October 31, 2013

A reply to the sectarianism of Bill Onasch and Socialist Action

“We need a party that understands and explains the class divisions in society, which are the real driving forces behind politics—a party that champions the interests of the working class against those of the bosses and bankers who presently rule. The kind of party we require would not only pursue electoral politics but would also be involved in day to day struggles of working people in workplaces, communities, and campuses.”

I have no beef with the above quote from Socialist Action member Bill Onasch, from the posting on this blog dated 10/27/2013.  The US lacks a mass working class or mass socialist party, and sorely needs one.  However, there is longstanding division within the left on how we get there.

I am one of those leftists that reject the position that we dare not, on principle, have anything to do with the Democratic Party. There have been previous attempts at establishing Labor or People’s Parties, that unfortunately, have not succeeded in taking root and establishing itself as a viable mass alternative in the US.

Apparently, I am not really a leftist. Note that Onasch puts quotation marks around the term ‘leftists’ that he disagrees with throughout his piece. I’m not completely sure who he is really talking about. Perhaps when he is talking about “giddy” leftists he is really talking about liberals.

Many of Onasch’s criticisms of the Obama administration are spot on, such as Barack Obama’s evolution from single payor supporter to championing ‘reform’ that left the insurance industry in charge - albeit with some new rules that did help millions of working class people.

I cannot speak for all people who consider themselves on the left who “dabble” in Democrat politics, but I think the recent Gallup polling on the mass dissatisfaction with the two parties is pretty encouraging. But dissatisfaction alone will not get us to the place where we can affect a fundamental political realignment in this country.

Ultimately, a successful and viable mass people’s party will by necessity contain a significant chunk of the forces and constituencies that still see the Democratic Party as the electoral vehicle for fighting back against the most extreme section of US ruling circles and the right.

I voted a second time for Obama, but I don’t defend the litany of outrageous positions that he has taken.  I and others like me point out that we live in complicated times. I don’t hold back on my critique of the Democratic Party as an institution. However, we operate in a larger political context where the reaction from the right is white supremacist at its core. It matters that there was an electoral majority that prevented the Republican Party, with its substantial neo-confederate block, from re-taking the White House.

I have no interest in tactical alliances with the forces of white reaction, and I am disappointed that sections of the white left persist in holding onto their own historical white blinders. I am also disappointed when organizations such as Socialist Action so casually write people like me out of the left because they disagree with my positions on strategy and tactics.

Apparently, some have learned absolutely nothing from the destructive behavior of previous generations of left sectarians.




Ann Montague said...

It seems like the serious accusation of sectarianism was based on punctuation. We all know there are many shades of leftists and that acknowledgement is hardly such a basis for this charge.

But surely we can agree that having different analysis of how a mass working class party will become a reality is not a basis of calling someone a sectarian. However when there are actually working class campaigns rooted in the movements for a $15/hour minimum wage, fighting foreclosures, taxing corporations, basic right to housing which has support from unions, immigrant communities and most socialist parties as well as Democrats who chose to support these candidates instead of the liberal Democrat - Abstaining from supporting these campaigns (City Council - Seattle and Minnesota) would seem to deserve the term.

Bob Rossi said...

It almost rises to the point of being disingenuous to post a logically flawed and seriously sectarian article that essentially drums people out of the left by using quotation marks, snide comments and undefined sweeping generalizations without definition and then to say that this is just a matter of punctuation marks and to then accuse others of sectarianism and then to change the subject to the City Council races in Seattle and Minnesota. The questions posed in the wake of this article still remain unanswered: why the use of quotation marks, who exactly is Onasch referring to in his criticisms and is this the correct path or not? I think that a legitimate political organization would pose these questions, engage in criticism/self-criticism, rectify their line and practice and try to move on, but apparently this doesn't occur to Onasch's group. We do indeed have legitimate differences over how a mass working class party will become a reality, but which side in this discussion isn't listening to the other and acting in a sectarian manner? You have to acknowledge that anyone who writes off their opposition with quotation marks and sweeping generalizations isn't listening or debating---they're pontificating. That said, I also want to say that we're all good with the victory in Seattle and the near-win in Minnesota. It seems that the vote was less about socialism and rejecting the Democrats than it was about a vote for what should have been the Democrats' reformist program. Someone on the left was smart enough to coopt that program, call it socialist and run with it and so, of course, they did well in the elections after Occupy and other movements got their word in in the intervening months. Good for them! It seems to validate our point that a reformist program is better than no program, and can even mark a real advance, but we're not confusing this with socialism.