Category Archives: Electoral Politics

Contra a Transparência

Passa Palavra (meaning “Free the Word”), an impressive libertarian Marxist organization based in Brazil and Portugal with whom Unity and Struggle has a great deal of political affinity, recently translated a piece by Jocelyn and James that we posted earlier last year called “Against Transparency”. We feel very honored to be featured on their site, and encourage everyone to check out their prolific writing. In addition to putting out theory, Passa Palavra organizes in daily struggles, and have been intimately involved in the anti-fare hike movement, as well as far left peasant struggles against the left-leaning Brazillian state. We encourage you to read their writing on Brazil in English which was posted in Insurgent Notes.  

Contra a Transparência

2 de fevereiro de 2014
O trabalhador militante não deveria ter medo de fazer exigências que não cabem no orçamento na sua forma atual; uma exigência desse tipo é a essência do radicalismoPor James Frey e Jocelyn Cohn

A exigência por transparência surge inevitavelmente nas lutas no local de trabalho, especialmente quando estão envolvidas organizações liberais [*], sindicatos ou Organizações Não Governamentais (ONGs). “Abram os livros!”, exigem alguns, “e nos deixem ver de onde o dinheiro está vindo, para onde está indo e exatamente quanto pode ser gasto!” O imperativo de abrir os livros pode ser inspirado por intenções nobres, como o desejo por uma democracia radical no lugar de trabalho, e aparece em resposta ao mistério criado pela gerência sobre a fonte da riqueza da empresa. No entanto, a exigência de ver o orçamento dos patrões implica que os trabalhadores são um custo para o qual é necessário encontrar dinheiro, quando, na verdade, somos nós o componente mais necessário da produção, e a fonte de seja lá o que for encontrado no “orçamento”.

Então qual é a origem da exigência por um orçamento aberto? Exigir transparência parece conseguir uma prova irrefutável da desigualdade: se “seguirmos o dinheiro”, podemos mostrar que os patrões conseguem mais dele do que os trabalhadores e, armados desse conhecimento, nós, enquanto trabalhadores, podemos mostrar que muito dinheiro é “desperdiçado” nos salários dos gestores. Esse argumento é especialmente proeminente quando cortes salariais são apresentados sob o disfarce de “corte de custos” ou “austeridade”. “São os salários dos gestores que estão custando tanto, não os nossos! Corte no topo!” são os gritos por um orçamento aberto. Mas para aqueles trabalhadores que exigem uma igualdade desse tipo a fonte de riqueza da empresa continua sendo, como interessa à gerência, um mistério. Parece que essa riqueza vem de uma atividade externa ao trabalho, como compras feitas e lucros obtidos no mercado, juros adquiridos nos bancos, ou benemerência de doações generosas. A causa da má situação dos trabalhadores seria, assim, a subsequente má gestão desses fundos nas mãos dos patrões gananciosos. Desse ponto de vista, a pobreza do trabalhador pode ser facilmente corrigida – basta circular o dinheiro! Mas os trabalhadores em luta contra suas condições descobrem algo diferente. A desigualdade entre patrão e trabalhador não é acidental, causada apenas pela incompetência ou ganância; ela é fundamental ao trabalho na sociedade em que vivemos. A desigualdade é inerente às relações sociais entre a classe dos patrões, senhorios e políticos e a classe dos trabalhadores, inquilinos e a gente comum. Continue reading Contra a Transparência

Dirt Road Revolutionary: On Shutdowns and Party Politics

While Washington D.C. has arguably been experiencing a slow-moving constitutional crisis in the last few years, unknown in recent U.S. history, there has been something like a “counter-revolutionary” surge at the state level in which the rightwing of the Republican party has passed dozens, if not hundreds of laws targeting nearly every sector of the working class and the oppressed. Some of the most important laws have targeted reproductive and voting rights, as well as unions.

In order to advance our understanding of these critical developments, we are reposting a piece from our comrade over at Dirt Road Revolutionary.

**********

ON SHUTDOWNS AND PARTY POLITICS

by Dirt Road Revolutionary

Most “Millenials” today are a little too young to remember the last two shutdowns under Clinton, so the events that have unfolded over the last week are really a new experience for a group that has been much discussed and often maligned in recent weeks. What is absolutely, frustratingly familiar, however, is the wading pool shallow discussions parading themselves around as serious journalism and analysis. Professional loudmouths and hand wringers dance and shuffle around on cable news, the best print journalism maps only the surface technicalities and the worst tries to split the difference between cowardice and insanity. Of course, no one has anything approaching a serious practical – or even “impractical” by today’s bankrupt “pragmatism” – suggestion on what to do whatsoever to escape this trajectory of self-destruction.

The first, most obvious, most undeniable point to be made is this: the current shutdown in the Federal government today is a direct result of the rise of a new Tea Party faction in American politics. While the mainstream media has largely been obsessed with the theatrics of the debacle, the U.S. Left has failed to provide even a glimmer of an analysis that is compelling or practical in any way whatsoever.

The phrase that the two parties are “two wings of capital” has been repeated by fellow activists by rote so many times that it has become completely bankrupt. The Socialist Worker has largely hopped on this same trope in recent days:

So it will be all the more important for those who want an alternative to the status quo in Washington to remind themselves and others of a hidden-in-plain-sight truth about American politics–that the Democrats and Republicans agree about much more than they disagree.

