A large group of people who had been prominent in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) [in the 1960s have] written an open letter about the importance of supporting Joe Biden [for US president]... They tell us “this is an all hands on deck moment,” and that supporting Joe Biden in order to defeat Donald Trump “is our high moral and political responsibility”.
The letter of the sixty-six appeals to the lessons of history, which I think is always a good idea. What they do with history, however, strikes me as selective and superficial.
When I saw the letter mentioning the stormy year of 1919, I thought there would surely be reference to the great socialist Rosa Luxemburg. But no, she never comes up. Instead there is reference to the presumed wisdom of an anti-socialist, the liberal academic Max Weber, who warned left-wing students that “the best politics should be painfully aware of the consequences of action, not just intentions”.
This political mentor of the letter-writers had enthusiastically supported the German war effort during World War 1, which he saw as necessary if Germany was to function as a leading world power. He had denounced revolutionary socialists as engaged in “dirt, muck, dung, and horse-play—nothing else”.
He singled out Rosa Luxemburg as someone who should be confined to a zoo. Soon after, it is true, he expressed regret when she was brutally murdered in early 1919 by right-wing death squads, but he also suggested she had brought this on herself.
The open letter correctly notes that the moderate Social Democrats and the militant Communists might have prevented [Hitler’s rise to power in 1933] had they joined together in a united front against Hitler.
Instead they denounced each other, with the Communists engaging in ultra-left street fighting and the Social Democrats supporting the “lesser evil” in the elections of 1932 by helping to re-elect the old conservative nationalist Paul von Hindenberg as the most practical way to block Hitler.
Of course, Hindenberg and those conservatives around him decided it would be most practical for them to adapt to the Nazis, and they brought Hitler into their government in 1933, after which he transformed it into his government. This important information, too, is missing from the open letter.
One historical lesson: neither ultra-left street fighting nor settling for a “lesser evil” in the electoral arena will necessarily bring about the results we intend. Instead, it makes sense to build a united front of revolutionary socialists, moderate socialists, and others to fight against lesser and greater evils – in our communities, in our workplaces, in the streets.
[And] it makes sense to grasp the difference between humanist liberals (potentially allies of socialists) and corporate liberals (without a doubt, opponents of socialists and humanist liberals).
Joe Biden’s entire political history is that of a corporate liberal. One could argue that Donald Trump is no better, and that in fact he is much worse. I think that is true. It doesn’t take away the fact that Joe Biden is a corporate liberal.
DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] took a position early on that it would endorse Sanders as a socialist candidate running on the Democratic Party ballot-line, but it would not endorse any other Presidential candidate. There is a logic to this, given the nature of DSA as an explicitly socialist organisation.
As a corporate liberal, Biden is an anti-socialist, pro-capitalist, pro-billionaire enemy of what Sanders and his supporters were fighting for.
Biden offers a return to “the good old days” of corporate capitalist America, before Donald Trump assumed the Presidency. Of course, those good old days were not so good, generating the growing discontent that discredited “mainstream” politicians like Biden and paved the way for Donald Trump. A good dose of what Biden and those around him have to offer, should he win the Presidency, will set us up for the “solutions” offered by forces more disciplined and sinister than what Trump represents.
I have decided to support eco-socialist Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate, so that I will be able to campaign for something I believe in during the upcoming electoral season.
The crises of capitalism are deepening in our country, and an increasingly desperate population is polarising.
Coming out of the shadows are elements prepared to defend old racist monuments of the Confederacy, shoot down young black men wearing hoodies, enter synagogues to slaughter Jews, and rally to state capitals, guns in hand, to push for an end to coronavirus restrictions – in order to “get the economy going again,” so that Big Business can retrieve its profits, even if significant numbers of “lesser people” have to die.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are statistics that offer hope. Those in the United States today inclined to identify positively with the notion of socialism include 43 per cent of all US citizens, 51 per cent of young people (ages 18-29), and 57 percent of Democrats.
• Abridged with thanks from New Politics