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What Now? - Socialist Perspectives and Election Analysis from CCDS and DSA

What happened Nov. 8th, and why? Here two socialist organizations present their analysis of both why, and what next. Statements from the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). -- The fight against the far right assault must be fashioned around specific programs and demands that unite the broadest sectors of the working class, regardless of political stance.

  • Sanders, Clinton and Trump: The Political Crisis of Neoliberalism - Randy Shannon (CCDS)
  • We Fight for Socialism over Barbarism - Statement from DSA's National Political Committee
Sanders, Clinton and Trump - the Political Crisis of Neoliberalism
By Randy Shannon, National Coordinating Committee, CCDS,
November 16, 2106
A New York Times analysis showed that the majority of voters whose income was less than $50k voted for Hillary Clinton. The majority of voters whose income was over $50K voted for Donald Trump. The electorate is defined as the body of persons entitled to vote in an election. 75% of the electorate gave up hope of changing the austerity regime of neoliberalism. They either did not vote for Clinton or refused to vote. Consent of the governed to the Wall Street leadership of the hegemonic bloc of capital - despite a $1 billion campaign war chest - has withered.
The Trump alternative was so repugnant that only 25% of the electorate voted for him. Thus there is an electoral mandate to reverse or reject the policy of neoliberal austerity; but there is not an electoral mandate to enact the far right policies identified with the racist obstructionist Republican Congress. This mandate was expressed in the Democratic primary vote for Sanders whose social democratic program and candidacy were nevertheless anathema to the hegemonic bloc of Wall Street banks.
The rejection of the austerity regime was also expressed in the success of all ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Some voter polls confirm this trend: 49% of voters cited "change" as the most important reason for their vote; of these, 85% voted for Trump. In MI and PA 50% said trade deals cost jobs; 60% of these voted for Trump.
The 2008 crash of the banks' housing bubble accelerated the economy down the path of a deflationary crisis. Under Pres. Obama the central bank has managed the crisis for the oligarchs by using extraordinary monetary easing with zero interest and creation of money to prop up the Wall Street banks. Since 2008 the Fed Funds rate was slashed from 5.5% to 0% and the Fed's balance sheet expanded from $870 billion in 2007 to over $4.5 trillion in 2014.
December 2015 saw the peak of the weak Fed induced economic recovery. For workers, most of whom never benefited from the recovery, the pace of economic decline has accelerated. On November 16th the NY Fed, in its monthly Empire Report, stated "employment counts and hours worked continued to decline." A similar report of economic contraction was released by the Philadelphia Fed on November 17th. The current austerity regime offers low wage and unemployed workers no prospects, thus the Fight for $15 movement. More importantly those still employed are experiencing the slow motion economic implosion of the last 8 years.
The change in the organic composition of capital is an inexorable process accelerated by the computer chip. Fixed capital - technology - has increased and variable capital - labor - has decreased. This internal flaw of capitalism creates long term loss of demand for labor, a lower rate of profit, increasing wealth disparity, and regular crises. The neoliberal austerity policy attempted to cure this flaw. It served to intensify the transfer of social and productive assets and income from the working class to the oligarchs. Since 2008 the US has created 1.7 million low wage service jobs and lost 1.5 million living wage manufacturing jobs.
In the PA rust belt, for example, the giant GE locomotive plant in Erie, PA in January 2016 announced the layoff off another 1500 workers, half the union workforce. In 2011 GE had announced a $231 million investment in its plant. Then in 2013 GE announced the layoff of 1,000 of its 5,500 union workers. Some commentaries blamed the layoffs on EPA regulations, but GE is increasing fixed capital and decreasing variable capital.
In Midland PA, Allegheny Technologies, Inc. - ATI - recently announced the closure of its steelmaking facility. In December 2015 the NLRB ruled ATI's lockout of 2,200 workers illegal, forcing the company to settle with the USW. When asked by the USW what it would take to end the lockout, ATI replied that it needed a 50% cut in wages to remain competitive. Due to the union contract ATI was unable to reduce the costs of its variable capital in Midland.
