Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 28, 2010

Bill Fletcher channels Gus Hall

Filed under: parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 4:22 pm

Bill Fletcher

If you want to read a sales pitch for voting Democrat that shows a mastery of Gus Hall’s political rhetoric second to none, I heartily recommend Bill Fletcher’s article Enthusiasm?: I Am Not Interested in Things Getting Worse! on the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) website. The PDA was launched in 2004 by Tim Carpenter, a Dennis Kucinich staffer. Fletcher is an erstwhile radical who has carved out a career in high-level policy jobs, his latest as a “senior scholar” with the Institute of Policy Studies, a left-liberal think-tank with close ties to the Nation Magazine.

After taking a couple of anti-emetic pills, I feel prepared to give Fletcher’s piece a close reading. He starts off by chiding people who forgot that Obama was “not coming into D.C. with a red flag, a pink flag or a purple flag.” Actually, nobody expected anything like that. All they were expecting is action on a number of items that Obama promised his supporters, like EFCA for the trade unions, closing down Guantanamo, and—most importantly—a resolution of the financial crisis. On that last item, Fletcher admits that “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.”

But don’t you dare blame Obama for picking scumbags like Timothy Geithner or Lawrence Summers. The fault, dear pwogwessives, is not in the stars but in ourselves that we are underlings:

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.

Get that? If only we were carrying out our duties to pressure Obama from the left, like the unemployed did during the early days of FDR’s presidency, then we could have gotten a new New Deal. Well, that assumes that we had an incipient FDR in the White House rather than the Herbert Hoover that resides there now. The Nation Magazine, Bill Fletcher and so many other liberals who repeat this argument have conned themselves into believing that sufficient pressure was the key to genuine reform.

On November 15, 2008 the now defunct Air America, a primary outlet in its day for this kind of addled thinking, aired a discussion with a group of Obama supporters when “change” and “hope” were in the air, like the scent of magnolia blossoms. Mark Green—a sleazy NYC politician and president of the radio station–asked people like  Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of The Nation and a ubiquitous defender of Obama on cable TV news shows, to hold forth on the great new period opening up.  She responded:

I think there are lessons to be drawn, Mark. I think they’re close. And yes, the Nation is one of the few publications which one lived through the first New Deal and did an issue on the 75th anniversary of the New Deal. But I think history shows us that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was compelled to abandon caution because of the great traumas of his day — the Great Depression gave him little choice but to be bold. And it was the great popular social movement of his time, working outside his administration, the unions at that time, that put pressure on FDR to carry out bolder reforms.

Leaving aside the question of exactly how “bold” FDR’s policies were (it is, for example, rather clear that WWII ended the Depression, not public works projects or Keynesian fiscal policy), it should have been obvious to those who had not drunk the kool-aid that we did not have an FDR to put pressure on:

But, like Hoover, Obama has been unable to make his actions live up to his words. Health care is being gummed to death on Capitol Hill. Obama has done nothing to pass “card check” provisions that would facilitate union organization and quietly announced that he would not seek stronger labor and environmental protections in NAFTA. He has capitulated on cap-and-trade in the budget outline and never even bothered to push for an actual carbon tax. Only minuscule portions of the stimulus bill or his budget proposals were dedicated to mass transit, and his indifference to the issue—what must be a major component of any serious effort to go green—was reflected in his appointment of a mediocre Republican time-server, Ray LaHood, as his transportation secretary.

Still worse is Obama’s decision to leave the reordering of the financial world solely to Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, both of whom played such a major role in deregulating Wall Street and bringing on the disaster in the first place. It’s as if, after winning election in 1932, FDR had brought Andrew Mellon back to the Treasury. Just as Herbert Hoover could not, in the end, break away from the best economic advice of the 1920s, Barack Obama is sticking with the “key men” of the 1990s. The predictable result is that, even as he claims to recognize the interlocking nature of the problems facing us and vows to solve them as a whole, the president is in fact abandoning most of his program, at least for the time being.

That’s from Kevin Baker’s article Barack Hoover Obama: The best and the brightest blow it again that appeared in the June 2009 Harper’s Magazine. Harper’s, a liberal magazine with a history going back to the abolitionist movement like The Nation, is distinguished by its superior grasp of the futility of Democratic Party politics.

After stating that he is not interested in listing “the bad calls or stands with which I disagree”, Fletcher repeats the argument that can be found on the CPUSA website:

I am focusing on those on the right attempting to move in, and frankly they are an unsettling bunch. You see, my enthusiasm for voting rests on the fact that I am not interested in people who worship ignorance, intolerance, war and the strengthening of a plutocracy increasing their grip on power and pulling this country any further to the right than it currently is. In other words, the challenge for progressives is two-fold: one, to beat back the irrationalist right; and, two, to move against the right-wing of the Democratic Party and to push for real change.

