A Socialist Alternative? Going from Green to Red

The recent election primaries have stolen much of the progressive thunder-badly. Barrack Obama’s stentorian voice and uplifting rhetoric, two qualities often passed as “progressivism” in the United States, gets incredible press while the personal venality of the Clintons and their surrogates, (which mask serious policy choices anathema to a truly progressive agenda) is overly analyzed. Some substance!

Both candidates are imperial Democrats, supporting the 800 or so military bases around the world, and the hegemonic dominance that assures. Both candidates will not support an end to insurance company mobsterism in health care, and instead opt for what most modern Western democracies have: a single-payer health system. Both candidates talk only in the vaguest of generalities about the importance of unions (but neither support an end to Taft-Hartley), the environment (yet both support nuclear power and neither will reign in destructive corporate agriculture), or “working families” (but neither supports a living wage). What all this means is that, simply put, a progressive agenda is once again relegated to the backburner in exchange for the maddeningly inevitable mantra of “change”, which in American politics means changing the prison guards and keeping the Left locked away from mainstream debates.

Here in Iceland where I live, the Left-Green Movement, a Green-Socialist-Feminist coalition, is part of the government, and its leader Steingrímur Sigfússon delivers the most impassioned and inspiring speeches, winning respect from even opponents for his integrity and vision. But they represent only 14.3% of Parliament. The Socialist Alliance, a Social Democratic, center-left coalition (perhaps the equivalent of a more liberal version of New Deal Democrats) holds 26.8% of Parliament and so between them, almost half of the total seats. Together they get attention and more importantly, some legislation passed that fits a progressive description. While this is not the place to recommend a proportional system of representation for the US (though I do) or a whole new way of configuring movements and political parties (which I do), I think it time some of us on the US Left reassess our choice of words (and fear of others) and earnestly support where we can an openly socialist agenda electorally. What this means is giving a new look to an old friend, the Socialist Party-USA (SP-USA).

Even as large numbers of progressives, including socialists joined the Green Parties in the 80´s (and technically there still remains 2, without counting the arcane mergers and configurations within individual states) the Greens have been hobbled by infighting and crass manipulation by Dems in Green clothing. And while Communists (CPUSA) and other socialist parties exist, they have neither the traction (organization or ballot access) nor the independence (the CP, for example, supports the Dems as a tactical, and “practical” endeavor) to make more waves than a pond ripple. For progressives, these are disheartening signs.

In addition, we have seen the movement of radicals, Leftists, and other progressives drift towards the Republican candidacy of Ron Paul. His unswerving opposition to American imperial adventurism and undeclared wars, and strong support of the Constitution make him appealing. Yet many of his other positions are questionable, to say the least. Why aren’t we reassessing a group that has always opposed wars, imperialism and unjust policies at home and abroad?

The Socialist Party is the US´s oldest socialist party, does not favor top down “democratic centralism”, is adaptable to distinctly American political realities and has a platform remarkably consistent with progressive (and Green) views without the nutty baggage that hampers any Left discussion of politics. At one time, in its heyday, the Socialist Party had numerous elected officials in office and Eugene Debs once received almost a million votes—while he was in jail! By openly supporting the Socialist Party, we would be making a statement loud and clear that can push the debate much further to the Left than it is at present.

Yet, if history teaches us anything it’s that movements matter and that unified struggle beats divisive sectarianism. Hopping from one political party to another is now an unfortunate, inevitable consequence of US ballot access laws. Thus, a socialist may have to vote Green in order to have her vote count (or in order to simply be able to vote) or a Green to support an Independent candidacy in order to be heard.

But what if we simply agreed that what we want, at its most basic, is found pretty squarely inside that SP-USA platform and that, wherever possible, by voting Socialist we are helping a noble party get back into the consciousness of Americans and giving an alternative vision the chance it needs to compete. While I have for 20 years committed myself to Green politics, I think it may be time to shift back to where my heart says I should go for me to feel I am not wasting my vote, or my time—to the Socialist Party. And if, and when we can form our version of a Left-Green Alliance, in whatever name, I’ll be right there too.

