MORE NOTES ON A NEW AMERICAN MARXISM
At the Left Forum, 2014, I saw firsthand how directionless we (“The Left”) really are. It was a limited but none the less fair representation of campus politics for leftist in America. I met and talked with representatives from the Socialist Alternative, to the Workers Vanguard. Everything, from socialism through election, to Marxist reform movements in the AFL-CIO. But none of them gave me any real hope. They were just aimless punches, swinging wildly and barely hitting their target. There was no discussion about the basic beliefs guiding their activities. Even the Occupy Movement was asking us what to do next and I don’t believe we ever gave them an answer. I was looking for some group or someone to point us in the right direction. I guess that’s going to be my responsibility.
The first thing I looked for when I needed to solve a grievance in the labor movement was a “past practice.” A past or similar grievance that could give me a starting point to resolving this present one. I looked at History, so to speak, to help steer me in the right direction. I looked at what was resolved and how it was resolved and I begin to put together a resolution to this grievance.
When the Occupy Movement (OM) wanted to know what to do next, we should have told them about our history. We should be telling them what we’ve done and what worked and what didn’t. By “we” I mean people who have been trying to change America. We need to tell the OM about the life and death of the Communist Party (CPUSA) and its adherence to the Soviet model. It was totally undemocratic and clung to the “party-line” of the USSR, I honestly don’t remember ever actually electing officers to run the CPUSA. I know I never voted for Gus Hall or Angela Davis to be on the central committee. But they did have a good Marxist analysis of American capitalism and they had a positive role in the formation of the CIO and the United Farm Workers (UFW). They also had some good Marxist study groups. There is good and bad in everyone’s story but that is how we build a better Left. Keep what works and change what doesn’t.
If there was any advice I could give to the OM it would be to learn about the history of as many leftist movements as you can. Learn the history of the cities you live in and the unions you join. Go back to the 60’s. 70’s and 80’s to find out what has been tried, what worked and what failed. Then you can begin to build the next revolutionary movement on the shoulders of the past.
It is important that we study the American Left experience as well as the experiences of other countries. We need to have a thorough understanding of the American Left in order to apply the lessons of Marxism to the American economy, labor movement and American democracy. The history of American Leftist movements is essential in helping the OM, or some elements within it, to formulate a new American Marxism. A Marxism that works with all the progressive forces in American politics, and represents the working class interest of the all workers. An American Marxism that can lead as a party and be a founding member of the legitimate “third” party in America’s political future.
As an Independent Marxist I have come to the conclusion that establishing a political party that represents the true issues of working class people and has its roots in organizing the community and the unorganized is an important first step towards winning the Socialist Revolution. It is my understanding that to move people forward, politically, you must demonstrate to them that only a revolution will bring true socialism into their lives. But first you must show them how much they can achieve as their unity grows on a national scale. Rebuilding the left to achieve these goals has become my mantra.
My Marxist views were not formed in a vacuum, but in a career that spans forty years of activism. Not only did I study Marxism and labor history, I worked in the industries that have vanished or downsized or that took back wages and benefits. I voted on contracts, formed organizing committees, ran for office and organized in the community. I even helped free a Black Panther Party Leader from Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts. He was framed by COINTELPRO, an FBI anti-citizen conspiracy. These experiences are what give me my insights and my right to be offering up a theory about forming a new American Marxist viewpoint. Experience and an understanding of history can give the OM the right to claim a leadership role in the next great experiment of the American Leftist Movement.
An American Labor Party is a basic organization that can be used to democratically unite the many different Socialist parties and groups into a more broad based force. And it will serve as a beacon for a third party alternative for workers who can’t believe in either the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ plans for them. From this platform, each party can develop its own base among the workers through their organizing and still make a contribution to the advancement of socialism, in a united effort. Under the relative supportive environment of the umbrella organization, individual groups can develop their own theory and practice and report on it in the Labor Party journals. We will be united in our defense of our standard of living and our consumer power, while we figure out just what American Marxism or any path to Socialism in America is, in the new global economy.
As Bob Dylan once wrote, ”It doesn’t take a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows”. Those lyrics, in my opinion, are most poignant today because we are seeing more alienation and disenchantment with politics. The winds are blowing the American worker farther and farther away from the established parties. As the unemployment grows, the government is cutting our unemployment benefits. The AFL-CIO is shrinking as more workers reject its “business as usual” attitude and they want new forms of organizations to come to their rescue. People want relief from the assaults on their standard of living and their opportunities to get ahead. They need us to help them stop the loss of jobs, the rising rents, the homelessness and hopelessness of their future in America. 88% of the 99% are unorganized. I know which direction I’m going, forward, towards a new American Marxism.