2016 U.S. Presidential election

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Chilli Sauce's picture
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Apr 12 2016 03:26
Juan Conatz wrote:
Been seeing this pretty awful petition being circulated.

So, I actually thought about posting this in its own thread.

It's written by someone that a lot of regular posters know and respect. I actually saw the person this weekend and offered my criticisms. But yeah, it's not great, is it?

Putting aside the electoralism, what do folks think about the thrust of it: an attempt to build a social movement out of the Bernie campaign? I think we all talk about needing to engage with Bernie supporters, is there any value in attempting to move them toward movement building in this way once the current election cycle is finished?

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Apr 12 2016 04:24

I think this is a good example of radicals being paralyzed by electoral politics and thinking they can siphon some of that energy off. I'm doubtful that is something that is possible.

This "love letter" advocates basically a membership based mass party centered around one individual. I think that's a major step backwards from current and recent social movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy, that for all their faults, weren't centered around formal membership in a political party with a focus on a central figure.

Rather than create or encourage people to seek fundamental and systematic change in our society through collective action, this creates an illusion of who and what Sanders really is and gives a radical veneer to a candidate who is little more than a New Deal Democrat.

I heard the same 'get on the boat' stuff from celebrity leftists in 2008 with Obama. He even 'democratized' his campaign/Presidency with that petition website.

There are calls to do more, but they are done within the context of joining the Democratic Party, recognizing Bernie as your leader and advocating that it become a membership based party. At its best, this "love letter" is incredibly naive, which when it comes to electoral politics, is the last thing needed. At its worst, the letter comes off as cynical and opportunistic, attempting to mask one's real politics in order to ride the momentum of this year's popular flavor of Democrat.

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Apr 12 2016 04:31

Yeh I don't see any difference between that and, say, people in Spain saying rally behind Podemos. In Spain that's an electoral expression of the revolt against austerity and the Sanders phenomenon in U.S. is also. But we know where this sort of thing goes. I'm following the Sanders phenomenon because it is in fact an expression of working class youth in particular rejecting austerity. That tells us something about mass consciuosness at the moment. But I don't see that as a reason to forget where electoral politics leads.

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Apr 12 2016 13:10
Quote:
This "love letter" advocates basically a membership based mass party centered around one individual.

Good post Juan.

I should say that when I spoke to the author and some other folks who supported the idea, as anarchists they were, shall we say, pretty soft on voting.

That said, I do think the question of how to engage Bernie supporters is an interesting one. What if it was a love letter to Bernie supporters but advocated the same thing? Would that be more principled or possibly more effective?

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing one way or the other, more I'm just curious how folks think it's best to engage the Sanders folks in a practical and direct way.

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gram negative
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Apr 12 2016 15:59

edit: nm, answered.

this made me laugh, though:

"Otto Strasser National Councilist Football Federation"

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Apr 12 2016 20:10
Juan Conatz wrote:
Been seeing this pretty awful petition being circulated. To me, this is worse than 2008's cringeworthy 'Hope Bloc' statement.

I know, and as Chilli Sauce says, the thing that makes it worse is that the author beforehand seemed to be pretty decent. Depressing stuff.

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Apr 12 2016 20:41

It seems like they're trying to grasp at the problems that would be handled by a socialist party.

I agree that the 'We love Bernie' formulation is a dead end; they could attempt nevertheless to implore him to form and run under the banner of a socialist party. Of course hes already stated that he plans to support Hillary if she gets the nomination.

I think most people are ecard of missing out on the action when he employs rhetoric and talking points close to our own. There's plenty we can learn from the Sanders campaign, but not much to be gained in supporting it.

A few problems:

1. Presidential Fetish - Executive power in the form excercised under the U.S. Constitution is a check on genuine democracy, and thus on the powers of the working class to collective manage a transition out of capitalism. Basing the birth of an ostensibly socialist party around the independently run campaign of a moderate social Democrat for an office that does little to serve working class organization seems just stupid. (However there is a case to be made for running "symbolically" as in Debs' efforts, though that has to be evaluated toward the same ends).

2. Election Rules - if a socialist party in the U.S. we're to genuinely seek winning those positions that could be put to use, the legislative ones (city councils, state and national legislatures) in order to beat the INEVEITABLE SPLIT of the liberal/socialist bloc that reigns, their would have to be an intense and well organized organizing drive among the working classes in the given districts in order to out weigh the possibilities of delivering elections to the right. (However one could argue that most Dems and Republicans are so close on issues that who cares! In fact the polarization in terms of working class politics vs liberal would help demonstrate the closeness all the more starkly).