Of course, this is a position that will remain true as long as electoral politics is defined as a contest between the two major capitalist parties. The Republicans will keep moving to the right and the Democrats will move along with them, except not as precipitously. Essentially, you have had a choice since the Carter presidency between a Republican Party that is more awful day-by-day and a Democratic Party that represents itself as “not as awful”.

Since he is an erstwhile radical who has probably read Karl Marx at some point in his life, you’d think that he’d understand the nature of bourgeois politics. After all, the Democratic Party has been an enemy of social change throughout its history, a function of its class character. Expecting something otherwise is understandable if you are an unsophisticated liberal, like most of us were until we got hit by the lightning bolts from reading Marx.

I would suggest that there is a class explanation for this, to revert to our Marxist heritage that so many seem willing to renounce. In 1914, Lenin was outraged by the social democratic capitulation to war. He understood this as a co-opting of the left by the ruling class  through the privileges that accrue from lofty trade union posts, the parliamentary perks afforded to deputies, etc. In our day, we are faced with the same kind of corruption but it comes from somewhat different sources. Outfits like the Institute for Policy Studies, Fletcher’s employer, are funded by the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie. Start-up funding was secured from Sears heir Philip Stern and banker James Warburg.

While the Philip Sterns and James Warburgs of the world are anxious to fund any initiative that will make the system more equitable, they will not tolerate any serious challenge to private property. Finding ex-radicals like Bill Fletcher to serve as policy analysts is a marriage made in heaven. It provides the ex’es with a pleasant and prestigious occupation, while it helps to maintain the ideological consensus that There Is No Alternative to Barack Obama.

FOLLOW-UP

I just had some truly frustrating exchanges with Fletcher. He said he didn’t care about my criticisms but thought that people would not take me seriously because I wasn’t accurate about his CV. Since he singled out my reference to him as a policy wonk as an example, I changed that to “high level policy jobs”. In any case, here’s his CV for what its worth:

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Labor Rights Forum, Executive Editor of The Black Commentator and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. A longtime labor, racial justice and international activist, he is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating and advocating for policies in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Fletcher is also a founder of the Black Radical Congress and is a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

As if that will compensate for shilling for Barack Obama Hoover.

 

36 Comments »

  1. Another great read. Keep it up Lou. This message never gets old. This set of facts governing all of us like gravity is intractable so long as working people remain politically dormant and unorganized.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 28, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  2. Here’s something else Bill Fletcher wasn’t interested in–defending ACORN when they were being thrown under the bus by Obama.

    http://www.blackcommentator.com/343/343_aw_wither_acorn.html

    “To be honest, I do not want to hear anything more about how the Right is attacking ACORN. What I do want to hear is how sorry and self-critical the ACORN leadership is about the current state of affairs and how they, in fact, let down the members, supporters and friends of the organization.”

    How charming.

    Comment by John Halle — October 28, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  3. Here’s someone else ruing “the bad calls” of a man who owes his presidency to a “largely young people” based movement.

    Comment by sk — October 28, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  4. Just received from Fletcher:

    i don’t know who you are but i could only fall out of my chair laughing at the note about me channeling Gus Hall. You have a future in comedy! Go for it. Please, check with Bill Maher.

    In any case, you obviously know nothing of my background so this reduces your credibility even more. If you are going to go after me you should have some idea of my political history so that you do not look any more an idiot than you apparently are. “Wonkish policy jobs”????

    Have a good day!!

    Bill Fletcher, Jr.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 28, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  5. But Lou you left out of the UPDATE the fact that he’s prominent in the DSA. That’s all I needed to know. So maybe he wouldn’t find his dovetailing Gus Hall’s politics as amusing if you instead substited Gus Hall’s name for, say, Norman Thomas.

    At least Fletcher’s no silver spooner like Elliot Spitzer. In his youth he supposed even “dabbled” in the Black Panthers!

    But how does somebody so involved with organized labor all these years imagine that “pressure” is going to get Obama to lift a finger for EFCA or anything else? That’s a campaign promise Obama was bound to break as part of the quid pro quo for the oligarchy ultimately responsible for his victory.

    http://www.keywiki.org/index.php/Bill_Fletcher,_Jr.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 28, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  6. Ugh! I hate people posing for photos with the “thinker posture” of sticking a finger to the side of the head. The fruit of their thinking is more than often a let-down.

    Also ending a letter/email with “have a good day”, “see ya” or any other sarcastic departure sayings, is the feeble way in which your average internet daftie thinks he’s won an argument leaving the others speechless. In his thick fat head anyway.

    Perhaps next time he stops by, he can actually answer the political points Louis has made, before departing again with more imbecilic goodbyes and plenty of exclamation points.

