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Richard Mellor

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Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists
« on: December 16, 2017, 06:07:40 PM »
Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists

"Even though we had slavery...our families were strong our country had a direction." Roy Moore, US Politician 2017
Comrades this is a discussion document from Sean O?Torain and Richard Mellor, co-founders of Facts For Working People Blog and Think Tank.  Facts For Working People (FFWP) seeks to be a Think Tank for working people that can help workers like ourselves clarify issues and positions, strategy and tactics, that are related to the struggle of the working class against capitalism.

Those of us around the FFWP, whoever we are, whatever we are, determinedly struggle against the danger of having ideas that are set in stone. Unlike in the past when we thought we knew everything, through defeats and setbacks we came to realize we did not know everything and as a result are now in a position to know more. That is of course, as long as we face openly and state openly, our mistakes. As Joyce said, mistakes if faced up to are portals of discovery.  We have principles but we are against repeating parrot fashion, without a thought, the old formulae. We are putting our names to to this statement as the other comrades who are on our listserve and who come on our FFWP conference calls have not had time to read it and give their opinions. We are responsible for its content.

We want all those people around and involved with FFWP to have a chance to openly discuss this issue and express their agreements or disagreements in an open public discussion. We hope that others who are not involved with FFWP but who read our Blog and who will read this on our Blog will also express their views, agreements or disagreements. We hope for an open public discussion. We encourage people to add their comments in the comments section below.

We have been posing for some time the following question: Why has the left failed to put down roots in the working class? We are confining our thoughts in this post to the left in the US at this stage. When we speak of the left here we include those within organizations which consider themselves revolutionary socialist and also and more importantly the tens and tens of thousands who consider themselves revolutionary socialists who are not in any organization, many of whom who were at one time or another in a revolutionary organization. There are also the hundreds of thousands, in fact millions, in the US who in polls "favor socialism over capitalism" but we will leave these aside for the moment. Not that they are unimportant but it is easier for us to address the issue we wish to address by focusing on those who consider themselves revolutionary socialists.

We also ask Comrades to think about the ideas we raise in the context of the most conscious anti-racist anti-sexist workers, especially African American women workers in Alabama and throughout the US. How would the ideas we raise here, the position we advocate here be seen amongst these sectors?

So to take the plunge. The Alabama elections. The result was a setback for Trump and Trumpism. It was a victory for the rising women's movement. It was a victory for the anti-racist forces in the country. And whether it knows it or not, and most of the working class do not yet know it, it was a victory for the working class. If this does not sound correct consider if the creature Moore had won. The extreme right, the racist and sexist reactionaries, the ?take the US back to slavery? crowd as Moore just about said, their tails would be up. There would be crosses burning, lighted torches being carried as there was in Charlottesville, racist, sexist louts and thugs marching.

Instead, the effect of the result of this election has been the opposite. These forces have been set back. This was demonstrated by the sight of the extreme reactionary degenerate, ex Harvard, ex Goldman Sachs, Trump crony, Bannon, running from the media with his mouth shut jumping into his big chauffeur driven SUV and fleeing into the night. On the other hand the effect that the Jones victory has had on the anti-Trump forces has been to raise their heads and add impetus to the anti Trump resistance. We believe this is indisputable. You only have to look around you and listen. So what conclusions for revolutionaries? But first the objective processes behind the defeat of Moore.

The short article on the Blog on the Alabama result made some points concerning why this defeat of Moore came about. The changed conditions in the economies of the Southern states is important, particularly the increased industrialization, a result of which has been the increase in numbers and diversity of the working class, and along with this the increased consciousness and power of women workers, especially African American women workers who turned out in massive numbers to put down Moore.

It is possible that we can say today that the most conscious section of the US working class at this time is the African American women workers.  FFWP has been insisting for years now that one important feature of the class relations world wide is the increased power and struggles of women as they entered the paid workforce in their hundreds of millions. Our blog has argued that any organization that does not recognize this and look critically at its policies and organizational approach, both external and internal, with this in mind, will play no positive role of any significance. It should also be noted that as part of the rising of the women against the sexual predatory culture we are now seeing increased movements to organize in unions from the mainly women workers in the hotels and service industries. We have been right to stress the need to organize into democratic fighting unions as the way to fight the sexual predatory culture. Unfortunately most of the left as far as we can see have not done this. In part, this is a result of most of the left being swept along the road of identity politics and letting the class divide and the class struggle fall behind or even be ignored in the battle against the predatory culture.

