With no air beneath the wings, aircraft will not fly. The thermo
air currents which lifted Santorum out of the Senate, boiled up from a
PA senior movement focused on saving Social Security. Alone, that
movement would still be fighting the same battle - Santorum would
still represent PA. What changed in 2006, was a deeper unity among all
forces, including many young peoples' organizations, to save Social

     I believe that the failure to defend ACORN exposed influences of
racism in the coalition that produced electorial victory in 2008. In
PA, for instance, ACORN was responsible for registering and turning
out nearly a million voters in 2008. That did not happen in 2010.

     The destruction of ACORN in PA has had a devastating affect on
mobilizing workers hardest hit by the 'recession', aggrevated distrust
and created a sense of isolation. Many religious based organizations
are trying to fill the gap, but there is still a gap.

     Posted by denise winebrenner edwards, 01/03/2011 1:33pm (20 hours ago)


     Ted Pearson didn't write that tens of millions were ready to
fight. He said they opposed the tax cuts for the rich. If you take
into account the polls showing those who were against any tax cuts and
those who opposed tax cuts for the rich, then we have 2/3 for the
country against the tax cuts. That is certainly in the tens of

     Posted by José A. Cruz, 01/02/2011 11:21pm (1 day ago)

     Sam: Nowhere in your commentary do we see the words "payroll
tax" or "Social Security." I find it hard to take that we all get
lectured from your quarter about the "balance of class and social
forces," when the balance of forces is going to be a whole lot worse
next time (with a Republican majority in the House) and the enemy gets
to label any attempt to better fund Social Security as a "tax
increase." And what will happen in a couple of years when we have a
chance again to let the tax cuts for the rich expire? What's to
prevent the Republicans from pulling the same trick?

     I am not interested in debating what is in the president's heart
of hearts. At some level, you are correct that more depends on the
left and on mass mobilization. But that begs the question: How should
communists act to CREATE that mass mobilization?

     Or more accurately in this case, how do communists REACT when
that mass mobilization HAPPENS, almost entirely without communist
instigation? Well, creating that mass mobilization was exactly what
MoveOn and Bernie Sanders and many others were trying to do. These
people are not idiotic Trotskyite left-adventurists. (I agree that
Obama-bashing Trots and the like are not worth debating anyway, but
they didn't have anything to do with this mass mobilization, either.)
Here, we are talking about serious mass activists who were trying to
do something to push the boundaries, and to create the conditions for
a better settlement. The "balance of class and social forces" is not
static from moment to moment. A lot depends on how we ACT. Action from
below can change that balance of forces.

     There were people at the base who were trying to do this. They
deserved your support in this effort, not your defeatist derision.

     Posted by Felix Dzerzhinsky, 01/02/2011 4:48pm (2 days ago)

     The imperative responsibility of the Left in this country is to
defend democracy and the gains made by the people in over two
centuries of struggle. Right now, in 2011, the United States is in
danger of being taken over by the darkest and most sinister Right-wing
forces, as we have seen in the Tea Party movement. In order to prevent
that, the Left must defend the political Center and strengthen its
leftist leanings. I suggested during the election campaign that the
Left adopt the slogan "Unite and Fight to defeat the Right.!" The
Obama administration is the political center. When Communists defend
president Obama, it is not out of ideological solidarity, but to
support its progressive actions and to influence those forces that
want greater positive change. We need to help those people in the most
need in the most effective way available at this time.

     Sam Webb is correct in his assessment of the balance of the
class forces today. When many on the Left opposed the tax compromise,
I wonder, why was there not an outpouring of anger that led to massive
street and organized protests against it? Why have Greek, French, and
Irish people taken to the streets and US workers did not? That is part
of what Webb is talking about.

     Posted by David G., 01/01/2011 2:51pm (3 days ago)

     Some inciteful analysis, but what is the role of progressives in
this current dilemma?
     We cannot reduce ourselves to a cheering squad for the Obama
administration. It is not enough to recognize the current balance of
class forces. Such a stance would mean surrender. There is a real need
to educate, agitate and organize. To criticize Obama from the left
without weakening the alliances that put him in power is a legitimate
goal. We must continue searching for the tactics that will achieve
     May the new year bring greater education, agitation and organization.

     Posted by Elliot, 01/01/2011 10:39am (3 days ago)

     "What was the president’s alternative given the balance of class
and social forces in the capital and across the country . . . "

     Web speaks of the balance of forces as if they are static. But
that balance is very much dependent upon the struggle being waged by
the working class, a struggle which the Communist Party should be
taking a lead in organizing.

