One Divides into Three? A Report on the U.S. Left Unity Conference

By Ethan Young

Dan La Botz’s description of the Future of the Left/Independent Politics Conference makes another introduction redundant. Instead, I’ll add my own observations. I come from the other side of this discussion: I hold with the ‘inside/outside’ approach to electoral politics, as pushed by the late Arthur Kinoy, a radical lawyer who led the National Committee for Independent Political Action in the 1970s and 1980s. Putting it simply, I supported left independent Barry Commoner for president in 1980, and Democrat Harold Washington for mayor of Chicago in 1983. This year, I support Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders.

I see no contradiction – in fact I think it’s the only approach that makes sense. Continue reading

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How Fringe and Spoiler Campaigns Hurt Rather than Help Independent and Left Politics

A nasty debate is brewing on the American left over what to do about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and most of the nastiness is on the anti-Sanders side. Now that Sanders is trending upwards in polls (tripling in Iowa from 5% to 15% and reaching 18% in New Hampshire, two key early primary states) liberals are starting to get hysterical. Articles like “Bernie Sanders Is Already Making It More Likely Republicans Win The White House In 2016” will soon become the norm from this crowd as the primary contest heats up and the Establishment front-runner Hillary Clinton has to defend her Iraq war vote and pro-free trade stance against Sanders’ anti-war, anti-free trade record in six live television debates. Continue reading

Socialist Worker and Hillary Clinton Agree: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Doomed

“Doomed.”

“No chance of winning.”

These are the words Hillary Clinton’s camp Socialist Worker, newspaper of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), uses to describe Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the nomination of the Democratic Party in response to a (rather lackluster) endorsement of Sanders by Jacobin which is published by members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The delicious irony of the ISO’s arguments is that they actually want Sanders to run a doomed, no-chance-of-winning presidential campaign, as they readily admit in the same editorial: Continue reading

How Upton Sinclair Upended California’s Democratic Party and the Lessons for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Run

Never in American history has a socialist been elected governor of a state, but in 1934 Upton Sinclair came close. He almost became governor on a program known as EPIC — End Poverty in California.

American socialists typically think of Eugene V. Debs’ 1912 presidential campaign as the high point of their movement since Debs won 6% of the vote, or just over 900,000 votes. Sinclair nearly matched that in 1934 by winning 879,000 votes, some 37% of the electorate. With two dozen EPIC candidates elected to the California legislature in 1934, Sinclair’s 37% was a far more politically meaningful result than Debs’ one-in-a-lifetime single-digit showing.

Despite nearly matching Debs’ power at his peak, the EPIC Sinclair campaign of 1934 has all but disappeared from the historical memory of American socialism. Almost a century later, it is the greatest story never told. These days, EPIC warrants but a single misleading mention by one Leninist journal and seems forgotten by the Democratic Socialist of America, a group that advocates the very strategy Sinclair and his followers pursued in 1934 — capturing the Democratic Party for socialism.

Continue reading

Politically Assessing Year One of de Blasio’s Rule

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Democrat (and former self-described advocate of “democratic socialism“) Bill de Blasio has been mayor of New York City for one year having won 73% of the vote (roughly 700,000 votes) in the 2013 mayoral race. The same election saw the city council’s Progressive Caucus double in size and with the council’s 48-to-3 Democratic-to-Republican majority, de Blasio has been able to get a lot done during his first year in office. Assessing these achievements and understanding what de Blasio and his administration represent politically is critical to correctly orienting to the actually existing class and political struggle at the local level. Continue reading

Socialists Won 300,907 Votes in 2014

Candidate Group Votes % of Votes
Owen Hill International Socialist Organization* 3,725 27.0
Jess Spear Socialist Alternative 8,143 17.1
Adam Adrianson Socialist Party USA* 33,920 1
Eugene Puryear Party for Socialism and Liberation* 11,504 3.5
Angela Walker Solidarity 67,346 21
Howie Hawkins Socialist Party USA* 176,269 4.7
TOTAL   300,907
*Green Party candidate/ballot line.

Source.