Post-Trump North American left trends

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Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 12:42
Post-Trump North American left trends

Splitting this off from a longer thread to reply to it:

Juan Conatz wrote:
I'd like to see something written about the effects the Trump campaign and administration has has had on the left. Just off the top of my head I'd say

-Swing to social democrat electoralism as the main influencer and entry point to the radical left

-Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies

-The seeming decline of anarchism as a unique and identifiable segment of the radical left

-Perceived amplification of the stakes translating into more salt the earth tactics towards internal rivals

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OliverTwister
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Apr 27 2018 13:20

- Unwillingness to recognize new realities and new possibilities from those who wanted everything to stay the same.

Example: A well-known Libcom poster, in response to a question on Facebook asking "What the hell happened to the IWW?", wrote:

Quote:
We decided to try and recruit every person who was mad about Trump and just open the flood gates. Now all of the problems of the activist scene are the problems of the iww. Where we were once an island of a bit of sanity we have now been overrun with people, lots of whom are actually opposed to workplace organizing.

Nevermind that I have yet to see any example of any new IWW members who are "opposed to workplace organizing" ... This is just one example of the extreme cynicism of those who wanted to maintain the insulation of the IWW from the broader working class (the island imagery is actually very appropriate). Many of them referred to the growth we saw after the election as the "Trump bump", and some of those who were in executive positions at the time actually argued that these new members would fade and we would return to "normal". (This came up when our finance committee projected a budget based on this growth and some of those executives refused to accept the projected surplus - they used this logic to argue that there would not be a surplus. We actually ended up with a higher surplus than had even been projected.)

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R Totale
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Apr 27 2018 13:37

Am curious about how the Marcyite/tankie/Maoist whateverist trend fits into the "Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies" point - certainly the most prominent UK Young Stalin types I can think of tend to go heavily for the Nagle side of things, but it's my understanding that PSL/WWP types would tend more to the very "woke" side. But I'm open to correction to people who might know more.
Also: - hugely increased media profile of "antifa" and "black bloc", for better or for worse

- is stuff like J20/Georgia last weekend indicative of a broadly increased level of repression, or is it more or less par for the course and what you'd expect from fine US state traditions?

- obviously the class struggle and "the left" are two different things, but the current wave of worker struggles feels exciting/bigger than anything seen in a while. Also this is possibly offtopic, but god the Burgerville recognition thing being apparently an absolute first makes you realise how completely overhyped and stage managed Fight for $15 was - all that fuss and they didn't actually unionise one single location?

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 15:14
Juan Conatz wrote:
Swing to social democrat electoralism as the main influencer and entry point to the radical left

This is worth pointing out, the main driver in membership of the DSA (and Jacobin subscriptions) - which I see as the main social democratic entry points, was not the Bernie Sanders campaign, but that Trump won. I think it was an oh-shit moment for a lot of liberals (but also a lot of much more politicised/radical people who weren't in an organisation), so they signed up to the most accessible/present org which was the DSA.

I do though think that this has significantly changed the composition of the DSA, and it includes a lot of anti-electoralist people - question is what happens with the DSA/Jacobin-centred old guard vs. the new membership though. Also whether the DSA medicare-for-all centrally-directed electoralism manages to mobilise a largely paper membership for the Democrats in mid-terms and whatever the fuck happens next year with the presidential primaries starting.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies

Definitely this, but it's worth pointing out that this is a trend that has happened across political tendencies. So you have intersectional tankies, intersectional social-democrats, intersectional anarchists, economistic anarchists, economistic social-democrats, economistic tankies. I'm not sure just how much this is a response to the Trump election vs. also the way that political discussion has been flattened on twitter and other places - i.e. that there's a lot more direct communication between anarchists, tankies, social democrats that you would not have had 10 or even 5 years ago as well as much wider discussions about 'identity politics' outside radical political circles.

Juan Conatz wrote:
-The seeming decline of anarchism as a unique and identifiable segment of the radical left

Have said this elsewhere, but I think a massive part of this is that anti-electoral arguments have been hugely watered down the past 20-30 years, to 'all politicians being the same' vs. a proper critique of the state. With loads of New Right movements across the US and Europe, as well as various more properly socially democratic parties/politicians around, people no longer listen to "they're all the same" as much.

One the other hand, a consistent anti-electoral politics isn't limited only to anarchism, but to (some) branches of Leninist politics as well (although not the main groups like ISO/SWP).