     Yes, the Party should be using this as a teachable moment. The
lesson should be the need to struggle against more concessions to the
ruling class and for real pro-worker reforms. We should be explaining
how both the Republicans and the Democrats are controlled by the
ruling class and are actively working to put the burden of the crisis
on our backs. We should be teaching that even the best of reforms are
only partial measures and that what we ultimately need is to fight for

     Posted by Andre, 01/01/2011 1:19am (3 days ago)

     The ideological debate over the tax compromise needs to come
down to earth a bit. The Left, depending on how one defines that term,
has termed it a "surrender", "caving too soon to the right", "failing
the (Abraham) Lincoln -- i.e. devotion to principle -- test". The
working class -- by substantial majorities -- supports it, although
its probably a mistake to read too much into the likely diverse
motivations revealed by many pollsters ambiguous, or double-edged

     the debate has been hot. Although no one that I have read has
made a convincing argument that a better result would have ensued by
stonewalling the "hostage-taking" tactics of the Republicans until
their majority in the House took hold. Sen Sherrod Brown of Ohio
perhaps made the best objection (and also Bernie Sanders, of course)
by advocating taking the showdown over tax cuts for the rich up to the
last possible minute and then have the democrats do their own
stonewalling over unemployment. But that argument rests on a tactical
unity among Democrats that don't exist, and also upon an assumption
that Republicans give a hoot whether ANY legislation EVER gets passed.

     The most important question is now: how do we prepare the
strongest possible foundation for anti-austerity and anti-war politics
moving forward? And lets be concrete. The Left is still too
marginalized in the US, IMHO, to resolve unity AMONG OURSELVES by
emphasizing IDEOLOGICAL debate. We need proposals that can mount a 100
campaigns across the country on "peace and prosperity vs war and
austerity" (I love Carl Davidson's slogan) in the 2012 season. Lets
get to it!

     The debate on the compromise reminds me of a trade union
analogy: Imaging a collective bargaining agreement covering two
bargaining units: the 'house' factory, and the 'senate' factory. An
election de-authorizing the union majority in the 'house' unit has
just been won by anti-union forces, but does not become certified for
a couple of months. Is that the time to have a showdown at the top
level? Call a multi-unit strike? I don't think so. Better to play
defense at the top, while exerting all possible energies and action to
regroup at the bottom first.

     Happy new year everyone -- may it be a turning point.


     Posted by John Case, 12/31/2010 6:36pm (4 days ago)

     About the buzzword of the day--Empire--which only the left
understands: I think most Americans on some level are seeing that with
the rise of India, China, Brazil, Europe, the American sun is setting.
How we come to terms with this reality will be one of the leading
characteristics of the next few years. The Left knows this, but
elements of the Tea Party movement know it too...the nativist,
isolationist types who are tired of what they call our attempts at
"nation-building" halfway around the globe. Many in those sectors
could be won over to the prospect of cutting back our military
presence overseas and bringing our servicemembers home to work on
bridges, parks, green energy.

     Posted by Eric, 12/31/2010 5:34pm (4 days ago)

     one more thought: nearly 7 out of 10 supported this compromise
which on the face of it anyway contradicts ted's claim that tens of
millions were ready to fight. sam

     Posted by sam webb, 12/31/2010 5:30pm (4 days ago)


     what makes you think tens of millions were ready to go into
battle; that's wishful thinking which doesn't build the movement; in
the end it become demoralizing as you know from past experience,

     if tens of millions were ready to hit the street where were they
election night; the heartland was nothing but red, sam

     Posted by sam webb, 12/31/2010 5:23pm (4 days ago)

A parting thought

by: Sam Webb
December 31 2010

tags: taxes, politics, obama, congress, economy

With the end of the year fast approaching, I decided to join the
pundits and leave one parting thought. So here goes!

The battle over taxes was a teachable moment. But left and progressive
people missed the boat. An opportunity to teach millions about the
realities of class power, politics, and tactics went by the board. Let
me explain:

The compromise met nearly universal opposition from progressive and
left people. I don’t know if anyone called it a “sellout,” but they
might as well have. One writer said in the aftermath of the
legislative compromise that we won the battle in 2008 and lost the war
in 2010.