Rev. José M. Tirado is a poet, priest and writer finishing a PhD in psychology while living in Iceland. Read other articles by José.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Shenanigans said on February 11th, 2008 at 6:18am #

    I hope the “idealistic” dream of socialism dies a hard and convincing death. Liberalism (classical liberalism) is the only route to true prosperity, true equality and true freedom.

  2. Max Shields said on February 11th, 2008 at 8:02am #

    José M. Tirado said “Why aren’t we reassessing a group that has always opposed wars, imperialism and unjust policies at home and abroad?”

    The answer is simple: because socialism has been demonized for the better part of 70 years; and Stalinism was for too long its wrong-headed face.

    Woodrow Wilson and his gestapo broke the backs of the US Socialist Party during the run up to WWI (the reason Debbs was in jail).

    I think it’s a mistake to generalize that Greens are socialists and would want to “go back” to the Socialist Party. We don’t have proportional representation as you noted nor a lot of other tools for strong participatory democracy. By mentioning Iceland, you raise a point that seems so easily ignored – SIZE. I would argue that large land/population massed nations are not sized for the kind of lively participatory multi-faceted political representation that a little nation like Iceland (and many others) can sustain.

    Size is a necessary but not sufficient ingrediant to obtaining that mix. A non-hierarchical process can be had on a local level with a good deal of work; but national politics in a China or Russia or India or, yes, USA is much more monolithic with a corporate supporting hierachical cast. The vast majority of Americans believe in the authoritarian leader. India is said to provide some distinction but it has taken on a USA-client relationship that belies so much.

    My response to your post is that while there is much to incorporate from a socialist perspective, it will take a coalition of factions that have key shared values and agendas as well as a way of working. Domination (the hierarchical model) is a powerful organizing principle. It will take a broad coalition to undermine it.

    I believe we can, locally, begin a transformation that carries the best of a number of ideological ideas including socialism.

  3. John Halle said on February 11th, 2008 at 9:10am #

    Excellent piece. Thank you.

    While I agree that Obama has, as you say, stolen the progressives’ thunder, this may be very temporary. Namely, if Clinton succeeds in stealing the nomination through buying off the super delegates, there will be huge numbers of disgusted Obamaites who will have seen the true face of the Democratic Party and will want to have nothing to do with it in the future.

    Even Chris Bowers, of the establishment Democratic site Open Left, who proclaims himself a ward captain and who has “raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates” has pledge to quit the party if this happens.

    Bowers and others will be open to an alternative in the event that Clinton is successful. I’m not sure if the SWP or the Greens, or the Labor Party, or the CP, or the Peace and Freedom Party or any existing formation is in a position to provide it. What is needed, probably, is a completely new party or at least a consolidation of existing left parties under a new banner, though it is not impossible that a party like the SWP could be resuscitated.

    In either case, this will require negotiation, flexibility, political sophistication, rationality, tolerance, and the ability to compromise, qualities which do not seem to be in great abundance on the left at the moment, as can be seen from many of the postings on this site.

    The first step is to begin the discussion with articles like this.

  4. Seven said on February 11th, 2008 at 9:27am #

    Thanks for this piece.

    As I see it, the problem with Leftist and independent American politics is that everyone feels that they can change the world by themselves, no one is uniting and compromising to create a truly powerful political entity.

    If everyone is trying to play the hero, nothing changes.

  5. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 11th, 2008 at 1:12pm #

    Thank you all for your comments.

    To “Seven”, you are 100% right. This remains a huge problem the Left has been faced with for as long as I can remember and, studying history, for as long as the “Left” has existed. Divisions, purity, factionalism, envy, rigidity, racial divides and cultural divides: these are not new to the Left at all. They are part of the history of teh USAmerican Left and we should acknowledge this openly. That said, what do we do? Certainly attempts have been made. For me, looking again at the history made me conclude, as I wrote above, that the SP-USA deserves serious reconsideration. They have weathered vicious storms and have survived with a platform I don´t have to pick and choose in order to support.