    Comment by Antonis — October 28, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  7. Ugh! I hate people posing for photos with the “thinker posture” of sticking a finger to the side of the head.

    How about this one of Leon Botstein:

    Leon Botstein

    Comment by louisproyect — October 28, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  8. But of course Antonis “he can[not] actually answer the political points Louis has made, before departing again with more imbecilic goodbyes and plenty of exclamation points” precisely because when you accept as a given the immortal omnipotence of this one party plutocracy with 2 factions squabbling over how to best enrich themselves off the toil of American workers then your political arguments always boil down to “The Lesser of Two Evils” claptrap.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 28, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

  9. >How about this one of Leon Botstein

    I actually chuckled at that, thanks.

    Comment by Antonis — October 28, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  10. This is a really good take-down of Fletcher. Fletcher, Hall, etc are a disaster for the US left. They spew radical words, but steer you to the Dems saying it is just for now or as a tactical move.

    My experience of Fletcher and FRSO: A few years ago, I joined FRSO (Left Refoundation) and attended a talk of Fletcher’s (as an aside: no one in the FRSO admitted to me that Fletcher was a member though, just a sympatheizer). Fletcher was promoting his book, Solidarity Divided to a union audience. Fletcher’s book called for what he was calling ‘solidarity/class-struggle unionism.’ Supposedly the rest of the FRSO was behind this approach too (most of the members I met were impresed with the book). Yet I remember that during the Question/Answer period that Fletcher said we (i.e. unions/left) should support the Democrats and Obama. However, yes there was a **however** he urged the left/unions to support a more progressive alternative and hold Obama’s feet to the fire.

    This answer left me befuddled. As Louis says, where’s the dose of Marx’s view of bourgeois politics? Fletcher struck me as either really naive or utterly deceitful by thinking that Obama would be in any way beholden to any left or union (no matter how reformist or respectable they are).

    It seems that Fletcher doesn’t give a shit about holding Obama’s feet to the fire, but is taking out the pom-poms and learning liberal acrobatics (you know, they kind where they rationalize away Democratic behavior and tie themselves in knots doing so).

    PS. The FRSO (Refoundation) is deceitful. Most of the activities that I encountered among members was sniffing the ass of the Democrats and Obama. When I eventually left, I was flabbergasted to discover that they were not pro-Democrat at all, but had been critical of Democrats during Obama’s campaign. They let me read some election material that explained their position (to try and ‘clarify’ things for me and keep me in), but it was all cheerleading and disparging any attempt to forge a leftist alternative.

    Comment by Doug — October 28, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  11. I find it particularly insulting when people like Fletcher blame progressives and progressive activists instead of Obama. Contrary to what he says, progressives put a lot of pressure on Obama, especially on health care and the economy, and Obama’s response has been to consistently slap them down. Economists like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Dean Baker, among many, warned him repeatedly that his economic policies would not revive the economy. Fletcher’s refusal to defend ACORN is shockingly idiotic, as many Democrats in the past have been dependent upon an ACORN voter registration efforts in their campaigns.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 28, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

  12. Interesting experience Doug’s reported. Sadly typical though.

    I was going to mention it myself last post but cannot even bring myself to type those stupid words: “hold their feet to the fire” because it hits my gag reflex whenever I see it in places like The Nation.

    “Hold their feet to the fire.” Like Seinfeld used to say: “I don’t even know what that means”?

    I’ve always wanted to ask a social democrat what that means exactly, and how one goes about holding the feet of the representative of billionaires, with all the forces of the state and the Pentagon at their disposal, to the fire?

    What fire? You can’t start one with wet matches.

    Like Dick Gregory used to say about wash machines that have the “agitators” removed — you wind up with dirty drawers.

    But really, what’s the first step in holding those feet down anyway? Isn’t it like tackling a greased water buffalo. Writing letters? Emailing Congress people? Or is it attending those muted pseudo labor rallies like the one recently organized by the DNC in Washington all devoid of protest signs and full of stiff speakers signing off with the obligatory “God bless America”?

    Like old Al Cockburn used to say before the onset of senility — the problem with Fletcher is his “hate isn’t pure.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 28, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

  13. “Contrary to what he [Fletcher] says, progressives put a lot of pressure on Obama, especially on health care and the economy, and Obama’s response has been to consistently slap them down.”

    ____________________________________________________

    Of course Richard’s right, it is a monstrous & inexplicable insult insofar as the audacity of blaming the activists earnestly working for social justice is tantamount to blaming Black people for ghetto squalor, a notion a brother from a working class neigborhood in NYC apparently hasn’t thoroughly thought through, which is hard to fathom from an apparently street wise youth from the bowels of NYC. But then again “being determines consciousness” after all.

