Post-Trump North American left trends

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Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 12:42
Post-Trump North American left trends

Splitting this off from a longer thread to reply to it:

Juan Conatz wrote:
I'd like to see something written about the effects the Trump campaign and administration has has had on the left. Just off the top of my head I'd say

-Swing to social democrat electoralism as the main influencer and entry point to the radical left

-Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies

-The seeming decline of anarchism as a unique and identifiable segment of the radical left

-Perceived amplification of the stakes translating into more salt the earth tactics towards internal rivals

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OliverTwister
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Apr 27 2018 13:20

- Unwillingness to recognize new realities and new possibilities from those who wanted everything to stay the same.

Example: A well-known Libcom poster, in response to a question on Facebook asking "What the hell happened to the IWW?", wrote:

Quote:
We decided to try and recruit every person who was mad about Trump and just open the flood gates. Now all of the problems of the activist scene are the problems of the iww. Where we were once an island of a bit of sanity we have now been overrun with people, lots of whom are actually opposed to workplace organizing.

Nevermind that I have yet to see any example of any new IWW members who are "opposed to workplace organizing" ... This is just one example of the extreme cynicism of those who wanted to maintain the insulation of the IWW from the broader working class (the island imagery is actually very appropriate). Many of them referred to the growth we saw after the election as the "Trump bump", and some of those who were in executive positions at the time actually argued that these new members would fade and we would return to "normal". (This came up when our finance committee projected a budget based on this growth and some of those executives refused to accept the projected surplus - they used this logic to argue that there would not be a surplus. We actually ended up with a higher surplus than had even been projected.)

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R Totale
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Apr 27 2018 13:37

Am curious about how the Marcyite/tankie/Maoist whateverist trend fits into the "Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies" point - certainly the most prominent UK Young Stalin types I can think of tend to go heavily for the Nagle side of things, but it's my understanding that PSL/WWP types would tend more to the very "woke" side. But I'm open to correction to people who might know more.
Also: - hugely increased media profile of "antifa" and "black bloc", for better or for worse

- is stuff like J20/Georgia last weekend indicative of a broadly increased level of repression, or is it more or less par for the course and what you'd expect from fine US state traditions?

- obviously the class struggle and "the left" are two different things, but the current wave of worker struggles feels exciting/bigger than anything seen in a while. Also this is possibly offtopic, but god the Burgerville recognition thing being apparently an absolute first makes you realise how completely overhyped and stage managed Fight for $15 was - all that fuss and they didn't actually unionise one single location?

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 15:14
Juan Conatz wrote:
Swing to social democrat electoralism as the main influencer and entry point to the radical left

This is worth pointing out, the main driver in membership of the DSA (and Jacobin subscriptions) - which I see as the main social democratic entry points, was not the Bernie Sanders campaign, but that Trump won. I think it was an oh-shit moment for a lot of liberals (but also a lot of much more politicised/radical people who weren't in an organisation), so they signed up to the most accessible/present org which was the DSA.

I do though think that this has significantly changed the composition of the DSA, and it includes a lot of anti-electoralist people - question is what happens with the DSA/Jacobin-centred old guard vs. the new membership though. Also whether the DSA medicare-for-all centrally-directed electoralism manages to mobilise a largely paper membership for the Democrats in mid-terms and whatever the fuck happens next year with the presidential primaries starting.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies

Definitely this, but it's worth pointing out that this is a trend that has happened across political tendencies. So you have intersectional tankies, intersectional social-democrats, intersectional anarchists, economistic anarchists, economistic social-democrats, economistic tankies. I'm not sure just how much this is a response to the Trump election vs. also the way that political discussion has been flattened on twitter and other places - i.e. that there's a lot more direct communication between anarchists, tankies, social democrats that you would not have had 10 or even 5 years ago as well as much wider discussions about 'identity politics' outside radical political circles.

Juan Conatz wrote:
-The seeming decline of anarchism as a unique and identifiable segment of the radical left

Have said this elsewhere, but I think a massive part of this is that anti-electoral arguments have been hugely watered down the past 20-30 years, to 'all politicians being the same' vs. a proper critique of the state. With loads of New Right movements across the US and Europe, as well as various more properly socially democratic parties/politicians around, people no longer listen to "they're all the same" as much.

One the other hand, a consistent anti-electoral politics isn't limited only to anarchism, but to (some) branches of Leninist politics as well (although not the main groups like ISO/SWP).

The critique of electoralism here: http://blackrosefed.org/electoral-pursuits-have-veered-us-away-kali-akuno-on-movement-lessons-from-jackson/ - even though it's from someone in favour of municipal socialism, is more robust than a lot of boilerplate 'voting is meaningless' posts in terms of showing how its recuperating energy.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Perceived amplification of the stakes translating into more salt the earth tactics towards internal rivals

Not sure what this means?