These job cuts and plant closures are being replicated across the US. At the same time, a crisis in pension fund solvency is exploding. In 2015 the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) warned that prolonged low interest rates fueled by central banks' quantitative easing pose a serious threat to the solvency of pension funds and life insurers that could send ripples through the global financial system. In May 2016 the Central States Pension fund announced a cut in benefits to 1/2 million Teamsters and projected insolvency in ten years unless rescued by the Federal Government. Publicly funded pensions plans are in crisis as wages and tax receipts to states, cities and schools decline.
The loss of consent to the rule of the Wall Street hegemonic bloc and the absence of a viable substitute create a volatile conjuncture with both danger and opportunity. The bid by the social democratic populist candidate to share power with the Wall Street bloc was rebuffed. Now the far right nationalist victory at the Electoral College poses a challenge to Wall Street hegemony. The danger lies in the tendency of many Wall Street elites to accommodate the far-right based on common interests in further crushing working class economic and political power. The opportunity lies in the progressive majority exploiting the tendency of corporate elites in and beyond Wall Street to secure hegemony by seeking accommodation with the social democratic populist majority.
The danger is clearly presented by the Republican agenda to execute a broader and deeper assault on the working class that abandons the Wall Street approach of small concessions - i.e. persuasion and cooptation - exemplified by the Clinton campaign. A harsher repressive approach serves the narrower interests of the reactionary elite - oil, coal, the MIC - with Wall Street blessing. This newly empowered cohort is in the process of negotiating a modus operandi with the banker elite that still controls the commanding heights of the economy, the media, the police, and the military. A telltale sign of the degree of accommodation to Trump by the Wall Street banks was a recent CBS phony news report on the perilous state of Social Security, a revival of the Catfood Commission agenda of 2009, and a precursor to attacks on entitlements and social programs.
The opportunity for the progressive majority is to mobilize around a program that addresses the very real economic problems of the working class. And in this context show that unity and solidarity of the working class among all sectors is critical to winning a sustainable future for our families and the planet.
The struggle for jobs, as outlined in the CCDS pamphlet, It's Time to Fight for Full Employment, and codified by the Conyers 21st Century Full Employment Act, must be a centerpiece. This responds to a key expectation of job creation entertained by Trump voters. The attack on the ACA must be met with the demand that a replacement is in place before repeal, and presents an opportunity for Medicare for All, once praised by Trump.
The fight against the far right assault must be fashioned around specific programs and demands that unite the broadest sectors of the working class, regardless of political stance. Sanders outlined these programs in his speech on November 16th. A vigorous fight in all spheres - the streets, the commons, the suites, and the Congress - will strengthen the progressive majority's ability to influence the degree of accommodation of the far right with the Wall St. bankers.
An important example of direct confrontation with Trump and the Koch Bros is the Standing Rock protest of the DAPL. This struggle around a pipeline is the keystone to a mass struggle against climate change. A crucial early direct confrontation will be to protest, disrupt, and block efforts to criminalize immigrants, to create a registry of Muslims, and to deport 2 million Latinos - mostly Mexican immigrant workers. This fight must happen on the ground and in Washington. In a laudable step, the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department announced their refusal to assist Trump with deportations.
The fight for jobs and healthcare must be based on an accommodation between the progressive majority and some corporate Democrats. The progressive majority must demand a voice and leadership in the Democratic Party and seek to work with potential corporate allies who would profit from a solar jobs program or expansion of health care. NY Senator Schumer's endorsement of Rep. Ellison for DNC Chair is a signal that corporate Democrats want to reach an accommodation with the progressive majority. The selection of Senators Warren and Sanders for Senate leadership roles in shaping the Party's agenda, strategy and messaging is another signal of corporate Democrats' accommodation with the social democratic forces.
In Congress, the progressive majority should fight for unity among the Democratic Senators to stop Trump excesses with a filibuster wall. SC Senator Lindsey Graham has already signaled that he will oppose the far right's demands to end the filibuster. This is a critical issue because it is the only political tool that has the force of law to stop Trump's excesses. Democrats should be lobbied and judged now on their willingness to unite against Trump and the Republican majority. With the Senate Democratic caucus expanded to 48, the Republicans will need 7 Democratic Senators to break a filibuster. The battle may begin soon since KY Sen. Rand Paul has stated that Trump's top two choices for Secretary of State are unacceptable. Confirmation of Cabinet nominees and Supreme Court nominees will be another battle in the Senate.
