rid of this old order category in our thinking, the easier a more democratic class and national consciousness can emerge from what Marx called ‘all the old muck.’


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  • Bruce Hobson
    Bruce Hobson November 8, 2020 at 4:20 am

    Thank you Bill and Carl,
    I will read this very provocative piece two more times, then I’ll take a break. Afterward, I’d like to translate it to Spanish. In México, where I live, I am asked questions about the craziness of the US electoral system, about why Trump was elected, about whether the US will become safer for immigrants under Biden and Harris. Latin American leftists are always interested to learn how the US left sees things in El Norte. Comrades with Morena, for example, will eat up what we offer.
    Bruce Hobson

    • Joe Berry
      Joe Berry November 10, 2020 at 6:15 pm

      I second Bruce’s praise for the article. I also have comrades in Mexico in Morena who would love to see and circulate it.Please send me the Spanish translation when you complete it. [email protected]

  • Daniel Millstone
    Daniel Millstone November 8, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    I like the gist of all this but wish you could grind out better the specifics. What does it mean programmatically to oppose vampire capitalism? How do we frame demands to accentuate this?

    • Carl+Davidson
      Carl+Davidson November 8, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      Vampire capitalism speculates in the tax write-offs from vacant but still sound housing.

      But here’s what I argue in W PA. Between Pittsburgh and East Liverpool, OH there are about 20 rust belt mill towns with lots of empty housing that can be rehabbed and winterized. They also each have lovely but abandoned rail station houses. In the city itself, there are loads of young people in dire need of cheap housing. So how to get the renters to the market, but so they can still go to school or work downtown? Fighting freeway traffic is not an option. But Pittsburgh’s light rail subway was been extended out to the Three Rivers stadiums. So why not extend it as a circulator light rail running up and down both sides to the Ohio river to East Liverpool, Ohio and back, revitalizing the old rail stations already sitting there. Then use worker-muni coops of ex-offenders with construction skills to bring the empty housing up to scale. They get to keep some for themselves, but the rest can be rented to Pittsburgh youth who can do their studies of the 30-20 minute ride to the Pitt subway, then to the branch lines that go to their school or work.

      It’s the Green New Deal lots of different ways: Recovering old housing, green mass transport, work for the hard-to-emply, new revenue for the rust belt towns, new local residents to help local business. The Feds can grant the startup money MMT style. In 10 years, it pays for itself many times over.

      • Martin Eder
        Martin Eder November 11, 2020 at 4:16 pm

        Thank you I love that vision do build and rebuild

    • Peter Belmont
      Peter Belmont November 10, 2020 at 5:53 pm

      It is surely a puzzle how to frame demands in politics, but more of a puzzle (for me anyhow, unaffiliated) to whom to send them. How do individuals get the attention of groups (such as Our Revolution or Justice Democrats) or of politicians (such as AOC)? I guess I am always a spectator of movements and of politics rather than an actor.

  • Meizhu Lui
    Meizhu Lui November 9, 2020 at 12:22 am

    Thanks for this, as always, for your perceptive analyses.
    * But I wonder why you put “there is no monolithic Latino left” under “there is a right-wing movement.” Of course there is no monolithic Latino vote. There is no monolithic any-demographic vote. We’ve had to debunk the trope of the monolithic white working class vote. Three-quarters of Latinos are not part of the right wing, but as with every group, we need to understand WHY a significant group votes right, and it’s not just Cubans in Miami.
    * While the left has done a great job of lifting up white supremacy in a racialized capitalism, we have done a better job of educating and protesting about the “racialized” aspect and not as good a job of pounding on the “capitalist” aspect. As we try to make change through an alliance of all working people including white workers and communities of color – and not just black – we need slogans and demands that pull all those sectors in, and help them see that racial inequality is bad for workers of all races and ethnicities. Perhaps a merger of the themes and memes of Occupy, a movement centered by déclassé whites, and Black Lives Matter?
    Just questions this raised for me – I look forward to more conversation and strategizing as we move past our first big obstacle: Trump.

  • Huw Morgan
    Huw Morgan November 9, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Wow, this is some stunning analysis, in my opinion. I love the breakdown of capital, I’ve though for a while that green small/medium business owners are our allies for sure (having worked for many) and even some of the bigger, national companies, they willl have to be, but had not seen it articulated until your high road distinction.

    And the placement of organisations as central to amplify g movements, seems obvious now you’ve said it. We just won a big election in New Zealand, a green mp won a constituency seat and we have been talking about building a movement off the back of that here in Auckland, but I’ll take this into our planning sessions and see which organisations to develop or create.