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 15:39
R Totale wrote:
Am curious about how the Marcyite/tankie/Maoist whateverist trend fits into the "Polarization between "economistic" and "identity politics" tendencies" point - certainly the most prominent UK Young Stalin types I can think of tend to go heavily for the Nagle side of things, but it's my understanding that PSL/WWP types would tend more to the very "woke" side. But I'm open to correction to people who might know more.

I think this is an accurate summary. Also the Marycites will criticise the crude economism of the right wing social democrat DSA types like Conor Kilpatrick. And this isn't a new situation as far as I know, I think the original Workers World Party was pro gay-rights in the early '70s too.

I'd say though that younger US online Maoists (not even sure which groups they might affiliated) hate the Marcyites, because for example a Maoist would be very critical of modern China as neoliberal, whereas Marcyites will either defend China as a geopolitical counterweight to the US, or some of them go full on Dengist and claim it's actually socialist/communist, that Chinese investment in Africa is some kind of socialist project to increase living standards etc.

Would also make a distinction between a classical Marxist Leninism influenced by late '60s black radicalism, operaismo and similar trends (what I'd call 'Leninist Marxism') vs. the bizarro-Trot/Tankie stuff. This piece talks about that a bit: https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-united-states

The very, very rapid politicisation that people can go through these days might feed into this? Like 20 years ago you'd have to subscribe to magazines or join a group, and could maybe read a few classic texts online if you knew where to look. Now you have marxists.org, this site, all of twitter, hundreds of facebook groups and reddit so exposure to everything from Marcyite sects to Bordigism is there for people. One the one hand it leads to people associating with very specific tendencies with maybe quite shallow political education, but on the other there's a lot of potential for people to read heterogeneously and not get tied down to shitty groups or isolated in sects (whether social media encourages isolationism is a double edged sword I think).

--

One point that's not been mentioned. There seemed to be a lull in mass protests in response to police killings in the first few months after Trump, but the St Louis protests against the Jason Stockley verdict in autumn 2017, and recent protests against the killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento turn that on its head a bit.

Also there have been some disaffiliations of local branches from Black Lives Matter and BLM Cincinnati which was always independent I think, changed it's name to completely disassociate itself from the national organisation: http://blacklivescincy.com/home/2018/03/28/why-black-lives-matter-cincinnati-is-changing-its-name/ - to me that's an encouraging sign that the obvious recuperation that's been attempted is being rejected by some local groups, and in a way that might be more clear to casual observers who tend to lump everything in as BLM and put Deray or M4BL on the top of it.

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Steven.
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Apr 27 2018 15:39

Mike, I think he means that because people see "the left" as being particularly crucial now, lefties are being more vicious in terms of their attacks on other left-wing opponents.

I'm not really that in touch with the American scene so not very sure about the accuracy of this. But I am aware of extremely vicious internal rivalries over prolonged periods of time…

Mike Harman
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Apr 27 2018 16:23

@Steven. thanks that makes sense.

Related to that, do any US people know what's going on with Socialist Alternative and ISO - as far as I can tell they've not made nearly the same capitalisation as the Marcyites or DSA have. ISO posted some very stupid anti-antifa bollocks after Berkeley which came close to badjacketing the black bloc, they just don't seem to be able to adapt at all.

The SWP somewhat collapsed here following the rape apologism scandal and multiple splits - it's still going and still manages to turn up to London demos with hundreds of placards, but also seems quite stagnant otherwise. There are new Trotskyist groups like RS21, which from a distance seem a bit less toxic (and more anti-Labour/electoralism than Plan C for example), although I haven't looked in detail as to what their actual politics are.

syndicalist
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Apr 28 2018 01:05

Main trend: social democracy in form and action

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gram negative
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Apr 29 2018 20:58

MH, you've made a useful observation in the distinction between the weakness of the flimsy 'all politicians are the same' critique of electoral politics vs. a truly anti-state political critique of electoralism. I do agree that social democracy is experiencing an upsurge in the US, but I wouldn't say the anarchist-influenced groups on the American left have necessarily gotten smaller, just that organizations like DSA have mushroomed so suddenly. It is easy to assume that any proposed reforms to the US welfare state are bound to fall due to the material realities of capital, but the more worrying thing for the libertarian left, in my opinion, is if some reforms are successful, if and when higher political offices are won by social democrats.

R. Spourgitis
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Apr 30 2018 21:01

Not sure what piece of Juan's Mike is quoting from here, but the biggest shift in the radical left in the US that I have seen is the divide between antifa activity, and the perception of a resurgent far right, and electoralism in local and state level. With the vast majority of the anarchist and anti-state radical left falling into the former category.