    _____________________________________________________________________________

    Doug’s post on the deceit of the FSRO is amazingly ironic in that it illustrates how united the ruling class is compared to how divided the left is.

    I mean clearly the ruling class, despite tea bagger blowhards, is pretty happy with Obama — essentially Bush’s 3rd term. He’s bailed out the most hideous of Wall Street banksters, crooks & swindlers, slapped the wrists of the usurious credit card companies, shoved foreclosures down the throats of millions of homeowners, betrayed promises to what’s left of organized labor, given the green light to the bloated Pentagon and their odious mercenary contractors (now outnumbering the military in Afghanistan), kept the gulag system of torturers and anti-Muslim fear mongers in business, plus let the insurance industry write the health care reform legislation, which only bolstered their already grotesque profit factory.

    By contrast the Left flounders on the most fundamental principles of class analysis.

    Doug rightly points out that “Fletcher, Hall, etc are a disaster for the US left. They spew radical words, but steer you to the Dems saying it is just for now or as a tactical move.”

    Yet just a month or two ago on these blogs one of our comrades, apparently from the UK, vociferated virtually the opposite — that it was in fact Left “sectarians” that were the “disaster for the US left” — particularly so-called embarassing groups like the WWP that allegedly “alienated” young workers and students with their class warfare rhetoric that supposedly steered voters energies away from pushing through an Obama landslide.

    If only the alleged “sectarians” held that much sway!

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    The point is it’s a sad commentary that we old school Marxists have to reiterate once again the futility of “pressure” politics that are suppsosed to hold (gag) “feet to the fire.”

    Freaking riots, draft card burners and students getting gunned down at Kent State didn’t “pressure” the ruling class into one iota of change over Vietnam & Cambodia policy. What thwarted imperialist agression in Vietnam was largely “fragging” and the threat of mutiny of a conscript army that was “DEMORALIZED” by the militancy of activists in the streets. That’s what the “pressure” politics of the day amounted to, it was barricade fighters confronting the man relentlessly in the boulevards & intersections that demoralized so many conscripts that amounted to real change in foreign policy, which translated sure as shit into some good changes to domestic policy. Without that kind of “pressure”, the ruling class, they just wiped their asses with the letters from Quakers and pacifists.

    The other example of so-called pressure politics working was of course in the 30’s, when sit-down strikes were spontaneously combusting and Communism was a viable threat to bankrupted capitalism that only survived not through government programs but because of World Imperialist War Production.

    One could also argue that the Civil Rights Movement was also an example of “pressure” politics working except that granting civil rights to Blacks didn’t touch a hair on capitalism’s head. Some argue it prolonged capitalism’s rule by promoting minority loyalty to figure heads like Obama.

    The ruling class will always allow cultural changes without a protracted fight so long as the ideology of private property remains unscathed.

    That trusim, as an aside, is what’s so amazingly disgusting about Christian Culture Warriors and their “Family Values” rhetoric, as if one could possibly sustain family values when both parents have to work two jobs to make ends meet? How Born Agains with their Family Values don’t see Marx’s line about how under capitalism “Everything Holy Is Profaned” continues to befuddle me. If we could only win those numbskulls over to the fight then some “pressure politics” might not be such a silly phrase.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 2:05 am

  14. Maybe activists are too busy getting raided to put the requisite pressure this nobody demands.

    Comment by purple — October 29, 2010 @ 8:05 am

  15. The whole “inside-outside” strategy ignores that fact that as long as the left and labor/social movements tie their wagon to the Democrats, we will adopt their program– and bury our own (US out of Iraq/Afghanistan, single-payer, EFCA, etc.) So when the Democrats pro-capitalist policies fail, the only voice posing an alternative is the Tea Party right. Put simply, Fletcher’s strategy will only strengthen the far-right!

    Comment by Charlie Post — October 29, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  16. Perhaps Fletcher cannot help it because he has the “liberal gene” that scientists have recently discovered?

    http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/weird/Scientists-May-Have-IDd-Liberal-Gene-105917218.html

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  17. It figures that the Trotskyite Proyect would be unable to recognize a genuine Marxist analysis of social change when he sees it, even a rather pedestrian and obvious analysis like Fletcher’s.

    Proyect’s own statements here betray an outlook that is not far removed from the “great man theory of history” that is characteristic of bourgeois (and generally non-Marxist) analysts. He thinks that the changes of the New Deal (which he also disparages in some throwaway lines — always gotta genuflect to those Trot pieties even while trying to make an opportunist point) had something to do with FDR’s personality, while Marxists like Fletcher would point out that they had more to do with the immense popular agitation of the period, led by the left.

