Max Elbaum discusses the New Communist Movement with Portland DSA’s Red Caucus

Max Elbaum discusses the New Communist Movement with Portland DSA’s Red Caucus

Welcome to our discussion panel with
Max Elbaum and members of Portland DSA’s new Red Caucus. This really is our first
public event. I get a show of hands real quick for who is a member of
the Red Caucus? All right, that’s great. Thank you everyone for being
here. Before we get started, especially when we’re discussing liberation
socialism, it’s really important to acknowledge that we’re living in a white
settler colonized empire built on stolen land. This country has achieved its well
through slavery, war and domination. That said, we’re very excited to have Max here
as our featured speaker. He’s joined by Candy Luisa Herrera as well as Mer McIntyre. They’re both active organizers in DSA. By the way, Max
has three copies of his book up here. I think they’re $12 apiece; usually
they’re $20 so it’s a great deal. Let him know afterward if you’re interested
in buying one. And Portland is lucky to have a local connection to Max: Jamie
Partridge is one of those nineteen sixties radicals who turned to Lenin, Mao
and Che and worked with Max during the late 80s and early 90s in a New
Communist Movement group called the Line of March so thank you very much, Jamie,
for bringing Max here. Can we get a round of applause for Jamie? [applause] So if you
read even just the introduction to Max’s book, Revolution in the Air, you’re bound
to experience some deja vu. A couple of examples: When Max describes the
conditions of the late 1960s that set the stage for the New Communist Movement he writes that all society was a battleground. On one side stood the
country’s traditional elite, on the other gathered millions who were no longer
prepared to accept unequal treatment or unjust wars. Many, he wrote, seeing how
intransigent the establishment was and resisting racial equality and defending
imperial prerogatives, decided the system could not be reformed. They also
concluded the power of the oppressed was on the rise and the strength of the
status quo was on the wane. By early 1971, public opinion polls showed upwards of three million people thought a revolution was necessary in the United
States, and tens of thousands believed revolution was not only desirable but
possible, and maybe even not too far around the corner. So ,what happened?
Hopefully tonight we can talk a little bit about what went wrong, what went
right, and how our current movement can avoid repeating any mistakes. So Max will kick
things off, and then we’ll hear from Candy and Mer, and as the conversation
gets underway we’ll also open it up to you all. We’ll have questions after they
all speak. And with that I will hand it off to Max. Well thanks, Kara and Jamie
and the Red Caucus and everyone in Portland DSA. I appreciate the chance to
interact with you all tonight. So what I’m gonna try to do in these comments is
first talk a little bit about the outlook of those of us who turned to
revolutionary politics in the 1960s. Then I’m gonna talk a little bit about what
my book covers and the New Communist Movement, its experiences, some of our
positives and negatives, and then I want to wrap up with some observations about
what that might mean for some of our directions in dealing with today’s
challenges. You know there’s a lot of romance about the 1960s, but besides
everything else it was a period where we all directly experienced or witnessed
tremendous horror and destruction. I’m from a generation that was traumatized by the prospect of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile
Crisis. It was the era of assassinations. I can remember where I was when Malcolm
X was shot, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, two Kennedys assassinated.
Fred Hampton the chair of the Black Panther Party in Chicago founder of the
first Rainbow Coalition in that city. We all saw or if we didn’t directly
experience the kind of violence unleashed on civil rights protesters. And
of course there was Vietnam, and unlike today the Vietnam War was
brought into every home, every night on television. Now the killings are hidden
but I think from the time I was 17 until I was in my early 20s I saw somebody
shot every night on the nightly news, and it meant that people my age, thousands of
millions of us, watched on TV live when that US officer with a lighter in his
hand said we had to burn down the village in
order to save it. So this was a period where we lived with a lot of horror and
pain and sometimes true desperation, but there was another side. Even against all
that horror, it was a period of tremendous optimism and then almost
utopianism and it had roots in real material conditions. I mean I’m from the
generation that watched those southern governors stand at those university
gates and say “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Two years later Jim Crow is overturned with the passage of the Civil Rights Act
in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and the black freedom movement
which was the anchor of 1960 struggles didn’t stop. It in fact accelerated and
became more militant, broader and more radical. Vietnam, even though it was
facing genocide, more ordnance dropped on Vietnam than in every theater of World
War II, was winning after the Tet Offensive in early 1968. It was only a
matter of time before that everybody knew the US had lost, and you know today,
your generation, the U.S. doesn’t win its wars, these wars – Afghanistan, Iraq – you
know what’s going on in Yemen. They’re just these endless wars without a
victory by you know just carnage you have to put yourself in our place in
1968 the United States we were brought up to believe not just that the United
States was a force for good in the world but that it was invincible.
What an incredible ideological earthquake it was to see a peasant army
in a small, third-world country defeat the most powerful military that the
world had ever seen. This was an ideological earthquake to our generation,
and it wasn’t just Vietnam. The whole global south Uruguay, Palestine, South
Africa, was aflame, and it wasn’t even only in the global South. In 1968 a woman
from my SDS chapter spent the year in France, and she came back and gave a
report on what had happened on the night of the barricades in May 1968, when a
general strike of ten million workers and students on the barricades in Paris
came this close to overthrowing the government in the heart of
industrialized Western Europe. Is it any surprise that so many of us turn to
revolutionary politics out of experiences like that? And especially
after the murder of Martin Luther King April 4th, 1968, that was probably the
single most decisive event if you had to pick one that transformed people into
revolutionaries and after that when we decided the system could not be reformed
we looked around for a strategy, an ideology, an approach to make the
revolution that we thought was necessary. And inevitably we were influenced by the
shape of the global world in general but particularly the global left of that
period and that’s what led so many of us to turn to what my book describes as
Third World Marxism and the New Communist Movement, and here I’m going to
read a passage from my book just trying to explain what that was. Inspired by the
dynamic liberation movements that threatened to besiege Washington with
two three many Vietnams – that was Che’s phrase – many decided that a third-world
oriented version of Marxism was the key to building a powerful left here
third-world Marxism put opposition to racism and military interventionism
front and center. It riveted attention on the intersection of economic
exploitation and racial oppression, pointing young activists toward the most
disadvantaged sectors of the working-class third world Marxism
promised a break with Eurocentric models of social change and pointed a way to
building a multiracial movement out of a badly segregated us left within the
third-world Marxist ranks a determined contingent set out to build tightened at
cadre organizations based on Marxism Leninism we believe that new up surges
lay just ahead and it was urgent to prepare a united and militant vanguard
so that the revolutionary potential which we had glimpsed in the 1960s could
be realized the next time around now this current on the Left the new
communist movement component of the broad third world marxist milieu was not
the only current that grew out of the sixties movements every single part of
the left group radical feminism anarchism social democracy traditional
mainstream communism Trotskyism revolutionary nationalism every tendency
on the Left group but the new communist movement its most closely identified
with the revolutionary struggles shaking the Empire in the third world was the
was the section of the left that group had attracted the plurality of the
revolutionaries formed in the 1960s and especially the highest proportion of
activists of color coming out of the freedom movements in the Chicano
community the Asian American community the black freedom movement during that
period the bulk of chapters in my book traced the history of this current from
its explosive rise in the late 60s to pretty much its
shipwreck as a coherent political trend at the end of the 1980s details the
theoretical positions of the different groups and the political disputes that
prevented this current from ever uniting into one single party it details the
work that the movement did in the labor movement in the black freedom movement
the Chicano Movement and Puerto Rican movement the LGBTQ movement the women’s
movement and all the different social movements of the 70s and 80s an entire
chapter is devoted to the culture of the movement what the expectation how groups
were structured what the expectations were for members and the ways in which
our organizations were and were not democratic organizations now for those
of you who want to take a deep dive into that history you have to read the book
I’m not going to try to summarize all of that here I just want to say that the
purpose of the book is to document this history so everyone can draw their own
conclusions ok that’s the main thing now obviously I
have opinions based on my own experience but the real point is to share this
experience just the facts and what happened and who did what and why for
you all to figure out what you make of it so in this brief time for these
remarks I want to talk about a little bit about three or four themes that some
of us discuss might be the most useful for me to share with people tonight and
then wrap up with a few comments about today’s world so first I want to target
what I think was our most costly mistake you know having a general revolutionary