The critique of electoralism here: http://blackrosefed.org/electoral-pursuits-have-veered-us-away-kali-akuno-on-movement-lessons-from-jackson/ - even though it's from someone in favour of municipal socialism, is more robust than a lot of boilerplate 'voting is meaningless' posts in terms of showing how its recuperating energy.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Perceived amplification of the stakes translating into more salt the earth tactics towards internal rivals

Not sure what this means?

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 15:39
R Totale wrote:
Am curious about how the Marcyite/tankie/Maoist whateverist trend fits into the "Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies" point - certainly the most prominent UK Young Stalin types I can think of tend to go heavily for the Nagle side of things, but it's my understanding that PSL/WWP types would tend more to the very "woke" side. But I'm open to correction to people who might know more.

I think this is an accurate summary. Also the Marycites will criticise the crude economism of the right wing social democrat DSA types like Conor Kilpatrick. And this isn't a new situation as far as I know, I think the original Workers World Party was pro gay-rights in the early '70s too.

I'd say though that younger US online Maoists (not even sure which groups they might affiliated) hate the Marcyites, because for example a Maoist would be very critical of modern China as neoliberal, whereas Marcyites will either defend China as a geopolitical counterweight to the US, or some of them go full on Dengist and claim it's actually socialist/communist, that Chinese investment in Africa is some kind of socialist project to increase living standards etc.

Would also make a distinction between a classical Marxist Leninism influenced by late '60s black radicalism, operaismo and similar trends (what I'd call 'Leninist Marxism') vs. the bizarro-Trot/Tankie stuff. This piece talks about that a bit: https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-united-states

The very, very rapid politicisation that people can go through these days might feed into this? Like 20 years ago you'd have to subscribe to magazines or join a group, and could maybe read a few classic texts online if you knew where to look. Now you have marxists.org, this site, all of twitter, hundreds of facebook groups and reddit so exposure to everything from Marcyite sects to Bordigism is there for people. One the one hand it leads to people associating with very specific tendencies with maybe quite shallow political education, but on the other there's a lot of potential for people to read heterogeneously and not get tied down to shitty groups or isolated in sects (whether social media encourages isolationism is a double edged sword I think).

--

One point that's not been mentioned. There seemed to be a lull in mass protests in response to police killings in the first few months after Trump, but the St Louis protests against the Jason Stockley verdict in autumn 2017, and recent protests against the killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento turn that on its head a bit.

Also there have been some disaffiliations of local branches from Black Lives Matter and BLM Cincinnati which was always independent I think, changed it's name to completely disassociate itself from the national organisation: http://blacklivescincy.com/home/2018/03/28/why-black-lives-matter-cincinnati-is-changing-its-name/ - to me that's an encouraging sign that the obvious recuperation that's been attempted is being rejected by some local groups, and in a way that might be more clear to casual observers who tend to lump everything in as BLM and put Deray or M4BL on the top of it.

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Steven.
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Apr 27 2018 15:39

Mike, I think he means that because people see "the left" as being particularly crucial now, lefties are being more vicious in terms of their attacks on other left-wing opponents.

I'm not really that in touch with the American scene so not very sure about the accuracy of this. But I am aware of extremely vicious internal rivalries over prolonged periods of time…

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 16:23

@Steven. thanks that makes sense.

Related to that, do any US people know what's going on with Socialist Alternative and ISO - as far as I can tell they've not made nearly the same capitalisation as the Marcyites or DSA have. ISO posted some very stupid anti-antifa bollocks after Berkeley which came close to badjacketing the black bloc, they just don't seem to be able to adapt at all.

The SWP somewhat collapsed here following the rape apologism scandal and multiple splits - it's still going and still manages to turn up to London demos with hundreds of placards, but also seems quite stagnant otherwise. There are new Trotskyist groups like RS21, which from a distance seem a bit less toxic (and more anti-Labour/electoralism than Plan C for example), although I haven't looked in detail as to what their actual politics are.

syndicalist
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Apr 28 2018 01:05

Main trend: social democracy in form and action

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gram negative
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Apr 29 2018 20:58

MH, you've made a useful observation in the distinction between the weakness of the flimsy 'all politicians are the same' critique of electoral politics vs. a truly anti-state political critique of electoralism. I do agree that social democracy is experiencing an upsurge in the US, but I wouldn't say the anarchist-influenced groups on the American left have necessarily gotten smaller, just that organizations like DSA have mushroomed so suddenly. It is easy to assume that any proposed reforms to the US welfare state are bound to fall due to the material realities of capital, but the more worrying thing for the libertarian left, in my opinion, is if some reforms are successful, if and when higher political offices are won by social democrats.