I think this has been a colossal mistake and misrepresented the danger that out and out fascists actually pose. It has ceded organizing ground and squandered opportunities where people are organizing, be it with pro-immigrant campaigns, pro-labor, or anti-cut to services, etc. I know people say "we can do both," but the reality I see doesn't square with that -- resources and time are limited and people have seemed to decide that the tiny subset of Pepe Nazis are more worthy of their time and effort than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

I think the DSA is obviously reaping the benefits of a rise in left wing activism and sentiment with regards to a fairly hard right leaning political leadership in Washington and in a lot of states. SA and ISO haven't been nearly visible that I've seen, and the DSA is active in a ton of places like the Midwest and South that haven't seen much if any organizing, since say Occupy or even decades before. To me that's signficant and while is often very electoral oriented, there is some interesting organizing happening along the lines of the above from chapters.

syndicalist
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May 1 2018 00:54

I asked one of my 17 year olds why he likes DSA. His reply: "They make sense". Followed up by, how come things I believe in don't make sense. Him: "They do, just not now." So I explored it with him. Basically, my ideas are good ideas about the future. He's not into street battles and he's too young to vote. But he think that the progressive slogans, the health care for all and some other here today stuff makes sense for him. He laughed at one point: "Look at you, your anarchist flags, books, buttons and how you used to look, how far have you gotten?" Me: "Kid, it's a long haul thing." Him: "Can I have the keys to the car to see (his g-friend)?" Me: Love you dude, but we gotta get deep." Him: "Ok, keys, plz."

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Hieronymous
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May 1 2018 03:11
R. Spourgitis wrote:
. . . than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

This is leaving the Democrats off the hook.

In my lifetime, the worst shit was Carter’s deregulation at the end of his term and Clinton’s workfare and gutting social welfare provisions, many of which had existed since the New Deal (and more damaging than anything Reagan got away with destroying).

If antifa is panic over the rising tide of racist, homo-/trans-phobic, and anti-immigrant attacks, then fear-mongering over the “atrocious policies” of the Republicans, which are indistinguishable from the neoliberal austerity and attacks on the working class of the Democrats, is more akin to the frenzy of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

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OliverTwister
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May 1 2018 03:20
R. Spourgitis wrote:
Not sure what piece of Juan's Mike is quoting from here, but the biggest shift in the radical left in the US that I have seen is the divide between antifa activity, and the perception of a resurgent far right, and electoralism in local and state level. With the vast majority of the anarchist and anti-state radical left falling into the former category.

I think this has been a colossal mistake and misrepresented the danger that out and out fascists actually pose. It has ceded organizing ground and squandered opportunities where people are organizing, be it with pro-immigrant campaigns, pro-labor, or anti-cut to services, etc. I know people say "we can do both," but the reality I see doesn't square with that -- resources and time are limited and people have seemed to decide that the tiny subset of Pepe Nazis are more worthy of their time and effort than really atrocious policies that are coming down from Republicans.

I think the DSA is obviously reaping the benefits of a rise in left wing activism and sentiment with regards to a fairly hard right leaning political leadership in Washington and in a lot of states. SA and ISO haven't been nearly visible that I've seen, and the DSA is active in a ton of places like the Midwest and South that haven't seen much if any organizing, since say Occupy or even decades before. To me that's signficant and while is often very electoral oriented, there is some interesting organizing happening along the lines of the above from chapters.

I can only really speak to the specific experience of the IWW in the South, but from what I've seen, everything you're saying is wrong.

There are probably 10 IWW members in North Carolina and Virginia for every 1 there was in 2015, and that is directly attributable to anti-fascist organizing. The successful rout of the Klan's 'victory parade' in Danville VA in December 2016 led to a lot of people joining in NC and VA, and those people have brought in others. They are almost universally involved in organizing at work, supporting IWOC, and doing other organizing in the community. The notion that "resources and time" are limited is a very cadre-style idea of how our organizing ought to look, when really it ought to be based on infectiousness of our ideas.

I've only heard of people claiming a divide between antifascist organizing and other forms of organizing on Facebook, I haven't seen anybody involved in real organizing who claims that, at least if they actually acknowledge the growing threat of fascist groups.

IWW would have reaped the same benefits as DSA if we hadn't had a vocal minority of members who were gaslighting the majority about the current reality in the US. NC and VA are an example of what we could have seen across the US.

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May 1 2018 06:13

Will try to say more on this subject later, but on the specific experience of Southern wobblies, could you say how that's looked in GA this past month or so, since IIRC there's been a mass (wildcat?) strike there and a very harshly repressed anti-nazi mobilisation happening at more or less the same time, which sounds like a pretty ideal test case for understanding the antifa/other stuff dynamic.

R. Spourgitis
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May 1 2018 06:47

I brought it up because it was surprising to see in a thread titled "Post-Trump North American left trends" there's no mention of antifa and general antifascist / alt-right organizing -- which from what I can tell has been pretty dominant for the radical left.

