I recommended in my first piece that the Party move from anti-ultra-right to anti-monopoly struggle, with an emphasis on the final destination – socialism. I argued that this was the only way to grow the Party.
Some object on the grounds that the anti-ultra-right fight has not been won. There have been a couple of contributions playing variations on the "ultra-right has not been decisively defeated" theme. That’s the argument for not moving to an anti-monopoly focus. There are several flaws in it.
First – it reflects a mechanical ideology-centered approach to political progress that takes no account of material conditions. First we defeat the right-most ideology, then we move on down the line. Recession, depression, or boom is irrelevant to so robotic a strategy.
Just the opposite – the anti-ultra right phase was correct mainly because the capitalist economy was on the whole booming from the 80s through the mid 00s. The economy dictated the basic terrain of struggle, which was an advantageous one for capital. That is what forced a defensive battle focused only on the most reactionary elements of capital – anti-ultra-right.
Right now the capitalist system is choking, lurching like a bloodthirsty vampire in the moments before the dawn. It is sucking blood from the state while at the same time squeezing workers into ever greater exploitation and joblessness. Banks and bosses are the targets of indignation not just on the left but among the public at large. This is the moment for an offensive against monopoly capital with the backdrop of promotion of the socialist alternative.
The ultra-right, the vanguard of reaction, is like the cavalry in a 19th century army. When you are in retreat it is a terror, mopping up hapless infantry and inflicting blow after blow. At that point it has to be the focus of all tactics. But when the fight is joined on level or favorable terms, it is nonsense to say "we must exterminate the last of their cavalry before attacking their artillery and infantry." Nobody ever won a battle like that.
Certainly Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not set themselves on eliminating the Black Hundreds and the other Church-Tsar reactionaries before attacking the Provisional Government with the April Theses and eventually overthrowing it with the October revolution.
Even in 1909, with the reaction in full dominance, Lenin advised:
"The election is taking place in an atmosphere of the most rabid reaction, with the counter- revolutionary fury of the tsarist government gang raging in full force. All the more important then is it that this reaction should he opposed by the nomination put forward by the Social- Democratic Party, the only party which even from the platform of the Black-Hundred Third Duma has succeeded in raising its voice, declaring its unshakable socialist convictions, reiterating the slogans of the glorious revolutionary struggle, and unfurling the republican banner in the face of the Octobrist-Black-Hundred heroes of counter-revolution and the liberal (Cadet) ideologists and defenders of counter-revolution."
Because of the conditions, Lenin was against accommodation with the Cadets — Russia’s Democrats of the time —Â and said that the Party should, via its own candidates, counter-pose its "unshakable socialist convictions" to both the Black Hundreds and the Cadets. The connection between Lenin’s organizational success and this spirit should not be glossed over.
The way it represents a repudiation of a mechanical progression-of-ideologies approach to social progress should also be considered.
"But the ultra-right is regrouping with the Tea Parties" etc. To raise this objection is to fail to take into account that in desperate times the extremes are strengthened at the expense of the failing center. Of course the ultra-right is gaining steam. So will we, if we play our hand against decrepit capitalism correctly.
If on the other hand we hang on to the miserable center, the perpetrators of tax breaks for the wealthy, bailouts for the banks, war, and corporatism, as a kind of talisman against the ultra-right, then there will be no such growth.
Another line implies that if we move from anti-ultra-right to anti-monopoly, we undercut President Obama, who is undoubtedly a man of monopoly. We have to get behind center Democratism because, in the words of Rummel, "If the right succeeds in their efforts to block even the smallest initiatives, it will be a horrible setback with possible severe consequences."
This is a cheap scare tactic that is the left-wing equivalent of right-wingers who rail about how "socialism" is imminent if Obama succeeds in any minor reform. Note the use of hyperbole – "smallest," "horrible," "severe." These are not the signifiers of a cool-headed assessment.
On the contrary, Obama has already failed in initiatives large and small. What’s more, there are plenty of Obama initiatives that it would be good to block, like his handouts to big business, extension of Bush era Orwellian security policies, and escalation in Afghanistan.
Rather than treat these failures and betrayals as disasters, we should expose their roots in the bourgeois Democratic Party and the way the government is structured to be anti-democratic. This is the short track to anti-capitalist consciousness. Lenin’s advice to the British communists, for instance, was to make "Parliament obviously contemptible" by helping Labour achieve a majority and then exposing it when it did "nothing of importance." The British workers would then realize the importance of taking power into their own hands, much as the Russian workers did when they were betrayed by the Provisional Government.
The worst part of the arguments of those who remain fixated on anti-ultra-right struggle in order to try to be the best Democratic auxiliaries possible is the way they turn the Obama administration’s blunderings and bourgeois prejudices into evidence of the supposed weakness of progressive forces. This defeated mindset sees in the Democrats’ failings a powerful ultra-right and a disorganized and weak left. From its unrealistic expectations of Obama it derives an incorrect estimate of the balance of forces, and worse, a demoralizing one.
"You’re being ultra-radical, you’re isolating yourself from the masses," etc. Not in the present economy. In current conditions, isolating oneself from the masses would consist in not attacking monopoly capital and not taking stock of Democratic failings.
We take these truths to be self-evident: capitalism is a crime against humanity, and the Democrats are a bourgeois party, and so, like any other bourgeois party, impossible to cast in any other role than handmaiden of capitalism. The potential of the handmaiden to be more or less servile is not significant in a period when the whole criminal enterprise is exposed to attack.
Comrades, the truth is on our side. Marxists, like Paul Sweezy and Henryk Grossman, have foreseen the inevitability of capitalist self-destruction. That sets us apart from the bourgeois pushers who, intentionally or not, do all they can to put the blame anywhere other than the laws governing capitalist accumulation. How can it not be time for anti-monopoly struggle Â now, when we can put our truth against their lies and evasions, for all to see under the penetrating light of general economic crisis?