Sunday, September 2, 2018

Why challenge America's most popular progressive politician?

2 September 2018
  
A Statement by Reid Kane Kotlas, 2018 Socialist Party Candidate for U.S. Senate (Vermont)

I was recently asked, "At a time when progressive ideas are just now breaking into mainstream political discourse, why challenge America's most popular politician from his left?

I am challenging Sanders because progress cannot come from the politicians, however noble their intentions. It can only come from the people organizing themselves.

For Sanders, progress means the state playing a more active role in mitigating the dysfunctions of capitalism. That is not a new idea.

The state already plays a massive role in organizing capitalist society. The important question is not what policies the state will adopt in doing so, but who controls the state, and to what ultimate end?
Socialists differ from progressives in that we seek to organize the working people to take state power into their own hands, in order to overcome the division of society into owners and workers, and to establish a society based upon universal ownership and self-employment.

Sanders, and all progressives, seek to use the state to preserve the social order in which working people are dependent and subservient upon owners of capital.

The conservative desire to preserve social order is natural and understandable. But we have outgrown the capitalist social order, and suffer for not having progressed beyond it.

True progress would be progress beyond capitalism to socialism. That would require working people organizing themselves to take responsibility for their society, to take ownership of the world on which they depend, including the power of the state.

Progressivism as a political ideology does not simply mean the desire for social betterment. Conservatives also want society to improve, but they have a different conception of what that would mean. Likewise with socialists.

Progressivism is the belief that for capitalism to progress, the state must take a more active role in managing the affairs of society and supplementing or correcting the limitations of commerce and private enterprise.

Progressivism first emerged in response to and as an explicit rejection of the socialist position. The socialists believed that capitalism could no longer progress, but had already progressed as far as it could, and had, since the mid-19th century, become a fetter on social progress.

Socialists did not seek more state control over the economy, but to change who controlled both the state and the accumulated capital of society, to use both to fundamentally different ends.

Rather than preserving a social order defined by the division of society into workers and owners by making it "better", socialists sought to overcome that division, and to thereby inaugurate a new social order and a new epoch of human history.

The socialists, in that sense, sought not progress in capitalism, but progress beyond capitalism, and they sought this not by way of demanding improvements to capitalism, but by organizing and rendering explicit the conflict within capitalism that made further progress impossible.

It's not that it is impossible for people's lives to get better in capitalism. Of course that is possible. But such improvement is never unambiguous, never secure, never adequate, and never universal. Improvement is always tainted by its opposite.

Progressivism means seeking betterment in and through the status quo. Socialists must also work within the status quo, but do not do so in order to improve upon it. They seek, rather, to overcome the status quo, to overcome the tainted character of progress in capitalism.

Overcoming the status quo means, above all, organizing the masses who are currently dependent upon and subservient to those with political and social power to take that power into their own hands. Not seeking aid from our present rulers, but overthrowing and replacing them.

Socialism would mean overcoming a social order in which the masses are subservient and dependent, and replacing it with a society in which all are responsible for their destiny, and take that destiny into their own hands.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Would Eugene Debs support socialists running as Democrats?

28 August, 2018

A Statement by Reid Kane Kotlas, 2018 Socialist Party Candidate for U.S. Senate (Vermont)

Bernie Sanders has long claimed Eugene Debs as his hero. Yet Sanders’s political trajectory could not be more starkly opposed to that of Debs.

 

