The Left faces historic opportunities and challenges

Jul 18, 2018 | North America

The great economic crisis of 2008 forever wrecked the “American Dream” with the stroke of a pen, and initiated a qualitative change in the political situation of the most developed country on the planet. This crisis continues as its dynamic still surprises.

The economic collapse and the enormous social cost generated by the “mortgage crisis”, for the first time in decades led millions of workers, young people and middle classes, to start to question the reign of banks and corporations, the leaders of traditional parties and the system itself. These changes have spawned phenomena of every kind and a profound political and social polarization.
This earthquake shook the foundations of the two traditional parties of the imperialist bourgeois, who saw their candidates flounder, while a reprehensible character like Donald Trump triunphed in the Republican party; and Bernie Sanders rose meteorically in the Democratic Party raising the flag of socialism and the need of governing for the 99%  instead of the 1% of the privileged who rule over the destinies of the country and the world.

A trip to get excited about

In order to follow what is happening there more closely and to strengthen the ties of our international organization with the American Left, I visited the U.S. from July 4 to 14. Federico Moreno, one of the leaders of our youth, came with me on the tour.
We were invited to Socialism 2018, the national conference organized in Chicago by the International Socialist Organization (ISO)[1] and Jacobin, one of the most successful publications on the American Left.
Both in Chicago and New York, we participated in debates and meetings with members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)[2]. We also exchanged opinions with Socialist Alternative comrades [3], leaders of different unions and feminist, LGBT and youth movements.

Socialism is growing in the belly of the beast

The independent campaign of Sanders and the millions of votes he obtained in the Democratic primary gave expression to a process that has been growing for years. And it revived an old debate in the American Left about how far it is possible to build something new within the archaic and imperialist Democratic Party that has, over decades, been responsible for absorbing and co-opting a vast number of activists and processes preventing a third party from rising to the left of the traditional two party system.
However, an impressive political and organizational phenomenon in full expansion is obliging all revolutionary organizations that are independent and outside the Democratic Party to reconsider how to get involved to avoid missing a huge political opportunity that could lead them to a setback.

The spectacular growth of DSA

Born in the 1980s as a reformist social democratic project, strategically tied to the Democrats, DSA has been growing rapidly among young people and activism since Sanders’ campaign. Besides, the organization has been radicalizing to the point that it has become a pressure on members of revolutionary organizations that are stagnant in the middle of a spectacular process.
Before Sanders, this party had no more than 200 active militants and 6,000 members with an average age of 65. During the six months of Sanders´ presidential campaign, the party´s membership rose to 20,000 members. After Trump´s election and the massive shock that generated, membership shot up to 35,000, and more recently, after the triumph of young Latina Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will probably obtain a seat in the House of Representatives [4], the party has reached 43,000 contributing members, 15,000 of them active militants. The average age dropped to 30 years. In addition, one of the organizations three important tendencies, declares itself to be revolutionary and expresses clarity on the strategic limits of the Democratic Party and the need of accumulating to eventually break and form a third party.

A huge challenge

The changes that have taken place in the U.S. are of such a magnitude that nothing will be as before. In March and April, a series of massive teachers’ strikes took place in several states and were democratically organized and radicalized. This situation that hadn´t occurred in decades achieved enormous victories. Womens movements have been playing an important role in confronting Trump, and the resistance against atacks on workers, immigrants and the right to decent housing is growing.
The social and political radicalization caused by each of Trump´s policies will continue increasing in the coming years. The challenges, opportunities and dangers that the revolutionary left that builds outside the Democratic Party as well as inside it through DSA, will face, should be accompanied by the revolutionary left internationally, because the progress and the future of the world revolution has American workers, young people, women, and the left as protagonists.

Alejandro Bodart

[1] The main Trotskyist organization in U.S., it belonged to the Brittish SWP led IST until 2000, when it split.

[2] Broad left organization of different tendencies that works inside the Democratic Party and that has had a spectacular growth in recent years.

[3] The other important Trotskyist organization of the country, section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). In 2013 they elected the first socialist councilwoman in Seattle.

[4] Since it is an historically Democratic district, winning the primary practically secures her seat in Congress, which will make her the first woman Representative in U.S. history.