As old followers of this blog (or folks who've perused the archives) likely know, I used to be a member of the Communist Party, USA. When I left that organization in late 2014, it was largely over disagreements with how the organization itself was led (I prefer my democratic centralism with some democracy, thanks); however, there were some pretty dramatic disagreements over strategy, as well, and leaving the CPUSA has giving me and my comrades here in the Pacific Northwest a chance to develop our own.
In a nutshell, the strategic
disagreement is this: the CPUSA's main line of attack against capitalism
is trying to encourage incremental change through support of Democratic
candidates against Republican ones. Recognizing that a third-party
electoral challenge is not, at the moment, likely to be successful, the
CPUSA has elected to go the "lesser of two evils" route by supporting a
party that, while pro-capitalist, is at least on paper in favor of some
social programs. They hope that these programs can be expanded into
socialism, a strategy frequently referred to as "reformism".
My last post four years ago was actually something of a crosspost; it was a piece I co-wrote for the People's World, the newspaper of the Communist Party, USA. The "Why We Fight" essay was an attempt to describe how a second term Obama Presidency would finally take substantial action on climate change; it was, in other words, a defense of a reformist strategy.
Well, President Obama did win reelection, and the linchpin of his climate change agenda is the Paris Agreement, signed by an overwhelming majority of countries just last week. It is indeed an impressive feat of international horsetrading, and it's clear that President Obama made it a significant priority for his administration. That's not nothing. The agreement calls on signatory nations to make an effort to limit global mean temperature increase to 2 ̊C by the end of the century, which is a laudable goal.
However, the agreement is nonbinding. There is no enforcement mechanism. The Fifth Assesment Report
of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in late
2013, predicts that a 2 ̊C anomaly by the end of the 21st century is
almost certain; the Paris Agreement is DOA.
Democratic policy is, as it so often is, "feel good" policy.
Greg and I spent a good portion of the "Why We Fight" piece describing the different rhetoric of the two US political parties around climate change, and we were correct; the Republicans continue to act as if climate change is not a problem, while the Democrats (especially, this time around, Bernie Sanders) publicly wring their hands about it. But there is no reason to expect that another Democratic President would be any more effective than Barack Obama has been at taking meaningful action. Because the office of the Presidency simply does not have the power to do more than slap the occasional band-aid on the problem, and even that requires a tractable congress and international cooperation.
It's past time to come to terms with the fact that global capitalism will not "solve" climate change. It will be destroyed by climate change. Whatever we build in the ruins, whatever we preserve for the future, will have to take into account the substantial changes to the Earth system that are now, for all intents and purposes, inevitable.
Which is why you won't find me talking about national politics on this blog very much from here on out. Until national collective action on climate change and peak oil appears possible, let alone likely, my focus will remain local.
Which brings me to that strategic disagreement I mentioned earlier. A vocal minority within the CPUSA was critical of reformist strategy,
because one need only look at the trajectory of national US politics
since 1980 or so to realize that both mainstream US
political parties are tacking hard to the right, making any attempt at
reformism a losing proposition. To a certain extent, picking the lesser
of two options seems like a no brainer; no one was suggesting voting for
Republicans. But the critics pointed out that if national politics
(specifically the pit for money and volunteer energy that is a US
Presidential race) offers you two options, "lose", and "lose worse",
then maybe it's time to consider a different field of struggle entirely.
of us advocated for a grassroots strategy of building working class
institutions to provide support and services that are being increasingly
cutoff by both Republican and Democratic government officials. This is
not an electoral strategy at all, but rather a community-based strategy:
by helping working-class people build mechanisms of community support,
be they free schools, cooperative childcare, food shares, or what have
you, you simultaneously build a sense of agency and power in the working
class, and reduce the dependency of that class on wages and handouts from the ruling class.
In short, you build a class with the consciousnesses and resources to challenge capitalist power directly, rather than in a two-party electoral struggle where everything is in the ruling class's terms.
You also build community resilience against climate change and peak oil, without relying on mainstream political efforts.
It's that last point that makes this whole topic relevant to the project of this blog. In coming posts I'll talk about specific projects my comrades and I pursue as part of our community strategy, which we've taken to calling Dual Power. More on this later!