Debs the Democrat

After rising up the ranks of the labor movement in the 1870s and ’80s, Debs was courted by the Democratic Party of Indiana to run for state legislature in 1884, and handily won the election. Yet his career as a Democratic Party politician was short-lived. As Ray Ginger, in his biography of Debs, The Bending Cross, recounts,
When Debs was sworn into the state House of Representatives on January 8, 1885, he had already drafted a bill which would require railroad companies to compensate their employees for injuries suffered on duty. Appointed to the Railway Committee, he maneuvered the bill through the lower chamber, and rejoiced when it was sent to the Senate. But his exultation was short-lived. When the bill reached the State Senate, the members of that body toyed with it for a few days, finally cut the guts out of it. Debs, convinced that he had failed the railroad workers, promptly withdrew the bill from consideration. Other measures in which Debs was deeply interested also went down to defeat. He bolted his party to vote with the Republicans on a bill to abolish all distinctions of race and color in the laws of Indiana, but the bill lost by three votes. He voted for a bill to extend suffrage to women; again he was on the losing side.
By the time for adjournment, Debs had decided not to stand for re-election. He was ill-suited for the compromise and favoritism of political life, but his reaction was much too extreme. By the standards of the times, that legislative session in Indiana was a good one; it passed a resolution supporting a Federal eight-hour law for all trades but agriculture, and wrote into law an equal rights act for all places of “public accommodation or amusements,” a township tax of 1 per cent for the support of the libraries, a mechanics’ lien law, coal-mine safety provisions, a prohibition on the importation of foreign contract-labor. But Eugene Debs felt that he had failed his electorate; when he reached home in March, he told Theodore that he would never again run for public office. [p. 42–43]
Over the following decade, Debs remained generally supportive of the Democratic Party, which nominally defended the cause of workers and farmers against the increasingly despotic owners of capital, whose interests were represented by the Republican Party. This was seemingly confirmed when the Republican Harrison administration aided the suppression of strikes at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Homestead, Pennsylvania in 1892, and when Harrison’s Democratic opponent, Grover Cleveland, voiced support for the workers against the collusion of their employers and the state, contributing to his victory later that year.

Debs campaigned for Cleveland in ’92 out of support for the working class against the collusion of capital and the state. Yet Debs knew the Democrats were anything but consistent, and was more or less skeptical of the political establishment as a whole, siding with the Populist insurgency of workers and farmers in the early 1890s, which began organizing a new party. This skepticism was brutally validated when, in 1894, President Cleveland’s administration sent Federal troops to crush the Pullman Strike led by Debs’s recently formed American Railway Union.

This confirmed for Debs the necessity of independent political action on the part of the working class. The Democrats and Republicans alike supported the rule of capital against the struggle of the working class to improve their position in society. Only by representing themselves in the political sphere could the working class hope to break the collusion between capital and the state.

Yet the Populist movement was by no means uniform in its conviction to build an independent political party of workers and farmers, with many seeking instead to influence and transform one or both of the major parties. In the 1896 election, the Democratic Party sought to overcome the damage to its reputation that resulted from Cleveland’s suppression of the Pullman Strike, and to capitalize on the Populist insurgency, by nominating William Jennings Bryan — a Democrat popular within the Populist movement — as its Presidential candidate. The incipient People’s Party, rather than maintaining itself as an independent political force, also nominated Bryan, and much of the Populist movement was, as a result, folded into the Democratic Party base.

While Debs expressed support for the People’s Party, he had lost whatever remaining faith he had in the Democratic Party. He was won over to socialism in 1895 while serving his prison sentence for leading the Pullman strike, and while he maintained hopes in the People’s Party despite its endorsement of Bryan, and campaigned for it in 1896, he would ultimately recognize that the Populist movement failed because it was unable to preserve its independence.

Socialism, unlike Populism, reflected the necessity of independent political organization of the working class: rather than simply seeking reforms to ameliorate the condition of working people, the socialists proposed that the working class should organize itself to take power, as only the working people could realize the potential for freedom capital represented. Capital was the means of production through universal cooperation, and as such, it could not be effectively and responsibly managed by individual owners. It could only be administered through the conscious cooperative management of the workers themselves, who had to organize to take political power in order to wield it to that end....

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Deninger for State Senate Video Statement on Food Insecurity

14 July 2018

A Statement by Maia Dendinger, Socialist Party Candidate for Maine State Senate (District 5)


Despite our strong agricultural sector, Maine is one of the worst states in the union for food security. We need to think beyond the limits of capital and profit when organizing our food system. Regardless of income, no one should be without access to a full and healthy food supply...

Click here to view the complete video statement