  • Ted Cloak
    Ted Cloak November 10, 2020 at 5:11 am

    I think Trump voters can be divided into two very different categories: 1) the true revanchist proto-fascist gun-toters and 2) working-class whites, and some Blacks and Latinos too, who decided that, bad as the virus is, the urgent need to save their homes and feed their families required opening up the economy and taking a chance on Covid-19. Knowing the relative sizes of the two categories is very important. Knowing that the government would take care of them would tip the balance for most of the members of category 2.

    • Carl+Davidson
      Carl+Davidson November 10, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      You’re right about the need to make distinctions. Where I work, I can clearly see, and personally engage, the fascist circle, who fly the confederate flag and feel oppressed because they can’t use the N-Word in public.

      But there’s also the Obama-to-Trump flippers, who I also engage, who claim to like Dr King but believe their status is being reduced by immigrants, Muslims, and strong women of color. They are trapped in the ‘white race’ and a need to defend it, and in narrow resentments and grievances, in xenophobia, but can’t yet see workers of color as their main allies in moving upward. They have old roots in settler-colonialism. Their thinking is conflicted between fascist ideas and those of Christianity, the real kind. Their main sin is giving a pass to Trump’s racism, and then having to keep doing it far into the muck.

      One good road into their ranks is through progressive Evangelicals (yes, they exist, although we wouldn’t like their views about abortion and gay marriage). They are anti-racist and support most progressive social programs, working with Black churches.

      We can’t win most of them, but we can win some, more than you might think, and deepen divisions in their camp to our advantage.

  • Van Gosse
    Van Gosse November 10, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    These hypotheses are so rich, many thanks to Bill and Carl for the effort put into formulating them. I have a few specific responses:
    1. While the concept of revanchism is widely used among European historians (usually regarding territorial claims), it is quite new to U.S. politics and history. I think it explains a lot, specifically the feeling by many white native-born people that they have been “displaced” by others. In a pretty direct way, Trump offered them a chance to reclaim their space and spatial authority.
    2. For me, a (or even the) fundamental problem is the deeply anti-democratic functioning of the entire U.S. political apparatus, from the counties all the way up the presidency and Congress. The mechanisms of local control deeply embedded in law and custom are meant to impede majority rule, just like the Senate and the Electoral College. We need to confront each level of minority rule in a comprehensive fashion, not piecemeal, or our victories (such as they are) will be provisional–the 2000 and 2016 elections, Shelby County v. Holder, and the vast array of perfectly legal voter suppression laws show us that.
    3. I envision a “Democracy Charter” that argues for permanent popular empowerment at every level of the U.S. Just to get started, this would include an affirmative right to vote for all citizens enforceable at every level of government (like the 14th Amendment post-1964), overturning the Electoral College, restructuring the Senate on a representative basis, and a ban on partisan gerrymanders. Ultimately, we have reconfigure “federalism” so it serves democracy, rather than blocking it.
    4. Of course, even these radical reforms will not challenge the rule of capital, but they would level the playing field. Otherwise we’re always fighting up hill. Just as important, laying out a comprehensive plan for real or “true” democracy would help clarify how undemocratic this country really is, which is a mobilizer.

  • Brandon Rey Ramirez
    Brandon Rey Ramirez November 10, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    Thank you for this Bill & Carl. This is phenomenal analysis and sharing widely!

    Agree that we have to avoid the street syndicalist deviation, but we also have to ensure that the movements are not ignored and in favor of marching along to an existing campaign/organizational agenda. It’s incumbent on the organizations and campaigns to be supportive and complimentary to the movement. A wonderful model of pairing the street heat with organized forces aiming to take governing power, just like BLM-LA did with Measure J and the DA. Just like GroundGame & DSA-LA did with City Council.

    Also with the, “abolition of the Black race,” I would argue that the unique history of chattel slavery, repealed reconstruction, and remaining structural racism puts Black Americans in a unique demographic distinction that the U.S. refuses to assimilate into a class or national consciousness. Any hope of this happening would necessitate a Third and final reconstruction with reparations for slavery at the forefront.

  • Sid Shniad
    Sid Shniad November 10, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    Very stimulating. I largely agreed with your analysis. But there were a couple of points you raised that didn’t make sense to me.

    “Sanders would not have had it any easier had he been the nominee. The right-wing movement sees any progressive reforms as equaling socialism.”

    Sanders would have generated some enthusiasm for progressive programs and policies. Biden promoted nothing of a progressive nature. No one could mistake what he was running on as progressive reforms.

    “…we on the Left must not fall into the trap of believing that there is a monolithic population out there. That said, the Democrats made a significant error in their work in Florida and Texas in not putting greater resources into reaching and mobilizing [email protected] voters.”

    It wasn’t the Left that fell into this trap. It was the people in charge of running the Democrats’ campaign.

