Want to Elect Socialists? Run Them in Democratic Primaries

By Daniel Moraff. First published by In These Times.

There are currently 7,383 state legislators in the United States. Nine of them are affiliated with the Vermont Progressive Party. One of them is an independent from Alaska who caucuses with the Democrats.

This is the grand sum of the left presence in American state legislatures outside the Democratic Party. There has been a single instance of federal-level victory in my lifetime—Bernie Sanders’s election as an independent to the U.S. House, then Senate, in Vermont. No one else has even come close. And Sanders, after 30 years as an Independent, elected to seek the presidency through the Democratic primary. Continue reading

Could Sanders Split the Democratic Party?

Shawn Whitney, Canadian writer, filmmaker, and socialist, continues our discussion of the US elections. He argues that Marxists should be playing an active role in Sanders’ campaign because of its potential to raise the general level of class-conciousness. Read previous contributions to the debate hereFirst published by Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century.

Presidential primary season is drawing to a close in the United States and mainstream media are trying to wrap up the dirty business of choosing the political candidates for each of the dominant political parties – so that they can move on to the dirty business of choosing the president. It will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we are told, and that is the end of it.

They are probably right. But that is hardly the end of it. The looming California primary could deal another bloody nose to the credibility of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate, with the potential for a late season major upset by Bernie Sanders. If this happens it would come just a week after the Inspector General at the State Department released a damning report on Hillary Clinton’s simmering email scandal, explicitly exposing her as a liar[1], further cementing her image in the public mind as fundamentally dishonest. A recent Fox poll found that more people thought her dishonest than serial liar Trump with his multiple bankruptcies and business swindles.[2] In fact, what has become most apparent in the current primary is that both presumptive candidates – Trump and Clinton – have the highest disapproval ratings in polling history for any presidential candidate.[3]

What has been different this primary season is, first and foremost, the hunger on both sides of the political spectrum for more muscular responses to the unending crisis of capitalism. On the right there is Trump touting the politics of scapegoating. He promises to build a wall between the US and Mexico to keep out Latino refugees and immigrants. He promises to ban Muslim immigration. Lately he has been using racism to attack the Mexican-American judge who is presiding over the class-action lawsuit against Trump regarding one of his (many) scams: Trump University.[4] And, once a liberal on some social questions, he has run with the reactionary politics that are fueling his supporters. He has enthusiastically taken up the cudgel of social conservatism to attack women, gays and lesbians, African-Americans, etc. Continue reading

What America’s Third Parties Teach Us About the Democratic ‘Party’

The debate between Jason Schulman of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Barry Finger of New Politics about how to build a party to the left of the Democratic ‘Party’ in the 21st century has largely ignored actually existing third-party efforts and focused instead on whether it is possible to use the Democratic Party for progressive ends in light of the astounding success of the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. Schulman along with DSA argue that yes, it is possible — in certain situations under certain conditions — while Finger says no, it is not possible in any situation or under any conditions. For Schulman and DSA, working within the Democratic Party could help lead to the formation of a left-of-Democratic Party wheras Finger contends that all roads within the Democratic Party framework lead inevitably to dead ends.

The best way to settle this debate is to look at the three organizing models provided by America’s actually existing third-party efforts. Continue reading

Meet the Democratic Socialist Running for NY’s State Senate

By Sam Adler-Bell. Originally published by The Nation.

Debbie Medina has lived her entire life south of Grand Street in the Southside of Williamsburg, a historically Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn. The office of Southside United HFDC — better known as Los Sures — where Medina has worked as a housing organizer for 30 years, is on South Fifth, eight blocks away. When she walks down Driggs Avenue, Debbie can point at the buildings and recite their histories. “This neighborhood has always had some nasty landlords,” she says.

Debbie_Medina_img

Debbie Medina (center) with the city council’s Antonio Reynoso (D) (right).

Continue reading

The 21st Century Democratic “Party”: A Marxist Analysis

By Jason Schulman. (Originally published at New Politics, republished by Shiraz Socialist.)

Some months ago I responded to a piece that appeared on the New Politics blog by my longtime fellow New Politics (NP) editorial board member and friend Barry Finger.1 In my own blog, I argued that Barry had a better, more sophisticated understanding of the peculiarities of the Democratic Party and the U.S. electoral system than do many on the radical left who refuse to support any Democratic candidate regardless of that candidate’s personal political platform. However, I also made clear that I believed that Barry still suffered from certain misunderstandings regarding just how different American political parties are from parties that exist anywhere else in the world, and this meant there were defects in his suggestions as to how left-wing socialists should relate to the Sanders campaign. Other defects still characterize the arguments of those who claim that to support Sanders, however critically, is to support a candidate of a party of capital. While invoking my debate with Barry, I’ll touch upon those other arguments and their problems and explain why I think that critical support for the Sanders campaign is a necessity if we’re to build a much larger socialist movement and how the campaign may lay the basis for an independent party of the left. Continue reading