3. Electoral Strategy - in short, why run for office? I think it can serve to popularize socialist/communist politics, help organize and educate the working class, and prepare the working class for taking social power. These results are not automatic but only the result of specific and purposeful electoral strategy and party organization. These would also be based on political choices which ought to 'set socialists apart' from typical politics. (Uniting with strikers and Street actions, oppressed sections of the class).

The letter doesn't really touch on these, which makes it seem sort of... Delusional?

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Apr 13 2016 19:01

I think ideological electoral campaigns by socialist or communist groups is completely useless. No one pays any attention for the simple reason that it seems oddly not to recognize the role of the election: To elect someone to run a segment of the actual state. So the whole process is oriented around what X or Y propose to do with the state, and framed in ways that accept the status quo. If you have no chance of getting elected, no one will pay any attention to you, so it's a waste of time. Besides, it's the wrong education. It implies that capturing the state is something we want to do.

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Apr 13 2016 19:47

I genuinely question the notion that the Legislatures, State or National, "Run the state". Certainly they play a big role. I guess that's part of what has to be factored into determining electoral policy; what role do they play? Of course this implies study and debate on the details of the government instead of it's rejection on principle.

There is a practical way it factors into education: Not just because the politicians get a platform, but because in order to win, we're forced to organize (in accordance with socialist principles). This means I'm not really looking to Syriza etc. as guides. Or at least not 'simplistically'.

As for state power - yeah, we want to smash the bourgeois state. We want to get rid of the state. But we want organized decision making and a division of labor backed up by the use of organized force. We want a polity united along some fundamental (communist) principles of society. Engaging in politics and taking these questions on, prepare them to get used to debating, discussing, managing and implementing policy etc.

I'll reiterate a question I put to someone elsewhere. What's the difference between a city council and a soviet? I think it's a good question to investigate and am not trying to be a dick.

Aside from "the capitalist state" what are the procedural, structural etc. imperatives that make it different and why?

petey
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Apr 13 2016 21:05

it's a little funny to read above the idea of forming a socialist party, since we already have one, and it has ballot access in many states (tho curiously not in the state where it's headquartered).

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Apr 13 2016 23:54

I think the party is the wrong form for coalescing working class social forces since it tends to focus then on the leaders who run for office, and these are invariably drawn from the professional/managerial class. The party concept of socialist strategy means basically putting a perticular party leadership into control of the state, to then implement their program top down through the hierarchies of the state. Even if you say you're only for this or that law passed by legislature, it is still based on being implemented through the state managerial class regime. So it tends to lead to the wrong kind of focus and orientation for the class.

The alternative is to think of the class forces as being coalesced through a working class based social movement alliance or social front, which unites horizontally the various grassroots expresion of organization of the oppressed & exploited majority, not only labor organizations but other organizations as well. Eventually the form of decision making apppropriate to a class front like this would be some sort of delegate conference with delegates from the participating organizations.

We really need to completely jettison the party fetish.

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Apr 14 2016 02:07

But if we form a horizontal, alliance of different class forces what is that and what is it's aim? To maneuver into a position to take social power, right?

I don't think the party form will inevitably turn to running for state offices and implementing programs top down or whatever. The same way that syndicalists don't feel that unions have to be collaborative husks; mere sellers of labor power.

It seems to me that an alliance like you describe would fit perfectly with what I would understand a party to be/do; unite the working class against capitalism and attendant oppressions, to better coordinate the fight.

There is here a hang up about 'taking state power' and 'using the state' to implement policy. Does that mean that church charity is better than TANF because it's a privately managed form of wealth redistribution. No doubt, both involve some graft (likely the church more than TANF) and no doubt both are half-measures from the perspective of resolving capitalism's problems. But is there any question that one is preferable to the other?

To reiterate, I'm not supportive of a coup, I'm not supportive of a ban on dissent within a party or in a period of revolution. (to an extant). I'm not trying to take the page wholly out of the Bolshevik playbook or anything.

I guess part of my question is: if there is a concern with 'form' (the state, the party) in it's relation to content, why is it wholly determinant in the state, and in the party, but not the union? This lends itself to the superficial liberal notion that if only the state (in our case, the state and any form of 'coercive authority') was wisped away, the full and free flourishing of humanity would commence. But is it really that easy?