The Left's role should be to sharpen the working class content of demands, support militancy, and promote the concept of solidarity - forward together, strength in unity. This means using every opportunity to mobilize opposition to manifestations of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia and to use these manifestations among progressives and allies as opportunities to educate.
Given the unprecedented level of animosity toward working people in the new administration, the Left, trade unions, and progressive organizations should join and expand the spontaneous manifestations under the banner "Not My President." In this vein the letter of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to Trump demanding that he repudiate his hateful speech supports these actions.
Finally, as the next economic crisis approaches, the banks have exhausted their traditional reservoir of tools to halt and reverse the deflationary spiral. Interest rates below zero, i.e. negative rates, mean confiscation. The Left should stand for an advanced social democratic/socialist agenda to solve the financial crisis. Essentially this means a massive transfer of wealth from Wall Street banks to workers pocketbooks and to government social programs.
Among these are demands to break up the big banks, jack up taxes on the rich, create Medicare for All, invest heavily in a solar power infrastructure, cancel student debt, slash military spending, increase funding for schools, reparations for genocide and slavery, wage equality, and the 6 hour day. At this critical juncture, trade unions, progressive, democratic left and socialist organizations will help advance the progressive agenda by convening a series of conferences to discuss strategy in response to the electoral and economic shift.
The future struggle around the progressive issues codified in the Democratic Party platform will confront a more desperate neoliberal oligarchy, compromising with Trumpism, in a more degraded electoral system. This will be the terrain on which the progressive majority must struggle with neoliberal political ideology and economic practice.
[Report to National Executive Committee of Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) on the 2016 Election. This report was fashioned to meet a ten minute spoken delivery limit.]
[Randy Shannon is also the Pennsylvania Coordinator of Progressive Democrats of America, and the Treasurer of PDA's PA 12th CD Chapter.]
Statement from DSA's National Political Committee
November 13, 2016
How Trump Won: Seizing the Anti-Establishment Ground through Racial and Economic Nationalism
On November 8, voters in the United States narrowly elected an openly racist, misogynist and nativist candidate for president. Donald Trump succeeded in defining himself as an anti-establishment candidate who will end dynastic rule in Washington, D.C., by elites who care little for "forgotten Americans." The grain of truth in this rhetoric masked an ideological appeal to a "white identity" that Republicans have long cultivated - in this instance, focusing on fear of immigrants, Muslims and people of color. The facts go against the liberal media's narrative that "poor white people" were the primary force behind Trump's rise. We must understand "Trumpism" as a cross-class white nativist alliance; the median family income of the 62 percent of white voters who supported Trump was higher than that of Hillary Clinton voters and wealthier than Bernie Sanders' primary base.
Governing elites have long used racism to divide working people. The Left must understand the centrality of racism to capitalism and speak directly to how racism has hurt the interests of the white working class. The far Right in Europe and the United States has succeeded in speaking to the anger of people long abandoned by the bipartisan conservative and center-left consensus in favor of unbridled corporate globalization. Trump's victory should show once and for all the dire consequences of leaving the Left's response to economic insecurity in the hands of corporate-aligned centrists like the Clintons.
If Sanders had been the Democratic nominee, he certainly could have mobilized stronger working-class support against Trump, and his coattails could have put both houses of Congress in play. Clinton failed to gain the support of many working- and middle-class whites by running a campaign overly focused on Trump's character flaws rather than hammering home the Sanders-inspired platform proposals that would improve the lives of working people of all races. She failed to highlight raising the minimum wage, opposing "free trade" agreements and creating good jobs through public investment in infrastructure and alternative energy. The Democratic Party chose the wrong candidate and the wrong strategy, and now the United States is left with the most dangerous government in recent history.