In the article on the Blog on the Alabama election result we have pointed to another factor that is not insignificant. That is where the more strategic section of the bourgeois in Alabama through their mouthpiece Shelby, the senior Senator, came out and openly opposed Moore. We intend to write more on this issue. This development is important in relation to the future of the Trump regime and the most strategic section of the bourgeois. It looks like the Republicans are building to remove Mueller. If they do so, this will throw US bourgeois politics and the bourgeois institutions into further crisis. If they do not, we believe it highly likely that Mueller will expose crimes by Trump and there will be a move to bring him down. This will also mean a deepening of the political crisis of US capitalism and a weakening of its institutions. Either way, US bourgeois politics heads deeper into crisis.  But this is another, though related story.

We are putting this statement on our Blog for anybody to see. We realize this will give ammunition to sectarian groupings and individuals to slander us as supporters of the Democrats. But as we say we do not look over our shoulders at the petit bourgeois sectarian left, we look over our shoulders at the working class, especially the most thinking conscious and active sections of the working class. We hope that by putting this statement on our public Blog that we can develop our Blog further as a type of informal Think Tank for working people. There is a form of intimidation of thought among much of the left. This paralyses the left. This freezes the thought of the left. The authors of this statement speak of our thought being unshackled compared to when we were, in and later expelled from, left organizations. 

We are strongly committed to open discussion and to expressing what we consider our mistakes and the mistakes of the left, we will not be intimidated, we will not look over our shoulder at what the sectarian left might think and say. We consider our ideas in the light of what the most conscious and thinking sections of the working class might think and say.   

So to the meat of this post: What should serious revolutionaries have said and done in the run up to the Alabama election? In thinking about this let us not just consider this question in the context of just being a few people, or even just having a Blog with a not insignificant following, but think about it from the point of view of either trying to build a base in Alabama or even more so if we had a base in Alabama which could influence thousands of people. In other words, consider if we had, or if there already existed, a small workers party in Alabama which say could influence 5% to 10% of the vote. Richard one of the two signatories of this statement when he stood for Oakland City council many years ago won 6% of the vote. So what about the election in Alabama?

We wish to pose this. We may be wrong and if so we wish to be corrected through comradely reasoned exchange of ideas. Whether revolutionary socialists had a base in Alabama or not we are considering that in this election if we had not taken the position to defeat Moore, we would have been ignored or if we had a base we would have lost that base. Or if we tried to get a base in the future we would have always been asked what position did we take in this election.  This is where this issue is related to why the left have not put down roots in the working class. We know there are other issues, the objective situation, the sectarianism, the ultra leftism, the opportunism of the left, that has made it difficult for the left to put down roots, but there is also this issue of ignoring the real genuine movements and struggles and consciousness of the working class, of different layers of the working class and how events effect the class balance of forces and the mass consciousness.

We wish to propose that it would not have been enough to just say we were against Moore for all the reasons we are familiar with and we are sure our readers would agree with. We believe that we would have had to go further and call for a vote for Jones. There we have taken the plunge. Call for a vote for a Democrat? Yes that is what we are saying. We do not think we would have been able to gain the ear of the most conscious and especially the African American workers in this race if we had not said this. We do not believe these workers would have listened us to. But not only that, we believe we would have to have called for a vote for Jones, we would have to have recognized what just about every thinking worker knew and especially the African American workers knew and especially the African American women and some white women workers knew, and that is that Jones winning would push the balance of forces in the country further to the side of the anti Trump movement.

A Moore victory would have raised the heads of the Trump coming movement after the election of Trump in 2016.   Jones winning has strengthened the anti Trump movement.  One of us was with their companion on the night of the election. She hates Trump and all he stands for with a powerful rage. When he said that he would not rule out Jones winning. She said: ?I do not want to hear it, I do not want to get my hopes up?. Then the results began to come in. And as Jones crept up and into the lead and then won, her mood was transformed. Her hopes were then up! The anti Trump movements' hopes are now also up. These movements have been strengthened.

Having said this, it is necessary to go further. It is necessary to add to the position of a vote for Jones. It would have been necessary not just to say vote for Jones, to come out and vote for Jones, but it would have been necessary, yes essential to have explained clearly that while we would have called for a vote for Jones we did not do so because we supported the capitalist Democratic Party, we do not, but we called for a vote for Jones because we wanted to deal a blow to the Trump forces and add fuel to the anti Trump movement.