The question is: is this criticism warranted? In my view the answer is
unequivocally – No. What was the president’s alternative given the
balance of class and social forces in the capital and across the
country at that time and later when the new Congress convenes in
January? What was the policy option given the right-wing Republican
comeback, the political confusion of the American people and the
weaknesses of the left and broader movement that the election results

To stand down Mitch McConnell and his gang as his critics suggested
would have been feasible, but only if a legislative alternative was
available and only if millions of ordinary people, many of whom just
voted for Republicans in the midterm elections, could be rallied to
compel congressional Republicans to support that alternative – and
let’s not forget that all the while this is going on working people’s
paychecks are shrinking and their unemployment benefits are

Finding an alternative legislative package, say one that sunset the
Bush tax cuts and expanded spending for the jobs and the unemployed,
would be easy enough to come by.

But setting millions into motion in an organized fashion is a
different kettle of fish. A snap of the fingers won’t do it. Nor will
a good slogan. Not even a presidential address. Indeed, it would
depend in the end on the political and organizational capacity of the
leaders of the main social organizations (labor in the first place),
liberals, progressives, left thinking people, and so forth to activate
millions – including again many who turned the election map red on
election night this past November.

I’m not suggesting that we enter only those battles that we are sure
that we can win, but we should have some confidence that in the
battles in which we engage, we can make a respectable fight of it and
stand some chance of winning – provided, of course, that we exploit
every division among our opponents, look for allies – reliable and
unreliable – and fill the streets and the corridors of Congress with
an army of outraged people.

We don’t need moral victories at this moment, but real ones. And that
is particularly the case for the unemployed who in this instance would
have  lost their benefits.

While we don’t set moral claims aside, it is imperative to take into
account the balance of class and social forces at any given moment,
our capacity to bring into motion masses of people, and our best guess
of what can be realistically won.

Critics of the president say that the tax/unemployment extension
compromise was demoralizing and unnecessary, but I would argue that
walking into the jaws of a hungry lion with barely a weapon in hand
can be far more demoralizing, even near deadly, which is what I think
would have been the political residue in this instance if no
compromise had been reached.

Obviously, I have a different estimate of our fighting capacity and
public opinion (that by the way overwhelmingly supported the
compromise) than the president’s critics. If the last two years have
revealed anything to me, it is this – our ability to influence and
bring into the streets millions in any sort of sustained way is
limited and the political consciousness of the American people (as a
whole) is contradictory and confused.

I wish that were not the case, but I’m afraid this is the reality.
Some blame the president for this situation, others the Democrats, but
this is too easy an answer. The president should take some
responsibility, as should his party, for the present political mess to
be sure, but shouldn’t we as well? Doesn’t it say something about our
politics (which lean in the direction of narrowness), mass connections
(not enough to the main mass social organizations), organizing skill
set (not enough emphasis on broad unity), and ability to shape mass
thinking (speak too much to ourselves and in a language that only we
understand – the new buzzword is “Empire.”)

Over the past two years, don’t we have to admit that the tea party has
better communicated its message to millions, united its supporters,
and expanded its bases of power than our side has?

For too long we have assumed that the American people are ready to
wholeheartedly embrace left solutions. If we, and especially
Democrats, project them, "the people will come." Tell that to Russ

This is wishful thinking. Notwithstanding the awful mess we are in, I
don't see the system breaking down or people spontaneously rising up.
In my view, the path to a progressive, and socialist, future will take
long persistent work, flexible and broad tactics, and a sound
strategic policy.

Supposedly, a deep and protracted economic crisis is the triggering
mechanism for a lurch to the left, but in the current situation it is
being resolved to the advantage of capital. This contrasts with the
1930s. During that decade, a broad upheaval and openings from above,
thanks to President Roosevelt and congressional New Dealers, resulted
in the New Deal. The current ruling class and especially its most
reactionary sectors (politically represented by right-wing extremism
that now controls the Republican Party) prefer a “raw deal” for the
American people. Their aim is not only to multiply their wealth at the
expense of working people, minorities, women, youth, seniors, and
other social groupings, but also to crush any organized opposition.

It's amazing, isn’t it, how little reform transnational and finance
capital will tolerate! In this latest battle over tax cuts, right-wing
Republicans acting on their behalf drove a tough bargain – a hostage
deal, the president correctly called it – on behalf of their clients
who operate globally. And earlier this year it only took some very
modest financial and health care reforms for the corporate elite, and
finance capital in particular, to go apoplectic and beat up on the

Which brings me back to the overriding necessity to significantly
enlarge the political and organizing capacity of the working class and
people’s movement. It’s the linchpin of progressive change at this

Moreover, the starting point – not the ending point – for such an
effort is not some long-range vision or a full blooded left, or even
progressive, program of action. They have a place for sure. Ground
zero, however, is the immediate struggles for relief that are stirring
millions and the overarching task of decisively defeating right- wing
Republicanism in 2012 – something we didn’t do four years earlier.

White House photo
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