OliverTwister wrote:
I can only really speak to the specific experience of the IWW in the South, but from what I've seen, everything you're saying is wrong.

There are probably 10 IWW members in North Carolina and Virginia for every 1 there was in 2015, and that is directly attributable to anti-fascist organizing. The successful rout of the Klan's 'victory parade' in Danville VA in December 2016 led to a lot of people joining in NC and VA, and those people have brought in others. They are almost universally involved in organizing at work, supporting IWOC, and doing other organizing in the community. The notion that "resources and time" are limited is a very cadre-style idea of how our organizing ought to look, when really it ought to be based on infectiousness of our ideas.

I've only heard of people claiming a divide between antifascist organizing and other forms of organizing on Facebook, I haven't seen anybody involved in real organizing who claims that, at least if they actually acknowledge the growing threat of fascist groups.

I'm not against doing antifascist and anti-racist organizing, and I think there's better and worse examples of it in the last two years for sure. If you are seeing it helping solid organizing outside of the flashy but rare anti-fash mobilizations, good on you.

What I've seen is a fixation that's outside the actual threat posed. In Iowa where there is virtually zero organized far right presence, but Republicans have taken all branches of government since 2016 and a slew of anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion legislation has come down, cutting education funding, slashing if not outright eliminating services for health care, the disabled, DV and SA victim services on and on, there's no question where the real dangers to working people and the most disadvantaged are coming from. It isn't the alt-right or Nazi fascists.

OliverTwister wrote:
IWW would have reaped the same benefits as DSA if we hadn't had a vocal minority of members who were gaslighting the majority about the current reality in the US. NC and VA are an example of what we could have seen across the US.

I haven't been a dues paying member for a few years and I only know a little bit about the internal divisions over antifa stuff, so it isn't what I had in mind. My outsider perspective is that those fights are more of a symptom of the debate over leftist energies and priorities. But also I'm not sure what you mean by this, if there were more antifa organizing in more places there would be more IWW akin to DSA? I'm going to have to disagree heartily there if so.

I think the combination of liberal and social democratic leanings mean the DSA is just more poised take in the big influx of people than any version of the IWW would (I happen to think the post-Bernie crowd is pretty big part of the DSA, besides the "oh shit" liberals).

Hieronymous wrote:
This is leaving the Democrats off the hook.

In my lifetime, the worst shit was Carter’s deregulation at the end of his term and Clinton’s workfare and gutting social welfare provisions, many of which had existed since the New Deal (and more damaging than anything Reagan got away with destroying).

If antifa is panic over the rising tide of racist, homo-/trans-phobic, and anti-immigrant attacks, then fear-mongering over the “atrocious policies” of the Republicans, which are indistinguishable from the neoliberal austerity and attacks on the working class of the Democrats, is more akin to the frenzy of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

Fair enough. I'm used to saying that because where I'm living, see above. It is a double whammy of Republicans at the federal and state levels fucking people over. I like to point out to people that here when the Democrats and control it was they who started instituting austerity cuts and talking about tax breaks. It's the same policies, just maybe not quite a severe and minus the extra reactionary racist, sexist and xenophobic policies

So yeah, absolutely where Democrats are in power and pulling the same stuff they need opposed too. I am certainly not advocating in favor of shilling for them.

The post election DSA in my area is a thing where there are a lot of people in the state that want to do organizing on housing issues, on immigrant defense work, on policy issues stuff. It does also include people who are for, if not campaigning for Dems, also running DSA's own candidates. My sense is that this split and presence is the case in a lot of places. I'm not sure how it will shake out, but to the extent that solid organizing efforts can occur I think it's something worth being involved with for now and for me.

If people are finding that in their local IWW or whatever else then they should totally do what makes sense in their area. I just I have not seen the kind of interest and energy on the national level in that kind of work that I have for turning out against the far right or doxxing them or whatever. Those things have value but it's limited. Now that the far right is appearing to implode, great victory has been declared -- well I think the danger and strength was overstated. That's not to say there isn't any danger or any need to organize against them, it's just not lining up with what I see as the needed priorities and points for organizing.

To be honest, I haven't followed this site and nor have I been active in organized left politics in a little while, besides finishing a degree while working and having two kids, I've just been flat out disgusted with the state of the left. (My workplace also banned libcom sad ) Watching the cuts happen to the field me and my partner work in -- watching a visible decline in people's quality of life, watching the extra curricular and foreign language programs be cut from my kids' schools, and seeing a shitshow over Milo or Richard Spencer, it hasn't lined up.

Mike Harman
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May 1 2018 11:04
R. Spourgitis wrote:
organizing on housing issues, on immigrant defense work,

I'm not in the US and the only things I know about internal-IWW stuff (or the DSA) are online, but wanted to pick up on this.

