Letter to the Editor

Campaign for a United Socialist Party

By Douglas Green

To Socialist Viewpoint:

Talking about Occupy Wall Street is like beating a dead horse at this point, but it’s a dead horse that haunts everything we do, making it seem small and laughable in comparison. So we begin where Occupy left off: it’s painfully old news that Occupy Wall Street, perhaps the largest protest against wealth inequality in U.S. history, has lost its mass character. Its remnants may object that Occupy is not “dead,” but it has certainly lost the numeric force that made it so critically important. And yet it truly signaled a change in the U.S. political landscape, a change that is still with us, but a change which most of the (admittedly tiny) organized leftist forces have not even come close to fully utilizing in advancing our message and our cause. So the dead horse is still with us, though far more important than its corpse is its disembodied spirit. It seems to be looking for a new body‚Ķ

According to a November 2012 Gallup poll, 39 percent of the U.S. thinks positively of socialism. This should be rocking our worlds. That is over 120 million people. Make no mistake: it is the basis for a new mass party, one which the Green Party, whether you like them or not, will simply never unleash or capture, since their branding and demographics are inherently based more on the progressive activist milieu than the instinctual class anger of millions.

Now what do these 120 million people mean by socialism? Who knows? It could be anything from Sweden to guillotines, or both; they’ve only recently entertained the word. But more importantly, who cares what they mean, or if their idea is imprecise? Shouldn’t these 120 million people be consolidated into a struggle-and-electoral party, where they can find strength from each other, instead of being left to drift and scream in isolated futility at their reactionary televisions? Even better, by getting ourselves into one place, we who have more defined ideas could finally link up with the masses the way we’ve always wanted to.

It’s true that such attempts have been made in the past: Solidarity, Socialist Party U.S.A. They are certainly worth something, and should be part of the new process. However, declaring a new inclusive group (which everyone else is supposed dissolve into) at any random historical moment is a bit different from a persisting effort for an electoral-activist front (requiring no dissolution) in an unmistakable era of global revolution and rage against capitalism. In this context, such a unity effort could signal to the tens of millions of socialists waiting in the wings that the left is finally getting its act together, and it’s time to get involved.

We in the “Campaign for a United Socialist Party” (CUSP), a self-acknowledged tiny particle in the political storm consisting of members from different groups or none, are not declaring one more new group to add to the alphabet soup of recruitment competition. Instead we are encouraging the existing groups to try harder in fostering a comradely, collaborative identity with each other—we are on the same side—and to make sincere socialist incursion attempts into electoral politics.

For now, we want to get people thinking and talking. However, we are also concretely proposing regional unity conferences of the independent socialist left. The purpose of such conferences would be to discuss new unconventional tactics for collaboration. For example, is it really necessary to have six different socialist meetings in the same city about the same topic whenever a major story hits the news? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid splitting our advertising efforts, our audienceto really act like socialists, and pool our resources? These regional conferences would also be a chance to have the hard-headed discussions about what kind of effort, resources, and planning a socialist electoral campaign in your locality would really require. It could be a chance to prioritize learning the skill sets required during elections, which are woefully absent among too many protest-oriented socialists. Finally it could help iron out the precise contours of how cross-group collaboration would realistically happen where you are, with hopefully some of the old lines melting and the old feuds forgiven.

These regional conferences could serve as a step toward an eventual national congress. That national congress, which could result in anything or nothing, might serve in turn the launch of a self-labeled socialist party, an electoral front of the existing socialist forces and beacon for the unorganized millions, which seriously seeks to contend against the Republicans and Democrats. Or perhaps the congress would just be a start of improved collaboration, itself certainly a step forward.

If this was sent to you, you are invited, and apologies to anyone we overlooked. Anyone sympathetic to the idea should begin making practical/logistical preparations for regional unity conferences, between one and two years from now.

It is sometimes shocking how much of the left has a knee-jerk reaction against unity. People of such disparate ideas are united on this point that it’s almost like they should be in the same group! We ask that you suspend any instant dismissal and ask yourself a few strategic questions.

Are issue-based coalitions really enough to fill the space between the Democrats and the well-defined radicals? Or does that demographic need political representation broader than the existing socialist groups can provide, given that they have specific stances on many issues?

To what extent have social movements alone actually been effective in reversing or even halting the ruling-class offensive of the last five years, in terms of the workplace and the public budget?

Shouldn’t purity of program or method come second to actually establishing a mass socialist party that can pick up where Occupy left off, recruit the Millennial generation, and attract millions with a message of class anger? Or if they can’t be compromised, does it really bar you from partaking in such an effort?

Which was more successful in getting millions of people into the streets in the last five years: single-issue movements, or a broad social vision? Or both?

Let’s get doing what we’ve all always wanted to do, and give the system a big new problem that won’t go away.


CUSP coordinators

Campaign for a United Socialist Party, August 23, 2013