Building A Left Wing

Note: This is another short post about my personal political journey thus far, and about some efforts to help build an effective American Left in the 21st Century. Views and characterizations are my own. I do not speak for the organizations mentioned, nor for of any of my comrades. As always, comments are welcome.

turn-leftI’ve written previously about my political awakening which began in earnest a few years ago. Early on, I recognized the need to work together with others toward fundamental change. One of the things that I did was to join the Wobblies. I remain a faithful dues-paying member of the IWW, and now also carry a National Writers Union card. Union membership is something that I consider to be part of my core identity.

I also began to learn about political organizations on the broader left. There is a dizzying range of them in the United States. There are Social Democrats, and Democratic Socialists, and Feminist Socialists, and Committees of Correspondence, and Spartacists, and Trotskyists, and Marxists and Revolutionary Socialists and Anarcho-Syndicalists, and Christian Anarchists – and many, many others.

I studied lineages and politics and structure and governance and international affiliations and a host of other details about each group. The two organizations of most interest to me were the Democratic Socialists of America and the International Socialist Organization. Both have active Chicago chapters (which was important to me since we were anticipating a move north from Central Illinois to the Chicago Southland), both are relatively large organizations, and both have lineages that can be traced back to the heroes of 20th-century American radicalism.

I joined the DSA in early 2012.

In the four years since, my political education has continued. Two particularly important influences have been Marx’s writings and Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform Or Revolution. The idea that we cannot merely reform our way to a just society is now evident to me. This doesn’t mean that reforms aren’t important, but that we do have to have strategies beyond that. The more I’ve read and learned, the further left my politics have trended.

So I was delighted when a friend in another organization mentioned, in passing, the “left wing of the DSA around Jacobin.” Up until then, I had no idea that an organized “left wing” existed.

I contacted someone I knew at Jacobin, and they put me in touch with someone involved in the DSA Left Caucus. I was welcomed into the caucus in late April of 2015.

Although there is no litmus test nor a point-by-point statement of principles which a member is bound to accept, there seems to be general agreement across the caucus around the following ideas.

  • We’d like to see a greater focus on education in theory and history throughout our organization.
  • We are socialists, organizing for socialism. We’re not liberals or progressives or social democrats.
  • We are committed to solidarity with those who are most oppressed under capitalism including women, people of color, first peoples and LGBTQ people.
  • We believe in internationalism, and in showing solidarity with the struggles of oppressed people worldwide, particularly those who are victims of American imperialism.
  • We want to help build an independent socialist political movement in the United States while maintaining a flexible and undogmatic approach to elections in the meantime.
  • We are committed to building relationships across the American Left, and to pursuing a united front with comrades from other socialist organizations where possible.
  • We are committed to solidarity with our rank-and-file union sisters and brothers, and to supporting movements for union democracy.

The DSA is not only the largest explicitly socialist organization in the United States, it is one with a rich intellectual and activist history, and a structure that continues to guard against uncritical acceptance of predominant ideas. The Left Caucus provides auspices for thoughtful discussion and purposeful organization toward a more vibrant and effective DSA, and hence a more vibrant and effective American Left. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be learning and working alongside this group of exceptionally bright and committed activists.

Hate Groups On The Rise

2015-hate-map-splc

The number of extremist groups operating in the United States grew in 2015 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations.

Much of this growth can be attributed to the shameful bigoted rhetoric of Donald Trump and other candidates within the GOP. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Republican party has become one of the leading national advocates for hatred.

Read More: SPLC’s Intelligence Report: Amid Year of Lethal Violence, Extremist Groups Expanded Ranks in 2015 | Southern Poverty Law Center

Click here to download the full report in PDF format.

splc-ir-spring-2016

with our current knows

I am totally wise to that Donald Trump.
Faith is President.
no leader, especially

will not allow Christianity to be

all talk, no action
one
disgraceful

The Pope only heard

If and when
as everyone
the Vatican is
unlike what is happening now

they are using the Pope and our leadership in every aspect

and as President I happened. I of negotiation.
I am proud to be a pawn
and they should be
consistently attacked and weakened

ISIS would have eradicated the Mexican government and its leadership in the United States

would have been

is happening now

He doesn’t see how
Trafficking and the negative
economic impact
didn’t see the crime

the Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama to question another man’s religion or faith.

Crime, the drug.

Ask Not

but let us of the deadly atom, yet torch
become the prey of hostile
subject to proof.

The dark powers of destruction
and villages across the globe
unleashed by science
signifying that first revolution.

That first revolution.

those peoples in the huts
Which divide us.
hope unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us

explore the stars, conquer
and bitter peace
the absolute uncertain balance of terror
undoing of those human rights
for we a new generation of Americans
born
dare not forget today cooperative ventures

the United Nations, our
our adversary,
we offer not the absolute power
to destroy
of its terrors

Let every nation know, tiger ended up inside.
Ended up inside.
stays the hand of mankind’s renewal, as well as change

it is both racing
to alter that we share,
never fear to negotiate
for we are the heirs

let word go forth from this forum for invective
for in this century, tempered by the hand of God

oppose any foe, liberty.

Any foe, liberty.

Communists may be doing it, pay any price, bear any shield of the new
and time and place, to friend final war.
Friend final war.

Arms are sufficient.

Enter the Brownshirts

With GOP presidential candidates amping up the xenophobia, it was only a matter of time until bigots with firearms began to organize. Saturday saw armed protestors assemble at a Mosque in Irving, Texas.

The Dallas Morning News spoke to organizer David Wright.

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” Wright said, eyeing his 12-gauge. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

A protester with a bandana over his face showed off his AR-15 to traffic. A 20-year-old who wants to join the Army and ban Islam in the United States carried a Remington hunting rifle…

Read the Report: Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving | | Dallas Morning News

The Endless Spectacle of Militarism

I love America. Truly, I do. It is the land of great ideals, as well as the land of my birth.

I also respect and applaud self-sacrifice in service to others, and in service to those ideals.

So I was slow to understand the true nature of the constant prompts to “support our troops” and the endless parade of militaristic spectacle over the past couple decades. In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, the knee-jerk jingoism didn’t sit well with me, but I didn’t fully understand why.

Then comes the news this week of a joint oversight report released by Arizona Republican Senators John Flake and John McCain, documenting that over the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams. For me, this calls to mind the 1936 Summer Games.

Here are a couple of articles of interest on the subject.

No, thanks: Stop saying “support the troops” – A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation.

Military spectacle and American sport – Fifteen years after the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror,” no facet of life in the United States—political, legal or cultural—has escaped the dark shadow of the American military-intelligence apparatus. Everything is subordinated to the needs of the state. Personal communications are intercepted and stored, protests are monitored and school curricula are manipulated. Hollywood works with the CIA to produce films like “Zero Dark Thirty” to justify the government’s illegal torture program, and a worker can hardly take his or her family to the ballgame without being inundated with pro-war lies and propaganda.