Tag Archives: third party

Nancy Fraser on Progressive Neoliberalism

While some might find the academic style of Nancy Fraser’s recent piece slightly offputting, I recommend that everyone make the effort to read through what is one of the more perceptive and useful guides to where we are, how we have gotten there, and where we need to go.

As is required of any informed and rational discussion of these topics, Fraser recognizes the major force which is responsible for our current plight, namely, the set of political and economic assumptions categorized by the term neoliberalism.

Continue reading Nancy Fraser on Progressive Neoliberalism

Guest Post by Daniel Falcone: John Halle Discusses Electoral Politics, Noam Chomsky, and the Core Commitments of the Enlightenment

John Halle is the Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College Conservatory of Music, a position he assumed after serving for ten years in the music department at Yale University. As an active composer and theorist, his scholarship focuses on connections between the mental representation of language and music. Halle is also known for his political writings and collaboration with Noam Chomsky. Along with Chomsky, he co-authored, An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting), a widely read essay, in the summer of 2016.

In this interview, Halle explains the need to engage in electoral politics while maintaining a high level of skepticism for the paternalistic elites found in both dominant political parties. Further, Halle makes observations of how those on the left can more adequately reevaluate their relationship with activism, protest and revolution. Halle explains how this all can fit into creating a viable and workable policy agenda that can be moved forward until radical structural reform of the current system is achieved. Many of these ideas culminate from his discussions with Chomsky (a family friend).

Daniel Falcone: Should people be more engaged in electoral politics now with the Trump Administration in office? Many have been reluctant to do so in the past. Here, I’m basically expressing the need to strategically vote against Republicans. What are your thoughts?

Continue reading Guest Post by Daniel Falcone: John Halle Discusses Electoral Politics, Noam Chomsky, and the Core Commitments of the Enlightenment

A New Long Hot Summer: Is Ferguson the American Spring?

Some on the leftare viewing the Ferguson uprising as the the long awaited American Springin which resistance to the routine murder of black youth becomes the wedge cracking open the system revealing itself to be rotten to the core.

It may become that. What happened to Michael Brown was all too typical and while his life was cut short by real bullets, so too does an entire generation see its prospects figuratively murdered as Wall Street consigns it to a future of permanent debt slavery abetted by militarized police forces crushing any attempts at mobilizing in opposition to it.

If a movement can connect the dots then it has a chance to galvanize a movement of the 99% back into the streets.

But there will be a lot of opposition and much of it will come from those who Brittany Cooper referred toas “figureheads of the movement” now claiming to speak for Michael Brown and the Ferguson protesters.  Among those having shown themselves as “friends of those with political power rather than fighters for real change” has been Reverend Al Sharpton who, according to Cooper, presided over the Brown funeral by

“stick(ing) to safe truths, convenient ones, about the problem of militarized policing, particularly in black communities.  Sharpton chose not to be a prophetic voice for the people of Ferguson but rather to do the work that the Obama administration sent him to do. That work entailed the placating of the people by ostensibly affirming their sense of injustice, while disaffirming their right to a kind of righteous rage in the face of such injustice.”

More troubling was Sharpton’s appearance at the funeral for Eric Garner the day before where, according to Byron York in the Washington Examiner,  pro forma criticisms of the NYPD functioned as an introduction to hectoring his audience with the “bootstraps” line associated with Bill Cosby and Sharpton’s increasingly close confidant President Obama.

“We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too,” he said. “We have to be outraged at a 9-year-old girl killed in Chicago. We have got to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our killing and shooting and running around gun-toting each other, so that they’re justified in trying to come at us because some of us act like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”

Many in the audience were “enraged, among them Eddie S. Glaude Jr., professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton who “found the middle part of the eulogy profoundly disturbing.”

What remains to be seen is whether a new generation of black leaders will be able to step forward and not only give voice to this rage, but, to make strategic alliances with the 99% out in the streets two years before, and who were brutally suppressed creating a war zone in lower Manhattan which bore striking similarities to the that seen recently in Ferguson.

Should they do so, they will be sure to confront the full force of political and financial elites and their first lines of defense in the uniformed services.

When this potential was most actively present, nearly a half century ago, Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover made their names in infamy.

That role is sure to be adopted by Obama and Holder, who will assume the same role in blackface.

That black faces in high places now are fully capable of doing the work of elites up to and including smashing the faces of those who dare to challenge it has long since become obvious.  Ferguson, a relic of Jim Crown in its apartheid white governance of a black majority is a distraction from this reality.

The movement will need to look beyond this superficial difference between black and white servants of the plutocracy and see the naked fist which revealed itself in Ferguson and Zuccotti Park as the same one.

If it learns to do so, then we can look forward to the American Spring and many desperately needed long hot summers to follow.

Can the Left Learn the Lessons of the WFP Debacle?

It was often said of my maternal uncle that whatever his character flaws (significant, by all accounts) “that guy could sell a broken refrigerator to an eskimo.” Based on the reaction to last weekend’s convention debacle, it’s pretty much impossible not to issue the same back handed compliment to the Working Families Party with the defective product being, of course, the right wing Cuomo candidacy marketed to the left eskimos in Albany.

Continue reading Can the Left Learn the Lessons of the WFP Debacle?