    Fletcher, by contrast, has a better understanding of the real limits of bourgeois electoral cretinism than Proyect does, because Fletcher’s outlook — unlike Proyect’s — is borne of actual political work in real mass movements. Fletcher correctly points out that at this point in history, when the anemic and pathetic US left is weaker than ever in its actual mass base and influence, the entire point of Marxist participation in electoral politics is to minimize the need for defensive struggles in the long periods BETWEEN elections (i.e., the period when real politics happens, as Marxists like Fletcher understand but Trotskyites like Proyect do not).

    The defeats of the Republicans in 2006 and 2008 indeed reduced the need for defensive struggles at the Federal level, and also reduced them considerably at the state level. Without the fiscal relief for the states in the Federal stimulus package, for example, budget cuts at the state level would have been even worse, and that is what would have happened if Republicans had their way. So even in this environment of economic crisis, the defeat of Republicans opened up the POSSIBILITY of offensive struggles from the left — but only the possibility.

    This is Fletcher’s central point, once again a rather pedestrian one from a Marxist point of view but one that people like Proyect with insufficient Marxist training are incapable of understanding: Obama never claimed to be a revolutionary, and the Marxists who supported his campaign and the electoral campaigns to defeat the right generally did so without illusions. The point was not to make change through the ballot box alone, but to create the conditions where the mass movements could more freely organize to make change.

    And the second aspect of Fletcher’s point is that we have all failed in this. This is true regardless of our positions in the constellation of the left. (Though anyone with access to Google will note Proyect’s flagrant dishonesty in his asides on Fletcher’s activities over a lifetime: he leaves out Fletcher’s activities with unions from the Carpenters to AFGE with the AFL-CIO in between, and also leaves out the obvious fact that Fletcher is unlikely to get a staff position in the labor movement ever again after having written “Solidarity Divided.”) Since Obama was not a revolutionary, and since even mild reforms don’t happen without militant struggle, either, it is up to the left to create that struggle by organizing among the masses in every sector. We have failed miserably at this.

    Everyone on the left needs to analyze and understand the reasons for our failure, and most of all to think about our own roles in the various sectors of the movements (or movements-to-be) and try to improve upon what we are currently doing. A dollop of humility at least is prescribed for all of us, but who can deny that for Proyect most of all, a mountain of humility is needed? This is a guy whose central activity is running an e-mail list where he can publish his unintentionally comical, bitter “open letters” to various left-liberal personages who are unaware of his existence, but who have committed the crime of having the academic careers he always wanted to have but never could; where he can shake his head at the latest folly in The Nation magazine; and where he can complain loudly about the long-term artistic decline of Woody Allen.

    Reading Proyect is dangerous for leftists, mostly because he makes our own records of hapless failure look like grand records of accomplishment by comparison.

    (By the way, Karl Friedrich — is my hate pure enough for you yet? Because I am only getting started.)

    Comment by FD — October 29, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  18. Individuals dont affect history? So the biological sciences would be fine if Darwin had never existed? You refer to Proyect again and again as a lacklustre Marxist but isn’t affiliation with Marxism accepting the role of individuals in shaping history? You leave out the fact that not only are FDR and BHO different but so are the times, this is not just a replay of the Second Depression and America now is not the America then.

    Comment by SGuy — October 29, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  19. No Mr. Fletcher it doesn’t seem pure at all.

    It seems instead like a pathetic apology for voting for the Party (really a faction of the ruling class) that has prosecuted the most imperialist wars in history, that continues to prosecute a war of Nazi-like horror & criminality against damn near the poorest brown people on the planet, the party that never prevented a single war, the ex-slave holders party that managed to get a Harvard guy (who in 2002 voted directly against his constituency for anti-bankruptcy protection legislation written by the credit card companies) elected President, who then immediately handed over 3/4 of a trillion dollars to the most crooked and least deserving entities in the history of the universe, all with no oversight or strings attatched, while at the same time ramping up more war, more mercenary contractors, while buttressing up the Patriot Act at home, and fortifying Black Op gulags abroad so fascistically sadistic they make Gitmo look like Disney World, all the while gathering up information on anti-war activists, some of whom no doubt voted for him, so they could be FBI raided in the middle of the night and sent up before grand juries, or worse, some without even habeas corpus if they’re labelled “enemy combatants” according to the Military Commissions Act, an abomination which he’s never even critisized, and so must therefore support.

    But I guess that’s what DSAers consider “room to breath in” for Leftists!

    If you don’t hate that kind of party, that kind of monstrous wolf in sheeps clothing, but instead advocate working people actually vote for them, then none of your thoughts can be pure.

