What will it take to win real change?

January 6, 2010

I HEARTILY agree with Lance Selfa's column, "Can the right make a comeback?" I appreciate his sober realism in recognizing that a middle-class right, rather than a working-class and popular left, can be the main beneficiaries of the failure of Obama and liberalism.

It is a necessary corrective to some of the over-optimism of many on the left, including some contributors to SocialistWorker.org, who believed that the election of Obama and his inevitable failure to deliver on progressive reforms would spark a radicalization to the left in the U.S.

Selfa makes a point that no revolutionary or radical should forget--in the absence of independent, militant movements in the workplaces, communities and the streets, the failures of liberalism open the road to the radical right.

Selfa is correct to point to promising independent struggles that are challenging Obama from the left--the National Equality March for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, the student struggles in California and Illinois, and the Ford workers' rejection of yet another concessionary contract. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that many of these promising struggles will probably be reversed because of the weakness of what some have called the "infrastructures of resistance"--significant networks of activists rooted in workplaces and communities willing and able to lead on-going struggles.

Today, there is no dense layer of LGBT activists--like those who sustained ACT UP in the 1980s--who can continue and deepen the struggle for sexual liberation in the wake of the equality march. The Ford workers will face tremendous pressures from the United Auto Workers officialdom to "vote until they get it right"--until they accept concessions.

The main task of radicals and revolutionaries today must be the long-term and patient work of rebuilding the "infrastructures of resistance"--rank-and-file organizations and caucuses in the unions, cross-union networks like Labor Notes, local antiwar groups, and new student and LGBT organizations. The fruits of such long-term and patient work can be seen in the victories of union reformers in New York City--in Transport Workers Union Local 100 (bus and subway workers) and Teamsters Local 814 (commercial movers) and Local 804 (UPS) that were highlighted in Lee Sustar's "Sparks of resistance in the labor movement?"

Such activist organizations, committed to struggle independent of the Democrats and their allies in the labor and social movements, are crucial if there is any chance of a rebuilding sustained movement that can force the Obama administration to make progressive reforms and push the center of U.S. politics to the left, much less increase the visibility of revolutionary politics.
Charlie Post, member of Solidarity and the faculty union at the City University of New York

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