The first year of the Joe Biden presidency has proved his invulnerability to the American Left. As the Socialist Call correctly notes in the headline of one recent article: “You’re Right to Think 2021 Was Terrible”. This seems all-but-obvious. What is less clear is why the folks behind the Call ever imagined that, as they put it, “Twelve months ago, it seemed like an open question if this year would bring an end to the pandemic, a muscular new social-democratic politics, and renewed social struggle.”
There was a rallying call among some socialists in 2020 who allowed themselves to be deferential to the electoral impulse and put their weapons behind Bernie Sanders. Hopefully, the reader hasn’t forgotten it.
“Sanders is the concession candidate.”
That’s what we used to say.
I admit that I was enthusiastic about Sanders. There’s no question about it. But, I never for a moment believed that Sanders could ever deliver more than the “end to the pandemic, muscular new social-democratic politics, and renewed social struggle” that the Call mourns as lost under Biden. These are basic demands for socialists and even left-liberals—a bare minimum program for the current material conditions. On either the reformist-electoral strategy on the Left or the revolutionary one, there should never have been a belief that the mission of socialism ends with Sanders, or even that it would have gotten its best possible start with him. He was always the only option we had.
Biden, on the other hand, never posed any hope. Biden was always vinegar on the cross. A purely nominal victory.
We see now what it looks like when liberalism in crisis collapses post-Trump, and this scene is darkly familiar. This week we passed the record for hospitalizations (including a bleak new factor: record child hospitalizations), which leaves no doubt that an uptick in deaths follows close in tow the next couple weeks, and where the baseline has already been about 1,500 a day for the last several months.
The Biden presidency is merely ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic. Just like Trump did.
This has left many people in my life who aren’t keeping up with the news very confused. My roommate asked me the other day: Why did this come out of nowhere? The answer, of course, is that it didn’t. The question she was really asking was: Why didn’t anyone tell me this would happen?
The media united with this silent presidency for the months leading to this crisis, failing to forcefully report on the risk factors and lack of infrastructure leading up to this breakout wave because it would imply a scathing rebuke of Biden’s legitimacy. Based on some recent reporting in mainstream sources, it seems the media has hit its own breaking point with the information that is now plainly obvious to every American and is now finally reporting critically on the administration.
All it took was what could end up being the worst wave of the pandemic so far.
I’ll tell you where that leaves me. This is the line. Beyond this line, civilization ends and barbarism begins. The DNC-infiltration camp in the DSA will not take me one inch farther with them. I will turn my head the other way any time someone in DSA talks about “expectations” or “hopes” when it comes to Democrats. It’s over. I’m sure I am far from alone right now, in the current circumstances. Those in the DSA can’t afford to follow the “leadership” of former DNC operatives, consultants, and grifter-influencer types simply because they have been with the DSA for five or ten years. Their way was tried for decades and failed, and it is time for a swelling generation of conscious working-class leaders to take the helm of the socialist movement, in thought and in action.
Socialists must declare open war on the Democratic Party.
Partisans in the debates in the DSA about electoral strategies within the Democratic Party appear downright cruel against this backdrop. This regime is as catastrophic and murderous as Trump’s was on nearly all counts: the virus, immigration, the climate, you name it. There is no question that hundreds of thousands more Americans will die of this plague under Biden this year, just as they did last year and under Trump the year before. Against this backdrop, austerity marches onward. The working class continues to lose more, and more, and more. If socialists continue to attempt to cooperate with Democrats, they are granting the neoliberal order license and power to write the history of this moment as it sees fit. We must be clear and make the truth forcefully understood by America. We must do this on our own.
So, this is the truth: the Democrats and Republicans are faithfully wedded in the maintenance of a system that will kill millions of your fellow Americans. They are even more aligned on managing the far-flung appendages of this system which have killed and will kill tens of millions of your fellow human beings the whole world round. This project, taken together, is the leading tip of the spear of the twin protracted disasters of economic and environmental instability around the world. We Americans march behind these cartel politicians, and the rest of the world is forced in chains to shuffle not far behind us.
