Tuesday, September 1, 2015
has Immanuel Wallerstein provided us with a useful analysis of electoral politics?
This is an interesting article by Immanuel Wallerstein (see in full below my remarks) but it fails to mention several important facts:
1. In spite of a many decades long bombardment attack and massive anti-Communist/anti-socialist attack and official and unofficial government and corporate repression, millions of people are supporting Bernie Sanders BECAUSE he represents a socialist world outlook--- it makes no difference whether or not Bernie is a real socialist or an opportunist pseudo-socialist. People, for the most part are not viewing Bernie in any kind of sectarian way even though the "democratic socialists" are opportunistically trying to use his campaign towards their own narrow opportunist sectarian and anti-Communist ends.
Notice how Wallerstein, one of the "Progressives for Obama" who will most likely be endorsing Hillary Clinton, evades in his conclusion the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism.
2. Wallerstein does not mention the socialist oriented New Democratic Party in Canada nor does he mention how the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the All Workers Militant Front (P.A.M.E.) work together very effectively in just the way he is calling for a world-wide response to imperialism although he doesn't mention imperialism. So, what kind of movement does Wallerstein expect? He doesn't say even though he is one of the editors of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels.
Both the KKE/PAME alliance and the New Democratic Party and to some extent the Labour Party in Great Britain which is beginning to turn towards its more left roots in line with the thinking of socialists like the great Tony Benn and even to a large extent those people supporting Bernie Sanders (note that I say the people supporting Bernie Sanders and not Bernie Sanders himself) are providing us with concrete and creative living examples of what is required to fight back against Wall Street and its junior partners around the globe and Wallerstein, like many of the "progressives" and "leftists" seeking excuses for their own service to the Democratic Party want to ignore all of this.
3. Wallerstein makes no mention of the "Cost of Living Crisis" most working class families are experiencing here and around the world nor does he attempt to connect this crisis of everyday living working class families are caught up in with Wall Street's global imperialist agenda.
4. Wallerstein fails to recognize one very important fact when it comes to the need for large, massive and militant Communist and Socialist parties in that our movements always reflect the strengths--- and weaknesses--- of these parties. In fact, when these parties are weak and gutless in the face of imperialism and is the case with the present Communist Party USA actually part of the imperialist camp, the large numbers of liberals remain almost clueless as to what is causing the problems and without this understanding are clueless in what needs to be done... much less having an understanding of how to do what needs to be done.
5. Wallerstein has many specifics to work with but chooses the path of "generalizations." Why? Because he doesn't want to have to explain his own support for Wall Street imperialist warmongers who are anti-working class like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and when the Communist and Workers' parties and Socialist parties are weak, fragmented and disoriented they are not capable of challenging this thinking that the only alternatives to capitalism are "20 to 40 years" down the road as Wallerstein places the question. And what kind of reforms in the short-term is Wallerstein talking about? Things like Obamacare? He doesn't say. He doesn't even reference Bernie Sanders' ten point or twelve point program sometimes pushed without any mention of peace and sometimes at least including the mention of peace.
6. And perhaps most important of all, Wallerstein doesn't even question his "20 to 40 year" view of an alternative to capitalism being such long range within a framework that should capitalism be allowed to exist much longer, Mother Earth may not be able to support the existence of the human race for that extended period of time.
In fact, the nightmare of a nuclear winter is closer than ever and if atom bombs don't kill us off global warming is likely to.
Anyways; give Wallerstein's piece a read and ask yourself why the "Progressives for Obama" always seem to suggest there is no basis for building a working class based political alternative to get us out of this two-party trap?
No doubt Professor Wallerstein is well enough off, like the rest of the "Progressives for Obama" getting set to call themselves something like "Economic Populists for Hillary, so he doesn't have to consider answering his own questions as being urgent. Unlike working class families caught up in the "Cost of Living Crisis" now propelled out of control by Wall Street's militarization and wars, Wallerstein can afford to pay his health insurance bills, has no problem paying for food, gas or home heating expenses nor is a the cost of university a problem for him in any kind of urgent sense.
Millions of Americans have come out to support Bernie Sanders because they see socialism as an urgent and immediate part of the solution to the problems and havoc being caused by Wall Street and the two parties it owns and controls through its bribery and corrupt back room deals while limiting democracy and the participation of the people through a real democratic process.
In my opinion, Wallerstein owes it to the many people who have come to respect his thinking that he rethink his opinions about electoral politics.