vision that’s a fantastic starting point but where the rubber really meets the
road is how you interact how you assess and into
racked with the actual concrete conditions in your particular time in
place and that’s where the new communist movement along with other sections the
left but I’m writing about the new communist movement that’s where we went
wrong we miss assess the historical moment the balance of forces and the
resilience of US capitalism and imperialism that error led us to adopt
strategies tactics organizational forms and push this toward ideological
perspectives that isolated us from the constituencies that we had been so
determined to sink our roots into we had become radicalized in a particularly
explosive period in the 1960s a time when there was tremendous change the
masses of people were rising up in all kinds of forms now we weren’t so naive
as to think it would be a straight shot to revolution we had some sense but we
really did think that after some period of AB there was going to be another
round like the 60s but more working-class based more militant and in
tighter unity with global revolutionary struggles all around the world that was
our world outlook and let me just say but that was not yet limited to us there
were people on the enemy class who thought that might happen too but that’s
not the way things went the ruling class regrouped efforts defeat in Vietnam and
through a very sophisticated campaign utilizing national chauvinism racism
homophobia anti feminism launched a backlash a counter revolutionary
backlash that was global but it certainly included a backlash against
all the gains of the 1960’s in the left we also thought that because people had
been so explosive in the 60s because they had given up on one or two
presidents that people were in the millions of people in the US
ready to give up on the electoral system altogether and we’re ready for riskier
roads but that turned out not to be the case the ruling class was resilient
enough to that right-wing offensive and through the economic technological
strength of US imperialism and some of the weaknesses and mistakes of the
revolutionary movements around the world they were able to regroup and masses of
people they had to retrench they lost the Vietnam War there were big blows
struck against racism but they were able to regroup and so masses of people
turned toward less risky ways to fight their defensive battles electoral
politics policy fights lobbying and so on and we had forgotten the admonition
of many great revolutionaries that’s what’s obsolete for the revolutionaries
is not obsolete for the masses you know revolutionary propaganda only
gets you so far millions of people don’t become radical
or revolutionary because of our propaganda they become radical and
revolutionary when they’re fighting for something that they want and they’re
stymied and they won’t take riskier roads why would why would people take
riskier roads if less risky roads are more available so people have to learn
through their own experience and we need a big dose of hard-headed realism to go
with our revolutionary passion we need to keep in mind that force is far more
powerful than us are setting the agenda and we have to try to see the world how
the key constituencies that are necessary for revolutionary change see
it not just how we’d like to see it that is absolutely crucial to assessing what
is the moment and how you apply your revolutionary vision in the concrete’s
of politics I’m going to talk a little bit about one of our strengths one of
the strengths of the current to turn to third world Marxism was looking to the
black freedom movement as their key reference
point and a driving force of all progressive struggles in US history you
know a strategy for change in the United States has to be rooted in the
particular history of the United States and one of the key particularity zkk era
mentioned this in her opening native genocide and the enslavement of people
of African descent the enslavement of people of African descent and black
labor not only built us capitalism but built global capitalism this is a
mainstream idea now there’s works in mainstream academia in the last two
three years the half has never been told by Baptists Empire of cotton by Sven
Becker that black labor and slavery were central to building the US and the
global capitalist economy but back in the 60s it was WB Dubois in the left and
that was pretty much it advocating this perspective and flowing from that
perspective it’s not just that the labor side but it’s the movement side the
black freedom movement was the spearhead of the most democratic and progressive
struggles that we’ve seen in this country it’s no accident the most
progressive government’s ever on US soil since contact and since the genocide
were the state governments in the south during reconstruction which WB Dubois
called a ma a model of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the United States
and it was the black freedom movement in the 60s in our generation that broke the
back of McCarthyism and at Jim Crow ended racist immigration quotas and
opened the door for all the other social movements that came out of the 60s the
women’s movement the LGBT movement the modern environmental movement all that
came off the spine of the black liberation movement the movements and
other peoples of color the point is that u.s. society and US capital has been
racialized from the very beginning not just in terms of ideology but in terms
of the very class formation and class structure of the Unites
States its racialized so the black movement and the movements of other
peoples of color are not simply movements of the oppressed that should
be supported by the working-class movement they have a class a democratic
and an anti-capitalist thrust in their own right this was something that was
right in the face of those of us in the 1960s it was just in your face there was
no avoiding it today for reasons we can discuss it’s
not in everybody’s face the way it was then but it’s still an underlying truth
of u.s. society about the way that a revolutionary movement has to look at
the freedom movements of people’s of color as well as the workers movements
and the complicated ways in which they intersect want to touch on two other
points one is about cadre and one is about internationalism so on cadre cadre
organization has a bad name now because that was a terminology that was used to
refer to the kind of sex that we built in the new communist movement they were
narrow they had to be ideologically monolithic cadre had a connotation of
you follow you are a cog in the machine and you followed the line determined by
the Central Committee but but there’s a broader meaning of cadre which we
started with and we sort of lost along the way which is cadre or people who
learn the skills of revolution because they’re trying to move the political
project forward and they learn particular skills because they want to
devote a significant portion of their time energy and talent to making that
political change no political project succeeds without people who are willing
to do that so you have to develop cadre people who are devote a portion of their
life to making change and learn the skills their different skills
some people are organizers some people are writers some people do the finance
work every part of work is equally valuable none of this higher
that the intellectual work so called as higher than the ship work every single
contribution is absolutely necessary and we need to have people who are skilled
at every single part of political life and that’s what building cadre means and
it doesn’t mean that everyone organizations that have grown to a large
size whether it was the Communist Party in the 30s or DSA today has some
percentage of people who make that commitment and then a broader layer of
people who support those politics but either because of personal inclination
or family responsibilities or what-have-you
they don’t do that day-to-day so the view communist movement had some
important strengths in training cadre in the positive sense even though we built
organizations that were too narrow and gave that sort of a bad rap for your
generation internationalism as I said and read the passage you know for us the
movements in the third world against Empire were just like the black freedom
movement you they were unavoidable and they were a central axis of struggle in
the 60s because that’s the way the globe is organized and yeah it could go on
forever here but so solidarity and peace stemming the hand of us are prevention
on the P side and solidarity with our counterparts people who were struggling
for the same thing we were struggling for in other parts of the world that was
a big strength of the new communist movement that people really internalized
that concept now we made a bunch of mistakes in that sometimes we try to
emulate their strategies well a strategy that might have worked or done well in
Cuba or Vietnam was not going to work in the United States but the fact that we
recognized how important it was and that we also thought
we had something to learn from revolutionaries in the third world not
just teach you know American centrism isn’t confined to the right there’s a
lot of us centrism that penetrates the whole society including the left as if
we have the wisdom to tell everybody else how they should run their
revolution or what’s wrong with what they’re doing now it doesn’t mean you
accept what other people do you don’t have your criticisms but the notion that
we have something to learn from revolutionaries in other countries and
from masses in other countries a very important component and no communist
movement got that right we we didn’t do it right in every case but it was a
strength the last thing it’s harder now for a whole complex of reasons the hour
period revelat the main anti imperialist forces in the world were countries that
had set out on the socialist path and movements led by the left and if you
look at the global map today the rise of right-wing authoritarianism ethnic
chauvinism all that kind of thing it’s very much more complicated so it’s very
difficult and I understand why war and rais’d
war the racist justifications for war and internationalism then you know it’s
very more difficult for the current movement to get them to the forefront
but it’s just as important as it was in the 1960s a movement that doesn’t
challenge u.s. foreign policy and that is soft on national security is
vulnerable even on its own terms besides our revolutionary responsibilities to
people in the rest of the world a movement in the United States that
doesn’t see that it’s part of its responsibility in its own self-interest
is opposing US intervention and supporting its friends and allies around