Here at home, you can see clearly how authoritarian this structure we call the Democratic Party is. When Trump was in office, the directive from the top of the party was unrelenting dogmatic opposition to the federal program by every tier of Democratic leadership below the president. Here in California, Newsom leveraged our state’s economic power to access N-95s on the global market, confronting head-on federal authority (in some cases, literally). We implemented our own lockdowns at risk of punishment from the feds. Our city governments put in place their own test-and-trace systems. These were successful. Things were taken seriously. But now we see that was only because taking things seriously meant opposition to Donald Trump. It meant success in 2020.
How are we repaid for giving them the electoral victory that, at one time, they begged us for?
With Biden’s true priorities assuming form last year and now this viral wave bombarding our lives again, we see nothing. We hear nothing. Where I live in California, it’s impossible to get an accurate test within a week. It’s several dollars for even one disposable mask. The state government is now threatening to take $2.5 million a day in funding away from a school district that has been forced to close because over 300 teachers are out sick. One-fifth of the state has the virus based just on figures from our woefully inadequate testing infrastructure, so it’s likely half of Californians have been infected with omicron the past month. We are warned that the means-tested $600 that went out to only about 200,000 Californians will undoubtedly be the last stimulus, the same week that the outbreak hits its fever pitch.
Hospitals are overwhelmed. There aren’t enough nurses. There aren’t enough teachers.
The sinews holding our social order are tearing themselves off the bone once again. Regarding all of this, what do we hear from the Democrats? Nothing. That’s what flows from the top: nothing.
The DSA has so lost the forest for the trees if it tolerates anyone willing to cooperate with a regime like this in its leadership. Well, we know who you are. Those of you who call us hysterical or command us to avoid “sectarianism” or demean us that we just simply don’t understand how politics works. You have sidetracked the project of American socialism to stick us in such stupid debates at a historical moment like this. The conscious working class sees you, and it resents you. By measure, it opens its eyes, and it loses its need for you, just as it loses its need for the capitalist parties. You become more obsolete every day as you squander your own mandate to lead socialists in a unified direction away from the capitalist parties.
Let us finally agree as socialists—no matter your tendency—that it is outrageous to think there is any future of success within the Democratic Party. As many in the DSA have come to realize, we need a party of our own, immediately, that can consolidate the work being done by socialists around the country into a unified effort that brings America’s attention to our ideas and our cause, that is persuasive on a mass scale. Is it really so surprising that those who made their careers as Democratic Party operatives or high-profile glossy magazine writers are the most vociferous chorus against anyone suggesting a dirty break from the Democrats? Their material and social interests that still lie within the Party compromise their socialist political judgement, and their paternalistic attitudes toward the grassroots socialists arguing in good faith betray their cultural affect: that of the elite.
As Comrade Connor Willis put it last November in a letter to this magazine: “If DSA fighting itself means fighting the side that wants to liquidate what we have built into the Democratic Party, the current ruling party of the global imperial hegemon, then I do not see a difference between DSA fighting itself and fighting the ruling class.”
They tell us we aren’t strong enough for a dirty break. That our project will fail. Don’t listen to them. Ask yourself: do you think we are strong enough?
They say we will alienate the multiracial working-class voters of the Democratic Party. With thousands of those voters dying by the day and Biden’s approval rating lower than Trump’s when the latter left office in disgrace, do you really believe that?
They say socialism still isn’t palatable to a broad enough audience to support the ideological project of an independent party. Given that they turn right around and prop up Sanders’ catalyzing run for president as justification for electoral politics as a mode to power, don’t you think they are contradicting themselves?
The truth is that we can have a party now. I don’t know where, how, or who. But somewhere, somehow, someone can do it. To suggest anything less than this as the immediate future of socialism in America is inhumane. Perhaps thinking otherwise three months ago was acceptable. But today, in 2022, it is clear where the socialist ought to stand—alongside other socialists.
God willing we see a real political party take up the helm of this struggle we share, and God willing it has nothing to do with those few former Democrat charlatans and imbeciles who have sidelined the DSA to the gutter of American politics by groveling at the feet of this ancient, evil Party while inspiring false debates about electoral baseball nonsense and confusing the unity of purpose of the socialist movement.
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