Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Left groups and factions appear to be in disarray over election strategy.

While many left groups and activists played leading roles in recent victorious electoral campaigns around the country, there are those who disdain electoral politics in general. That's always been the case, and I could be counted among their ranks back in '68 when SDS's campaign slogan was "Vote in the Streets."

Of course conditions were different then--50 years ago--as we will be discussing Friday on our special '68+50 Hitting Left show on

The Democrats were the war party and the party of southern segregation. Our generation of young radical activists' disdain for national elections was understandable if not politically savvy (although we did run Eldridge Cleaver and Uptown's own Peggy Terry for president that year on the Peace & Freedom Party Ticket).

Then there are the left sectarians who see participation in campaigns and mass organizations strictly as a way to promote their own narrow brand and to split the movement. I know a thing or two about these folks from back in the day, as well.

Peggy Terry, JOIN 1968
But bringing things up to date... Look what happened in CT. Here, progressive Jahana Hayes, a black woman who grew up in a local housing project and captured national attention when she was named 2016 “Teacher of the Year,",crushed official party favorite Mary Glassman in yesterday's primary. If she wins in November, Hayes will make history as the first black woman to win a Connecticut congressional seat as well as the first black congresswoman ever from New England.

But it was Glassman who won the endorsements of Our Revolution and MoveOn along with that of the Chamber of Commerce. Ugh!

According to The Intercept:
The endorsement by the central Connecticut branch of Our Revolution was highly unusual, as Our Revolution claims to back progressive candidates who — unlike Glassman — proudly embrace the policy platform Sanders ran on. (Sanders won more votes in Connecticut’s 5th District in the 2016 primary, even though Hillary Clinton won the state overall in the election.) 
With midterms coming up in November, some left factions have already turned their guns on progressive female candidates of color, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib,for not being "left" or "socialist" enough and for having a wrong or weak line on Palestine.

Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican woman and self-described "socialist" and DSAer, upset powerful Dem regular Joe Crowley in the primary. She did so without any support from the party organization and even though the Working Families Party endorsed Crowley. In fact, Crowley is still running on the WFP ticket even though the organization has shifted its support to Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez has used the momentum from her upset victory to raise money and support for fellow progressives like MI gov candidate, Abdul El-Sayed and others in hopes of a "Blue Tide" in November. This has led to charges from some left quarters that the Democratic candidates being supported by Ocasio-Cortez since her election victory are not strictly “socialist”, writes Juan Cruz Ferre in Left Voice. He also charges her with wanting to replace ICE with something more "humane," and with supporting a "two-state" solution in Palestine.

But, Ocasio is also being attacked for "selling out" by several groups within DSA who describe themselves as the ones who "always fight on the side of justice."

Ocasio responds by saying her understanding of the issue is "evolving." Fair enough. As with all our progressive pols, we need to keep the pressure on. But how?

Rashida Tlaib
Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, is the eldest of 14 children, born to working-class Palestinian immigrants in Detroit, Michigan. Her mother was born in Beit Ur El Foka, near Ramallah. Her father was born in Beit Hanina, a neighborhood of Jerusalem.

She champions progressive policies like Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage, and abolishing ICE, says she is both a Democrat and a "democratic socialist." She could be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress after winning the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

DSAer Benjamin Balthaser, responding to an interview with Tlaib in In These Times writes:
There's a lot of great stuff in this interview w Tlaib - her support for the free speech rights of BDS advocates, for a single state with equal rights for everyone in Israel/Palestine, for her articulation of the horror of the Israeli apartheid regime. But what strikes me as most important is that she is able to connect this story - her story - with the daily struggles of Detroiters for equal rights and the longer struggle for civil rights in the U.S. 
Great point, Ben. Something to be learned here.

But now, as Tlaib is taking heavy racist fire from the right and from rabid zionists, she is also coming under attack from the left. She is charged by some lefties with, among other things, taking campaign money from JStreet, a liberal pro-Israel group, and supporting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with criticizing the positions taken by Democratic Party pols. I do it every day. But the attacks on both women as "sell-outs" is another matter (especially when the attacks arise from factions within Ocasio's own organization [and mine]--DSA).

But still, the polemics continue, not in internal meetings with the candidates, but in open, divisive and personal criticism on social media.

Corey Robin in Jacobin writes:
The camps divided in two: on the one hand, there were those who took Ocasio-Cortez’s comments as confirmation that she is no real leftist, that she is turning right, that she’s been absorbed into the Democratic Party machine, that she’s a fake, a phony, and a fraud. For these folks, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments confirmed their generally dim view of electoral politics.
But leaving those anti-electoralists aside for the moment, Robin takes what many on the left would see as legitimate issue with Ocasio's position--or lack thereof--on Palestine. I have no problem with taking her to task, so long as issues are raised on just grounds and with restraint--in tune with the consciousness of the people in the community who elected her.

Narrow sectarian attacks also open the doors to agents and provocateurs whose goal is to create confusion, demoralization and division.

There never been a more important time for progressive and left forces to learn and develop good electoral strategies to complement organizing work in schools, workplaces and communities. Hopefully the current struggles will lead to greater clarity and more victories.

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