the world is vulnerable to being undermined and swept along with one or
another you know 9/11 the country needs homeland security and
all that bullshit okay okay today I’m just gonna wrap up here
we’re in a very perilous situation right now white nationalism has captured one
of the two major parties in the United States and driven itself to power
control of the executive branch the judiciary the Senate is trifectas in
almost half the states what we’re talking about is a bloc whose agenda is
set by the fossil fuel industry the military-industrial complex and a bunch
of right-wing billionaires but it’s a cross class movement and the glue of
that cross class movement is racism and xenophobia Islamophobia racism has
pulled together attracted a whole layer of the white middle class and a not
insignificant number of white workers it’s a big myth to say Trump spaces
mainly white workers but there are too many who are part of that cross class
movement there’s a long history consistent with some what I’ve tried to
put out in these remarks movements based on white chauvinism and authoritarianism
have risen up every time people of color in the United States or any progressive
movement has challenged the powers that be the goal of the Trump administration
is a racialized authoritarian state that looks more like Israel today or what
beeps before the Civil Rights Act where that we return to a almost dejour
second-class citizenship for people of color as the wedge to implement an
agenda of turning the energy policy over to the fossil fuel industry turning
economic policy over to the most anti labor sections of the ruling class and
misogyny and homophobia you know trans people do not exist and me too did not
happen you know that’s their agenda the good news is there’s a massive
anti-trump front in this country it’s complicated there’s differences
among revolutionaries about how we relate to that front but in my
experience and in I think experience has shown you can’t fight all sections of
your enemies at once you have to take advantage of differences within the
ruling elite and the revolutionaries who have grown an influence in periods of
intense class struggle or those that have thrown themselves into the struggle
as it exists and said it has to go further not those who’ve said it’s not
quite good enough you’re aligned with people that we don’t like so we’re gonna
sort of hold back I’m done for Tamar big challenges ahead they’re being taken
up by new generation the three other people up here on the front no accident
that they’re all women the job of people of my generation is to get in behind you
support you share our experience in the spirit of take anything you find useful
leave the rest and let’s hope we can move history another notch forward thank you so much okay so a couple quick
housekeeping things if no one saw the restrooms are right outside that door if
there’s water by the front door tip your bartender if you’re able to and
now candy and married do you guys have a preference on okay so I’m going to
introduce Mary who’s going to go first now Mary McIntyre recently joined ESA
after 12 years in ISO during that time she was active in various movements in
this order anti-war single-payer Occupy and teacher solidarity she took Briggs
from activism to produce new members of the working class now he just too and
for India say she’s focusing on the medicare-for-all campaign all right so
okay microphone hi first I just want to thank I think max for this excellent
history and of course Jamie who wrote me into being up here and thank you to all
of you as well for listening to me and thank you to the red caucus and
thank you to DSA for being so welcoming so four months ago the ISO collapsed and
we can talk more about that international socialist organization
yeah so I’m gonna talk a little bit about my reflections from what max said
and some comparisons to what happened in the ISO so I’m just gonna bring up my
Google Talk really quickly but what’s interesting about this time period is
that people in DSA and people in the red commie everyone has been so welcoming so
I’d say one of the main differences is that when my organization collapsed
we’re at the beginning hopefully of a new movement versus the time period
where we’re really at the end of a movement that happened
so that’s I’ve been very thankful for that and it’s just a very different
period entirely I mean in the ISO there’d be a line right I don’t have to
come up here and say certain things and debate certain points about third world
Marxism and so it’s both kind of exciting to be welcomed into this
movement to figure out what’s going on as max put
it you know situations very dire I have small children so there’s a certain
amount of desperation there there’s a there’s a visceral fear right that
something needs to happen right now but there’s also a lot of excitement and so
for me personally I just wanted to share coming out of another similarly small
group with a line it’s also kind of terrifying to not have somebody to ask
who what I’m supposed to say right now so I really why I’m here and why I’m
part of the red caucus is really just to hear what other people are thinking I
had a really strong physical reaction when the ISO started to take which was
flight hint I need to know everyone around me who’s interested in socialism
whatever that means revolution you know self-defense immediately right now
because I didn’t have the organization I was part of for 12 years I’m so but
there were also good things about being in that organization as Kara kind of
pointed out that I was able to be involved in movements and it’s actually
funny tonight to recognize people from my facebook feed but also different
movements I’ve been part of and it’s nice to have some freedom to figure out
what I want to do and what I personally think at the same time so yeah it’s just
a very different period I think another another key difference between you know
the ISO when we’re talking about the line is that the ISO developed in 40
years of a downturn of neoliberal reaction right so as opposed to having
the majority of its membership having experienced that surge of the 60s and
70s you know the majority of its membership are really recruited in a
time without that experience and you know the the the other thing was the
opposite perspective which was not that revolution was right around the corner
or there’s a next big upsurge coming but that you know that we kind of had a
hunker down I mean it was a really pessimistic perspective in a lot of ways
and and we organized on college campuses was kind of the main perspective around
the ISO and that that on the one hand you know the
negative part about that is the huge contradiction if you’re a socialist and
you’re looking for class struggle and all these other things but what it
allowed the organ white lasted for 42 years was because there’s a constant you
know surge of people that you’re recruiting on campuses
so there’s a very there’s a lot of limitations in that I don’t think
there’s much of a comparison in terms of where it’s coming from but what is a
clear comparison is this need to have a line and a really isolating effect that
that has but I just want to share you know what I’ve been thinking about right
daily is what you compare that to DSA which is this broad 10 sometimes perhaps
too broad but that’s what’s bringing people in and allowing us to even have
these discussions so do I think it can exist like that forever no I don’t think
that makes sense to me I think there’s a lot of contradictions there people will
need to prioritize people are gonna you know this primary season the next couple
years a lots gonna happen but I want to be with people having those discussions
about what is the right way forward even just in the last few months you know
people revolutionaries I respect talking about Bernie Sanders an elector ilysm I
mean this is just the most anathema stuff to me from 12 years in the ISO I I
have no experience in it canvassing I think I volunteered for osburgh once and
like cried because I I couldn’t get any money and I never wanted to canvass
again or the measure 66 and 67 a few years ago I was like no never again
I mean while I did paper sales weekly but that’s that’s a different I think
the last thing I want to say about the ISO and I’m happy to talk more to people
about my random thoughts about it but is what that the ISO was trying the
membership was trying to make changes to relate to this new period and because of
the way it was organized we found out more and more about as it went into
collapse we weren’t able to make those changes sooner fast enough just to
democratize things to be more engaged to with this movement that was happening
and personally I think that the changes should have
come a long time ago started you know more around occupy it was really a
turning point for a lot of things I think and so we can reflect on some of
those lessons and and on the one hand I guess what I’m saying is I appreciate
all these limitations of the line but there’s this one thing the ISO when it
ended was only what 600 to 750 people maybe 900 generously but it turns out it
seemed bigger than that to a lot of people and part of the reason why it
seemed bigger and why it was able to do have certain impacts that it did was
because people had shared priorities so I don’t want to get rid of the idea
entirely of some kind of discipline I just think when it’s so small and
isolated from real struggles it makes it kind of this kind of toy Bolshevism
stuff right it’s like it doesn’t really make sense when you’re having a study
group you know on campus you know to have those kinds of ideas but it did
keep a lot of these debates alive and you know there’s a lot of good reading
and that we can share with a new generation of people but those are just
some of my random thoughts I guess the other questions I have for for other
people in DSA and outside of it are exactly the kinds of thing that max was
bringing up I mean I’m not gonna I think Bernie Sanders campaign is great I’m
glad people are really excited about it but all of the problems of the
Democratic Party are right in front of our face and I don’t think we can be
silent about that I think most people in this room if you’re coming here you know
you see the trap of the Democratic Party how do we engage in this how can we be
honest with people about what the Democratic Party is and what maybe some
of our longer term goals are around the Democratic party without III slating
ourselves right I think for me in Medicare for all specifically that’s an
area where I want to build an independent movement
want to build a movement that’s independent from the Democrats so it is
something that Bernie Sanders has made a huge part of the campaign I mean that’s