The Pressing Urgency of Now: Defend the Targets of Nativist Racism
Given Trump's and Pence's vilification of communities of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women and LGBTQ people, Democratic Socialists of America's and the broader Left's first priority must be to defend the civil and political rights - and very physical security - of those groups targeted by Trumpism. The appointment of the open bigot and anti-Semite Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News as senior White House counselor demonstrates that Trump's hateful rhetoric is not just talk. DSA and YDS chapters should be militant supporters of these groups in their immediate struggles to establish sanctuary cities for the undocumented, to defend Muslims and their mosques and to protect women seeking reproductive services. We must also proactively train ourselves to intervene effectively when we witness harassment of and violence against those targeted by the white nativist politics legitimated by the Trump victory. Finally, we should reach out to these communities immediately to express our solidarity and ask what work they would wish us to do.
Much of this work will involve DSA deepening our engagement with the Movement for Black Lives, the immigrant rights movement, Fight for 15, the reproductive justice movement and other movements on the frontlines against Trumpism. Under Reagan, similar acts of resistance eventually created a powerful rainbow coalition that advanced a multiracial politics of economic and racial justice. If we fully commit ourselves to these struggles over the next four years there is no reason why a new, even more powerful multiracial coalition for social and economic justice cannot emerge.
The Left will be faced with tremendous struggles on a variety of fronts starting on January 20.
Upon assuming office, Trump may use executive orders to reverse Obama's environmental regulations (particularly those concerning coal-fueled power plants). The Left should connect Trump's hostility to climate justice policies with mass action in support of the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline and for indigenous sovereignty. The climate justice movement, particularly if it puts environmental racism issues front and center, could be a major focus of resistance to Republican rule.
Trump is also likely to immediately end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently protects from deportation over 4 million undocumented individuals who came to the US as minors. This could be the first step in the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants from the United States. The Left should build strong relationships with movements on the forefront of opposing these policies, and fight to build a majoritarian coalition in support of citizenship for the millions of Americans who contribute to our economy and society through their work and taxes, but do not even enjoy the most basic civil and political rights.
Republicans may press to repeal all of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they can be stopped. By organizing mass demonstrations, the Left could well save the eight million working-class family members who have gained Medicaid coverage and could also force the remaining 19 states that have refused to expand coverage to accept the federally funded program. We must organize the other 12 million people who currently receive health insurance through the ACA to demand that their coverage be continued, but at more affordable rates. Whether all or part of the ACA is abolished, the Left must campaign for state single-payer systems as the best alternative for expanding equitable and affordable health care coverage.
The Trans Pacific Partnership may well be a dead letter under Trump's presidency, but we must not see Trump's alleged opposition to it as a sign that he is in any way committed to a global trade policy that serves the interests of workers at home or abroad - far from it! In response to Trump's savagely anti-worker policy prescriptions the Left must advance an alternative vision of global economic policy that raises global living, labor and environmental standards as an alternative to a nativist protectionism that blames foreign workers and immigrants for declining working-class living standards at home.
Further, Trump will move quickly to destroy organized labor in the United States, particularly in the public sector. We must resist, though our efforts will be complicated by the AFL-CIO's self-defeating conciliatory stance toward the President-elect. Unions are the most powerful tool we have for building inter-racial solidarity among working class people around a shared economic interest. The questionable strategic and tactical choices made by much of their leadership both to support Clinton in the Democratic primaries and to commit themselves to working with Trump show the absolute necessity of a bottom-up left insurgency within the house of labor.
The Left must also press Democrats in the Senate to use the power of the filibuster to prevent the passage of disastrous legislation and extreme conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, and urge Democratic state and local governments to resist disastrous changes in Federal policy in whatever ways they can.
A Longer-Run Strategy for Progressive Power: Building a Multiracial Post-Sanders Movement
These are our immediate tasks. But we must also assess the Trump victory and what it means for future left and DSA strategy and seek opportunities to move from defense to offense. Though Clinton won the popular vote, she underperformed among white voters in the rust-belt states in part because many older voters suffered from the Clinton dynasty's support of neoliberal policies that failed to address the economic suffering caused by deindustrialization, mechanization and corporate outsourcing. Clinton even narrowly lost the vote of white women, in part because Trump set himself up as the anti-establishment candidate who would "drain the swamp" of Washington "special interests" (despite the Koch brothers funding much of the Republican ground campaign). Combined with racist and sexist diatribes blaming the end of America's supposedly golden era on women, immigrants and people of color, this rhetoric resonated deeply with over-45 white voters (both men and women) facing stagnant living standards, downward mobility and a soon-to-be majority-minority status in the United States.