    It’s also a misreading of Proyect to imagine he considers FDRs personality as decisive in New Deal politics. True he recently compared FDR’s mindset to Elliot Spitzer’s in a recent article, and even mentioned FDRs personality above which could reasonably be understood but he’s written plenty before demonstrating it wasn’t FDR or “pressure politics” that forced begrudging concessions in the 30’s, it was merely the enactment of “riot insurance” for the ruling class who were facing the spectre of Bolshevism in America. The only thing that stopped the Bolshevization of America was another Imperialist war, along with the help of people who thought like you, Gus Hall & Norman Thomas who by backing the Dems yet again facilitated the capitalist’s escape by backing imperialist war.

    Your brand of “pressure politics” didn’t even slow down an iota of the Vietnam War. What did that was the spectre of troop mutiny and fraggings by conscripts of officers by troops who were demoralized not by Pwog Dems, Quakers and Pacifist letter writing campaigns but by mass protests organized and marshalled, low and behold, by none other than those Trotskyists you have such contempt for.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  20. Karl Friedrich has a pretty serious literacy problem, in that he can’t see that Fletcher’s point (and my own) is precisely that mass protest and mass movements are what brought about change in the FDR era and elsewhere. And contrary to his fantasies that the Trotskyites had anything to do with this mass agitation, it was by and large people who also voted for people like FDR (without illusions) who did the nuts-and-bolts organizing among the masses.

    Comment by FD — October 29, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  21. FD. Sure you’re right. I’m illiterate and you voted for Obama and must have slept through the Vietnam War.

    Fact. Obama’s a fucking war mongering pig who sleeps comfy at night while his jack-booted thugs slaughter & maim like genocidal maniacs, and his gangsters on Wall Street get richer than robber barons off of working people’s misery. At least communists back then could bullshit workers with the line that Hitler threatened the world and intervention would help the Soviet workers. But how’s that work when Obama’s drones vaporize the wedding parties of destitute brown people?

    Fact. The mass anti-war movement during Vietnam, particularly the big peaceful historic marches on the Pentagon, the Capitol and in NYC, were organized primarlily by the SWP, that is, a Trotskyist party (at least they were at that time). That they did the lion’s share of the work organizing and marshalling those marches is disputed by nobody.

    Fact. The New Deal, really riot insurance against Bolshevik insurrection, was largely due to organizing work of Communists who if they weren’t so busy taking orders from Stalin to brown nose Democrats every election and back another fucking imperialist war then maybe the working class in this country would still have some progressive legacy to show for all their hard work and self-sacrifice.

    Meanwhile they got about what the Russian workers have today: a big pile of shit and a stiff shove into it.

    But that’s the Trotskyists fault!

    You haven’t got a leg to stand on or a pot to piss in with your bullshit reformist apologies for Obama. Like Doug said, people like you have been a disaster for the Left in general and workers in particular.

    I suspect you don’t really even know a union from an onion, you only think you do.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

  22. ” One could also argue that the Civil Rights Movement was also an example of “pressure” politics working except that granting civil rights to Blacks didn’t touch a hair on capitalism’s head. Some argue it prolonged capitalism’s rule by promoting minority loyalty to figure heads like Obama.”

    What about Martin Luther King’s poor peoples campaign. What about his support for the garbage collectors strike?

    Comment by Jenny — October 29, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  23. Jenny. Not so good examples of “pressure” achieving much. The poor people are even poorer today than they were then and the city garbage workers have been de-unionized. Books have also been written documenting how the FBI’s intervention in the South actually aided the Klan, rather than helped the Civil Rights Freedom Riders. The Black masses eventually won civil rights through struggle, and that’s a wonderful thing, but civil rights don’t change property relations.

    Apologizing for Obama is bankrupt both politically & morally. The fact is Obama will go down in history as a war criminal. And rightly so. What else can you call the perpetual bomber of civilians and the torturer who keeps Gitmo going? My philosophy is very simple. Don’t cast votes for a party whose leader is a war criminal.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

  24. So? If Martin Luther King hadn’t been assassinated, the poor people campaign probably would’ve gotten somewhere. I was just pointing out that there were people in the civil rights movement looking beyond the goals too.

    http://rustbeltradical.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/mlk-was-not-a-recruiting-agent-for-habitat-for-humanity/

    Comment by Jenny — October 29, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  25. “Karl Friedrich” writes:

    “Fact. The mass anti-war movement during Vietnam, particularly the big peaceful historic marches on the Pentagon, the Capitol and in NYC, were organized primarlily by the SWP, that is, a Trotskyist party (at least they were at that time). That they did the lion’s share of the work organizing and marshalling those marches is disputed by nobody.”

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!

    “Karl” forgot a bit on that last sentence: “. . . is disputed by nobody inside my own tiny Trotskyite head.”

    I wonder if he’d care to tell us any more stuff we already knew. It turns out that Obama is in charge of US imperialism. Who knew?

    Comment by FD — October 29, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

  26. Like I said FD – you must’ve been asleep during Vietnam because it’s an indisputable historical fact that the Socialist Workers Party and it’s youth group the YSA have been universally credited with being the chief organizers for the biggest anti-war marches in American history.

    They steered the coalition, they applied for the permits, the oversaw the marshalling with strict discipline that prevented anarchy & violence, they organized the logistics of the bussing, worked out who the speakers were, organized the printing of the biggest OUT NOW! banners and signs, they even came up with that sloagan universally adopted by the marchers as objectively the best way to help the Vietnamese: OUT NOW! and TROOPS HOME NOW! plus they coordinated who set up the scaffolding for the stage and who wired up the PA system.

    I was there. My Father was there. Proyect was there. My mother was on the steering committee of NPAC (National Peace Action Coalition).

    Meanwhile smaller Trotsyist groups like the WWP played a very significant role, along with the SWP, in forming the Soldiers’ Union, which really scared the shit out of the ruling class.

    Meanwhile your mentors in the DSA and CPUSA were backing crooked hicks like LBJ or somewhat less creepy reformist scoundrels like McGovern who was organically incapable of ending the war, although you fools could never understand that.

    You’re obviously the one whose bitter. Bitter about being dissapointed with yet another lying sack of shit Democrat; having to constantly eat crow every time Obama says one thing and does another; everytime some Pakistani wedding party gets vaporized by cowards joysticking drones; everytime some bounty hunter sells some innocent Koran thumper to obama’s SS Goon Squads who rendition & torture them like sadistic monsters for years on end.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  27. [So? If Martin Luther King hadn’t been assassinated, the poor people campaign probably would’ve gotten somewhere.]

    No Jenny. They would have gotten absolutely nowhere unless King, like Malcolm X at the end of his life, embraced the idea that capitalism is primarily responsible for poor people in a rich country.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 29, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

  28. From MN Roy:

    “being the outstanding revolutionary figure that he was.

    King not only opposed the war in Vietnam but began to question capitalism as a system and was beginning to see things from a rich versus poor perspective, rather than from a class struggle revolutionary socialist one. Hence his “Poor Peoples Campaign,” an orientation which Democratic party shills and petty bourgeois hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young opposed as much as the mainstream civil rights leadership opposed King’s linking the anti-racist struggle to the anti-war movement. If any major figure of the period had the potential to unite those two movements with the more “left wing” unions, which were beginning to oppose the war as well, it was King. Small wonder he was killed off at that time.

    As someone who died opposing the US war in Vietnam, King has nothing in common with the likes of US imperialism’s new murderer-in-chief, Barack Obama, who invoked “Khe Sanh” in his coronation speech in yet another attempt to rehabilate that losing colonial war. Nor does a man of principle like King, who risked isolation for his beliefs, have much in common with Obama’s liberal-left apologists. The latter have about as much principle as the Detroit Lions had wins this past season. Indeed, the real King is far more of a hero for our side, than even the fairy tale version of him, could be for theirs.”

    Comment by Jenny — October 30, 2010 @ 12:56 am

  29. PS: Fletch.

    Contrary to your assertions of my alleged “literacy” problems in your post # 20 (amusing coming from a guy who substitues exclamation points for arguments) you’d actually come off more literate yourself if you bothered to see that absolutely nowhere did I imply that Trotskyists played a particularly significant role agitating for FDR’s reforms.

    On the contrary. My mentioning of the decisive role of Trotskyists in American history was strictly related to their undisputed significance in building the big Anti-Vietnam War marches, a fact that you don’t refute but rather laugh off nervously with juvenile capitalizations & exclamation marks.

    Trotskyists were, however, influential in the 1934 Teamsters strike in Minneapolis where 18 SWP members were arrested. Their leadership was highly skeptical of FDR. By contrast most CPers and social democrats who backed FDR’s & ultimately his imperialist war that ended the depression would probably have sniffed Roosevelt’s socks if given a chance.

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/aug2009/mpls-a29.shtml

    [“The intervention of Roosevelt in the 1934 strike had nothing to do with aiding the workers. He intervened in an effort to keep the movement of the working class within the parameters of the capitalist system and block the development of socialist consciousness.

    The AFL bureaucracy, which had either stood to the side or hindered the movement of 1934, roused itself to organize workers only from the same perspective as Roosevelt and at his behest. At the 1935 AFL convention, International Typographical Union President Charles P. Howard attempted to persuade his fellow bureaucrats that they had to attempt to organize unorganized workers precisely in order to defend the capitalist system:”]

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 30, 2010 @ 1:15 am

  30. Jenny: Your point is redundant. Nobody on the left disputes the fact that King was most likely targeted for murder precisely because he was on the verge of uniting his views against racism as part of a system of imperialist plunder abroad and capitalist exploitation at home. He just wasn’t yet an avid reader of The Militant newspaper yet like Malcolm was toward the end, but it was clearly just a matter of time before both of them came to socialist conclusions, which is why the ruling class helped facilitate their assasinations.