Pulling the Plug on Working Families: A Teachable Moment in Albany

Just a few weeks ago, those daring to suggest that a Working Families Party endorsement of the notoriously right wing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in the offing were assailed by the WFP’s liberal supporters as cynics at best or GOP moles at worst.
But that, to their evident displeasure, is precisely what materialized last weekend.

The driving forces were, most conspicuously, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who, despite his being slapped down by the Governor on charter schools and in his attempt to finance universal pre-K with a millionaires tax, urged delegates accept on faith his portrait of Gov. 1% as a genuine progressive blocked by Senate Republicans (that the Governor has supported and engineered a working Republican majority in Albany was left unmentioned).  As a loyal Democrat, this display of blind partisanship while plenty unappealing was what was necessary and required from him.   The same cannot be said for the other shoulder on the battering ram, the state’s major unions who have not, or at least not yet, officially merged operations with Democratic Party.  However, it is probably by now best for them, and surely for us, to dispense with the fiction that there is any meaningful daylight between the two, or that any response other than “how high” will follow the demand of Democratic Party leadership to jump.

Just as revealing as the endorsement itself were the circumstances which framed it.  Mirroring the contempt towards the WFP demonstrated repeatedly by the Governor’s policies in his first term was that emanating from the party leadership directed toward the party’s Howard Dean wing. The latter, in response to the shit sandwich offered up to them, had made their displeasure known by supporting the insurgent candidacy of Park Slope law professor Zephyr Teachout and by demanding real action from Cuomo on campaign finance reform in exchange for the endorsement. This provoked the wrath of party insiders who regarded he failure to wave the pom-poms for Governor 1% as tantamount to treason.

A concise expression were the remarks of Mike McGuire, the political director for the Mason Tenders of New York City, who professed to be “ashamed (he) ever helped found the WFP.”

“To call yourself the ‘working families’ party and then draw the line in the sand over campaign finance reform is an absolute disgrace,” McGuire announced on his Facebook page.  Rejecting the activists demand that the Party should receive some meaningful concession in exchange for their endorsement, McGuire shot back, “How about a line in the sand over raising the minimum wage? Or establishing a true living wage? Or fully funding the public transportation system? Or bringing jobs and opportunity and economic development to the pockets of New York City and vast swaths of upstate New York that so desperately need them? When you can’t pay the rent or put food on the table, campaign finance reform is a rich person’s problem. The WFP leadership is now nothing more than a bunch of Park Slope limousine liberals, either literally or figuratively.”

Leave aside the blatant dishonesty of the implication that Cuomo has any interest in pursuing “a true living wage” or other economic policies which help “put food on the table” or “provide jobs” for upstate residents, or that the real estate moguls backing Cuomo’s campaigns have the slightest concern with those who “can’t pay the rent.” What is most glaring here is the hypocrisy of a six figure union boss smearing as “limousine liberals” the rank and file activist base of the party who likely have salaries far below the six figures typical of the upper ranges of the labor hierarchy.

Unfortunately, McGuire will almost certainly get away with it as the targets of his rant rarely if ever hit back.  This despite their having a huge club to wield if they chose to use it, namely, the indictments Robert Fitch memorably assembled in his classic 2006 exposé Solidarity for Sale.  As Fitch documented, union leadership salaries are achieved through concessionary contracts negotiated with industry, their well stuffed bank accounts often derived from funds directly or indirectly stolen from local treasuries for which they escape prosecution via “get out of jail free cards” provided by so-called “labor Democrats”. Completing the circle, blank checks to the Democratic Party from near bankrupt unions provides leadership with “seats at the table” where they collude in policies responsible for a decades long collapse in union density now at single digits in the private sector. Their doing so provides them with a reputation for “seriousness” and “pragmatism” making possible lateral moves into establishment think tanks and corporate boards.

The WFP deal is just one more episode in this depressing charade.  And if the history offered by Fitch is not enough, there is also Eric Chester’s brilliant 2004 historical monograph True Mission: Socialism and the Labor Party Question in the U.S. which identifies a consistent pattern of labor unions undermining repeated attempts to form independent left parties going back more than a century-raising hopes and then dashing them by folding the efforts back into the Democratic Party, then, as now, controlled by elite corporate interests.

Readers of Chester’s book will discover why early socialists including most notably Eugene Debs vehemently opposed attempts by party moderates to form a Labor Party based in the existing unions of his day, whose leadership then was as compromised and capitulationist then as New York state labor leaders showed themselves to be last weekend.

The current generation of leftists have either forgotten or, more likely, never learned this history.  Consequently, they have fetishized unions and union leadership taking for granted as the ne plus ultra of third party organizing the formation of a Labor Party created at the initiative of existing unions.  Chester shows how this hope is a chimera: to expect what Debs called “the bourgeois unions” to act in the broad interest of the working class by challenging the two corporate parties is as unrealistic as the expectation that the expropriators will expropriate themselves.

By unmasking the New York union leadership as craven and unprincipled, the WFP convention debacle provided the left what could be a teachable moment forcing the general realization that unions are deeply rooted in the capitalist system and in the individualist ethos which supports it.

The left must begin to develop fully independent organizations outside of establishment channels which are able to seriously contend with capital and erode the foundations on which its legitimacy rests.

Anything less is a recipe for failure.