Twin Cities IWW-GDC has worked on anti-police stuff a bit: https://twincitiesgdc.org/2017/10/29/the-cops-and-the-politicians-represent-the-same-violent-order-a-statement-from-the-anti-police-terror-working-group/ and a community response to public sexual harassment as an alternative to police: https://twincitiesgdc.org/2017/07/25/local-community-self-defense-action/

I don't see a particular reason why an IWW-GDC couldn't get involved with opposition to ICE raids? It's harder to organise than an anti-fascist counter-demonstration for a publicly advertised event, but there's been some success co-ordinating/publicising immigration raid resistance in the UK for example: http://antiraids.net/

Black Rose Federation did a post (I think they took a bit too much credit for what happened based on other reports) about blocking an ICE raid on a 7-11 in California: http://blackrosefed.org/la-koreatown-fights-back-on-7-11-ice-raids/ - this sort of thing.

Similarly with housing, the DSA communist caucus has been getting involved with tenants unions, but that also doesn't seem incompatible with the IWW (or if not, a solidarity network like seasol).

The impression I've got is that some (most?) of the DSA's housing activism is getting tenants to lobby local politicians for rent controls or similar, which is really the appearance of housing activism funnelled into more electoralism. But there is capacity for collective action against realtors and landlords that does not get sucked into reformism (Brighton Solfed does a lot of this - helping people get stolen deposits back by picketing shop fronts and similar).

There's a risk of housing, anti-ICE and anti-police organising (and anti-fascism sometimes) slipping into reformism (or individual casework), but that risk exists for workplace organising too.

Is there active opposition inside the IWW to getting involved with this sort of stuff in general?

R. Spourgitis
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May 1 2018 12:56
Mike Harman wrote:
The impression I've got is that some (most?) of the DSA's housing activism is getting tenants to lobby local politicians for rent controls or similar, which is really the appearance of housing activism funnelled into more electoralism. But there is capacity for collective action against realtors and landlords that does not get sucked into reformism (Brighton Solfed does a lot of this - helping people get stolen deposits back by picketing shop fronts and similar).

Yeah this is an ongoing discussion where I'm at. There's a DSA chapter in the state doing a renters union that's described as being built in a solidarity network style, and I'm advocating something similar, while others appear more interested in this electoralist direction you're describing (which I agree with your summation). It's pretty new, just a month in the works here, so we'll see. There's actually a statewide conference coming up this weekend so I hope to get a better feel for what others are doing.

Mike Harman wrote:
Is there active opposition inside the IWW to getting involved with this sort of stuff in general?

I couldn't say, not being in it for a while, same with Black Rose. But there's no existing presence of them here and any effort to organize a branch or local would be time spent away from where there are already people working on a project.

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May 2 2018 12:21

For reference: I don't know anywhere near enough about the DSA to be able to comment myself, but this article gives some info on some of the internal difficulties that have accompanied their recent growth: https://medium.com/@seanmduffy/inwards-and-outwards-dsa-in-conflict-7650b55e226d

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Juan Conatz
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Jul 6 2018 02:01

I sympathize a lot with what R. Spourgitis is saying. In Iowa, the regular right wing has taken control of the state and implemented a dizzying array of conventional conservative rollbacks on various rights and services. No fascist right has been necessary or has been meaningfully involved. I suspect its the same in most states where the Democrats have been eviscerated at the state and local level, making many places a one-party GOP ruled area.

In the past, I often argued against or at least engaged in discussion/argument against the centering of antifascist activity within the context of IWW (and the broader left) priorities. However, without a question since 2015 or so there's been a resurgent far right that's pulled the conventional right along with them on a number of key issues. That's where they've been most successful. They've also interfered, online and in real life, in some progressive movements, such as the police precinct occupation in Minneapolis a few years ago, when alt-right types invaded the social media of the movement spreading misinformation and confusion. Some of those idiots showed up to the occupation armed and ended up shooting multiple people. There's a large number of other examples of isolated and a few degrees of separation type stuff with far right lunatics engaging in deadly and violent individual terrorist attacks. And post-Trump, all these desperate entities attempted to coalition build with each other and turn their online and cultural activities, which made inroads we haven't really seen before, into concrete, real life, organizational gains.

So within that context its hard for me to take seriously the people who say, more or less, that we should ignore or not prioritize shutting these attempts down. The time we are in is different. Saying "we should base build" or "do 1-on-1s with coworkers" is just not a satisfactory answer. Those who have been saying variations of that have seen their roles as informal leaders stunningly and drastically reduced. Which is unfortunate, because a growing, organizing, base building movement that also directly confronts the extreme right is really what's needed. I think the DSA is seen by many as exactly that, which is why many, including many with a background in anarchist or communist groups, have been gravitating to that rather than anarchist political organizations or the IWW, which have not really grown in any significant way (particularly compared to the DSA) and may actually be hemorrhaging members.