R. Spourgitis
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Apr 30 2018 21:01

Not sure what piece of Juan's Mike is quoting from here, but the biggest shift in the radical left in the US that I have seen is the divide between antifa activity, and the perception of a resurgent far right, and electoralism in local and state level. With the vast majority of the anarchist and anti-state radical left falling into the former category.

I think this has been a colossal mistake and misrepresented the danger that out and out fascists actually pose. It has ceded organizing ground and squandered opportunities where people are organizing, be it with pro-immigrant campaigns, pro-labor, or anti-cut to services, etc. I know people say "we can do both," but the reality I see doesn't square with that -- resources and time are limited and people have seemed to decide that the tiny subset of Pepe Nazis are more worthy of their time and effort than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

I think the DSA is obviously reaping the benefits of a rise in left wing activism and sentiment with regards to a fairly hard right leaning political leadership in Washington and in a lot of states. SA and ISO haven't been nearly visible that I've seen, and the DSA is active in a ton of places like the Midwest and South that haven't seen much if any organizing, since say Occupy or even decades before. To me that's signficant and while is often very electoral oriented, there is some interesting organizing happening along the lines of the above from chapters.

syndicalist
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May 1 2018 00:54

I asked one of my 17 year olds why he likes DSA. His reply: "They make sense". Followed up by, how come things I believe in don't make sense. Him: "They do, just not now." So I explored it with him. Basically, my ideas are good ideas about the future. He's not into street battles and he's too young to vote. But he think that the progressive slogans, the health care for all and some other here today stuff makes sense for him. He laughed at one point: "Look at you, your anarchist flags, books, buttons and how you used to look, how far have you gotten?" Me: "Kid, it's a long haul thing." Him: "Can I have the keys to the car to see (his g-friend)?" Me: Love you dude, but we gotta get deep." Him: "Ok, keys, plz."

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Hieronymous
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May 1 2018 03:11
R. Spourgitis wrote:
. . . than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

This is leaving the Democrats off the hook.

In my lifetime, the worst shit was Carter’s deregulation at the end of his term and Clinton’s workfare and gutting social welfare provisions, many of which had existed since the New Deal (and more damaging than anything Reagan got away with destroying).

If antifa is panic over the rising tide of racist, homo-/trans-phobic, and anti-immigrant attacks, then fear-mongering over the “atrocious policies” of the Republicans, which are indistinguishable from the neoliberal austerity and attacks on the working class of the Democrats, is more akin to the frenzy of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

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OliverTwister
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May 1 2018 03:20
R. Spourgitis wrote:
Not sure what piece of Juan's Mike is quoting from here, but the biggest shift in the radical left in the US that I have seen is the divide between antifa activity, and the perception of a resurgent far right, and electoralism in local and state level. With the vast majority of the anarchist and anti-state radical left falling into the former category.

I think this has been a colossal mistake and misrepresented the danger that out and out fascists actually pose. It has ceded organizing ground and squandered opportunities where people are organizing, be it with pro-immigrant campaigns, pro-labor, or anti-cut to services, etc. I know people say "we can do both," but the reality I see doesn't square with that -- resources and time are limited and people have seemed to decide that the tiny subset of Pepe Nazis are more worthy of their time and effort than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

I think the DSA is obviously reaping the benefits of a rise in left wing activism and sentiment with regards to a fairly hard right leaning political leadership in Washington and in a lot of states. SA and ISO haven't been nearly visible that I've seen, and the DSA is active in a ton of places like the Midwest and South that haven't seen much if any organizing, since say Occupy or even decades before. To me that's signficant and while is often very electoral oriented, there is some interesting organizing happening along the lines of the above from chapters.

I can only really speak to the specific experience of the IWW in the South, but from what I've seen, everything you're saying is wrong.

There are probably 10 IWW members in North Carolina and Virginia for every 1 there was in 2015, and that is directly attributable to anti-fascist organizing. The successful rout of the Klan's 'victory parade' in Danville VA in December 2016 led to a lot of people joining in NC and VA, and those people have brought in others. They are almost universally involved in organizing at work, supporting IWOC, and doing other organizing in the community. The notion that "resources and time" are limited is a very cadre-style idea of how our organizing ought to look, when really it ought to be based on infectiousness of our ideas.

