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The “Trump Out Now” demand and the working-class organization independent from the Democratic Party
During the Latin American and US Left and Workers’ Movement Conference, several debates of great interest and urgency for activists were processed.
With regard to the ongoing rebellion in the US, two divergences could be highlighted between the conference organizations. On the one hand, the need to focus agitation on the “Trump Out Now” slogan, taking into account the defeat of the racist president is a task for the popular movement and should not wait for the electoral results in November. On the other, the consideration that the central task of the revolutionary left is to raise the need for a class organization with total independence from the Democratic Party, from different forms of entryism into or tailing the DSA – the largest organization of the American left, which is part of the Democratic Party which has Joe Biden for a presidential candidate.
We are convinced both points are strategically important and, also, closely related.
The popular rebellion, even though it has not returned to the same level of street mobilization these days as it had in June, has not been defeated. A case in point of this was in Portland, Oregon, where the onslaught of federal forces that carried out illegal arrests and widespread repression did not lead to a decrease in protests but rather to massive mobilizations and withdrawal of federal forces that, after a month of action, had not been able to control the streets of the city. The rebellion is also spreading in workplaces, like the teachers who reject the forced return to schools in the midst of the pandemic, the formation of safety committees in the automobile plants and other actions.
The very existence of the elections is at the center of the next developing political crisis. Trump, 8 to 15 points behind Biden in every poll, has threatened to suspend the elections, arguing that widespread use of mail-in ballots because of the pandemic would allow electoral fraud against him. Putting the elections in doubt is a way of preparing conditions for not recognizing an unfavorable result.
It is clear that the right-wing tycoon has enormous limits to act on his threats. The ruling class, and even the Republican Party, are increasingly turning their backs on him. A result similar to what the polls show would be too far off to allow both candidates to claim victory. And the military establishment has already cut off support for Trump, to assert its authority over widespread military mobilization, when the Pentagon made it clear that it would not accept the mobilization of armed forces that Trump had threatened protesters with at the beginning of the rebellion.
The situation is far from stable. The context is one of a huge political, economic and social crisis. Trump is appealing to federal forces loyal to him for illegal repression, acting even in collusion with right-wing paramilitary groups that are his most direct base. Although he has not managed to gather the elements for the fascist regime his political line entails, the election is months away and he has not given up.
The problem of the enormous popular mobilization succeeding in establishing a voice of its own in the political crisis is absolutely strategic. It depends on whether the mobilizations can lead to more widespread people’s assemblies and the adoption of slogans and programs that propose a solution of the general crisis and the problem of power. The entire demobilizing effort of the Democratic Party apparatus seeks to gain the support of those who are confronting the current government for a change in the terms of the political regime itself, objectively giving Trump the possibility to attempt a coup-like action before his time runs out definitively.
“Trump Out Now” is therefore a slogan for a general and unified mobilization of a movement that has put between 15 and 26 million people on the streets to definitively eliminate the possibilities of new provocations and repression. Defeating Trump is an objective necessity. Different political scenarios arise from the electoral defeat of a Trump whose ability to clash with the masses has been liquidated than from one that maintains his adventures and provocations until the last day.
The arguments of the Left Voice spokewomen, the American sister organization of the PTS (Party of Socialist Workers), to repeatedly oppose this approach at the conference must be considered. The first is the slogan is not appropriate because of the institutional importance of the 50 federal states. This argument is striking because, more than any other process of struggle in the history of the United States, we are facing a national crisis and a movement that has been expressed in all regions, in the city and in rural areas, simultaneously. While revolutionaries often work to extend the overall implications of relatively local processes of struggle, there is a unique rebellion in the U.S., even if it does not have a unified leadership or orientation. Placing common political slogans draws fighters’ attention to the existence of general political tasks, which cannot be achieved acting as if in local conflicts. Placing the need to defeat Trump in the streets means not giving political representation up to the Democrats and, at the same time, the need for their own political platform and a national coordination of the movement of struggle.
