Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Won't get us a flea hop closer to socialism

I received a letter from a friend a few days ago who said that she was dismayed to hear that I said socialism isn't on the agenda. And she went on to write that she agreed with the "gentlemen from Indiana," who apparently joined the movement to fight for socialism, not at some distant date, but NOW.

Here's my slightly edited reply:

You, along with the "gentlemen from Indiana" misconstrue my position. What I said is that socialism is not on the people’s action agenda at this moment; millions are ready to fight for universal health care, a second stimulus bill, economic conversion to a peacetime economy, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., but not yet for a socialist society.

I wish they were, but that is not the reality and communists ignore reality at our peril; it leads inexorably to mistakes in strategy and tactics and to political isolation.

That doesn’t that mean that we zip our lips and say nothing about socialism. In fact, this is a moment to bring our vision of socialism to a larger and larger audience, but not with the expectation that they are going to embrace and fight for it now. That will come, but not by propaganda alone; people, as Lenin said, need their own experience in more immediate struggles. In the course of these struggles and with the assistance of the left, millions will hopefully deepen and expand their unity and realize the necessity of socialist transformation.

Our task is to know what stage of struggle we are in and when one stage gives away to another stage of struggle. Without that understanding, no party or organization on the left, including the Communist Party, can play a leading role in the broader movement.

For the communists and others on the left to allow our mood, desires, and sense of urgency to substitute for a sober and exact assessment of the balance of political and social forces and what millions are ready to fight for at any given moment is a sure fire way to remain on the edges of politics in our country. Such an attitude makes us feel righteous, revolutionary, and carriers of a tradition of struggle into a new century, but it won't get us a flea hop closer to radical democracy and socialism. Is this a "straw man?" I wish it were.

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