it’s a mainstream idea now where it’s ten years ago during this work it wasn’t
but I want to engage people who are right now interested in those ideas
interested in the demands in more struggle I want them to be the next
layer of leadership in that movement I think the same thing is true in a lot of
different movements and I think we are gonna really have to bring up
anti-imperialism and internationalism and a lot of the things the Democratic
Party and Bernie Sanders are weak on and that’s we’ll have to just honestly tell
people this is where it falls short and this is the kind of movement that we
actually have to build to put pressure on these people to move to the left
especially right now during the primary season I think now is the time to do
that thank you mayor so up next we have kandi
Louisa Herrera who is the Portland ESA internal organizing committee co-chair
along with Keith Guthrie who’s been doing AV tonight Thank You Keith
Kimmy’s been a community activist for close to a decade her primary areas of
organizing are labor rights and immigrant justice she’s currently a
staffer for the Washington Education Association Union which saw a historic
number of strikes last year in Southwest Washington she is also an organizer with
hands off Venezuela Portland here’s candy thanks so I’ll be I’ll be brief I
think mayor speaking about the dissolution the ISO is really important
in the context of this conversation I’m really thankful that you did that I
myself I used to be when I first started organizing I was with ISO and so I could
certainly speak to a lot of limitations of that type of organizing I remember
some I’d recommended like so we worked on the homeless Rights Campaign and then
I mentioned something about like oh we should go get a beer together and
they’re like oh yeah but you got to read this book first I was like oh okay I’m
never gonna join this crew even though I could do you organize with them and
actually learned a lot in terms of the technical
aspects of commuter organizing and I was in college at the time which was
particularly interesting because I you know I was a I’m a formally undocumented
immigrant I just got my paperwork and went to school I was like the only thing
that I wanted to do and so it was just interesting that I mean I’m absolutely
all for reading groups I just didn’t necessarily need to be educated in terms
of my own oppression I think guide when it came to immigration in particular I
had kind of experienced it so so max thanks thanks so much for those comments
I have family members who said like oh you should’ve been born
you should have been active in the 60s and I the first thing that comes to my
mind is I absolutely don’t want that the sixties were a violent murderous time
and I actually don’t I wouldn’t necessarily want to be have
been exposed to those to how much violence that was going on at the time
especially with regards to race riots stuff like that in terms of you know the
new communist movement in in juxtaposition DSA and particularly with
TSA being at the big tent organization there are definitely strengths and
weaknesses there for so for me personally having organized for close to
a decade I was kind of getting tired of having meetings with like five people so
so that’s all so that’s a big benefit of DSA that you get exposed to lots of
different types of people right I do that in my union work right I get
exposed to every type of worker you can imagine right and and it gives me I hope
I hope it gives it has helped build within me a skill set to be able to talk
to different types of people for instance I have a there was a teacher
who in one of my locals very conservative what very much like Pro NRA
and wouldn’t join the our PAC because of the positions that the teachers union
took on guns that that position being of course that most teachers don’t want to
be armed and so he like refused to join the pack
that said during the strikes he was like one of the most like gung-ho best
organizers during the strike so you know those are the types of things that we
have to reconcile when we’re exposed to you know normal people normies we call
them right non organizers and so doing that through a Big Ten organization it’s
part of what you need in order to actually build a movement now the con
with that obviously is that DSA as far as I can see is not international like
at all and then often this is very much my
opinion takes really terrible positions on international politics and so that’s
kind of what you that’s often what you get in my opinion with social democracy
is you have a good analysis on class but a long pattern of being wrong and
imperialism and national oppression and so like I said being exposed to or
working on I think being exposed and working with lots of different types of
workers elute like it it paints for me in broad strokes the ideological
stronghold that Buchwald liberal democracy has right even I you know a
lot of at least maybe the ones I interact with a lot of workers are you
know who considered themselves liberals you know they think that Russia they
believe the whole line on Russia they believe that you know there’s members of
the cabinet they’re you know in collusion with the Kremlin and all this
nonsense right they really they genuinely believe that and so it’s
really important and I think it has to do with this kind of like I said the
stronghold that this idea of liberal democracy has on on you know many of the
middle-class people that I work with and I also wanted and so me personally I do
believe that international have being having radical internationalism with an
organization is absolutely critical particularly with regards to the plaque
the the black freedom movement right and that
like Mac said being kind of a watershed for our movement globally and understand
how important it is that we understand that chattel slavery is not just the
economic foundation in the United States but also the ideological foundation of
this country as well there’s a very good book called the counter-revolution of
1776 I was just discussing this with my homie Juneau at the 4th of July party
that what he there’s a black historian out of the University of North Texas who
argues that a very solid very heavily and very very heavily research arguments
that the u.s. American Revolution was really in reaction to an abolitionist
movement that was going on overseas it was really only a matter of time the
widening was on the wall at the abolitionist movement was going to come
to the United States and and slavery was gonna be illegal so that the US
Constitution was really carved out in a way that still enshrined the institution
of slavery right and so that’s the foundation of this country like I said
not just economically but but ideologically and so you know within DSA
when we struggle with the significance of the National question if it’s just a
matter of race right something that we all acknowledge is socially constructed
you’re left with two bad conclusions one it is a distraction from the class
struggle since we’re all just workers right you have some of those some folks
in DSA who are clash reductionist right or to the fight against racism is just a
fight against the social struct and idea which puts the blame for the whole
situation on individuals of whom white workers is the largest section right the
whole thing going back to trunk what what would max said but if it’s a map a
question of national oppression which is imperialism then the whole relationship
between the working class in the black street and fraggle the black freedom
struggle makes sense from the perspective of shared material interests
and so that really informs particularly my interest in in Venezuela
and why I’m so active with Venezuela and why I won’t shut the hell up about it
I’m actually getting a read talk on Sunday about and I’m excited to say one of the events
that we have coming up is an Africa studies professor out of Boston who’s
going to be giving a talk on black liberation within the Bulevar and
revolution and how going back to what max said it’s not just a matter of
solidarity it’s recognizing that we have a shared material interests with these
socialist movements in other countries so that’s the end of my comments thank
you all right thank you so much to all of you
so we still have about 45 minutes left we’re gonna take questions now we’ll try
and do I think two maybe even three at a time but maybe start with two keeps
going to be your mic runner and I’ll be keeping stock so if you think of a
question if someone else is talking just raise your hand and I’ll take a note of
it and also if you’re used to talking a lot maybe leave space for other people
and yep with that let’s go I guess I’m first all right I know I just want to
thank you max for coming to town and thank you panel for speaking today um
really enjoy your perspectives a quick question from a quaint question like a
question for max is curious what what you think of it what in what ways is the
current situation with DSA I guess different from how it was with the SDS
in like the you know in the 60s that I guess what ways is that you know what
ways is it the similar what ways is it different Thanks
thank you all as in somewhat similar question but also specifically
organizationally the DSA convention is the the annual or every two years
primary Democratic organizing body for DSA chapters across the country and
that’s coming up this year in August and one of the major debates that’s
happening right now within DSA is about the direction of the future of the
organization in particular where we should be focusing or organizing in our
resources and there’s several currents but some of them heavily prioritize
external organizing and doing a lot of outreach in this moment to to other
people who might be open to our ideas and there are other people who want to
invest more heavily internally in the organization in terms of political
education other types of kind of social bonding and organizational development
and so my question would be based on historical examples in particular the
the kind of internal sectarian style of organizing and the new communist
movement and other social movements in the 60s
what sorts of insights would you offer in terms of that dichotomy or is it a
false dichotomy do we need to be developing both at the same time thank
you well on the first question what mayor
said is the biggest difference which is SDS in 1969 had a hundred thousand
members it was coming off in a flow period in the class struggle DSA right
now has 15,000 members and is coming at the beginning stage we hope it’s at the
beginning stage of another flow so there’s a that that’s one big difference
the other difference that’s a large scale differences at the
tail end of SDS there was a global revolutionary movement there were