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Apr 15 2016 05:52
Quote:
I guess part of my question is: if there is a concern with 'form' (the state, the party) in it's relation to content, why is it wholly determinant in the state, and in the party, but not the union? This lends itself to the superficial liberal notion that if only the state (in our case, the state and any form of 'coercive authority') was wisped away, the full and free flourishing of humanity would commence. But is it really that easy?

Completely ridiculous comment. The mass organization prefigures the outcome in the sense that what we need to have is, 1. workers managing the industries. 2. accountability to the masses, the society, in how the industries are run & what is produced.

State just prefigures a bureaucratic hierarchy. A state is itself a class relation of subordination inherent to it, as in relation of public managerial class to public workers. You want to take over the state translates then as you want the class subordination relation to continue.

And the "party" is as I say a group to put its leaders into control of the state.

The alternative is for the mass organizations to take power. So the workers manage the industries. There is a larger communal organization to which they are accountable.

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Apr 15 2016 14:00

I think the class content of the state exists in 3 senses

1) What you highlight, that the existent bureaucratic machinery uses the waged labor of public employees

2) It's control by the bourgeoisie

3) Technical Division of Labor

It's important to think critically about these problems and their interactions.

By itself, a technical division of labor is fine. I would imagine any non-primitivists can agree with that. It seems primarily that the problems lay with 1 and 2. I think we'd both agree on them as posing problems.

1 I think, and this is a problem throughout left thinking on organization generally, is something that cannot, *by definition* be eliminated under capitalism. It is the political-economy equivalent of a "safe space" a liberated or Temporary Autonomous Zone etc. The idea that we can (or worse, MUST) abolish the wage relation fully *within* our organization before we can address is generally, socially, is ridiculous. It's not often explicitly stated as such, but it seems implied by arguments like the above (Taking the bureaucratic machinery of the state which involves paying and managing waged workers is bad, because waged workers!). The same is often said as against staff in unions. Again, the critical issue for me is measures of democracy; is the staff and officialdom, genuinely submitted to the rule membership? In most unions this is clearly not the case, neither is it clear how to reform them (often it appears impossible).

This also touches on another problem; at some point 'centralization, federation, hierarchy' will exist. The democratic decision by an assembly of workers to expropriate the bourgeoisie can of course be construed as 'dictatorial' in liberal terms; the destruction of their 'rights' to private property etc. We have no problem with this, just like with the abolition of slavery. But the question remains: By what is 'authority' determined to be 'legitimate'?

This also leads us into the managing of the economy; if it's done directly by workers in independent enterprises that they own, all the problems of proudhonism come rushing back in. I don't think you're advocating that, but it's some unclear thinking that pops up.

But when one says 'workers management of industry' again based on what and how? Through general social control? Shouldn't humanity control their 'societies' and through so doing submit the needs of industry and enterprises (whether governed by an industrial junta or industrial assemblies) to the needs of society generally? That implies (as you state) some type of polity or political organization, experience with decision making, debate, deliberation etc. as well as fundamental social imperatives (imho, things like universal income, health, education, freedom of speech and movement, etc.) which protect and extend involvement to everyone, by eliminating the means by which bourgeoisie currently excludes the working class from politics.

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Apr 15 2016 19:02
syndicalistcat wrote:
The alternative is to think of the class forces as being coalesced through a working class based social movement alliance or social front, which unites horizontally the various grassroots expresion of organization of the oppressed & exploited majority, not only labor organizations but other organizations as well. Eventually the form of decision making apppropriate to a class front like this would be some sort of delegate conference with delegates from the participating organizations.

Is this even possible on an organizational level? Seems really complex. I'm not arguing from a statist orientation.

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Apr 16 2016 00:45

"technical division of labor" is meaningless phrase in itself. For more than a century there has been an explictly capitalist tendency to reorganize work to concentrate expertise & decision making in hands of a few, managers and their expert "professional" advisors. This Taylorist/Fordist tendency flows out of the logic of capitalism, due to the problem of control over labor that faces the buyer of labor power. Moreover, the tendency is to intensify work & reduce dependency on human labor, both through building up the bureaucratic control class & through elimination of labor through forms of automation. This is not a class neutral tendency. For the working class to liberate itself from the regime of subordination & epxloitation, it must re-organize social production in ways that include extensive training & education so that workers in industries gain something like an engineering level of knowledge about production or close to it. This was discussed by Kropotkin in Fields, Factories & Workshops a century ago & he called "integration of labor".