I've only heard of people claiming a divide between antifascist organizing and other forms of organizing on Facebook, I haven't seen anybody involved in real organizing who claims that, at least if they actually acknowledge the growing threat of fascist groups.

IWW would have reaped the same benefits as DSA if we hadn't had a vocal minority of members who were gaslighting the majority about the current reality in the US. NC and VA are an example of what we could have seen across the US.

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May 1 2018 06:13

Will try to say more on this subject later, but on the specific experience of Southern wobblies, could you say how that's looked in GA this past month or so, since IIRC there's been a mass (wildcat?) strike there and a very harshly repressed anti-nazi mobilisation happening at more or less the same time, which sounds like a pretty ideal test case for understanding the antifa/other stuff dynamic.

R. Spourgitis
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May 1 2018 06:47

I brought it up because it was surprising to see in a thread titled "Post-Trump North American left trends" there's no mention of antifa and general antifascist / alt-right organizing -- which from what I can tell has been pretty dominant for the radical left.

OliverTwister wrote:
I can only really speak to the specific experience of the IWW in the South, but from what I've seen, everything you're saying is wrong.

There are probably 10 IWW members in North Carolina and Virginia for every 1 there was in 2015, and that is directly attributable to anti-fascist organizing. The successful rout of the Klan's 'victory parade' in Danville VA in December 2016 led to a lot of people joining in NC and VA, and those people have brought in others. They are almost universally involved in organizing at work, supporting IWOC, and doing other organizing in the community. The notion that "resources and time" are limited is a very cadre-style idea of how our organizing ought to look, when really it ought to be based on infectiousness of our ideas.

I've only heard of people claiming a divide between antifascist organizing and other forms of organizing on Facebook, I haven't seen anybody involved in real organizing who claims that, at least if they actually acknowledge the growing threat of fascist groups.

I'm not against doing antifascist and anti-racist organizing, and I think there's better and worse examples of it in the last two years for sure. If you are seeing it helping solid organizing outside of the flashy but rare anti-fash mobilizations, good on you.

What I've seen is a fixation that's outside the actual threat posed. In Iowa where there is virtually zero organized far right presence, but Republicans have taken all branches of government since 2016 and a slew of anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion legislation has come down, cutting education funding, slashing if not outright eliminating services for health care, the disabled, DV and SA victim services on and on, there's no question where the real dangers to working people and the most disadvantaged are coming from. It isn't the alt-right or Nazi fascists.

OliverTwister wrote:
IWW would have reaped the same benefits as DSA if we hadn't had a vocal minority of members who were gaslighting the majority about the current reality in the US. NC and VA are an example of what we could have seen across the US.

I haven't been a dues paying member for a few years and I only know a little bit about the internal divisions over antifa stuff, so it isn't what I had in mind. My outsider perspective is that those fights are more of a symptom of the debate over leftist energies and priorities. But also I'm not sure what you mean by this, if there were more antifa organizing in more places there would be more IWW akin to DSA? I'm going to have to disagree heartily there if so.

I think the combination of liberal and social democratic leanings mean the DSA is just more poised take in the big influx of people than any version of the IWW would (I happen to think the post-Bernie crowd is pretty big part of the DSA, besides the "oh shit" liberals).

Hieronymous wrote:
This is leaving the Democrats off the hook.

In my lifetime, the worst shit was Carter’s deregulation at the end of his term and Clinton’s workfare and gutting social welfare provisions, many of which had existed since the New Deal (and more damaging than anything Reagan got away with destroying).

If antifa is panic over the rising tide of racist, homo-/trans-phobic, and anti-immigrant attacks, then fear-mongering over the “atrocious policies” of the Republicans, which are indistinguishable from the neoliberal austerity and attacks on the working class of the Democrats, is more akin to the frenzy of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

Fair enough. I'm used to saying that because where I'm living, see above. It is a double whammy of Republicans at the federal and state levels fucking people over. I like to point out to people that here when the Democrats and control it was they who started instituting austerity cuts and talking about tax breaks. It's the same policies, just maybe not quite a severe and minus the extra reactionary racist, sexist and xenophobic policies

So yeah, absolutely where Democrats are in power and pulling the same stuff they need opposed too. I am certainly not advocating in favor of shilling for them.