countries that had taken the socialist path there were national liberation
movements the left seem to have the initiative worldwide now of course there
were debates about exactly what we thought of each of those governments in
China Soviet the Soviet sino-soviet split so that you know nobody thought
this was you know everything was groovy but there was a huge left leadership to
the global anti imperialist camp and today’s world is not like that the
biggest phenomenon a global stage it’s the rise of racist authoritarianism in
various forms Modi in India Netanyahu and where Israel is going the Saudis
Bolton ro in in Brazil Duterte or bond Italy you know this is a whole
different landscape so that the the broader conditions some of the things
that are this closer in SDS was a student organization it was 99.9 percent
white it was almost defined as white not it didn’t exclude people of color but at
the time there were very vibrant organizational forms for revolutionaries
of color to join that had a national presence the Black Panther Party in the
first place but the young Lords organization
Rasen who need a party the American Indian Movement there were Asian
American collectives there was there was large-scale movements in communities of
color and there were left parties that were some the Communist Party the
progressive Labour Party DSA is not in that exact same situation DSA is a
multiracial organization although obviously the composition needs to be
changed if it’s going to reflect the working class in this country but for
various reasons probably the main one of which is that over the last 50 years the
hardest blows of repression and cooperation have fallen on movements and
communities of color so the organizational landscape and communities
of color is not where it needs to be it’s not comparable to what existed in
the late 60s and what you have in the sociology is that DSA has grown among
layer of white largely educated strata who’ve been radicalized by the economic
crisis and the fact that their economic future is so much more precarious than
it looked like it was going to be that particular sociology brings certain
strengths and weaknesses to an organization educated a talented skilled
right read cultural capital but a certain view of the world that’s limited
compared to the diversity of the u.s. working-class now SDS also was very
limited but it was much more self aware of how limited it was because there were
these other organizations around that we were working with and supporting there’s
a little bit sometimes of a DSA centrism that DSA is all everything that’s
happening on the Left which it’s not now DSA is extremely important everyone on
the Left has steak and ESA succeeding and growing but
there are thousands of revolutionaries in other organizations many of which do
not consider do not foreground socialism but are doing work in have a much larger
base among workers and communities of color working families party the state
power caucus the National Domestic Workers organization Color of Change I
mean these are out there and how does DSA relate to those so I think that’s a
trickier question that it was for SDS at the end of SDS but it’s a vital question
because that’s the route to DSA broadening out its political perspective
in the areas where it’s weak and changing its composition is strategic
alliances with some of the other radicals out there which are more
complicated because it’s not simply you just form an organizational link you
have to do certain kinds of work and be involved in various coalition’s so
that’s on that one um and that’s sort of as a segue into into your point you know
gosh I don’t know you got a you know when you grow from a few thousand
members to fifty thousand members in shorter time and SDS group that way you
you you just have massive differences of opinion and different experiences I’ve
spoken at DSA chapters around the country everyone is different so I don’t
really have any good advice to give about that I think you do need to work
on all fronts but exactly which front you need to work on more I mean honestly
I think there’s a convention that’s coming up is great because this is the
only way you’ll figure it out is bringing all the people together
exchanging experiences and and and figuring that figuring that out I I do
think I think you’ll make some progress on both the external and tightening up
your organization things I think the the most important
thing is that to stay grounded you keep abreast of what your closest partners
and the people you work with most in coalition and need to work with what are
they thinking doesn’t mean you adopt what they’re thinking but it gives you a
bead on what broader constituencies what’s the sentiment so there’s a lot of
solidarity groups that are not in DSA around Venezuela Palestine groups
working around what’s going on in Africa against AFRICOM and US intervention
they’re in the Bay Area there’s a large Korean group working around Korea and
and you know it’s not on the front page right now there’s the Iranian council
you know how do you sustain a relationship with those groups or with
the other groups in electoral field or in working on Medicare for all
and just sort of over time it gives you an anchor and a broader perspective and
you have a lot of friends out there even people who are not members want to see
you succeed every the only people on the Left who want to see you fail are people
who have just locked themselves in an ideological box so strongly that they
they’re living in some other planet you know everybody else wants the s8 to grow
and succeed any other questions hi my name is Izzy and I’m a member of
an Occupy in Portland which is a youth organization with a socialist
perspective based in the Philippines and a lot of our members are what I would
describe as petit B and I was wondering if you guys had any advice for building
with the working-class more petty bourgeoisie that’s like question for
anyone in the panel wondering perspectives on the new communist
movement in the past versus communist marxist
and/or Leninist MAOIs movements in the US and around the world today in terms
of appealing to the ruling class this is or I’m sorry appealing to the
working-class this is actually something that I’m that I personally struggle with
regards to Venezuela and actually particularly the way that I you know I
was kind of going back and forth with a friend of mine about how to structure
the read talk on Sunday I think having people understand the role of
imperialism and how it materially impacts their lives is really important
because they’re else then you then you’re you’re packaging what’s going on
then you’re packaging foreign politics in a way that that speaks to this that
that speaks this notion of bleeding-heart liberal you guys never
heard that phrase bleeding-heart liberal it’s nonsense I hate it well for one
thing I like liberals but for another thing is that it it the subtext of that
is charity right you have a bleeding heart you’re going out of your way
when really we all have a moral obligation to do these things but that
that doesn’t that doesn’t work with a lot of folks so understanding the
systematic way that imperialism plays in people in people’s day-to-day lives I
think that that is the strongest message because the fact that matter is most
people in the United States don’t look like people in the Philippines and so
explaining it in a way that it that impacts their lives explaining that we
have to look at imperialism as an illness and understand the symptoms of
imperialism that has to do you know that’s why we have such an enormous
prison population having people understand that as of right now the
closest thing that we have to a Federal jobs guarantee is the war machine is
joining the war machine and effectively volunteering your family to go and die
in wars that they have absolutely zero interest in that is a message I think
that that that speaks strongly to people so I’m learning about Communists and
Leninist movements all over the world I’m very open to hearing more
perspectives on that but what I’m interested the most what I think I can
talk a little bit about is this question of the petty be people which is great
I’m only saying that now so for a long time you had to convince people that
they were part of the working class and I kind of wonder when you say people are
petty bourgeois I mean I they’re small capitalists they own their own
businesses is that what you mean so this is exciting because I think at this
moment you have tons of people who want to learn this terminology and want to
talk about a class analysis so yes we’re weak on imperialism and we’re weak on
these other things but you have tons of people saying well where do
fitting in this I feel screwed and yeah a lot of the petty bourgeoisie is
screwed by the big capitalists but what we’re really interested in is these
working-class people and a lot of people they may have like a middle-class
ideology that they’re adopting or they may want to be small-business owners but
the vast majority of people are actually workers and that for a long time it was
a real argument and now I feel like people are so much more open to that the
arguments so much easier to since occupy since the recession so I really want to
I guess push back on that question and say maybe the way they’re operating
isn’t really like deep in the working-class but some of the things
we’ve done I thought that got more working-class was just Jamie being
around and having all these labor connections is actually the people who
are in unions but right now what’s exciting is there’s tons of people
organizing for the first time you know when you’d look at the burqa all kinds
of efforts that are happening right now people identifying is working-class and
that’s in my mind that’s how we’re gonna win in all the different movements I
think you said it really well like how do you how to actually talk about how
imperialism affects working-class people’s lives but also just how
teaching people how their workers they already know I mean you shouldn’t have
to explain to people how they’re oppressed you’re saying that earlier
people already know that but you just watched so much bullshit on TV I mean
we’re just so inundated with this crap right that people aren’t really
connected to their their class anger and I think that’s where some good agitation
can come around right now that’s one of the things I like about healthcare
because that does get so raw people realize how powerless they are and how
dependent they are on their employer and for people who are lucky enough to have
employer health insurance so just all of that kind of raw class anger stuff I do
think that’s how we’re going to win but I think Candis totally right is finding