The key problem with this kind of sloganeering is that it actually tells us nothing. It simply freezes capital into a seemingly eternal thing, with two wings also frozen in loyal opposition, only superficially different but ultimately homogenous and unchanging. This is cheap nonsense masquerading as analysis and needs to be recognized as such.
Continue reading Dirt Road Revolutionary: On Shutdowns and Party Politics

Once Again: Obama, The Left and the Crisis

A week after the Obama administration has pushed through the Bush era tax cuts for the rich, it is a good time to again reflect on the meaning of Obama and the role of the Democratic Party.

The 2007-2008 election campaign of Obama was unique in that it took on a popular character, which ultimately helped him win the Democratic primary and the general election. Under the slogan of “change we can believe in” Obama promised a new type of bourgeois politics to answer the country’s pressing problems.

However, after two years of economic crisis the capitalists and ruling class have responded by successfully attacking the living standards and the remnants of the political power of the working classes and oppressed people. Arguably, general social and political polarization is the greatest it has been in generations.

How do we explain the discrepancy between the promises of Obama’s election victory and this reality? What is the nature of the Democratic Party? How can we historicize its current character? What is its relationship to the need to find the political forms within the new content among the American oppressed and working classes that seems to be emerging in response to the crisis?

Meanwhile, a new dust up within the Left is going on between supporters and critics of Obama and the Democratic Party.

One side, led by the trade unions, the Congressional Black Caucus, The Nation and the former Progressives for Obama, argues for a popular front against finance capital and the white populist right.

The other side urges direct opposition to Obama and the Democratic Party and the call for some kind of political alternative.

We are reposting some of that analysis below.

*******

Protest Obama, An Open Letter to the Left Establishment

Bill Fletcher, Responding to the Letter to the Left Establishment regarding Obama

Glen Ford, Psycho-Babbling Obama

Paul Street, Note to “the Left”: Obama Hates You

After the Midterm Elections: How Should We Think About the Democratic Party?

We are reposting here two different perspectives on the elections. After one of the biggest defeats of the Democratic Party in history, amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, how should we think about the role of the Democratic Party?

Bill Fletcher, a founding member of Progressives for Obama, wrote this essay in the lead up to the recent midterm elections. It is taken from the website of Progressive Democrats of America.

For an opposing view we turn to the World Socialist Website below.

******

Enthusiasm?: I Am Not Interested in Things Getting Worse!

by Bill Fletcher, Jr

There has been a lot of discussion about the apparent enthusiasm gap between Democratic voters and Republican voters.  While it is beyond question that the Obama administration has accomplished significant reforms in its first two years, the manner in which these have been accomplished, combined with the fact that they were generally not deep enough, has led many liberal and progressive voters to despair.

So, what should we think as we quickly approach November 2nd? First, there were too many magical expectations of both the Obama administration and most Democrats in Congress.  Many of us forgot that while they represented a break with the corrupt Bush era, they were not coming into D.C. with a red flag, a pink flag or a purple flag. They came to stabilize the system in a period of crisis.  President Obama chose to surround himself with advisers who either did not want to appear to believe or in fact did not believe that dramatic structural reforms were necessary in order to address the depth of the economic and environmental crises we face.  They also believed, for reasons that mystify me, that they could work out a compromise with so-called moderate Republicans.  

The deeper problem, and one pointed out by many people, is that the Obama administration did not encourage the continued mobilization of its base to blunt the predictable assaults from the political right.  As a result, many people sat home waiting to be called upon to mobilize. Instead, we received emails or phone calls asking us to make financial contributions, or perhaps to send a note regarding an issue, but we were not called upon to hit the streets.

Unfortunately, the main problem rests neither with the Obama administration nor the Democrats in Congress. It rests with the failure of the social forces that elected them to keep the pressure on.  Too many of us expected results without continuous demand.
Continue reading After the Midterm Elections: How Should We Think About the Democratic Party?

A Republican Resurgence?

In recent months, there has been a chorus of voices discussing the “civil war” within the Republican Party, and the Party’s resurgence from its devastated state after the 2008 presidential elections. The civil war, it is said, is over the soul of the GOP, whether it will be a big tent party that is moderate enough to win over young people, folks of color, and the large section of voters identified as independents, or whether it will be a firmly conservative party that is more narrow in its base but also more ideologically pure. Talk of a GOP resurgence began in earnest over the summer with the tea parties and health care townhall protests, with the emphasis of both on grassroots (some would say Astroturf) activism in rekindling the party, and has only gained momentum after the recent election results in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Texas is an important starting point for thinking about what these debates mean. Since earlier this fall, incumbent Rick Perry and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have been battling it out for the GOP nomination for governor of Texas in the 2010 election. While heated intra-party contests might normally be cause for concern within the national party, Texas holds extra weight in that it is the second largest state in the U.S. (after California) and currently controls 34 electoral votes, making it an important, if not the most important, piece in the Republican electoral college puzzle. Further, it is a “majority minority” state – meaning white folks make up under 50% of the state’s population – putting it at the center of a debate within the GOP about whether the party will/should develop new strategies and a new identity to win people of color away from voting Democratic in the upcoming years.
Continue reading A Republican Resurgence?