The post election DSA in my area is a thing where there are a lot of people in the state that want to do organizing on housing issues, on immigrant defense work, on policy issues stuff. It does also include people who are for, if not campaigning for Dems, also running DSA's own candidates. My sense is that this split and presence is the case in a lot of places. I'm not sure how it will shake out, but to the extent that solid organizing efforts can occur I think it's something worth being involved with for now and for me.

If people are finding that in their local IWW or whatever else then they should totally do what makes sense in their area. I just I have not seen the kind of interest and energy on the national level in that kind of work that I have for turning out against the far right or doxxing them or whatever. Those things have value but it's limited. Now that the far right is appearing to implode, great victory has been declared -- well I think the danger and strength was overstated. That's not to say there isn't any danger or any need to organize against them, it's just not lining up with what I see as the needed priorities and points for organizing.

To be honest, I haven't followed this site and nor have I been active in organized left politics in a little while, besides finishing a degree while working and having two kids, I've just been flat out disgusted with the state of the left. (My workplace also banned libcom sad ) Watching the cuts happen to the field me and my partner work in -- watching a visible decline in people's quality of life, watching the extra curricular and foreign language programs be cut from my kids' schools, and seeing a shitshow over Milo or Richard Spencer, it hasn't lined up.

Mike Harman
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May 1 2018 11:04
R. Spourgitis wrote:
organizing on housing issues, on immigrant defense work,

I'm not in the US and the only things I know about internal-IWW stuff (or the DSA) are online, but wanted to pick up on this.

Twin Cities IWW-GDC has worked on anti-police stuff a bit: https://twincitiesgdc.org/2017/10/29/the-cops-and-the-politicians-represent-the-same-violent-order-a-statement-from-the-anti-police-terror-working-group/ and a community response to public sexual harassment as an alternative to police: https://twincitiesgdc.org/2017/07/25/local-community-self-defense-action/

I don't see a particular reason why an IWW-GDC couldn't get involved with opposition to ICE raids? It's harder to organise than an anti-fascist counter-demonstration for a publicly advertised event, but there's been some success co-ordinating/publicising immigration raid resistance in the UK for example: http://antiraids.net/

Black Rose Federation did a post (I think they took a bit too much credit for what happened based on other reports) about blocking an ICE raid on a 7-11 in California: http://blackrosefed.org/la-koreatown-fights-back-on-7-11-ice-raids/ - this sort of thing.

Similarly with housing, the DSA communist caucus has been getting involved with tenants unions, but that also doesn't seem incompatible with the IWW (or if not, a solidarity network like seasol).

The impression I've got is that some (most?) of the DSA's housing activism is getting tenants to lobby local politicians for rent controls or similar, which is really the appearance of housing activism funnelled into more electoralism. But there is capacity for collective action against realtors and landlords that does not get sucked into reformism (Brighton Solfed does a lot of this - helping people get stolen deposits back by picketing shop fronts and similar).

There's a risk of housing, anti-ICE and anti-police organising (and anti-fascism sometimes) slipping into reformism (or individual casework), but that risk exists for workplace organising too.

Is there active opposition inside the IWW to getting involved with this sort of stuff in general?

R. Spourgitis
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May 1 2018 12:56
Mike Harman wrote:
The impression I've got is that some (most?) of the DSA's housing activism is getting tenants to lobby local politicians for rent controls or similar, which is really the appearance of housing activism funnelled into more electoralism. But there is capacity for collective action against realtors and landlords that does not get sucked into reformism (Brighton Solfed does a lot of this - helping people get stolen deposits back by picketing shop fronts and similar).

Yeah this is an ongoing discussion where I'm at. There's a DSA chapter in the state doing a renters union that's described as being built in a solidarity network style, and I'm advocating something similar, while others appear more interested in this electoralist direction you're describing (which I agree with your summation). It's pretty new, just a month in the works here, so we'll see. There's actually a statewide conference coming up this weekend so I hope to get a better feel for what others are doing.

Mike Harman wrote:
Is there active opposition inside the IWW to getting involved with this sort of stuff in general?

I couldn't say, not being in it for a while, same with Black Rose. But there's no existing presence of them here and any effort to organize a branch or local would be time spent away from where there are already people working on a project.

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May 2 2018 12:21

For reference: I don't know anywhere near enough about the DSA to be able to comment myself, but this article gives some info on some of the internal difficulties that have accompanied their recent growth: https://medium.com/@seanmduffy/inwards-and-outwards-dsa-in-conflict-7650b55e226d