These are going to be a rough four years. The question is, what do we do? We have no mass movement. Let’s face it: there is no credible Left alternative to the status quo. Instead, we have a proliferation of micro-sects and affinity groups that offer very little, and pose no threat to the powers that be. We include ourselves in this analysis: for years, we adhered dogmatically to a narrow Maoism that excluded most potential allies. We accomplished very little. Now, more than ever, is the time for Left groups to overcome the sectarianism that has plagued us for decades. It’s time to get over the quasi-theological disputes over doctrines and texts, and find what unites us in the present.
But the question of what unites us is not an easy one. Is opposition to Trump enough to forge a mass movement? It’s tempting to build a coalition of Hillary supporters, Stein supporters, Bernie supporters, “democratic socialists,” environmentalists, communists and anarchists. Such coalitions are certainly being built. A big tent politics like that, one that allows anyone nominally to the left of the Democratic party, is capable of some impressive mobilizations. If your goal is simply to get thousands of people in the streets opposing Trump, including absolutely everyone may be a wise idea. But where do you go from there? Another mobilization? Then another? Richmond Struggle is fully in support of such mobilizations, but as a means, not an end. Mobilizations—such as the one we and others put together in June, as well as the mostly spontaneous one in November—serve to radicalize people. Marching along with a thousand people allows a person to feel—if only for a moment—the power that we could hold. When you can ignore the commands of the pigs, stop traffic and shut down a city, you know that the status quo is not invincible. But that feeling is ephemeral—it’s not the reason we’re out there. The real goal is to take people’s newfound feelings of power and channel them into an organization.
Organization is vastly more difficult than mobilization. To build power that lasts beyond these sporadic mobilizations is what is necessary for a serious movement. It is here that we must draw a strict line of demarcation between enemies and friends. In organizing, we need to be sure that we are all working toward the same goal. Here, a principled unity is necessary, and it’s a unity that does not include liberals. Our Lines on the Left piece goes into more detail, but to put it simply, the liberal thinks the system can be reformed; the radical knows that it must be abolished. The liberal calls for civil discourse in politics; the radical knows that politics is inherently violent. The liberal wants a piece of the class power that dominates them; the radical wants to abolish this class power altogether. The liberal focuses on symptoms, the radical goes to the root of the problem. Plenty of groups call themselves “socialist,” “communist,” or “anarchist” but then dedicate themselves to working within the electoral system, boosting the Democratic party, and condemning the violence of the oppressed. These groups are not a part of the Left we need to build.
If we work with liberals, what happens when Trump is out of office? Will these liberals still want to fight the system if a Democrat is in the white house? If the anti-war movement after Bush is any indication, they will not. Any “big tent” organization we build will be co-opted into the establishment, weakened and de-radicalized. If we hope to build an alternative, we cannot work with anyone in the establishment, or anyone hoping to become part of the establishment. We cannot bother with the electoral system. We cannot work with cops, bosses, politicians, established unions, or NGOs. We must build our own power, from the ground up. We need to build a counter-culture that consists of more than just posturing—a counter-culture that does not just drop-out of but actively resists the status quo. If you hate the system, if you hate more than just Trump but the entire white supremacist, patriarchal capitalist system that gave rise to him, we want to work with you. If you are a communist, an anarchist, or any sort of radical, we want to work with you. And, above all, if you are one of the millions of working Americans abandoned by the Democratic party, we want to work with you. We don’t just want Trump out of office. We want the abolition of all existing social conditions, and we’re going to need some help with that.