Friday, March 16, 2007

Cooperate against the Bush agenda

I posted this on my other blog,, and I'm reporting it here because it is related to the impeachment movement.  Progressives need to cooperate against the reactionary right, and I think impeachment is a key campaign to unite around.  Impeachment is larger than the progressive community, though, and should include Bush opponents on the right who agree that the opposition should cooperate to remove Bush and Cheney.  That said, progressives are probably the largest group working for impeachment, possibly along with Libertarians.   
As Americans meet this month to protest the Iraq War on the anniversary of its start four years ago, we should look at the links between opposition to the War and other progressive causes, and if there is a root cause of the War that we should organize to change.   The unity of these causes was highlighted at the NC NAACP's large Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J) demonstration in Raleigh last month, with its 14-point platform, addressing racial justice, the War, conservation, fair elections, democracy in the workplace, and other progressive campaigns (see ).  Over the years, many have called for unity and tried to facilitate it.  Nationally, it was behind the Million Worker March in DC in the fall of 2004, attempts at anti-war unity, and the broadened demands of the Millions More March in 2005, a sequel to the Million Man March.  


The Bush Administration represents the conservative agenda, in the interests of Big Business, the rich, Christian fundamentalists, and other reactionaries who want to make the current system worse (for the majority of Americans, that is).   Who the Administration serves can be seen by considering the origins of its members in the Nixon and Reagan administrations and their positions on corporate boards (especially in the oil industry) when out of office.   Consider how they have governed, such as Bush's signing statements saying what Congressional decisions he chooses to consider laws, Cheney's heavily business influenced, and secretive, energy taskforce, the attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act and allow more arsenic contamination of drinking water, war serving the interests of the energy industry, etc.   Also consider their tactics, such as lying to Congress and the people on Iraq, harassing and criminalizing activists, retaliating against government critics and whistleblowers, apparently using assassination against opponents in Puerto Rico and overseas, and allegedly fixing elections and aiding or shielding al Qaida and its allies, such as government factions in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  


To answer this challenge, we needs a movement representing the populist and democratic agenda, represented at events such as the NC Peace and Justice Coalition's protest tomorrow in Fayetteville.   This is a movement that is for upholding the UN Declaration of Human Rights and our Constitution and laws, democracy in the economy, helping the disadvantaged to beat poverty and poor circumstances, healthcare for all, a progressive tax code, protecting the Bill of Rights, giving ordinary people more opportunity to govern themselves, fair trade, fair and just relations with other nations, preserving biodiversity, a livable and humane society, and sustainable development that preserves the environment and our livelihoods.   The conservatives are trying to rollback the relatively few progressive gains won in the USA and the world, we should fight for a new program of progress.            


At the least, this calls for changes in society, and I would say that to realize these goals we have to remake the government and economy, otherwise there will be little progress on these goals and they will later easily be dismantled. I call this socialism, but regardless of whether people agree or not, progressives and populists must discuss a framework to realize and establish our proposals, and one that is American and fits our country today.  


This movement needs to be based on the working class of the USA, which the vast majority of Americans belong to, in one gradation or another.   Workers are the people who most benefit from what progressives are fighting for and workers' unions and other groups lead many campaigns on these demands.   Workers also have the power to realize these ideals, unlike other progressive sections of society.   The Republican Party has been able to frame issues in a way that makes many people vote for politicians who say the 'right' thing in the "Culture War" (for conservatives) but don't do anything about it, while pushing through policies for business that hurt the workers who voted for them.   If there were better alternatives, leading more people to participate in politics for the first time, we could beat the Republicans and "centrist" Democrats, and re-frame the political debate in this country.  


Another necessary alliance is between the majority white and white-collar campaigns existing now, and activists and communities of color, and those fighting for progress in other countries.   If white progressives and the progressive black, Latino, native, and immigrant communities in this State united, we could make great advances politically.   Whites need to consult with other communities, consider their desires, and work for more mutual involvement.   Other groups should also work towards multi-ethnic organizing, that recognizes the importance of class in politics (and lack of class consciousness among all ethnicities is part of the reason we have Republicans in power today), along with the usual, and just, demand for freedom for oppressed ethnic, cultural, sexual, and other minorities.  


