From xxxxxx <[email protected]>
Subject Tribulations of the US Democratic Left
Date March 19, 2023 12:00 AM
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[The clowning of Republicans in Congress has a serious side while
Democrats seem intent on attacking the left. Uniting around the
resurgent workers’ movement could heal divisions.]
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Paul Garver
March 6, 2023
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_ The clowning of Republicans in Congress has a serious side while
Democrats seem intent on attacking the left. Uniting around the
resurgent workers’ movement could heal divisions. _

Summer Lee, who was elected to the House of Representatives after
narrowly winning the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania in the face of
an onslaught of dark-money-funded negative campaigning, (photo: Mark
Dixon CC BY 2.0).


Trying to sort out the trivial surface events of American political
life from the potentially meaningful undercurrents has to be a highly
personal exercise. Like the blind men of Rajasthan, we grope various
parts of the elephant’s anatomy to grasp its essential nature, and
come up with trunk, rope, snake, wall…

I was born, was raised and am now retired in the USA. But I spent
most of my adult life as a labour organiser, first in Pennsylvania and
then globally, based in Switzerland. Now living in bucolic Acton,
Massachusetts, I gaze out the window of my writing/Zooming room onto
trees and gardens. The internet is still my chief lifeline to the
outer world, though the ebbing of the pandemic has allowed me to
participate in person in many labour support actions in
Massachusetts. So this is the small segment of the political world
that I experienced directly.

My comments on the Washington political scene are filtered through the
same international media sources that _Chartist _readers can
access.  The clown show that the House of Representatives has become
with a slim Republican majority needs little interpretation. The
Republican Party at the national level has no platform or programme to
govern. McCarthy became Speaker of the House by conceding on most
issues to the demands of the ultra-right faction of the Republican
Party. Hence, we will have witch-hunt investigations conducted by
demagogues and attempts to exonerate Donald Trump from his multiple
criminal actions of sexual violence, tax fraud, collusion with foreign
powers, etc.  Sordid political theatre, probably with few lasting
consequences and little legislation enacted.

McCarthy can remove Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs
Committee, as a too-vigorous defender of Palestinian rights, but not
from Congress itself. The House can pass a resolution condemning
“socialism” in all its manifestations, from genocide in Cambodia
through social democratic reforms in health and welfare
programmes. More than half of the House Democrats, including former
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and current Democratic minority leader Hakeem
Jeffries, shrugged their collective shoulders and voted for the
anti-socialist resolution.

Like Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries seems more obsessed with fighting
democratic socialists than with the harder task of combatting
right-wing Republicans. In a more consequential action, the
Democratic Party leadership refused to allow a vote
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the DNCC (Democratic National Coordinating Committee) to limit the
influx of dark corporate and right-wing money into Democratic
primaries. That influx of money into both the primary and general
elections narrowly failed to defeat democratic socialist Summer Lee,
who was elected in the Pittsburgh area and now serves in the
House. Along with Maxwell Frost, Delia Ramirez and Rebecca Balint,
Summer Lee will add four newly elected members to the current six
Squad members in Congress with democratic socialist politics.

The Squad is neither a political party nor a formal caucus, although
its members also belong to the larger, more inchoate House Progressive
Caucus. Squad members support each other on issues and in fundraising,
sometimes together with Senator Bernie Sanders. The post-Sanders
campaign organisation Justice Democrats, together with the national
Working Families Party and several progressive NGOs, is closely
aligned with the Squad. Although several Squad members are also
members of DSA and received initial backing from local DSA chapters,
DSA is not a consistent ally for the Squad.

DSA membership is becoming an albatross for democratic socialists
serving in Congress. DSA is a ‘big tent’ organisation that has
grown dramatically since 2016 in numbers and influence, mainly among
the generation under 35 years old. Although the impetus for many of
its new members was the Sanders campaign, many of them do not support
Sanders/Squad politics, including working within the general framework
of the Democratic Party. A few thousand new DSA recruits were
entryists from existing or defunct hard-left socialist
organisations. For them, the growing Squad represents a dangerous
political evolution that could help revitalise the Democratic Party
rather than contributing to a purely ‘socialist’ or independent
third party under hard-left influence.

Campaigns within DSA to break off any alliance with the Squad have
taken several forms. There was a clamour to expel DSA Rep Jamaal
Bowman over his position on Israel/Palestine. Since December, there
has been another campaign to expel Bowman and censure DSA and Squad
members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush for a tactical vote on
the imposition of the Railroad Labor Act. This last divisive
campaign sidetracked DSA from fully supporting the rail rank-and-file
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their struggle to revitalise and reform their fragmented unions and to
win scheduling reforms and paid sick leave.

In January, DSA’s National Labor Commission held a well-attended
membership meeting on the rail dispute that included key leaders of
the rail rank-and-file caucuses. The meeting laid a basis for ongoing
DSA support for the campaign of the Railroad Workers United to
nationalise the railroads, to correct the safety issues that led to
the recent rail disaster in Ohio, and to support the demands of rail
workers for scheduling relief and paid sick leave. As predicted
in my article
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negotiations with one rail corporation have already achieved major
improvements in scheduling and paid sick leave, and Sen Sanders is
already using his bully pulpit as chair of the Senate Labor Committee
to pressure the other freight rail corporations into following that

DSA is also becoming more and more engaged in supporting workers
organising at Starbucks, Amazon and the United Auto Workers reform
movement. There is a spectacular upsurge of organising among graduate
teaching and research assistants, many including DSA members,
including a successful massive strike in the sprawling University of
California system and a new campaign launched to unionise non-tenured
faculty at Harvard.

There is an interesting parallel between the Democratic Party and DSA.
If DSA can escape from its current chaos by participating in building
a stronger and more inclusive workers movement, the same is true on a
much greater scale with the Democratic Party. Motivating his improved
performance at his State of the Union address, Joe Biden had a focused
political goal: to win back white workers without university degrees
to the Democratic Party. It will take time to overcome the justified
anger of these workers abandoned by three decades of neoliberal,
pro-corporate Democratic policies. To lay a secure basis for building
a united front resilient enough to combat the dangerous rise of
neo-fascist white nationalism, both the left and centre need to join
together to rebuild and strengthen the US workers’ movement.

_Paul Garver is a member of Democratic Socialists of America._

_Chartist is the bi-monthly political magazine of the democratic
left. In honouring the Chartists of the 19th century, our idea of
democratic socialism is as much about the political movement and means
of mobilisation used to advance political ideas as it is about the
ideas themselves. Chartist seeks to provide a space for those who
subscribe to this broad ideal._

* Democratic Party
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* democratic socialists
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* The Squad
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* Dark Money
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