By Rainer Shea – Jun 9, 2023
At this moment, the best thing we can do to weaken the Democratic Party’s monopoly over organizing spaces is back Cornel West. Communists should vote for him not because he’s a communist, which he isn’t, but because voting for him will have an impact that advances our cause. What it will do is greatly expand the fissure that’s long been developing within the country’s left, the fissure that makes the communist movement better able to grow outside the DNC’s influence.
This fissure first became visible during recent decades when, in reaction to the Democratic Party’s reactionary turn in the 1990s, an element of the left emerged that sought to build a movement separate from the Democrats. Obama was able to re-assimilate this element, but with the heightening of class contradictions that we’ve experienced since 2008, the fissure re-appeared in time with the 2016 election. Bernie Sanders tried to pacify his movement by endorsing Clinton and promoting the new cold war, but a great amount of his voters ended up leaving his cult of personality and committing to a full rejection of the Democratic Party. With the even further rightward turn the Democrats have taken over the last decade, where they’re no longer merely just as pro-imperialist as the Republicans but now the most pro-war of the two, there’s appeared a need for a new front within this conflict to emerge. A front where the Democratic Party’s left enemies attack the party based primarily on anti-imperialism.
Cornel West fills this need. He’s said to the imperialism-compatible “left”: “You’re still locked into a very knee-jerk defense of NATO so that the militarism still goes on—everybody knows if Russia had troops in Mexico or Canada there would be invasions tomorrow.” For him to say things like this makes him better on anti-imperialism than virtually all of the left, including most of the country’s self-described communist orgs. Because even though almost none of the left’s opportunists want people to think they’re outright pro-NATO, they’re not willing to point out this reality that any country in Russia’s situation would be doing what it’s doing. They prefer to change the subject to Russia’s real or supposed contradictions, and cultivate an “equal blame on both sides” perception of the conflict. Never to act serious about combating NATO’s narratives.
Sanders has said that he isn’t focused much on Ukraine, but basically supports what Biden is doing. The Green Party’s de facto leader Howie Hawkins has come out in support of Ukraine. The PSL has joined the Democrat front group the CPUSA in denouncing both NATO and Russia, and has declined to become a truly active agent in the anti-NATO movement; it only decided to hold its March 18 antiwar rally after the Rage Against the War Machine event, and since then hasn’t done anything notable in this area. Orgs like the People’s Party, which West is running as a candidate under, are the ones that are proactive in fighting against NATO. The People’s Party made RAWM possible. The people and orgs who are invested in tailing the Democrats have at most been doing the bare minimum of anti-imperialist actions to try to not look bad in comparison, and are otherwise apathetic towards combating U.S. hegemony. That’s how we can tell which side is opportunistic, and which side is having a progressive impact.
The more voters go to West, the less the Democrats will be able to manipulate our discourse. The Democrats will obviously continue to attack West as a spoiler, like they’ve done to every past counter-hegemonic candidate, but the nature of our conditions has made us able to effectively counter this argument. The Democrats have let the pandemic keep destroying millions of bodies, started a war that’s greatly accelerated our inflation crisis, and made both of these problems worse by deliberately neglecting social spending to pay for the war. In increasing numbers, the people know they’ve been betrayed by the same leaders who were supposed to make things better after Trump.
This consciousness shift is evident in how support for aid to Ukraine has been declining since fall of last year, when it started to become clear both that the war was not going to be over soon and that the experts had lied about how effective the sanctions would be. The Democrats said that destroying Russia is an easy and worthwhile thing to do. Now with these developments, and the recent mainstream recognition that the Russians are fighting against actual Nazis, doubt is growing over whether those on the left should keep enabling the Democrats.
The answer we can give to the liberals when they say West will spoil Biden’s campaign is: “and why should we care about protecting Biden?” The lesser evilism argument is not good enough, at least not for those who’ve gotten a sense of the argument’s long history of shutting down radicalism. That excuse for voting blue already came to be used too many times decades ago. Because of the left’s failure to be genuinely radical, our ruling class has been able to take its war against the working class as far as it has. The reality we’re living out is the consequence of our having followed the advice of the liberals during all those past opportunities for advancing revolutionary change.
The severity of our situation is making many more willing to defy the Democratic Party, and come to the proletarian movement. Someone new to politics who’s a West voter today has a great chance of becoming a communist, more than did those who were Sanders voters seven years ago. They also have a greater chance of becoming a more principled kind of communist than many former Sanders supporters are. Because plenty of Sanders voters gravitated to the PSL, and then became committed to advancing PSL’s Democrat tailism rather than growing wary of it. There’s a reason why Midwestern Marx, which has decided to become an active rather than reactive agent in the anti-NATO struggle, is helping lead the communist support effort behind West. It’s because Midwestern Marx, and the element of US Marxists they represent, understand that defying US hegemony and building a movement outside the Democratic Party are our most important goals at the moment.
The answer we can give to the other types who are attacking West’s campaign, those being the radical liberals who aren’t even planning to vote Biden, is: what exactly are your priorities? If a person or organization is joining with the Democrats in attacking West, yet claims to oppose the Democratic Party’s anti-revolutionary politics, why are they strategically aiding the DNC? An actor who understands and cares about what’s strategically best for the revolutionary struggle would not make a decision like this. Not when the Democrats are making it so clear, via their deployment of a domestic version of the NAFO troll campaign, that they view discourse management as extremely important.
If the problem these actors have is with how Midwestern Marx supports patriotic socialism, they should call that group in, and enter into a good-faith dialogue with the group’s members on which ideas are optimal for a Marxist to uphold. Since I decided to start doing this with those in the ideological element that Midwestern Marx represents, both they and myself have been able to learn things from our exchanges. But the actors I’m talking about are not interested in that kind of constructive activity.
If someone has suddenly come to have an extremely strong opinion against West’s favor, and won’t listen to any of the arguments about why voting for him advances the class struggle, you know they’re fighting a different kind of battle than the one serious Marxists are fighting. They’re fighting to further a particular idea they have of what “the left” should be, an idea that’s not informed by an honest analysis of our conditions. It’s like when all of the radlibs suddenly decided to aggressively oppose Rage Against the War Machine, and thereby decided they’ll oppose any serious project to construct a movement outside the Democratic Party’s control. We should operate according to what best advances the anti-imperialist movement, which is the most urgent and meaningful part of advancing the class struggle at this stage. By voting West, we’ll be doing the most significant thing we can to weaken the Democrats, which are communism’s foremost enemies in this country for the time being.