Against the Current, No. 29, November/December 1990
BILL RESNICK’S comment on “Socialist Politics and the Peace Dividend” (ATC28) gives an upside-down picture of how revolutionary politics develop. He says that in the 1930s and 1960s “for many millions of people bourgeois rule was “discredited.” True: by the late 1930s and the late 1960s there were millions of anti-capitalists in the United States.
But of the people who went out on strike in 1934 marched against the Vietnam War in 1%5, only a small minority had conscious revolutionary politics.
That small minority was multiplied many times over through the development of big, militant movements, which gave people a chance to feel their own power and develop a deeper understanding.
There is no movement on this scale today. We need to help create one—and of course bring our revolutionary politics to it from the start.
There are in the United States today millions of people who need drug treatment and can’t get it, skilled workers competing for jobs at MacDonalds, people leaving school unable to read, and people with AiDS living on the streets. To tell these people that “pouring vast sums into services” without building “genuinely democratic organizations” “could do little more than inflate the social service bureaucracy is shortsighted as well as insensitive.
Basic food, housing, health cam and education, even bureaucratically provided, would empower these millions of people. It would give them the wherewithal to fight for democratic control over their services and their communities.
Resnick refers disparagingly to ‘the marches social democrats are already organizing.’ There are no such marches. Social democrats are lobbying Congress for what’s -realistic (read, pathetically inadequate) and at best calling backup demonstrations that don’t build ongoing movements. The Common Agenda coalition’s center of gravity is somewhat to the left of social democracy. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s an important place for revolutionaries to be.
I agree with Resnick and with the editorial in ATC 26 that we need to renew our vision of democratic socialism. I agree that we need to come up with our own radical approach to conversion. Resnick should work on it instead of “carping from the sidelines” at the short ATC 27 editorial for not coming up with it. And he should help organize a local Common Agenda coalition, where a radical approach to conversion would be warmly welcomed.
November-December 1990, ATC 29