how to connect struggles against imperialism against the state to the
experiences of working-class people right now doesn’t seem as apparent as
maybe in a different time period when the state was actually you know crushing
people very visibly I think if we do build struggles I think
we’ll see that very quickly where the state actually comes in and breaks down
picket lines more and more on I mean we’ve had little examples of that but in
a future state I think that will happen especially if Trump wins but I don’t
think about that so there was a Filipino revolutionary organization that was
integral to the new communist movement and how they addressed that issue was
doing some research on where there were the highest concentrations of filipino
workers and at the time the three sectors that were pulled out were
cannery workers agricultural workers and healthcare workers so they organized in
with the farm workers which was initially a merger of a Filipino
organization and a Chicano organization the cannery workers particularly up in
Alaska out of Seattle and healthcare workers all across the country they did
campaigns around some of the discrimination against Filipinos who had
gone to school professional school in the Philippines and couldn’t get
licenses here so I don’t know what the situation is in Portland and I’m a
little bit removed from that but there is I think a study of where are those
our concentrations of Filipino workers what are their issues I mean and that’s
applicable to other oppressed groups and the working class generally so on that
the thing about communist and Leninism and all this this is a really
complicated question I’m gonna give you my heretical views on this for whatever
they’re worth the new communist movement came up at a time when if you were on
the left you had to define yourself in relationship to some major traditions of
communism that had a real existence in the world
there was pro-soviet mainstream communism there was mile ism behind from
the Chinese Communist Party there was a global Trotskyist movement
and that was pretty much it you had a picture team I there were of course
individuals and a few small groups in various countries that try to be
independent from that but it was very very difficult very very difficult just
given the ideological landscape how people thought what was disseminated and
all that that had its pluses and minuses that world is gone that world is gone
those ideas are still around but they don’t have that material reality that
they did then it’s just a different ballgame and my opinion is that in this
new ballgame defining yourself organizationally as the bearer of a
particular tradition is a dead end anybody who thinks anyone tradition has
been right from 1848 till now and all the others should be labeled Stalinist
Trotsky I you know this or that to me that’s just not materialism that is not
the materialist conception of history which is the way Marx defined Marxism so
I think we’re all or people are do people people can be
Marxists people can be socialists I think if there are many good people who
are in organizations that define themselves by a particular ideological
tradition I respect them as revolutionaries and all that but I think
that is a dead-end road so we have to figure out something new I don’t know
what that is but that’s that’s my heretical point of view one thing so one thing we’re gonna do real quick
too is Saito Wright gave us a screaming deal on this space but we do have to pay
a little bit for it so no pressure but for anyone who is able we’re gonna pass
around an envelope if you have a dollar to to donate that’d be super helpful and okay so you know you noted the both the
sort of the horror and the optimism of the period that you’re that you’re
writing about and that you thought you experienced and and you followed that by
noting the most costly mistake that in your assessment that that
revolutionaries made was not having a good assessment of the historical moment
that you’re in and not connecting with the popular ideology where the working
masses really were and I think this is sort of connected to the the question
that all three of you were were just answering my I can’t help but follow
that know that that your identification of that reality with why is that and how
can we correct that mistake what are we what should what do we need to be doing
differently now we weren’t doing then and I and I have an intuition that the
answer is not an ideological one it’s not one that says we need to have the
correct ideas we need to have this correct idea rather than these wrong
ideas that we had at that time it strikes me that it needs to be grounded
in in some sort of turned toward connecting these cadre that we should be
building to the masses themselves and not be so isolated and disconnected to
them in it but but that that raises the question how do we do that what what is
the connection what are the tendons that tie us together are we doing one at a
time I mean to return postings over the years I’ve
been involved in a number of struggles and not not electoral ones but given
Trump you know the idea of really working in a concerted way on the
election is a question so max you’re you’re saying to be where you are
advocating to be where people are and there is a large movement to be to elect
someone who’s progressive in the Democratic Party which is a capitalist
party how do we go about that is that worth doing how do we go I mean I’m in
this is for everybody how do we go about doing it in a way that’s critical yet it
does something and yeah questions about that well on the first point I think
you’re absolutely right Kevin that there’s no formula and no ideology that
gives you the answer to assessing the concrete conditions you that is the art
of politics and that’s where you it’s just exactly what you said it’s a
reading we did our biggest problem was not that we didn’t get it right in
1968-69 everybody was just starting out but by the early 70s especially the oil
crisis the demonization of the Arab world and the economic recession and the
beginning rise of the new right we didn’t catch it in time and realize how
things were changing and that had to do with blinders because if we didn’t want
to see it we didn’t like it we were so into our revolutionary bubble that we
didn’t want to see that the country was going to the right I’m not talking about
some kind of self-conscious thing it was just we were sort of
cherry-picked to you you saw the things that
reinforced what you already fought so today I think it’s very difficult people
there’s two contradictory things going on there’s an extremely dangerous danger
from the far right and then there’s a burst of energy on the left that we
haven’t seen since the 1960s and how you keep in touch with both of those things
in their relative weight that’s a real big challenge right now and the hard
part for people on the left is you live in a world of the left and people are
really excited about the fact that there’s new emotion among people that
there wasn’t before and people are changing and moving to the left and
that’s great and we need to nurture that but we’re how many people here have
friends and family who are voting for Trump how many people spend a lot of
time watching the Trump rallies how many people really have a feel for that
culture the way you have a feel for the Left culture how many people spend as
much time watching Fox News as you do listening to left podcasts and reading
Jacobin and in these times and all the other left media so if you want to stay
on top of things you’ve got to do those things you’ve got
to go and find out what’s happening on that other side you’ve got to watch Fox
News you’ve got to do that and we also should not ignore the best of bushwa
sociology Thomas Edsel writes a column once a week crunching numbers and doing
things all the best things tanks for the bourgeoisie he writes a column in The
New York Times he’s a liberal so you read his biases between the lines but
it’s foolish to ignore it because Marx didn’t ignore the best bourgeois thought
of his day Lenin didn’t why should we and then there’s the direct involvement
which is there’s no substitute for having people in the unions in the mass
organizations in people who then say hey you know I tried
to do this but what can be said here’s where some of the workers I’m working
with are at you know and that you you you absorb that into the organization
and then you make your best guess and you’ll get it sort of right or sort of
wrong but you keep modifying it you know I think that’s Mayor was saying that the
ISO had a certain idea of what was going to happen and when it wasn’t looking
like that it took too long to change it’s the same in the 60s the Communist
Party thought the unions had to lead the civil rights movement and when it was
the black church they couldn’t figure out how to deal with it because it
didn’t fit their prearranged formula so you know you have to be flexible on that
kind of thing millions of people are into elections
they’re not gonna stop being into elections until things happen that prove
that election you know the anarchists have a great slogan if voting changed
anything it would be illegal well it is illegal for most of them US history it’s
been illegal for people of color and women and today that’s where we’re
headed within hours of the passage of the Voting Rights Act the right wing was
trying to figure out how to repeal it the gerrymandering decision by the
Supreme Court so there is still electoral space people are going to use
it and we have to use it the question of how we retain our independence within
the structure of the two-party system is a very complicated one there’s all kinds
of opinions on the left so it’s my turn to give you mine the Democratic Party is
not a party in the way Marx Lenin Engles wrote about it parties are groups of
people that can determine their own program their membership who their
candidates are and exert some measure of discipline that’s a party with a
political program the Democratic Party is a parastatal
structure of US legal system that allows you access
to a ballot line it’s not only that but that’s mainly what it is so Bernie
Sanders can run as a Democrat on the Democratic primary even though he’s not
a Democrat so we can make use of that ballot line because the fact is you have
to make use of that ballot line if you want access to elected officials and
right now if you want to beat Trump but yes we need to build our own
organizations there is an emerging social justice bloc working families I
mentioned some of the groups before that are working together more and more it’s
the coalition that elected ALC it’s Bernie’s operation our revolution they
will build something resembling a party within a party or a party with hint that
