Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

William Gallegos

How do we build opposition to Bush?

Dig in at the grass roots and support Jackson’s move to expand the Democratic Party

First Published: Unity, Vol. 11, No. 17, November 14, 1988.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the aftermath of the Bush/Quayle victory, progressives and revolutionaries need to develop new strategies and tactics to combat the right. The first step is to assess the results and figure out a direction.

Bush’s election shows that the right wing remains strong among sectors of the population, and the fight against the right is bound to intensify. But although the right has won a temporary victory, and people are justifiably angry at Dukakis’ conservative, timid and mismanaged campaign, there is no reason to be pessimistic or demoralized. Throughout the country, liberals and progressives won election, and voters passed far-reaching propositions like California’s Prop 103 which slashed insurance rates and Prop 98 which increased funding for education.

Bush has no mandate. Polls continue to show that the majority of people oppose increased military spending and support government programs to protect poor and working people. But work must be done to turn these sentiments into policy.


Just as Goldwater and the Republican right did not fade away after the 1964 Johnson landslide, progressives and revolutionaries must dig in and build deep roots among the people.

This year’s election revealed the deep alienation felt by millions. Over 90 million eligible voters stayed away from the polls. These people are overwhelmingly Black, Latino, American Indian and Asian, poor, uneducated and from the working class. Many are not registered to vote due to the numerous barriers. But for most, so deep is their alienation from the political process that it does not matter if the Democrats or Republicans occupy the White House. These feelings of alienation and powerlessness must be turned around against the right.

For progressives and revolutionaries to address this alienation, we must be involved in the day-to-day struggles of the masses. Politics need to address the daily concerns of the people – what to do about the crack house down the street, the inability of young families to finance a house, the appalling decline in health and safety standards, the incredible high cost of medical care, homelessness, and many other issues.

But we also need to present a vision of how life can be, of values which give meaning to our existence, and of hope that things can and will change. It is here that those of us who believe in socialism – a society where working people democratically control society – have a special responsibility to present a vision, a possibility for change. And in our actions, to demonstrate the reality that change can and will happen, and to show that our day-to-day struggles take place in a larger, broader context of struggle for a better future.

As the effects of eight years of Reagan/Bush voodoo economics continue to bring ever increasing hardships for the people, more people will become open to socialism as a possible alternative to capitalism. But we must demonstrate an ability to fight for issues, to make a difference now, while preparing for a better future. We need to build a grass-roots movement around issues which can involve and empower working people, and which will in turn be an electoral base to put progressives into office, to hold them accountable once in office, and to help develop creative new solutions to the problems of our cities and states.

The fight within the Democratic Party

The progressive movement today is a diverse coalition of forces ranging from the Black Liberation Movement and the Latino and Asian communities, to liberals and socialists. This movement is united around a democratic platform and agenda.

Jesse Jackson is at the forefront of this movement. His presidential campaign and his call to reclaim the Democratic Party, to expand the electorate, and to activate the people on behalf of a progressive agenda, represent a critical thrust in the progressive movement.

Whether we like it or not, the U.S. electoral system is dominated by two parties. Although the Democratic Party is a capitalist party, it needs to consider the concerns of its base – workers, people of color, liberals and others – in order to have any power. The Democratic Party offers some room for progressives to raise issues and contend for influence.

Conservative forces are already proclaiming the need for a moderate or conservative to head the Democratic ticket in 1992. They claim the country has rejected liberalism, and that only a conservative Democrat who favors a strong military can win. Furthermore, they argue that white voters are turned off to the Democratic Party because it “caters” to African Americans, the poor and liberals. This reactionary, racist line would encourage greater disenfranchisement of minorities, and must be rejected.

In essence, the conservative wing of the Democratic Party would recast the party as moderate Republicans. One Republican party is too many – two would be ridiculous.

Opposing these conservatives are the Jesse Jackson forces, who have forged a progressive wing within the Democratic Party for the first time in many years, and who are contending for leadership of the party. This fight led by Jesse Jackson to win greater democracy within the Democratic Party and to expand the electorate is very important. By upholding what many cynical liberals like Dukakis have rejected – such as explicit support for labor unions, civil rights, and programs for farmers and working people – Jackson can rally disaffected voters with a message of hope and optimism. Jackson’s “New Directions” platform represents the future of the Democratic Party.

The Black Liberation Movement will continue to play a key role, just as it played the key role in pressuring white conservative Southern senators to reject Bork. Many important fights involving the Black community loom on the horizon – fair reapportionment in the South and Southwest, upholding civil rights in the Supreme Court, and expanding Black and other minority empowerment. The Black community remains the most consistent opponent to the right wing, and its struggle for greater democracy propels all progressive forces forward.

Jackson, as a leader of the Black community and of the progressive movement, has already outlined an agenda in the electoral arena. He has called for expanding the electorate through passage of same-day, on-site voter registration; pursuing progressive legislation such as the ABC child care bill; raising the minimum wage and fighting for national health care; and preserving or advancing Black empowerment gains in the 1989 mayoral contests in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. We need to fight for this agenda.

Independence and initiative

Progressives and revolutionaries should support Jackson’s struggle to win leadership in the Democratic Party with the goal of winning the White House. It is a struggle for democracy within the framework of capitalism, a struggle which has moved forward through Jackson’s ’88 campaign, and one which has not yet exhausted all the possibilities that exist within the system. This is Jesse Jackson’s strategy and priority, which we support.

At the same time, within the larger movement for democracy and social change, we in the left have a particular role and responsibility. The many years of struggle by the people in this country have taught us at least one thing – that the people must be organized and empowered. For those of us who believe in socialism, who believe that capitalism with its pursuit of profit as its sole driving force, cannot solve the problems of the majority of its citizens – our priority must be to organize and empower the people.

We must organize the people through mass struggles both inside and outside of the electoral arena. We must help build and strengthen mass institutions like trade unions, churches, and family associations, so that together, we, the people, can begin to find solutions to the problems we all face in our day-to-day lives – from drugs and crime, to survival on a paycheck which just does not stretch from week to week. Only a progressive mass movement addressing and rooted in the fundamental issues and the lives of the people – and with a core of organized, empowered people determined to fight – can hope to defeat the right.

The millions who did not vote, and the millions who cast their votes for Dukakis reluctantly, as the lesser of two evils, represent the majority of people in this country. Progressives and revolutionaries are optimistic about the future, because we believe people want progressive change, and even fundamental change, in their lives. It’s up to us to beat back Bush!