We shouldn't be blind to, or afraid to recognize, people in other countries who either agree with us, are potentially allies, or unwittingly help the progressive cause, even if they are not progressive themselves.   For example, nationalists (as opposed to those who are causing sectarian splits) in the Middle East are fighting the same enemy as we are, the occupation and oppression of their countries by a US government (or its close allies, such as Israel and Turkey) run by and for the wealthy.   On the other hand, we share some priorities with the British Labour Party, such as concern about climate change, but it is aiding the Bush Administration and its leader thinks the West can and should overthrow any government it opposes.   This ignores serious conflicts of interest and the wishes of the people of those nations.  For example, Saddam Hussein was once a US ally, and Bush and Blair haven't built an Iraqi democratic republic at the point of a gun yet.   All opponents of the Administration aren't allies of ours, but some are, whether they mean to be progressive or not.  Regarding our international progressive allies, United Electrical union, local 150, representing NC public workers, eloquently argues for internationalism, and has several campaigns that include solidarity between workers from different countries.   For example, UE called for workers' and community organizations, and the working class as a whole, to "understand international law, international human rights standards, and international outreach and solidarity as fundamental to their rights and existence inside the United States" in the May/June 2005 International Worker Justice Campaign Bulletin.          


This is a progressive movement, but where possible activists should reach out to people who partially agree, and groups that are split between progress and reaction, such as small business owners and low skill workers hurt by immigrant competition or environmental policies.   We should welcome people who partially agree with a progressive platform, such as the left of the Republican Party, and Libertarians (who are often anti-war and pro-impeachment, while also being anti-union and against social welfare).   But the backbone of a progressive movement has to be workers, oppressed groups, and the disadvantaged.  We won't all agree on every issue, but surely we can create a common platform that we can rally around.   We all need to listen to each other and be willing to make sacrifices to create a basis for common action, so our efforts can reinforce each other and present an alternative that will shift us away from the increasingly conservative US and international political climate.   Anarchists, autonomists, communists, democrats, greens, liberals, minority nationalists, moderates, populists, republicans, socialists, syndicalists, and activists for progressive causes need to work for principled cooperation for shared goals.   Those at the left end of the spectrum should avoid being so ideologically 'purist' that they isolate themselves.  Progressive people closer to the "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council (right) end of the spectrum, should think about how well these so-called liberals have done in defending and implementing progressive ideas.  


Cooperative action can be expanded further through issue-based coalitions.  For example, it might be hard bring socialists and libertarians together to fight for both civil liberties and economic democracy, but they can ally on civil liberties.   The issue of economic civil rights can be left to the broad progressive coalition.              


How do we establish unity? 


We need to organize united fronts locally, by municipality, county, and Congressional district.   County and city efforts could be similar to the Durham People's Alliance.   To unite the entire State, we need Statewide conferences and communication.   Now is the time to make proposals.  The NCPJC has justice in its name, and the anti-war movement increases its voice by winning over workers and minority allies, so it could take up this call.   The NAACP is already working on this.  The Green Party could potentially help craft a progressive platform.  Democratic Party groups could help, as long as it is not just for partisan electoral gain and controlling.   The Democratic Party has the support of many very progressive people, but unfortunately it is often not very progressive as a group, and becomes less progressive the further ones goes from the grassroots.   We will fail if we depend on it or put "anyone but X" before standing for progressive demands.  Perhaps an electoral campaign could help organize common cause, but again, it has to be bigger than just electing that candidate, in case he or she loses, and the effort can't be top down and only electoral, if that candidate wins.   Next we need to develop a Statewide, and eventually a national, structure.  In all of this we need to campaign at the grassroots and in the streets, but we also need a third party that will resolutely take the platform that comes out of this grassroots organization into elections.   I don't have all of the answers, but I would ask these groups, what will you do to facilitate united action?  I've tried to contribute through uniting Bush opponents in the local impeachment movement and Durham progressives in the People's Alliance, and fostering socialist and communist cooperation in the Triangle Socialist Forum.       


We need to work on many issues.  I suggest that in addition to ending the Iraq War and defending our current democratic institutions and laws, impeaching Bush and Cheney is a political demand that unites progressives and other opponents of the Bush agenda.  


It is up to us, the non-elite (the elite having gotten us into this mess, and the worst elites being those backing Bush), whether we limit ourselves to particular issues and the current options, or fight to change the system.   Eventually we will bring the Iraq War to some conclusion, but will we miss the opportunity to end this rotten system, revealed in events like Bush's wars, the Gulf Coast disaster, and Iran/Contra, or will we fight to make it so this is the last time the US government is taken over by and for the benefit of corporate power?   As a small step, think of this when you go to the discussions the NCPJC organizes at the Fayetteville demonstration, or on buses to the protest in DC, or at local events.  
Contact me, or reply here, to discuss this further. 

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