Might I suggest we all get on the same page by reading and discussing this book:
"Dynamics of Social Change: A Reader in Marxist Social Science; from the Writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin"
A reader in Marxist social thought, from the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
Editors: Howard Selsam
Alan L. Maki
Please do not reply to the listserv. To correspond with the author, write email@example.com. To correspond with us about your email address on the listserv, write firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Commentary No. 408, Sept. 1, 2015
"U.S. Presidential Elections"
If one follows the media, and especially U.S. media, the prospective 2016 presidential elections in the United States are showing a striking shift in tone and process from anything previously known. I don't believe that is true. To see why, I propose to review the alleged special features of this latest electoral cycle.
The major characteristics to which the media point in making this argument are two: The first is the unusually large polling figures thus far for two "outsiders" in the campaign - Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. The second is the seemingly unmovable deadlock in the U.S. Congress, where compromise seems to have become a dirty word, especially to a sizable group of Republican members of the House of Representatives as well as to some Republican Senators.
Trump and Sanders have quite different programs. Trump is running on an anti-immigrant platform. Sanders is running on a proposal to increase "welfare state" expenditures that require tax increases, which are blocked by the rigid anti-"compromise" group in the legislature.
Despite the opposite platforms, each is getting consistently high figures in the polls and also seem to draw amazingly large audiences for their speaking engagements. Furthermore, they seem not only to break all the so-called rules governing behavior in the campaigns, but seem also to be rewarded precisely for doing this. So, the media seems to conclude we are now in a different kind of political situation, one whose outcome is quite unpredictable and one that will probably leave a lasting imprint on U.S. politics.
Let us start with the structure of electoral politics, in the United States and most other countries, especially in the North. The normal situation has long been that they hold periodic elections in which there are two main parties in competition, one center-right and one center-left. Of course, they all from time to time have seen the emergence of some third party whose votes in a particular election have hurt one or the other of these two main parties. But nowhere has the two-party structure been affected more than briefly, although in some cases the so-called third party has replaced one of the two previous mainstream parties and become the member of the two-party grouping. A good example of this latter shift in who are the two main parties is the rise of the Labour Party in Great Britain, a "third party" that replaced the Liberal Party as one of the two mainstream parties.
Of course, every electoral system has its peculiarities, which make it easier or more difficult to play the game. But the bottom line is that the system with two parties that have only limited differences from each other (usually primarily on the size of "welfare state" allocations) has been remarkably resilient for a very long time.
In the United States in 2015, there is not even a whiff of a serious third party. On the contrary, the angry people who are dissidents seem to have decided to seek their objectives by going inside the two parties rather than by going outside them. Where will these activists be after the actual elections, if their preferred candidate does not even win the primary nomination? Probably they will return to where they were before - either reluctant voters for the more conventional candidate or abstainers from the electoral process.
The media also assert that the U.S. presidential campaign seems to be going on forever, as though this was somehow unusual. But is this really not true of France or Germany or Great Britain or Japan or for that matter Greece? The reason seems obvious enough. Even if a two-party system offers the voters a very limited choice, the limited choice seems to matter for a very large percentage of voters. And so the prospective candidates and the two main parties can never stop seeking electoral advantage, whatever the formal restrictions on campaigning may be.
Does not the Trump/Sanders phenomenon reflect significant anxiety on the part of the electorate? Yes, indeed it does. But the anxiety is a worldwide phenomenon, in no way an exclusively U.S. affair. And, once again, as we look around the world, there is almost everywhere a rise of support for parties and/or individuals who speak the language of anxiety and discontent.
The economic reality of the world-system has become one of steadily increasing unemployment and ever-wilder fluctuations of market prices and currency valuations. The most common response to this has been a major increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric. It is hard to think of a country in which this is not true. Protectionist rhetoric has come to dominate the political scene, not only in the United States but also almost everywhere else.
But then comes the final riposte of the media: Suppose one of these "outsider" candidates actually wins and/or becomes a part of the government? The answer to that seems all too simple: We have seen such parties become the government (Hungary) or part of the government (Norway). Not all that much changes. If an anti-immigrant party does well, there is some tightening on the entry of migrants and some tightening of welfare state expenditures for the poorest sectors of the population. There is some increased anti-minority violence within the country. These are all negatives. But in the end neither the geopolitics of the country nor the middle-run economic options of the country seems to have changed. Why do we assume that this would not be true of the United States in 2016?
I don't wish to imply that the elections don't matter. They do matter, especially in terms of the short-run. But they matter far less than we frequently assume. To be sure, there are real political battles going on. But these battles take place largely outside the electoral processes.
So, I come back to my repeated theme. We are in a structural crisis of the modern world-system. We need to have two time frames: One is the very short-run, in which we have to fight electoral battles in order to "minimize the pain" for the vast numbers of persons who are suffering in the short run. But we also have to fight the longer middle-run (20-40 years) battle of transforming the capitalist system into the kind of post-capitalist one that will be better and not worse than the present one.
by Immanuel Wallerstein