[Marxism] Fw: [lbo-talk] Circulation Plunges at Major US Newspapers

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Nov 1 08:41:14 MST 2006

(I'm forwarding my reply to a post by Carrol Cox on the LBO list regarding 
the "Democratic Party question" which is also relevant to the parallel 
discussion we've had in in this forum during the past few days).

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Marvin Gandall" <marvgandall at videotron.ca>
To: "LBO-Talk" <lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org>
Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:26 AM
Subject: Re: [lbo-talk] Circulation Plunges at Major US Newspapers

> Carrol Cox writes:
>> There is, at present, a division within the u.s. left that, under
>> present conditions, CANNOT be resolved, because it can only be resolved
>> in practice, not in theory or in debate: the divide between those who in
>> one way or another and at one time or another support the DP (or some
>> Democrats) and those who will not. This is not a question of principle
>> (or dogma) but an empirical question. The empirical data has been
>> endlessly rehearsed on both sides, with no one being convinced by the
>> other side. One side, essentially, holds that no progressive ends can be
>> achieved except through the DP. The other side, essentially, holds that
>> the DP is the prime barrier to progressive ends.
> ========================
> My reply is not to address the the question of a left newspaper, except to
> echo what Doug has said about how "enormously crushing" the obstacles are. 
> I
> say this as someone who has seen the independent newspaper issue canvassed
> and dropped by the trade unions with their far larger resources; as a 
> former
> working journalist with the Toronto Star and negotiator with the Newspaper
> Guild; and as someone who has experienced the practical and political
> difficulties of editing and circulating even the smallest left 
> publications.
> I want to address Carrol's more general point above, made in the context 
> of
> the newspaper thread, that divisions about the Democratic Party make it 
> very
> difficult for the left to cooperate. I want to make an observation about
> that "issue" which I don't think is emphasized enough - to wit, that while
> it is always makes for interesting debate, especially around election 
> time,
> the differences on this question are often exaggerated, as Carrol does
> above, and, more important, they have no practical effect on American
> politics. That is always worth keeping in mind when the temperature rises,
> as it often does.
> This was a more consequential issue, like many others, when the left was 
> an
> international political force, and included Socialist and Communist 
> parties
> to the left of the Democrats in the US. There was then something tangible
> for American leftists to present to the working class as an alternative to
> the DP.
> It's worth noting that even in those more favourable circumstances, these
> smaller parties, given their relative weakness, avoided frontal assaults 
> on
> the Democrats and sought to strengthen their influence by encouraging
> united action with them - and sometimes entering the party - in order to
> collaborate with the party ranks and demonstrate in practice the 
> superiority
> of their politics to those of their leadership. The small Trotskyist
> movement fiercely denounced the Communists for seeking unity with the
> "bourgeois" Democrats, and entered Norman Thomas' Socialist Party instead.
> The SP and CP no longer effectively exist, but this hasn't deterred a 
> small
> number of radicals on the now mainly student and intellectual left, who 
> are
> themselves untethered to any party which could remotely provide a new home
> for working people, from urgently calling on them to break with the
> Democrats. Some of them see the Green Party as an alternative, but the
> Greens are a pale shadow of what the SP and CP once represented, 
> especially
> in working class communities.
> US leftists have had little success because the most politically 
> progressive
> sectors of the US population represented by the trade unions, the antiwar
> movement, the black and Latino communities, women, gays, 
> environmentalists,
> pensioners, and civil libertarians, all support the Democratic party - and
> for a specific reason. They see the party as the only vehicle capable of
> potentially satisfying their legislative aims. Whether and for how long 
> they
> continue to do so will depend on their own perception of the party's
> utility, based on their own experiences with it, rather than what a 
> handful
> of political Jehovah's Witnesses are fervently preaching to them from the
> outside. Many of them are already to the left of the party leadership, and
> struggling to change its direction.
> My view of the Democratic Party rests on this understanding. The question 
> of
> whether US radicals should join it or simply seek to unite and collaborate
> in other ways with the trade union and social activists who support it is
> not, IMO, a principled or urgent question in this period, but mostly a
> matter of personal choice, of what individual leftists deem to be more
> politically satisfying. It is the angry and ineffectual sectarian 
> crusading
> against the party by, for the most part, politically unattached and
> powerless intellectuals which I think is the deeper problem the left has 
> to
> confront.
> Carrol says "the DP is the prime barrier to progressive ends", and many 
> will
> not disagree - some thinking it can be reformed to serve that purpose;
> others, like myself, believing that a large part of its base will look to
> more radical alternatives when their circumstances convince them it that 
> is
> necessary.
> But why should this largely abstract consideration preclude Carrol and 
> that
> part of the US left whose thinking he reflects from spending more time
> exploring (and less time "critiquing") ways to engage in common work with
> the large body of DP members who share our views on on a wide range of
> issues from Iraq to medicare? There is, it seems to me, little relevance
> dwelling on "irreconcilable" differences about the Democrats (about the
> nature of the party or its representativeness?) within the left, given the
> possibilities open to it in this period. The discussion only serves to
> exaccerbate internal differences and make cooperation on more important
> issues more difficult, and to widen the gulf that separates the US left 
> from
> the healthiest part of mainstream America.
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