This doesn't mean that in a de-taylorized world of production everyone would do everything or that there would not be pools of specialist knowledge. Just that this would not be organized in a way to be an engine of domination & exploitation.

re the idea of social movement alliance. a century ago revolutionary syndicalism, in its concept of class unionism, envisaged the federative unity of the working class in a One Big Union, as the way to coalesce the class forces and as the vehicle to gain power. The whole idea of labor councils or workers councils as the means of worker power came out of this, along with proposals for regional or national workers congresses as the means for worker control of governance.

But today the fault lines of struggle against the capitalist system are more complex. the system isn't just a system of labor subordination & exploitation, but is riven by various oppressions of sub groups along racial or gender lines, and there are class struggles that arise in the community, outside the workplace in various ways, and grassroots organizations that arise to deal with growing ecological crisis, and often these seeking alliances with worker organizations.

So it seems to me the handwriting is on the wall: that to bring together and unify class social forces is going to require the concept of unionism (in the grassroots sense) developing its social movement links, and developing these into a real alliance. If you look for example at the participation of CNT & CGT in general strikes in Spain (as in 2012) they worked to build their alliances with women's groups, housing groups, enviro groups.

Leninists sometimes justify the concept of "the party" by saying that militants in these different movements needed to be linked & they see this as the role of the "party". But the problem is, if they are thinking of this party as taking power, then it is only a minority of erstwhile "leaders" in movements who take power over all the rest. This comes back to the old Communist International doctrine of the subordination of the unions (mass orgs) to the party. This simply prefigures a new bureaucratic class in power.

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Apr 16 2016 03:00

Can you guys move this discussion to another thread? This thread is for news and analyses of the 2016 elections in the U.S., not the nature of the state or party form...

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Apr 16 2016 04:27

I think your reference to the love letter sort of led to this derail. but sure, let's stick to the topic. Next Tuesday will really be a major milestone because a big win for Clinton in New York makes it all but impossible for Sanders in terms of the delegate count. Today it came out that two African-American state senators, in Harlem and Queens, came out with endorsements for Sanders. Sanders has also been endorsed by the MTA workers union, TWU 100, and the American Postal Workers Union...both unions with large numbers of workers of color. I believe African-Americans make up about a fourth of the workforce in the postal system. Black & Latino working class support would be critical for Sanders in New York...as indeed it will be in California.

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Apr 17 2016 16:35

From a UK perspective, I just can't wait for this to be over. Seriously this primary shit was tedious to begin with, but it just seems to be dragging on forever. And then we'll have to go through the bullshit of an election as well (queue all of the radicals who have supported Sanders and denounced Hilary as a candidate of big business, lining up to urge people to vote Hilary).

I sympathise with you guys in the US having to put up with it all!

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Apr 17 2016 17:56

I agree with Steven.

The whole primary business is just a way of distracting from actual issues (like the thousands of largely unopposed elected officals who actually run everything) and it's also a way of creating financial and logistical barriers. I think there might also be a connection with the 24 hour news cycle.
Looking at 1968 election for unrelated reasons I was surprised to see that only 5 or 6 states had primaries for the republicans.

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Apr 17 2016 22:08

That is interesting about 1968. Doing the whole thing state-by-state makes it particularly ridiculous. They could just do a national vote in one day, like we do in the UK. But I guess the point is to make the US look like a "democracy" more of the time…

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Apr 17 2016 22:32

I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that the two major political parties here are not membership-based parties. You don't really "join" the GOP or Democratic Party, as in, paying dues, etc, like one does when joining the Labour Party.

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Apr 18 2016 03:09

Dems and Repubs didn't used to do primaries. it was the old smoke filled back room dealmaking route back in the day. I forget exactly when primaries became so universal, maybe in the '70s.

But yeh, the whole thing becomes interminable. The Dems have the primary schedule the way it is for a reason. They front load the more conservative southern states in order to give the more neo-liberal, right-leaning candidates an advantage. This is how Bill Clinton was nominated in 1992.

But the idea is to avoid people just forgetting about this competitition to select the elected Emperor, so they string it out. (John Adams said the US Constitution is "monarchical", meaning that power is heavily concentrated in the president, who holds power independent of the legislature.)