In general it feels like all efforts I've been involved in since 2008 have been for nothing and we're in this new era with most far left formations in internal disarray, big tent confusion or focused on violent street spectacles. It does feel pretty hopeless. Whether that's an objective look at things or because of increased cynicism after a decade on the radical left, I haven't been able to determine. I find myself drifting towards a mixture of Puerto Rican nationalism, apoliticism and bystander class hatred, which is more or less where I was at before I discovered libcom and online far left stuff and became involved in stuff.

WIth the DSA specifically, what happens when its members start to win office? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a DSA member, just stunned an establishment and incumbent Democratic in a New York primary. There's several other DSA members who have won office. With the some of the local organizing they're doing that's not election focused, what happens when it succeeds? Does it grow the organization? For what? If it doesn't grow the organization, does it go into decline and then people move on to the next thing?

Mike Harman
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Jul 6 2018 10:45
Juan Conatz wrote:
WIth the DSA specifically, what happens when its members start to win office? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a DSA member, just stunned an establishment and incumbent Democratic in a New York primary. There's several other DSA members who have won office. With the some of the local organizing they're doing that's not election focused, what happens when it succeeds? Does it grow the organization? For what? If it doesn't grow the organization, does it go into decline and then people move on to the next thing?

The DSA endorsed a District Attorney candidate (but not DSA member), Larry Krasner last year. He just recently charged a trans activist with a felony for burning a blue lives matter flag.

However the New Jersey DSA chapter mobilised a protest against the charges.

Ocasio-Cortez both before and after getting elected has been emphasising she's only interested in reforms to border control, going back to the INS from ICE. DSA members have been a decent chunk of the people at the ICE protests and I would think most of the people at those protests really do mean abolition and not this sleight of hand renaming that the Democrats are trying to turn it into.

Juan Conatz wrote:
Which is unfortunate, because a growing, organizing, base building movement that also directly confronts the extreme right is really what's needed. I think the DSA is seen by many as exactly that, which is why many, including many with a background in anarchist or communist groups, have been gravitating to that rather than anarchist political organizations or the IWW

Yeah at least theoretically if you're in a decent DSA local, it can do:

- strike support
- tenant organising / anti-landlord pickets
- picketing of ICE offices, disruption of ICE raids
- arrestee support
- anti-fascism

It makes sense that a single group (or at least co-ordinated set of groups) can do these things - they're mostly defensive, locally based things that are all necessary and when it's external support require similar types of organising and activity (i.e. all of those can involve getting a group of outside supporters to a picket for example).

How this gets reconciled with canvassing for Democrats though is just... wtf... but it's really separate groups of people doing things things mostly, crammed into the same org, and not always in the same local, but some of them are, and there's a national structure that's geared towards electoralism, so I don't know.

Juan Conatz wrote:
In general it feels like all efforts I've been involved in since 2008 have been for nothing

This probably won't help that feeling but I know that hundreds of DSA members read libcom pretty regularly.

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Agent of the In...
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Jul 6 2018 16:26

Since Ocasio-Cortez won the New York primary, the DSA's membership ballooned to over 42,000; I think there has been a 10% increase from the pre primary membership figure. This election has prompted a lot of online discussion on the idea of 'democratic socialism', and many have asked if there is any significant difference between that and 'social democracy'. And I've noticed a lot of hosts of progressive outlets, like the TYT network, have now openly embraced the former.

While it seems to suggest a shift among the Left, the discussions that have taken place reveal that a lot of these folks are under the illusion there is something new and worthwhile to an uncompromising electoralism as distinguished from 'centrist' Democrats. I mean, that's the promise or the appeal of it all. But it's not like people are being duped by these organisations; a lot of young people have gravitated to the DSA as their first ever experience of organising.

It's all rather depressing to watch. And I'm not optimistic about the possibility that their will be an eventual disillusionment that will feed into the growth of libertarian organising.

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Jul 7 2018 06:36
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The time we are in is different. Saying "we should base build" or "do 1-on-1s with coworkers" is just not a satisfactory answer. Those who have been saying variations of that have seen their roles as informal leaders stunningly and drastically reduced. Which is unfortunate, because a growing, organizing, base building movement that also directly confronts the extreme right is really what's needed. I think the DSA is seen by many as exactly that, which is why many, including many with a background in anarchist or communist groups, have been gravitating to that rather than anarchist political organizations or the IWW, which have not really grown in any significant way (particularly compared to the DSA) and may actually be hemorrhaging members.

This is a really important point, or series of points. I say all this as someone who also used to be vocally critical of focusing on the far-right, or indeed of doing too much that would draw us away from actual workplace activity. I was right there among the people who derisively referred to all of that as mere "activism" that we should keep our distance from. Even when the Sister's Camelot strike started I thought it was a little too granola. I know the conservative ideology that was dominant in the union pretty dang well because I was among its most vocal defenders.