content for a ballot line it has to have its own structures it has to mature into
something that holds people accountable and at some point we have to have
electoral reform where you get proportional representation or some
other form where you can have your seats dependent on what percent of the votes
you get so there’s there’s a long complicated discussion of how you do
that but I don’t see any alternative in 2020 now this doesn’t mean I’m not
talking about how Portland ESA allocates its time and energy you’re not in a
swing state there’s all kinds of big issues here you’re not gonna spend most
your time canvassing against Trump but the message to be sent is that Trump
has to be defeated I don’t if Trump is not defeated there’s an interview with
the woman from the Sun right the head of the sunrise movement just simply on the
issue of climate change four more years of climate denialism two-year three-year
old this is an existential issue doesn’t mean that if someone’s elected who’s not
Trump that we can go home the contrary we have to build structures
that means we call the demonstration for January 20th no matter who’s elected and
we’re out there with another women’s March millions of people if it’s Trump
were in big trouble but whoever it is it’s Bernie great but if it’s one of the
others push like hell and my own opinion is that it’s not gonna be like it was
when Obama was elected because our side right now is so energized and people
will be more energized if Trump is beaten not less energized that was great
I think we may disagree on some points but I like this vision of one of the
things we’re doing locally and ESA is this kind of field organizing campaign
that’s uniting a few different things including Bernie there’s a bernie check
box it’s an independent campaign if we vote for it on Sunday and a page
Christman who’s running against Rob knows who voted against who voted for
purse cuts so insert 42 who’s a DSA member and is our first candidate
endorsed from internally Medicare for all the forever canvassing on that and
the universal pre-k campaign trying to get a ballot measure for free
universally free and we’ll know my County preschool for four-year-olds and
then hopefully expanding so what I like is that if your campaign and there’s a
checkbox very interested in DSA too so we building the structures and the
skills to organize our own things independent of the Democratic Party in
many ways yes using this ballot line in this context but also our other
independent movements and when we’re doing that I mean that’s pretty
anti-trump if you’re organizing for those things during that period so
I think the question is a lot harder if the candidate becomes Biden I think that
makes it we’re still against Trump tonight but I like the idea of saying
you know regardless we’re still gonna be in the streets and we’re still gonna
build these movements because even if Bernie Sanders is in the White House
it’s not gonna come from the White House it’s gonna have to come as he says from
the movements themselves and we can take that and run with it great so I have
three people on stack that’s probably all the time we’ll have four questions
but let’s take all three and then see if we have time left after that and just a
reminder also in case anyone wasn’t here when we first started max has three
copies of his book revolution in the air if anyone’s interested they’re only 12
bucks usually they’re like 20 so it’s a great deal we don’t know your name
person the headband and then brick and then crystal hi thank you all for
everything you’ve said so far admittedly I’m not a TSA historian I’m actually not
even a member although I find myself at DSA events occasionally and I love them
I’m just really interested in I think several of you mentioned DSA kind of not
having an international I guess strategy maybe or at least not as strong enough
international strategy I find this very curious because the reason why I first
got interested and granted my only experience really is with the Portland
chapter although I have some friends who are you know in the DC in the New York
chapter so I see kind of some of the stuff that they’re doing but they seem
to be organizing around you know Venezuela anti-militarism and a couple
of other examples so I’m just curious maybe you can talk about why you think
DSA doesn’t have that or what’s preventing DSA from having an internet a
more of an international focus yeah just be curious to know you by max I’ve read the book when it first
came out I forget a lot of it now the progression of the organizations that
you went to is like SDS and an organization through the 70s and then I
know you were a founding member of line of March and I seem to remember and
conversations with Jamie the involvement of line of March with the rainbow
coalition with the Jesse Jackson coalition campaign in the 1980s and I
was wondering if you could speak about that transition for more revolutionary
politics toward the rainbow coalition and your work within that trying to get
traction and sort of more implement in planting yourself more deeply into a
sort of broader working class movement and how that relates perhaps today to
like Bernie Sanders and these campaigns your lessons from the rainbow coalition
basically um so my question is while socialism socialism has had its
victories throughout history often many like material victories many Americans
only see where socialism and communism has been co-opted by authoritarianism or
corrupted by state capitalism how does DSA mobilize the American
working class and avoid isolating them from ourselves what should we do and
what should we avoid well I’m not really on the first
question about internationalism India say I’m not really in the best position
to answer that I’m not involved with DSA in in the last few years I’m not a
member either my perception is that and this I think lies to most of the left
not just the SA is that there just isn’t as much behind it it doesn’t mean that
there aren’t resolutions and things like that but I think that other areas are
attracting more traction for people and it’s for a complicated set of reasons
I’m sure it differs from area to area summits because some of the
International stuff to some people seems too complicated right now they can’t
figure out what they think about cereza I mean about Syria or about Venezuela or
something so they they shy away they want to go something people are looking
for tangible results they want to make a difference they don’t think they can
make a difference on the International thing so it requires some really
internal working and emphasis politically on that which it’s been hard
for DSA to do because of the speed with with it’s grown and then there is just
the fact that you know national chauvinism is built into the u.s. people
you don’t it’s one of the harder things for a lot of people new to the left to
get into so I think there’s challenges but I don’t think that there’s no
international work going on with TSA I mean there is people are doing it in the
Bay and elevators the people I know in LA and TSA are working very hard
especially on neighborhood rights in Latin America and so on I mean there’s a distinction between
Portland ESA and DSA national right and so personally my comments were direct at
ESA national and particularly some of the things that you read in Jacob in the
Articles that they publish on China and on Venezuela being very critical and
particularly there was an article published by max Blumenthal Ben Norton
who are very very critical of the lineup of speakers that they have at socialism
which is like what an annual conference used to be put on by ISO and now DSA is
has been part of the construction of that conference which is hosting a
veritable who’s who’s of regime change artists people who are employed by the
National Endowment for democracy which are like these international is the
National Endowment for democracy is a holdover from from Reagan and so it’s a
way for the United States to install nonprofit organizations in other
countries in order to help facilitate regime change and so you have that in
Venezuela you have a National Endowment for democracy you have a bajillion of
them in China and so so yeah I mean that’s that’s particularly what I was
talking about if you really want to know more I would I would recommend that you
read that article and as an example of why it’s so hard for the revolutionaries
to get on the same side is I could not disagree more with candy
that’s so I think when and when Max is talking about by no reference this is
that love fest you didn’t want to have so I think when we’re talking about some
of these questions there’s a lot of baggage on the left there’s a lot of
different perspectives and it’s it’s all you know the traditions that we’re
coming from in the perspectives and you have a lot of people you know like Ben
Norton and stuff who put out particular perspective Zhai
agree with our respect but you have some good points too about the role of NGOs
and how do we work with that if we’re trying to work internationally I mean I
think we have to learn a lot of this stuff with each other I mean so what I’m
looking forward to not that I can we can just paper over these differences I
think we have to engage in these differences and we have to do it in good
faith and we have to start from square one and
learn it and it’s a lot of work right but I’m willing to do the work
I’m sure kandi is willing to do the work that’s why we’re up here and we’re
inviting other people to be part of that okay this is big tent in practice here I
hope you hear let me speak to the rainbow issue so in the early 80s after
Reagan there were various Reagan was selected
there were various fight back efforts against the Reagan administration one of
the first one was solidarity day called by the afl-cio and it was for jobs and
they added equal for equality but they refused to have peace be part of the
agenda because the afl-cio was not opposed to Reagan’s foreign policy at
least its dominant wing and for the left for the reasons I said before we saw
Reagan’s election not only as an assault on the US working class and the
communities of color in particular but it was a global counter-revolution it
was meant to reverse the Vietnam syndrome and you know go invade other
countries and so on so there was we were looking for other forms to fight back
and Jesse Jackson emerged out of the black community in the early eighties
feeling that they were in the crosshairs from Reagan and there was a big movement
at 1983 March 50 20 years since the 63 march on Washington
run Jessie run and Jessie decided to run for president and set up an independent
forum from his campaign the rainbow coalition and it did opposition to u.s.