    “…the explanation for why there were not greater victories in the election cannot be dropped simply on the D.P. ….. Though the D.P. platform was probably among the most progressive in D.P. History, the party must champion a progressive, populist message that is both anti-neo-liberal but also anti-right-wing populist.”

    Given that the Democrats’ campaign studiously ignored the party’s progressive platform and failed to promote anything resembling an alternative to neoliberalism, let alone respond to alt-rightwing populism, why should there not be a brutally honest criticism of these terrible failings? (In other words, why can’t it be dropped on the D.P.?)

    “Our real task is to build organizations and campaigns within mass movements.” Amen.

    “Taking to the streets’ has serious limitations…’s simply the myth of the general strike as a cover to skip the organization of the means to take power in government.” Amen.

    • Kip Crosby
      Kip Crosby November 11, 2020 at 1:32 am

      Exactly. Demonstration without organization is nothing more than a symbol of dissatisfaction.

  • Kip Crosby
    Kip Crosby November 11, 2020 at 1:28 am

    Thank you! This piece is studded with concepts that I have been urging friends and comrades to take up—or wishing that they would take up—literally for years. I will forward this link to many people, and do what I can to give it wider readership.
    In solidarity,
    Kip Crosby
    Recording Secretary, Harvard-Radcliffe SDS, 1966-68

  • Alan Maki
    Alan Maki November 11, 2020 at 2:51 am

    Our demands and a Biden supporter responds

    Good riddance, Trump is gone; but our problems remain.

    We need help circulating this and recruiting people to get involved:

    Members of the Socialist Connection Action Network (Socialist C.A.N.) propose an emergency action agenda for all people’s unity around these very minimal and basic demands; we seek to work with all individuals and organizations to attain these goals:

    1. A Basic Income Guarantee of $2000.00 a month for every adult over 18 and $200.00 for each child in the family.

    2. A $650.00 increase for everyone receiving Social Security.

    3. Cancel ALL student debt.

    4. Increase the Federal Minimum Wage to $16.00.

    The money can come from a hefty tax on the rich and a Peace Dividend.

    We intend to launch a campaign involving petitioning and letter writing to get this movement underway and to put pressure on Congress and the President to enact this as legislation.

    We need your help.

    Please copy, post and distribute.


    Alan Maki
    [email protected]

    Biden supporter Adam Bram responds:

    I appreciate the intent, but this isn’t something I can support. I consider myself to be Progressive, but I think there is a simpler, much more doable way to solve the problems you wish to solve. That said, I strongly support your first point: Universal Basic Income. However, it’s the other points I do not.

    Instead of canceling all student debt, fund a UBI. If you have college debt, you can use the UBI to pay off the debt. You can use the UBI to save for college if you wish. The Democrats lost seats because non-college-educated voters feel ignored, and I get it. If someone didn’t go to college or if someone already paid off their college debt, it will anger them to see others who have their debt erased. UBI is a way of avoiding that mistrust while still helping everyone with whatever their respective economic troubles are.

    Additionally, UBI avoids the need to increase the minimum wage, which can be hard on small businesses. A UBI gives enough income to make the minimum wage increase unnecessary. It creates a situation where some people might not need to work, freeing up jobs for those who do. That naturally drives wages up without mandating a minimum wage increase.

    Lastly, if we have a UBI, an additional social security increase is not needed.

    I may get pushback on this, and that is fine. But if we want real change in this country, it has to be pragmatic.

    And I answer him:

    Adam Bram I suggest you organize a separate national effort for UBI. I’m curious though, in your lengthy comment, you don’t say if you support our specific demand what UBI should be; why not?

    Obviously you aren’t “living” on these miserly monthly Social Security checks.

    Do you work for a living? I ask this since you seem to put yourself arrogantly aloof from the problems being experienced by most working class families in claiming your opposition is based on “pragmatism.”

    This entire four point program would cost would cost only a very small fraction of what the United States government has spent over the last twelve years bailing out Wall Street’s filthy rich who just happen to be the employers of most of us.

    You talk about “pragmatism” but ignore the simple fact the working class has created this tremendous wealth while being pushed into poverty.

    Working people are ENTITLED to what we are advocating here.

    This isn’t about “pragmatism” or political expediency… for most of us in this country these four demands are about our survival.

  • Renee
    Renee November 13, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Yes movements arise due to actions and conditions imposed by Capitalism

    But right now we are in the middle of a terrible pandemic and irs consequences. We have not gone to the streets directly about these actions—despite massive deaths, unemployment, evictions , making people risk their lives working…etc

    Why not?