This is how our vote would have been cast. We oppose the capitalist Republican and Democratic parties and will always do so. We would have explained that we were calling for a vote for Jones, as this election was extremely significant in terms of the balance of forces in the country. Vote for Jones because a defeat for Moore would mean increasing the strength and morale of the anti Trump forces. Vote for Jones in order to make the ground more favorable for the struggles of the working class, the anti racist and anti sexist forces. However. And it is an essential ?However?. We do not leave it there.
While advocating a vote for Jones, and if we had forces working for a vote for Jones, we would have explained on what basis we were doing so, that we were doing so on a certain basis. We would have explained that calling for a vote for Jones did not mean we were supporting the capitalist Democratic Party but as we have already said we would have been doing so to improve the ground on which the rising women's movement, the rising anti racist movement, and the rising workers movement that is inevitable in the period ahead, are fighting and will fight.

And along with this and an essential part of this while advocating a vote for Jones to defeat Moore and his crew, and to make the ground more favorable for the struggle of the working class and all oppressed minorities and people, we would have advocated and built for the following alternative: 

Build an alliance/united front against the capitalist agenda using mass direct action tactics. Organize the unorganized using the tactics, which built the unions in the 1930?s------mass occupations, mass confrontations with the state and anti union forces on the streets. Build a mass workers party by going to the rank and file in the unions and the workplaces and our communities mobilizing support for resolutions to this end.

And equally essential: Build as part of all these struggles a revolutionary socialist current based on the ideas and principles of revolutionary socialism. And do so in a non-sectarian manner. That is, throughout this entire process we recruit and build a revolutionary current with its roots in the working class. We believe this approach properly explained would be understood and supported by every thinking worker. 

At this stage we anticipate outraged cries from some left groups and individuals that we are committing the sin of sins of supporting a Democrat. We will not be intimidated by such calls. We put our position out here for discussion. We think that serious workers and activists will give it thought. As well as anticipating the cries of horror that we as revolutionary socialists would advocate voting for a Democrat we also believe that there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of thinking workers out there who hate the Democrats, see their pro capitalist role but who also see the dilemma that existed in Alabama.

We anticipate that these serious workers will give consideration to our position and we believe many will support the position we advocate here.

It is of course possible that we may be wrong. We hope for feed back from readers.  So please let us have your views. Part of the change in the way we the undersigned work is we have broken from the method of so much of the left where mistakes were never acknowledged and where a culture existed in which everybody was afraid to test out ideas. We realize that we are testing an idea here; we think what we advocate is correct. We recognize that testing an idea always involves risk. But as Lenin wrote quoting the Russian revolutionary Chernyshevsky, ?Historical action is not the pavement of Nevsky Prospekt.?, a main thoroughfare in Leningrad.

The revolution is not that. It involves risks, involves necks been stuck out. It is worth quoting Chernyevsky in full. He actually wrote: ?The path of history is not paved like Nevsky Prospekt; it runs across fields, either dusty or muddy, and cuts through swamps or forest thickets. Anyone who fears being covered with dust or muddying his boots, should not engage in social activity.?  *

Having said this, we trust that class conscious workers and activists will approach this issue seriously and with the aim not to score points but to help clarify strategies and tactics for the class struggle. And we trust ourselves to consider all ideas seriously and if we are convinced we are mistaken to admit openly and in a comradely fashion that we are wrong. At this stage we do not think we are.   In some cases when comradely differences remain we allow objective circumstances determine what worked and what didn?t, what would work and what would not. It is a serious mistake to never change one?s mind in the face of changed conditions and experiences.

We would just like to add one point, or rather to re-make one point a little sharper. Imagine if the revolutionary left had had a party in Alabama where it could have won 5 or 10 percent of the vote and it had run a candidate or advocated a write in for its candidate and this allowed Moore in. That party would have never recovered. It would never be known as a revolutionary socialist party, it would forever be known as the "let Moore in party". The stain would have been indelible. And this would not only have very seriously damaged that party but it would have seriously damaged all socialist parties and all socialists. One of the reasons we think this is so important is that in the future there will most likely be opportunities for the left in various places to form sizable parties, especially as the trade union leadership will not move until they are forced to by a movement from below.

And in such cases where small left parties would develop such tactical issues as this one would mean the difference between such a party having a future and not having a future, would mean the difference between all the work of the members of that small party being wiped out or being maintained and remain in a position to be built upon.

We hope comrades will let us have their opinions. And we hope that it will be possible to have a sober comradely discussion on the issues we have raised here.
Comradely, Sean O'Torain. Richard Mellor.

Source: Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists