Democrats, middle-class left find common ground in 2020

By Terry Evans
August 3, 2020
Strike by hosiery workers at Strutwear Knitting Co. in Minneapolis in 1935-36, one of militant struggles that built industrial unions in 1930s. Middle-class left dismisses as useless lessons of previous working-class battles in which workers transformed their conditions and themselves.
Minnesota Historical SocietyStrike by hosiery workers at Strutwear Knitting Co. in Minneapolis in 1935-36, one of militant struggles that built industrial unions in 1930s. Middle-class left dismisses as useless lessons of previous working-class battles in which workers transformed their conditions and themselves.

As the presidential election looms closer, liberals, anarchists and other middle-class radicals are seeking to put their political stamp on the Democratic Party, which they see as their party, and its program and the candidacy of Joe Biden. And they are having substantial success.

This is in sharp contrast to the Socialist Workers Party campaign of Alyson Kennedy for president and Malcolm Jarrett for vice president. The socialist candidates look to unify workers behind struggles taking place today for jobs, higher wages, increasing control of production, working conditions and safety. They present a fighting program to build a working-class movement of millions to replace the capitalist rulers and their state with a workers and farmers government.

These liberal and radical forces are seeking to set the agenda for the Democratic campaign. Their program is one of “revolution,” while leaving the state apparatus and the capitalist rulers who wield political power untouched.

Proposals to “defund the cops,” “cancel rent” and get Congress to adopt the “Green New Deal” is what’s needed to “redistribute power,” writes Amna Akbar in a July 11 New York Times article. It’s headlined, “The Left Is Remaking the World.” She says this can be realized by “a state whose primary allegiance is to people’s needs instead of profit.”

These forces deny the existence of a class-based state, urge instead that the focus for “change” should be directed at racist, sexist and anti-gender institutions. Their concept of society is based on denying class divisions as fundamental and reject working-class struggle as a road forward. To them, race, gender and the poor and disenfranchised determine politics. Their enemy is not a class-based state, but bad institutions.

When they do talk about the working class, it is as an object that must be “helped.” They view workers as backward, racist, xenophobic and reactionary.

This political view makes it impossible to seriously attack the crisis working people face today. Take cop violence.

Fight to end cop brutality

The brutality cops inflict on Blacks and other working people is not an aberration, but an indispensable part of maintaining capitalist rule. Cops exist to “serve and protect” capitalist property relations and mete out arbitrary violence to keep working people in check. Cuts to police spending and other reforms will not prevent the propertied owners from using cops to assault workers’ protests and picket lines when we fight to defend ourselves from the growing attacks of the bosses and their state.

The anti-working-class course of middle-class radicals who act as if a new society can be built while capitalism and its state apparatus remain intact was on show in Seattle in early June. Joined by local gang enforcers, they took over a six-block area of the city, including a police precinct, after cops abandoned the station during a protest against cop brutality.

The groups taking over the area renamed it the Capital Hill Organized Protest and appointed their own armed thugs to enforce order. Jenny Durkan, the city’s liberal Democratic mayor, acquiesced, saying the occupation was “the community’s call for change.” She ensured utilities were provided to the occupiers and ordered the cops to stay out.

Over nine days two Black teenagers were shot dead and others wounded.

Only after the killings did Durkan order cops to dismantle the occupation.

The liberal editors of the Times say stripping the names of Confederate officers and renaming U.S. military bases after Blacks, women and others who are oppressed would be a “step in the right direction” for ending racism. But cosmetic changes to the armed forces of U.S. imperialism will do nothing to stop the rulers from fighting wars to defend their interests around the world and to use working people — Black, Caucasian and women — as cannon fodder.

The radicals’ proposals for revolution without touching the capitalist state go hand in hand with their efforts to obscure recognition that class divisions are fundamental to the workings of capitalism. They conceal this fact in order to bury the powerful lessons of the massive working-class struggles we have waged — from the fight to build the industrial unions in the 1930s, to the Black-led working-class movement that brought down Jim Crow segregation. To say nothing of the revolutionary struggles that led workers and farmers to power in Cuba in 1959 and in Russia in 1917. It is through such battles that working people transform ourselves, our understanding of the world, and change history.

Biden’s ‘revolution’

Democratic nominee Joe Biden increasingly echoes the radicals’ views. Backed by liberals and radicals who argued getting rid of Donald Trump in November was the decisive issue. He defeated the reformist socialism offered by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.

He now calls for cutting funds for police programs and on July 14 presented plans for a “clean energy revolution,” co-authored for him by former Secretary of State John Kerry and “Green New Deal” champion Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These forces promote the illusion that the oppressed and exploited can protect themselves by relying on a classless state administered by enlightened meritocrats.

But the state exists to defend class rule, and under capitalism this involves the rulers’ exploiting the labor of working people. This will not change without a fundamental transformation of the social relations it is based on. That necessitates growing working-class consciousness and a working-class-led fight to end capitalist rule.

The middle-class left is an obstacle to developing working-class consciousness. They prefer threats and thuggery to discussion and debate

Working-class road forward

The SWP candidates in 2020 explain that as working people’s struggles deepen, class consciousness will grow. Millions will join in strikes and other actions against the capitalist rulers. You can see a glimmer of this in the groundswell of protests in towns, large and small, against police brutality. And we will have the opportunity to replace the bosses and their government with our own.