One of the most important, and most tragic, parts of all of this (in particular groups like the IWW being eclipsed by the DSA) is that it didn't need to happen like that. To be clear, I don't see the DSA's growth as a bad thing; I do see the IWW's lack of similar growth as a bad thing, a result of some very serious mistakes and just downright awful behavior from leading members.

There were a lot of people who wanted the IWW to adapt to the new reality after the election - or rather, to allow the IWW to adapt itself. I can only speak for myself but I know I didn't have any particular ideas - my perspective was that our trajectory until then wasn't adequate and a lot of people were probably going to want to adapt, so we should make the space for those discussions to happen. Myself and two other members of the executive board immediately asked for an emergency board meeting after the election to talk about what it all meant and how we could open up that space for discussion, but the immediate reaction from the other board members (the more senior ones, by the way) was hostility. This was a trend that would continue and grow over the months after that.

One of the first things we noticed after the election was a huge increase in people joining, both online and in branches. A lot of people clearly saw Trump's election as a reason to get serious about organizing, and they saw the IWW as the vehicle to accomplish that. We tried to talk about how the union could help integrate them and encourage that growth, but the conservative members of the GEB thought there was nothing to talk about, and other members of the dominant conservative clique derisively referred to this as "the Trump bump" and insisted that it would all go away within a few months. Of course, when the union deliberately ignores most of the new people joining because the leadership expects them to leave, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When Juan refers to "those who have been saying that 'we should base build'" having lost their positions as informal leaders, there's more to it - in many ways these folks are part of the clique that has been running the IWW for the last 10+ years. They certainly represented the dominant informal ideology which basically said that the IWW should focus almost exclusively on its own workplace organizing, should not mess with the rest of the labor movement or with other kinds of organizing outside of the workplace. (There's a real legacy to all of this. An older member mentioned his experience trying to organize with the Soldiers of Solidarity around 2008 and the GEB of that time dismissing this as "a UAW campaign" that had nothing to do with the IWW - nearly identical rhetoric and lack of vision as we see 10 years later.)

They didn't just passively lose their positions as informal leaders - they lost them because they actively abused them by gaslighting the rest of the union and actively attempting to sabotage other people's organizing. They weren't just calmly saying that we should continue to focus on one-on-ones, they were panicking that people had a new and broader vision for the union and what it could accomplish. People saw how dangerous they were and stopped trusting them. One member of the executive board (JDD) accused IWOC of being led by a gang and the GDC of being a militia - and his 'right' to say nonsense like this was defended by 3 other members of the Board, who also sabotaged the charges process against JDD and used his vote to form a conservative majority that carried out a bureaucratic coup in March of 2017, and formed a consistent conservative voting bloc with him after that. (The membership eventually vindicated us by voting to expel JDD.)

Another conservative member of the board, who posts online (including on Libcom) as MLN, made it her primary focus to bully and gaslight other members online (which she has been doing to other anarchists for years anyways). To give one example - the IWW bloc at Charlottesville weren't sure if they were "allowed" to be a public IWW bloc and only decided to carry IWW flags at the last minute, because of a relentless campaign on M's part to gaslight members in Minneapolis who had held IWW flags at an anti-fascist event earlier that year. From what I've heard from people there, those IWW flags actually played a huge role in keeping people safe by helping them rally after attacks by the right. If people had actually felt confident to prepare ahead of time as they would have for a local action, who knows what kind of difference that could have made.

Of course this kind of gaslighting was carried out by a good number of formerly influential members. The person who posts on Libcom as EdmontonWobbly gave a great example with his Facebook post about the problem with the IWW being that "[w]e decided to try and recruit every person who was mad about Trump and just open the flood gates. Now all of the problems of the activist scene are the problems of the iww. Where we were once an island of a bit of sanity we have now been overrun with people, lots of whom are actually opposed to workplace organizing." With the completely preposterous assertion that most of our new members are opposed to workplace organizing, this was one really good example of the kind of gaslighting that was being carried out against the majority of the membership, and newer members in particular, but it was hardly unique. The folks around the former Recomposition group and the Communist League of Tampa also played a huge role in this.

This gaslighting might have only been being carried out by a small portion of the union, but it was a very influential portion, and the toxic results were pretty far reaching. It seems like there was some level of similar stuff happening in the social democratic left, I've heard of people talk about Jacobin editors taking alt-right positions after the election, but it seems like it was more pronounced in the IWW. I've often wondered whether this was one of the divergences with the DSA when they kept up their growth spurt and we lost ours. I assume that they had the same kind of conservative clique running the show beforehand, but I wonder if the difference is that the leadership was less bitter about making space, or there was a layer of DSA members who were better equipped to fight for that space than we were in the IWW. Juan has previously talked about cycles of leaders getting "pushed out", but there was nothing inevitable about that. People wanted something different and those who had been in leadership were unwilling to let that happen - they fought it every step of the way when they could have just graciously yielded. One of the most important differences to realize is that the conservatives in the union haven't done anything to recruit any noticeable number of new members or build them into leaders, while those of us who have tried to make space for the union to adapt have consistently recruited new members and built them up as leaders.

