Part of the Struggling for Coherence on the US Left series.
The idea that we should double down on telling the truth and that, though it may seem divisive in the present, it ultimately brings greater unity, is not a foreign idea to most socialist groups in the USA. It is something most of them already embrace and misapply terribly, mostly because they double down on the most ridiculous, irrelevant, and foolish things, while completely missing the point about issues we actually need to be focusing on.
By the analogy of coherence, they’re trying to bring things into focus, but they’re using the wrong lens and so it only makes things blurrier. You would think they would switch up their lenses, try a few different ones on, change it up…
You would think.
One major mistake the socialist groups make is thinking that the key thing to win over the working class is to have the right party line. This is disastrous. The working class isn’t declining to join the various groups because they have the wrong bullet-point list of positions, but the sects will never relent in their venomous blood-letting against each other over these line-in-the-sand stance-drawings over the random political issue of the day.
If we were going to have a serious conversation about line struggle, about what kind of issues we should focus on to attract masses of people, then we would have to have a hard moment with ourselves of acknowledging that Bernie Sanders-type economic demands has done a far better job mobilizing people than the self-identified radical socialist Left’s laundry list of overwhelming guilt-driven moralistic overemphasis on liberal activist and civil rights issues, and that class focus is more effectively intersectional than what people have been calling intersectionality. One terrible example of this was the Green campaign in 2016. Whatever the official campaign was saying, the Green supporters could talk about nothing but drone warfare, probably because they knew this was the strongest differentiation point between themselves and Sanders, but of course this wasn’t exactly the strongest point of resonation with the working class. Someone ostensibly to our “right,” Bernie Sanders, has actually successfully outflanked us to the left on issues of class.
Meanwhile, there is a total lack of reassessment by socialist groups of their overall organizational practices and their total distance from the reality of most real-live workers in the USA. For example, most socialist organizations believe themselves to be focused on the working class. Their actual practice is completely distant from it, in reality focus on campus identity politics issues and only the narrow tiny section of the working class already organized in public sector unions. There is zero approach to organizing with the sectors of the working class in private sector unions or ununionized private sector workplaces.
The Left is trapped in “movement work,” the entire spectrum from protests to base-building, which after decades is a proven failure in organizing the working class, because workers who spend all their time working and recovering from work are not interested in doing even more work organizing. Instead we should return to the historically tried, tested and proven German Socialist Party model of politicized socializing as our the main activity into which we dump our organizing time and resources.
There is also a total lack of reassessment of how the culture of the US activist left is completely foreign and alienating to most real-live workers in the USA, and how our way of communicating is completely ridiculous, jargon-ridden, and how practical things like this, rather than our idealistic insistence on taking the right party line, are the actual obstacles to reaching the working class.