One of the Left Voice speakers also justified her opposition in the relative decrease of mobilization, suggesting that the time for rebellion has passed and the electoral moment has arrived. We do not share this analysis of the political moment. This understanding underpins the main criticism they made of “Trump Out Now”, which is that it would be understood as support for Biden. It is precisely the opposite: it is a matter of confronting an operation to co-opt the process of struggle against which important voices have been raised within the Black movement, from political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal to a whole range of radicalised organisations that reject the parliamentary and electoral operations that the Democratic Party wants to impose.
If the characterization that we are facing a popular rebellion is correct, and not just protests over partial demands, as the bourgeois media often tries to portray it, this means that the problem of the political regime is in question. But the comrades of Left Voice, apart from rejecting our slogan of Trump Out Now , do not promote any other central political slogan. This objectively leaves the field of politics, of the dispute for power, to the professional bourgeois politicians of the Democratic Party, which is the objective political attitude of the immense majority of American activism, even the most combative of which tend to restrict themselves to the field of partial demands.
Left Voice argues that the preponderance of the electoral moment makes the “Trump Out Now” slogan inappropriate. However, they are not campaigning for any practical electoral position either. In a post-pandemic article, Left Voice calls for “Don’t settle for Biden- Fight for socialism!”. The idea of fighting for socialism is presented with no practical correlation to the current political crisis, either within or outside the electoral arena. Just when the problem of the practical attitude of the left in the elections is at the centre of a big political fight.
The DSA voted at its conference last year that, as an organization, it would only formally support Sanders as a presidential candidate. In consequence, they have not made a statement of support for Biden. They are not “settling” for him, because their candidate was the reformist Bernie Sanders. They have hundreds of local and national candidates in the same party that Biden will lead. Support for the Democratic candidates of the left is an important resource for winning over sections of workers and the youth to support this capitalist party in this election. Left Voice is not commenting on this resource either. A DSA member, congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, was part of the joint task force formed by Sanders and Biden. Despite all this support, right-wing sectors of the Democratic Party took note of the political distance and led a whole political campaign to force DSA to take a more defined position, with open letters and attacks on social media. This pressure had its effects, leading Jacobin editor, Bashkar Sunkara, a central figure in the DSA, to write an opinion column in the New York Times that constitutes a full political recount from its title “You’ve Probably Heard Socialists Won’t Vote for Biden: we may not like him, but we don’t want Trump to win”. The ambiguity over the attitude toward voting is a comfortable place for leftists who accompany Biden “critically”. Defending the field of class independence means sweeping away any ambiguity, calling to vote for left candidates that present ballots independent from Democrats and Republicans whether for president or local office.
The Democratic Socialists
The other enlightening debate about U.S. policy was about what policy to have regarding the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). At this point, both the Left Voice and the Socialist Workers’ Movement-International Socialist League (MST-ISL) speaker highlighted their growth (70,000 members) and relied on the need for tactical flexibility, and the proposal of entryism in the socialist parties that were turning to the left in the 1930s, which Trotsky put forward to his supporters in the United States, Spain and France. In the case of the MST speaker, he defended direct entry into the DSA, something that a local group invited by them, the Tempest Collective, had explained as an individual decision of its members. The MST defended it (along with the entry into the Brazilian PSoll) as a shortcut to party building. A speaker from Left Voice used it to explain that the task at hand was not to call for an independent organization, but to try to influence DSA members. Her plenary speaker was more direct: we are calling on DSA to form a new party. What are the political implications of all this?
The entryism processes promoted by Trotsky were short term, done into mass workers’ parties that were turning to the left, and done to achieve a split that formed an independent organization, against the orientation of those leaderships. Several groups on the American left (ISO, Solidarity, a split from Socialist Alternative) have dissolved, in a rightward turn, into an old organization that has been practicing entryism in the Democratic Party for 50 years (and a little more in the case of some of its political forefathers, such as the Max Schachtman faction, which broke with Trotsky to join the American political establishment). This is not a workers party, but a vehicle for adding leftists to one of the two parties of big capital, the backers of the imperialist state, responsible for crimes against humanity and its people past and present. This does not take away the need to open debates with its base, to practice united fronts to fight with the many honest militants in its ranks. Néstor Pitrola of the PO (Workers’ Party) described on the panel on the world crisis and the rebellion in the United States the chaining of leftists to the Democratic Party as a set of Russian dolls. Political tailing to the one that makes entryism in the entryist organization.