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Apr 18 2016 17:07

The nomination of Hillary Clinton has always been a foregone conclusion but it remains none the less astounding that Sanders has come from nowhere to about 40% of the party.

Democrats who believe their task is now to simply defeat Sanders and go ahead like nothing happened are wasting their time and misdirecting their energy. If they wish to have a viable, growing party after Hillary is nominated and even elected, they ought to be thinking about how to attract that entire new generation of voters who are soundly rejecting the business-as-is politics of Clinton and a money-soaked corrupt party leadership. Much more useful than insulting, condescending, trashing and whining over the anger that young Sanders supporters demonstrate. Never have I seen so many crybabies upset that "Bernie Bros" are mean to them on social media. Boo hoo.

I, for one, do not believe for a moment that the Democrats will get the message as individual elected officials are much more interested in their personal short term future than in the long time political course of the United States. More likely, the party will NOT make the shift that history now demands and the result will be millions more Americans estranged from and indifferent to the system, a further concentration of wealth and political purchasing power, and a continued decline in our living standards. Hope to be wrong but....

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Apr 19 2016 01:20

I think the key problem for the party establishment is that the Sanders voters & what they want are a threat to the Democratic Party as it has evolved at this point. The present party evolved into a patronage & campaign money sucking machine for self-aggrandizement of a group of entrepreneurial politicians. This is all based on the "service" they perform for the various segments of private capital, which they closely tied to in so many ways, via appointments, corporate funded think tanks, and their own commitments. It's likely that the Sanders phenomenon will encourage a new crop of would be politicians to challenge people in office from a more populist program. But I think widening alienation from the system is likely to increase.

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Apr 19 2016 03:19
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I think the key problem for the party establishment is that the Sanders voters & what they want are a threat to the Democratic Party as it has evolved at this point. The present party evolved into a patronage & campaign money sucking machine for self-aggrandizement of a group of entrepreneurial politicians.

That's pretty much the whole history of the Democratic Party in the urban areas, isn't it? Tammany Hall anyone? The Daley "machine"?

I don't know what Sanders will encourage. If Hillary gets the nomination, Sanders will encourage his followers to support her, and they will. I don't think the Sanders supporters are the least bit of a threat to the "establishment" Democrats.

What happens after that really depends on the next recession, and how deep it goes.

Look at Howard Dean-- from "radical Dem" to health care lobbyist and Clinton supporter.

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Apr 19 2016 17:46
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I don't think the Sanders supporters are the least bit of a threat to the "establishment" Democrats.

But I said *what they want* is a threat. What they want is a return to New Deal style policies that would ramp up state spending in various areas, and take measures that in practice would cut into capital's profit rate.

After all, what was the reason for the post-'70s neoliberal direction? It was to restore profit rates which had greatly sunk in late '60s and '70s. By not raising the minimum wage for years after the late '60s, the effect was to raise by 25 percent the profit rate of the restaurant industry. And then there is the myriad of tax cuts & loopholes for the wealthy.

To the degree there is going to be increasing forms of actual struggle due to this increasing discontent, to that degree the threat becomes real.

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Apr 20 2016 03:19

CNN is projecting that Trump and Clinton have won NY by pretty large margins.

Sort of related, a right-wing online publication put out an article about Sanders being kicked off a commune in the 70s. Supposedly, Sanders' 'endless political discussion' distracted the hippies from their work. No idea if real, but the article is hilarious.

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Apr 20 2016 07:05

Polls had predicted Clinton winning by anywhere from 10 to 17 points. The higher prediction was more accurate as she has won by 17 points. Pretty much makes toast of Sanders. It was a closed primary which means a vote among those with a long term attachment to the Dem party machine. People who are more disaffected are often independent or in third parties. I suspected this would give Clinton the victory in New York.

The election contest in both parties itself has been an interminable focus of discussion this year due to the huge media focus on the implosion of the Republicans and Sanders phenomenon. Any real force for change is going to have to be developed through some other channel, and the media focus simply sucks the focus into the electoral scheme, which is structurally biased (as always) towards defense of interests of the dominating classes.

petey
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Apr 20 2016 14:13

maps of county returns show clinton winning cities (NY/LI, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo) while sanders won the rest of the state.

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york

i also notice that trump lost one county: my own, right here in the heart of his "empire" grin

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