I definitely think that we've lost some huge opportunities, but I don't think it's all lost. There's still a lot of possibilities for us.

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Jul 7 2018 16:47

Personally I prefer that activists and liberals jumped to DSA first. The IWW is not a political organization of that type and those who try to make it that way and push ambulance chasing of whatever Democrat hot issue / narrative is popular that week is actually what has weakened quality growth, i.e. more union organizers and rank and filers vs left activists. We seem to have retained our Trump Bump, I think there is just a difference in the type of people attracted to our politics vs those stoked on electoralism, and soc dem 101.

I assume you see base builders in the DSA like Refoundation, and outside like the Marxist Center tendency or Black Rose equally conservative then? Jacobin/Momentum are their Center right, and DSA North Star their right wing.

You admit yourself you didn’t have answers, other than vague plans for 10,000 members if I remember correctly. What would your plan look like? In hindsight what would you have liked to see? Or like to see going forward? I ask this genuinely.

Personally I’m for quality over quantity, content over form, and strategic unity over tactical disarray.

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Jul 8 2018 15:43

Don't usually see much of interest in the ICC Forums but I noticed jk1921 has made several contributions on the changing nature of left and right 'populism' in the context of the UK, Canada and mainly the USA that are probably relevant to this discussion that I'm not otherwise very familiar with.
See here;
https://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/jk1921/15152/difficulties-bourgeoisie-political-apparatus
Doesn't really draw any clear conclusions as yet which maybe just as well given our common reliance on a lot of second hand sources of information but others might find it sparks some more thoughts?

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Jul 9 2018 14:54

In response to comments by OliverTwister and klas batalo: Surely, "antifascism activism builds the organization" and "quality over quantity" are not the only options to trying to figure out how to deal with an increasing number of people interested in the radical left? Seems like a false choice given that behind door one there is activist tail-chasing and behind door two there is selective cadre groupings.

Mike Harman
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Jul 9 2018 15:46

Yeah it's questions like:

- should/could the IWW in a college town help with organising against Generation Identity or similar groups organising on campus via a local GDC (probably yes IMO)

vs.

- should the IWW be fundraising for and organising transport for people to travel cross country to something like the Portland Patriot Prayer protests (probably not IMO)

If this is reduced to anti-fascism vs. not it seems a bit odd. Like even the most extreme 'anti-fascism is the worst product of fascism' positions would still agree with workers organising against local threats from fash.

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gram negative
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Jul 9 2018 16:05

I have to say that I agree with a lot of the criticisms that juan has brought up here and in other threads recently. I don't think that it is the most pressing issue, but thinking of how to relate to both the increasing interest in social change and the rise of popularity in social democracy is something that anarchists and other anti-authoritarians need to figure out, and I haven't really seen any good responses, either 'we need to change nothing' or a turn to electoral politics.

syndicalist
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Jul 9 2018 19:09

Ya can't be everything to every one.

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Jul 10 2018 03:10
syndicalist wrote:
Ya can't be everything to every one.

What does this even mean?

You have a long history of making short and cryptic posts, especially anything regarding the IWW, or the unions in the ICL over the last two years, but never actually saying what your perspective is.

jolasmo
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Jul 10 2018 09:17
klas batalo wrote:
Personally I prefer that activists and liberals jumped to DSA first.

This is the kind of attitude that makes me absolutely despair about what remains of the anarchist/libertarian communist movement in the US and elsewhere.

The reality is that "liberals" and "activists" are not simply inherently defective people from whom we must segregate ourselves to preserve our political (or "apolitical") purity: they think the things they do and do the things they do because they have been recruited and organised, formally or otherwise, by political movements that induce them to think and behave in these ways. The IWW had the people's attention, and the opportunity to offer them something better. It failed. But seemingly plenty of wobs prefer it that way, and would rather the IWW continues to be a tiny and largely irrelevant sect as opposed to grappling with the challenges of a new political reality, even if that means reassessing some long established holy truths.

syndicalist
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Jul 10 2018 13:37
OliverTwister wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
Ya can't be everything to every one.

What does this even mean?

You have a long history of making short and cryptic posts, especially anything regarding the IWW, or the unions in the ICL over the last two years, but never actually saying what your perspective is.

The message is simple and straight forward, nothing cryptic. If you think the IWW can be "everything to every one" then you will fall into the same pit that others fell into (particularly
during the 1970s-part of 1980s period).

If you would like to write a long critique of me, feel free. In fact, just start a "I hate Syndicalist Fan Club". That would be amusing.