While Trump offers no viable plan to actually address these voters' economic anxieties either by increasing employment, transforming U.S. trade policy or any other means, his call to "make America great again" by rebuilding infrastructure and creating "jobs, jobs, jobs" was powerful among many white voters who associate the memory of better economic conditions with a past of white privilege and a politics of "law and order."
The Republicans will not address the needs of working-class people in the United States. Instead we can expect them to propose massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations, running up huge budget deficits and exacerbating our already staggering level of income and wealth inequality. They will only maintain or expand those parts of the federal budget that really should be shrunk  - for example, the military and prison systems. Many Trump voters will resent tax giveaways to the rich, and most Americans today are wary of military interventions overseas, so the Left has a real opportunity to mobilize against such national priorities and advance an alternative vision.
As the 2016 election has shown, however, changing demographics alone will not automatically threaten the success of white nativist politics. In this election (as in 2000), the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College prevented the winner of the popular vote from taking office. Further, voter suppression drove down the turnout of working-class citizens of all races as well as the elderly and students, a problem particularly severe in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio. Beyond this, the progressive, black and Latino electorates are heavily concentrated in strongly Democratic states (and mostly in urban and inner suburban areas), which means that millions of their votes are effectively not counted in the outcome of the presidential election. (For instance, 100,000 additional votes beyond those needed to reach 50 percent in California do nothing to change the number of votes California receives in the electoral college).
To address this problem, the Left must build a stronger base among white working-class voters in small towns throughout the rural United States and in states in the former industrial heartland, the South and the plains states. There can be no progressive majoritarian politics in the United States without a politics that appeals to working-class voters of all races. Reapportionment in 2020 will heavily affect prospects for progressive electoral victories for the next decade. Thus, the Left has to sink deep roots in a wide range of communities across the nation, and DSA's rapid growth in the South should be nurtured and sustained.
Strong political headwinds blow against us over the coming years. If we hope to move U.S. politics in a progressive direction, we must continue down the trail blazed by Bernie Sanders. The many successful insurgent "Sanderistas" elected at the local and state level, as well as the emerging anti-corporate wing of the Democratic Party's congressional delegation and above all Sanders' own presidential primary run, demonstrated that multiracial working-class constituencies will support a social democratic program of progressive tax reform, universal access to high-quality health and childcare and public investment in infrastructure and alternative energy.
We must continue to press this agenda even more assertively, both by electing more insurgents at all levels of government and by also building working-class and socialist power in our trade union, social-movement and electoral work.
None of these programs can be won without a radical shift in power relations. In the absence of mass pressure from democratic social movements - movements willing to disrupt the everyday workings of undemocratic institutions - and the development of independent electoral capacity of activists of color, feminists, LGBTQ activists and trade unionists, corporate interests will continue to dominate the policy agenda.The campaigns of DSA-endorsed candidates at the local and state level, such as victorious State Representative Mike Sylvester (D-Maine) and the impressive second-place finish of Baltimore City Council Green candidate Ian Schlakman, demonstrate that building a multiracial base for explicitly socialist candidates (who, depending on local circumstances, may run as Democrats, independents, Greens or in nonpartisan races) is both possible and necessary.
The more than 9,000 members of DSA (nearly 2,000 of whom joined this week) believe that the surest way to resist and defeat Trumpism is if we build a strong, organized democratic socialist movement in U.S. politics, a movement that must become as diverse as the working class itself. The Sanders revolution moved us one step closer toward a stronger and more assertive Left that can push for the many long-overdue reforms working people in this country desperately need, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and making publicly-funded university education a basic human right. Clinton's neoliberal centrism proved incapable of warding off the nativist far Right. The way forward lies in the movement for democratic socialism.
Thus, we invite veterans of the Sanders campaign and others to join the organization that works to bring his democratic socialist politics into the mainstream of U.S. political life.