Empire and racism were right at the center and it had a black community base
and these were the constituencies that the new communist movement felt were the
most important and we also felt that we were in a defensive stage and that this
was an appropriate level of politics of peace jobs and justice program with a
mass base and Jessie was building a forum the rainbow that had elected
structures and had the potential to be an independent project that would fight
for the Democratic Party ballot line that was the thinking and it did for
five years that was the center of gravity of opposition to reaganism
Jessie went to picket lines broke down racism among a lot of white workers in
other parts of the country it was a bridge between the revolutionary
organizations that were in the rainbow and broader constituencies and there
were some real achievements in connection with the Central America
solidarity movement the anti-apartheid movement and Palestine which at the time
this is before before the u.s. policy was two states two states was a left
thing at that time I mean we were for a democratic secular state but in the map
of US politics at that point recognition of the PLO and Jesse was hugging Yasser
Arafat so we got in behind him we didn’t say any problem with that no it didn’t
work out and it didn’t work out at the end of the eighties basically for two
reasons the left wasn’t the led the left wing of the rainbow was in crisis
because of what was going on internationally all those groups were in
a crisis because of the changes in the Soviet Union Tiananmen Square massacre
in China that you know we so we were going through a ideological crisis and
the balance of forces was not in our favor so Jesse cut a deal Ron Brown met
with him and said look if you cut loose this independent thing you can be a
progressive voice within the Democratic Party and he took it and we were too it
dependent on Jesse cuz we were too weak that’s the danger of the Bernie Sanders
campaign it’s the same thing now Bernie’s not jesse frankly jesse had
better politics than bernie on race and internationalism but jesse was more of a
maneuver than bernie is there’s somebody wrote an article about Bernie said
Bernie can’t sell out because he’s such a creature of habit he wouldn’t know how
to do it so you know but any movement that’s too dependent on one or two
people whether they’re candidates or leaders and anywhere else is in trouble
so you have to build a structure that can sustain that and that is not easy I
mean you’re talking about having to build a structure that can influence
national politics in the country of three hundred and forty million people
so we’re not talking about an independent group of nine hundred or
even ten thousand until you get a block that represents 30 to 40 million people
okay there’s the the there’s a caucus of eighteen state-based or twenty
state-based community organizations mostly led by communities of color
there’s some articles about it in call in organizing upgrade which is a website
I’m one of the editors of it’s called the state power caucus new Virginia
majority new Florida majority Texas organizing project California calls I
don’t remember the names of all the others they’ve estimated that they can
move about four million votes four million people that’s a lot of people
that’s more people than TSA can move on its own you got to get to 20 or 30
million 40 million so we have to be able to build on that scale
now DSA has 50,000 members and people have tremendous energy so this is great
that’s a great starting point the new communist movement did not have 50,000
cadre maybe 10,000 maybe 15 so you’re in a good start but it’s just a start you
know it so we have to build that kind of structure we need people who are
candidates who know how to run campaign to know election law and people who know
how to do all the other stuff including security I mean didn’t you just have a
fight with the fascists here at this place I read about it in the Bay Area
you know so you know David gave me a clipping of it when I got here yesterday
this is my friend David find we were in the student movement together in Madison
Wisconsin in 1969 so and he’s still here so you know you need a lot of skills but
you know so the rainbow does have a lot of lessons positive and negative it’s
social composition was different the backbone of the rainbow was the black
church again coming out of the 60s and some sections of Labor it’s different
from Bernie’s coalition is more like Reverend barber in the Poor People’s
Campaign revolution of values third reconstruction socialism and communism I believe the question was about how you
handle people’s associations when they hear socialism when they associate it
with state capitalism am I gonna am I getting that right I just wanna make
sure I had the actual question part right yeah this is our last question just to say
something as I think I think there’s a lot of rich history in the 30s as well
and one of the things that max brings up is some of the problems with the new
left was the divorce between the old left and the new left the divorce
between the movements in the 30s and the movements of the 60s and 70s and I think
that’s a mistake we’re trying not to reproduce but the span of time between
them is is just a big problem and in the 30s I think there’s a lot of things that
we can learn from what people did in the 30s as well and reclaim some of that
history in the rise of the socialist movement and I mean when you talk about
Eugene Debs and other things that DSA people like to put forward there’s a lot
of good stuff there when you tell people that Eugene Debs got what 19 million
votes from prison it’s American as apple pie I mean I think there’s all kinds of
ways that we can brand that as just the beginning of a conversation to get
people more into the history and what the Communist Party was able to actually
do and other parties able to do in the 30s to turn the tide and give us many of
the win many of the things that we have today that they’re taking away from us
so I think that’s one place to start yeah I think for all the Bernese flaws
one thing they really did for us was make socialism in okay word vast
majority I mean it’s not I’m sorry not vast majority of Millennials see
socialism in a positive way and I think if that’s the case, it’s only a matter of
time before we eventually find folks who are willing to embrace communism. Even
within our own movement people who are afraid maybe who are socialists might
identify as communists but don’t say that publicly, and in terms of, you know,
pointing out why communism and socialism is fine, if you look at the strongest and
most knowledgeable and most analytical organizers in US history, they’ve been
black folks and so you know personally when it comes to international politics
if there’s something that I can and because it is can be very
complicated and it’s very difficult to parse out what you know what media news
sources you can trust and who you can’t you know I just looked to Black Agenda
Report it has been it has historically been the case in the United States that
if you want a clear understanding of the way that US imperialism works you’re
going to go to the black newspapers and I think is my believe that
Black Agenda Report really carries that legacy. Okay, well thank you so much,
everyone, for being here, and thank you for your great questions and thank you
so much, Candy, Mer and Max. This was great. We’re gonna get this room cleaned up,
but if anyone wants to hang out in the main bar, we’ll be out there we can have
more discussions.

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