Re: A damning indictment of the Democratic Party by one of its leaders

Bradley Mayer

The behavior of the US reformist Left is the essence of the present problem.  Before briefly addressing that, a few notes as to where Reich is off-base.

Reich is certainly one of the more honest commentators within the Democratic party scene.  But first, "Where’s the center between democracy and authoritarianism and why would Democrats want to be there?" is easily explained if one holds the view, as I do, that the US Federal system has always combined semi-authoritarian ("semi-Bonapartist") features, with the semi-democratic, with the semi-authoritarian aspects dominant, as "the democracy" was by and large assumed to be represented in the individual States and their locales (Koch certainly made a mockery of that!).  The answer then is that the Democrats have always "been there" from necessity.  Either be a regime player or change the fundamental regime, and neither Republicans in the Civil War / Reconstruction Era, nor Democrats in the New Deal / WW2 Era, dared to tamper with the fundamentals of the regime.  This is reflected in the consistency of the Democrats' behavior from Reagan onward. 

Second, "The working class used to be the bedrock of the Democratic Party" is incorrect.  The permanent social base of the bipartisan system has always been the massive US petit-bourgeoisie of all stripes.  We should recall that, due to its particular colonial settler historical origins, the USA had an exceptionally large "independent" petit-bourgeoisie, both rural and urban.  Again I would submit that this historical fact easily explains what the "bedrock" of the bipartisan political system actually is, and therefore how that system related itself to the growing US working class thorough its history.  The political ideologies of the two parties were formed in the petit-bourgeoisie, who were shared out into "reactionary" and "progressive" political factions.  This became the political lens through which demagogic appeals were then made to workers as this class grew throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Until the 1930's, both Republicans and Democrats made these appeals, indeed in the late 19th century the Republicans appeared as more "based" on the working class than did the Democrats, though the bipartisan system tended to divide the class between nativist, skilled, privileged workers (Republican), and immigrant, semi-skilled and less privileged workers (Democrats), while both worked assiduously to exclude Black workers together with the Black petit-bourgeoisie. But both parties also controlled urban political machines in this period, though the Democrats had the upper hand, and acted to discipline these machines.

Of course in the New Deal worker votes tended to go lopsidedly for the Democrats.  But so too did the "progressive petit-bourgeoisie" that now almost entirely evacuated the Republican Party - we'll see no more La Follettes.  In particular, the social democratic Left gave up political independence and joined the Democrats en masse, including almost all of the Norman Thomas Socialist Party's electoral base, the Thomas party then close shop in the 1950's. And of course the CPUSA did the same with its base "from the outside", outside so as to remain an instrument of Stalin's foreign policies.  The electoral sorting of worker votes into the Democratic column persisted until the 1970's when it began to ebb permanently, and we know the story since Reagan.

Clearly, 40 years of abandoning populist demagogic appeals for worker's votes does not "threaten the very life of the party".  What does threaten the life of the entire bipartisan system is the relative shrinkage and internal transformation in composition of its real base in the mass petit-bourgeoisie.  Not only is its relative social and political weight less (at the same time as impoverished semi-proletarian sections of the working class have grown), but it has lost any independent basis as the so-called "PMC" (Professional-Managerial "Class"), including Democrat-leaning "siloviki", much beloved of TeamBlue, are entirely dependents of the corporate structure of US capitalism or of the US state.  The result is that the consistently "progressive petit-bourgeoisie" have a considerably smaller presence, highly concentrated in the State apparatus itself, while the mainstay of the petit-bourgeoisie are biased to the Right, and indeed are moving right "post-pandemic", and in the face of the inflation, militarism, etc. will continue to do so in the medium term.

Reich implicitly understands this, but misunderstands it at the same time as mere tactics, rather then as a categorical imperative of the anachronistic political regime. "Why hasn’t Biden done more to rally the working class and build a coalition to grab back power from the emerging oligarchy? Presumably for the same reasons Clinton and Obama didn’t: The Democratic Party still prioritizes the votes of the “suburban swing voter” – so-called “soccer moms” in the 1990s and affluent politically independent professionals in the 2000s".

The reformist Left operating entirely within the Democratic Party has failed to change this "tactic".  Its failure to understand why is the nub of the political problem of the USA today.  In other words, the reformist Left IS the problem.   It is theoretically possible that the reformist Left could achieve the DSA dream of transforming the Democrats into a new type of social-democratic party (the Far Right already thinks they have!), but that would require the Democrat political leadership to abandon the only real social base they've ever known! As Reich makes very clear, they'd rather abandon workers.

One can only conclude that the reformist Left has arrived at an impasse, but doesn't want to strike out on an independent path.  They don't want to for a very simple reason:  They know that will require not only a lot of had work, but will also face a furious and vicious "legal" repression, especially from the Democrats.  Staying put is much more comfortable.

But the odds are that the repression of the Left is coming down the road anyway.  The choice for the reformist Left is then, do you want to fight the repression of the Republicans later, orchestrated by the Trumpified Far Right, or do you want to fight the repression of the Democrats now, backed by the bipartisan Republicans?  The latter are already fighting to repress you.

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