Session 4: Saturday, June 2nd: 4:00 - 5:50pm
The last several years have seen cracks in the hegemony of bourgeois electoral politics unlike anything we’ve seen since the beginning of the neoliberal era in the late 1970s. Tens of thousands of radicalizing young people have been mobilized in progressive campaigns and have aspirations of socialism. The contradictions of this moment will be sharply felt. Mass layers of people are discontent and want alternatives to neoliberal politics including the Clintonite Democratic Party. Many will be drawn toward progressive Democrats and Democratic Party primary challenges. Some of these efforts will likely be fruitful in the short term, but we can’t expect them to lead to anything transformative in the medium to long term, and the pressure on organizers to remain within the orbit of the Democratic Party will be immense despite the sharp criticisms many have of the party. The Green Party has grown and been somewhat revitalized but remains marginal, with its victories limited to scattered and minor local seats. It is simply not seen as a serious alternative by the great majority of people joining the resistance, and no interventions from small socialist organizations are going to change that. Arguments about de-prioritizing elections and building movements are similarly unlikely to be persuasive in the era of Trump and the violent incompetence of Republican dominance—and serious socialist strategy cannot forever dodge the question of elections and state power in any case. We need an approach to electoral politics that can: Win meaningful victories (both in terms of winning office and of winning strategic reforms); Attract important layers of activists and give them an electoral vehicle that is widely seen as serious AND that remains structurally independent of the Democratic Party; Build organization(s) that mobilize people, bridge gaps between social movements and electoral politics, and provide a grassroots base the means by which to hold candidates and elect officials accountable. While conditions don’t yet exist for the creation of a new national party of a mass type and that meets the above criteria, we must continue to lay the groundwork for such a formation. To that end, we must struggle with some strategic questions: What organization forms should our efforts employ? What historical lessons might we draw on? How do we coordinate left electoral efforts in the absence of a singular left party?