By Lenny Brody. It should be clear that the United States has entered a classic political crisis. A large section of the American people no longer believe that either the Democrats or the Republicans can be trusted to run the country. This has come about as a result of the handling of the financial crisis. Many Americans believe that the financial elite in this country caused the current economic crisis. They see that the political elite, those in both parties, have not only refused to prosecute the financial criminals, but have actually rewarded them with bailout money.
The first response to the political crisis was the Tea Party movement. Although much of this movement has been and continues to be funded by corporate money, its appeal to masses of people stems from the recognition of the political crisis in our country.
The massive and sustained demonstrations in Madison, WI found their strength in the reaction to the growing corporate control of the U.S. and the corruption of traditional politicians. The Occupy Wall Street movement has permanently changed the political climate in our country. It has placed economic inequality (We are the 99%) and the demand for genuine democracy (This is what Democracy looks like) as the burning issues of the day.
This is the political environment that progressives find themselves in today. No discussion of strategy and tactics can take place that ignores this environment. Thus, the presidential and congressional elections in 2012 are unfolding under new and unprecedented conditions. First, the US (and the world) is mired in a fundamental, structural crisis of capitalism. The maneuvering room for those who run the country is very limited. They are not in a position to make serious concessions to the American people. Second, those who associate too closely with the Democratic Party will be rejected by the people. One of the lessons of Feingold’s loss in the last elections was his inability to separate himself from the traditional Democratic Party, and in particular the political positions of his party (many of which he disagreed with).
Progressives should reject the concept that independent politics means trying to push Obama or other corporate Democrats to the left, or forcing them to take up some progressive issues. Corporate Democrats are responsive only to the people who fund their campaigns. They cannot be “influenced” by public opinion. And as long as “public opinion” has no alternative to the corporate Democrats, we are powerless.
The activities and tactics of progressives must be guided by wheather or not those activities will build an independent political movement. Any association with Obama will be deadly. Any association with “liberal” candidates who are not truly independent of the corporate Democrats will be deadly. The lesser of two evils position has been taken away. The center in politics is not only weak, it is being destroyed. Those who advocate compromise in order to “fight the right,” only strengthen the corporate control of our country. No short term victories are possible until we build a powerful independent political movement which can lay the basis for a strong, mass based third party. This is the political context of the class struggle today. Furthermore, it is important we recognize that the possibility of such a third party is dependent on the growth and strength of the mass movements like Madison and the Occupy movement. Given the economic and political crisis, movements like these are certain to continue to arise.
Lenny Brody has been politically active for 50 years fighting in the interests of poor and working class people. He was involved in the civil rights movement in South Carolina and the anti Vietnam War protests during the 1960s. Since that time he has studied economics and theories of political change while continuing his political activism. Mr. Brody is working with the Chicago chapter of Progressive Democrats of America to build an independent political movement that will fight for and empower the victims of the current economic crisis.