  • Chuck Wynns
    Chuck Wynns November 13, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    This is a great article!
    A point that seems to be implicit in this article is that a new and effective Left movement will take time. The waves of a movement do indeed ebb and flow, just as Bill and Carl describe, and they ebb and flow in real time.
    Quite rightly, our ability (“our” equals the identified Marxist Left, maybe) to help this movement along, requires organization, which carries on and keeps the movement organized as it moves through the ebbs and flows. Organization is more than mobilization, although mobilization is one of the functions of organization. Other functions within organization include education, the development of leadership and ideology, for instance, and I sound like I’m repeating the article.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is the continued development of a Left movement and Left organization will take time, maybe lots more time than lots American Leftists are currently considering. Here, the critique is of the ultra-left positions such as “Bernie or Bust”, which attempts to force the political agenda within an overly optimistic, if not totally unrealistic timeline based on, “what we want”, rather than what’s possible and how.
    A big question that my comrades and I are asking newer and younger socialists is this, “Are you in this for the long haul?”, with the second question being not, “where are we at now?, but instead, “where do we want to be in five years? Or ten years?”

    • Carl+Davidson
      Carl+Davidson November 16, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      You do indeed get our message, Comrade Wynns. And I share your view that building our ‘Modern Tecumseh’ (with apologies to Gramsci and a hat tip to Fletcher, who first used this term), i.e. requiring not only left unity but a ‘gathering of the tribes’ in a local anti-fascist/soc-dem cluster in each county and city, will take time.

      But at the same time, we feel an urgency. We can’t do this abstracted from the class struggle, at our leisure. We build the road by walking, running, and fighting concurrently. The pace of history is speeding upon us. Perhaps at 77, I’m being subjective. But we don’t have unlimited time. Engage, and make it so! (h/t to Captain Jean Luc Picard.)

  • Juliet Ucelli
    Juliet Ucelli November 14, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Really appreciate this insightful article for its apt explication of the street syndicalist deviation and its clarifications about movements, organizations and the role of the left.

    But I’m troubled by Hypothsis 5 on friends and adversaries, which I think misses the mark in significant ways. First, “finance capital” is a 110-year old concept that Lenin got from an economist dude named Hilferding, and it refers to the merging of banking and industrial capital. It’s not the same as speculative capital completely disconnected from production but vamping on it and distorting the whole economy, which happened over the past 40 years. Many Marxists refer to this as, “financialization,” which we can and must fight—e.g. through legislation around taxing financial transactions and unearned income at higher rates—not necessarily by targeting individual firms.

    If you’re talking about individual capitals—well, George Soros, a currency speculator who definitely falls within finance capital, is often a friend and funder to progressive causes. Conversely, capitalists in construction and extraction, which are seen as productive capital, often take reactionary stances on environmental and other issues. And within “productive capital,” the automakers who took the high road of Fordism and good compensation for workers 80 years ago are the same ones who’ve created the Rust Belt over the past 45 years.

    So we need to be less categorical, do more work and not over-simplify on this important and tricky question. We can consider the actions, stances and political donations of various capitalists in relation to white supremacy, criminalization and police violence; environmental sustainability; and workers wages and working conditions. We’ll probably find that they often align with us on some issues and not on others, that their positions aren’t static, and that various movement actors will find friends based on their own time, place and conditions. So we won’t always be unified on this but we will need the capacity for broad campaigns where all progressives target a big adversary together. And for that, we’ll need a more nuanced analysis.

    • Carl+Davidson
      Carl+Davidson November 16, 2020 at 3:23 pm

      Reading your comment, I’m reminded of Lenin’s favorite quote from Goethe: ‘Theory is gray; life is green.’ Yes, as we get deeper into the weeds, as we must, helpful abstractions become more nuanced. It’s why we used ‘hypotheses’ in our title. Through inquiry and practice, nuance and even more basic change will arise. But this is still a good starting point.

  • Gayle Southworth
    Gayle Southworth November 29, 2020 at 3:46 am

    Thanks for this excellent article
    I’m in strong agreement with almost all of it.
    The exception: “Marxists” tend to treat electoral politics as mostly unimportant, a poor relative that we are embarrassed by.
    Worthy of our attention every 4 years, but, even then, an unfortunate diversion from our main work, the class struggle.

    What then is this class struggle? It is and must be, the effort to create class awareness out of the daily struggles against oppression whether in the workplace, or within government agencies, the landlord, banking & insurance inequities, and so on.

    These struggles must have an electoral component , and we must be positioned to provide leadership in these efforts. Marx and Engels were very clear about this, going so far as saying that Revolution was possible only where there existed free press, freedom of assembly and widespread right to vote. We must meet the people in these struggles where they are, not where we wish they were.

    It is precisely in the struggles for peace, prosperity and justice that socialist ideas can spread like a prairie fire. And these struggles must have a daily electoral face.

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