In this crisis, DSA has shown, and in this there was consensus between the different organizations present at the conference, not to have any vitality from the point of view of the class struggle. In the midst of the rebellion and crisis of the pandemic, its leadership is dedicated solely to the electoral calendar and is processing a right-ward turn. Adaptation to a party of imperialist capital is not harmless. Last year they voted the largest Pentagon budget in its history. The pre-candidate for which they campaigned so hard, Bernie Sanders, has just called for raising police wages in response to the rebellion against police brutality. They have no slogans that connect with the Black liberation movement, which they deliberately turn their backs to.
The solution to all this, for Left Voice, is the foundation of a new party led by the Sanders, the Jacobin editors, the congresswomen from “the Squad” who voted for Trump’s budget. That is not breaking up a reformist formation to found a revolutionary organization. That is trying to build ties with the base of a party of big capital by proposing to form a reformist organization. It is something else to call, with a revolutionary policy, for the socialists to break with the Democratic Party, exploiting the contradiction between the aspirations of the masses and the more progressive sector of the DSA socialist militancy and the pro-imperialist position of the Democrats, which has Sanders’ explicit endorsement. The difference is precisely the party question, a call of these characteristics has the function of delimiting political fields to develop a revolutionary party.
The organization Socialist Alternative, which participated in Bernie Sanders’ campaign without joining the Democratic Party, has a similar approach to Left Voice has, but saluting his program as an advance towards socialism and urging that it be the basis of a new party. A policy that the PTS and its sister parties bring from Nahuel Moreno’s old playbook that proposed to the Peronist trade union bureaucracy of Vandor that he found a workers’ party and that the PTS has proposed to the Argentinean CGT (The General Confederation of Workers) leader Hugo Moyano in 2012, after the founding of the FIT, and that his comrades have promoted in Bolivia with respect to the bureaucracy of the COB (The Bolivian Workers’ Central). When the situation calls for accelerating the steps towards the formation of revolutionary nuclei, a new detour is proposed.
The opposition to the formation of an independent party as a political axis has been defended by Left Voice as an “iskrist” policy. This is a distortion of the policy pursued by Lenin-led Iskra in the early 20th century. Iskra did not found a separate party from the scattered Russian social democracy with varied approaches and distortions of all kinds, but used its publication to gain support for transforming it into a centralized party with a clear revolutionary program and organizing adherents of this policy throughout Russia. Iskra’s policy came to be considered “authoritarian” by those who advocated a decentralized movement that could more easily adapt to the pressures of other classes on the proletarian movement. Calling establishing oneself as a current of opinion and not a separate organization so as not to antagonize the left current, not of a workers’ party, but of a party of imperialist capital, has absolutely nothing to do with Iskrism, the policy promoted by Lenin and his comrades.
The pernicious character of politically tailing an organization whose central political function is to integrate fighters and activists into the imperialist political regime and its state can be seen in the first part of this polemic.
The Workers’ Party is not unaware of the need of reaching out to the democratic socialists and their rank and file. What needs to be seen is the nature of that work. The Trump Out Now slogan aims to channel opposition to the government in a revolutionary way and to oppose this hatred to the Democratic Party policy. Otherwise, the call to “go along with the events” means, in this particular case, devaluating the call to throw Trump out, which reinforces the independent and direct action tasks of the movement set in motion by the rebellion as well as they pose a direct clash with the state and to the adaptation to the electoral moment that Biden’s campaign and the wide range of the left currents adapted to the regime that has coalesced around his campaign.