    My point was simply that without King’s coming to socialist conclusions the poor people’s movement would have gotten nowhere insofaras capitalism produces poor people.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 30, 2010 @ 1:28 am

  31. Judging by his silence FD, aka Fletch, WAS obviously sleeping during the Vietnam War, either that or he is more politically ignorant that we initially assumed?

    A cursory Google search on the SWP’s role in the Peace Movement, The Vietnam War Marches and NPAC, the coalition which the SWP essentially controlled, makes clear that:

    “….the SWP called for a movement with a single focus-immediate, unconditional U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam (translated into the popular slogan “bring the troops home now”). That was too radical for most Democratic Party liberals, who preferred more equivocal slogans. SWPers nonetheless labored tirelessly to build a nonexclusionary united front to organize peaceful, legal mass demonstrations around the “out now” position. While the single-issue focus was linked to other various issues (Black liberation, women’s liberation, labor struggles, opposition to poverty, civil liberties, etc.), in speeches, flyers, and specific contingents in the mass demonstrations, the demonstrations were open to all who agreed on the antiwar perspective, regardless of where they stood on other issues, and regardless of what political party they did or did not support. This was the strategy that, in fact, made the antiwar movement an increasingly effective force that helped limit the options of the warmakers, by mobilizing colossal demonstrations year after year. As the group that was most consistent in advancing this orientation, and as a quite effective and highly-disciplined party, the SWP became central and unrivaled leaders of the antiwar movement and helped bring an end to that bloody conflict.”

    So you see, while Fletch et al imagine they’ve done something radical in campaigning for Obama or working with trade unionists as part of the DSA, people like Proyect (not to mention myself, my family, and innummerable other Trotskyists here) “made the antiwar movement an increasingly effective force that helped limit the options of the warmakers, by mobilizing colossal demonstrations year after year. As the group that was most consistent in advancing this orientation, and as a quite effective and highly-disciplined party, the SWP became central and unrivaled leaders of the antiwar movement and helped bring an end to that bloody conflict.”

    Instead of ending “bloody conflict” — Hall & Fletcher prolong it by promoting Democrats like Obama who campaigned on a platform of escalating the war in Afghanistan.

    AS even Wiki makes clear about the SWP during Vietnam:

    “It was recognized by friend and foe alike as a major factor influencing the direction of the antiwar movement.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Workers_Party_(United_States)

    I rest my case that the author of post #25 is a fucking ignoramus who should save his sermons on humility for himself and start pulling his head out the ass of the Democratic Party by maybe actually working against cowardly redbaiters in the Peace Movement & reading a few pages of Marx, Lenin & Trotsky so as to truly grasp the utter futility of reforming bourgeois parties in general and the democrats in particular, the party that’s prosecuted more imperialist slaughters than any other in human history.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 30, 2010 @ 4:33 am

  32. The above comment should have included this link below which is where the first quote that “the SWP became central and unrivaled leaders of the antiwar movement and helped bring an end to that bloody conflict” came from:

    THE US SWP IN THE 60’s – TWO REVIEWS

    http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article846

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 30, 2010 @ 4:38 am

  33. Well, let’s face facts: Bill Fletcher is a fake and a sell out. He doesn’t even believe what he himself says.

    His central point: The left is anemic, therefore we must crawl.

    Does anyone take that seriously? Does anyone think that the left will become any LESS anemic by this kind of pathetic behavior? Does anyone think that the workers and students will flock in droves to leaders who say, “Well, I guess you should really probably vote for Obama?”

    I suspect the only people who think that are those who are taken in by Bill Fletcher’s stylish hat and thoughtful pose.

    Comment by Professor Toad — November 5, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

  34. When “true Marxists” fight each other, the Scotsmen run for the hills. Funny stuff.

    Comment by Jack Crow — December 13, 2010 @ 6:02 am

  35. Jack, “FD” strikes me as more of a troll than a Marxist.

    Comment by Coldtype — December 13, 2010 @ 9:33 am

  36. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. It’s not either Barack Obama and his pwogressive supporters or the failure of large scale center-left and leftist agitation… it’s both. So, why can’t we agree to cut our losses with Obama and the Democratic Party (finally) and build a resistance and revolution worthy of our calling? It was always my understanding that the historic mission of the Left is to seize state power by and for workers. Sure, there’s lots of debates over how-to and what-then and the like, but I think if we keep that first goal in mind, Obama and the Democrats instantly appear to be a nonstarter or, at least, a dead end.

    Comment by Stephen — December 13, 2010 @ 1:04 pm


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