    To John, what you say will probably come true but it happens regularly within the Democratic Party, every time a new “spokesperson” gets attention (and, more importantly, votes) and threatens the Dems basically center-right-corporate agenda. The Democratic Party in the US is to the RIGHT of many European centrist parties, such as the Christian Democrats. Sure, many will leave but then what? Will they coalesce again elsewhere? I am unsure.

    To Max, much of what you say is true. But here is one instance where size doesn´t matter.
    What Icelanders did, like so many Europeans did after the second World War, is unite their progressive agenda to the traditionally (here it´d be the SP-USA) Left parties which were not supporters of Stanlinism. They knew the world they wanted was a socialist one where health care and education were free, where industry did not run government and where representation was proportional to the population. Sure they wanted more but the CIA did much to prevent this movement from going any further Leftwards than it achieved. (William Blums´”Killing Hope” is an excellent resource in this matter). And even then it was a struggle and people died for the gains they presently are celebrating (all the wealthier industrialized nations have single payer for example, in addition to freer and more equal access to education, etc.) So I don´t think just because things are smaller here they were more easily had.

    On the contrary, considering imperial domination of many smaller countries by bigger ones after the war, the utter devastation and poverty most countries suffered and the reluctance of people to piss off the US too much (or the USSR, for that matter, such as Hungary in its attempts to create a “socialism with a human face”) creating a better society took unity, vision and work. The SOcialist Parties were instrumental.

    As far as Greens not being socialist, for sure that´s true. But I´d say 80% of the Greens I knew and worked with in the US would gladly have been socialists were there such a chance being labelled one wouldn´t keep them from jobs or cause social pariahship.

    For me the journey was painful but was illuminated by living in Europe for the past 6 years (and my first exposure in the 1980’s when I lived in Japan for almost 5). “Socialism” remains a grand ideal, a promise of a better world and an attempt to create that world with no apologies. These people are and were idealists, to be sure, but they also were union members and felt solidarity with other workers. They believed compromise inevitable and they achieved some gains (like I mentioned above) we from the US could only dream of. They kept the name and worked until the system gave in and througout Europe Socialists are a part of the governmental systems and more importantly, are part of the regular debates in society.

    Oh, the world still looks Green to me. but the Socialists around the world got that message too and have adjusted accordingly. I guess it´s a personal thing for me. In this last third (if I´m lucky) of my life (I´ll be 49 this summer) I want to hold my head high and stay with what I believe is the right vision for the world I live in and for my children and children everywhere. At one time the USAmerican Left dared to dream of a better world. Why have we stopped that? Well, for one, the very name socialism makes people squawk in the US.

    Yet what do they want? No imperialism, no militarism, free education and health care, decentralized, democratic control of resources without corporate interference, a living wage, a cleaner, safer environment in which to live: these are the traditional ideas of the original Left, a socialist Left. Instead of trying to wrest control of the Dems (we keep doing this election after election and look where we are) or the Reps (e.g. Ron Paul) or even the Greens whose pillars are visionary and great but whose own thunder is squeezed out by Dems and whose vision is squeezed in by the media, why not just remember where these dreams came from and work from there?
    Just my thoughts…

  6. Don Hawkins said on February 11th, 2008 at 2:57pm #

    No one is uniting and compromising to create a truly powerful political entity.
    Click on one degree and then two degrees. We are only two tenths of a degree away from one degree right now. In 8 years two degrees. We have seven years to keep CO 2 levels below 450ppm. Can it be done ,yes. The word is getting out.

  7. Max Shields said on February 11th, 2008 at 3:04pm #

    Rev. José M. Tirado, I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said.

    My point about size is that there is a critical mass that works against what you expressed in your post – non-hierachical organization. Americans (in general) share the hyper-individualism with the authoritarian search for a leader (persuasive or certain). A strange but real cultural mix. Re-building community is what’s needed. The relationship between state and locality has undermined community, the spiritual, economic and overall quality of life of our communities.

    That said…

    There are nations which are off the hegemonic table. Iceland is one as is Switzerland, and a whole host of others. Why? Because they do not possess what imperialism requires to keep the machine rolling – scarce resources. The USA is neither small nor without resources, but our history is one of 2 monolithic parties with hair splitting differences, and a monolithic corporate media. This is the result of the journey from inception to our current state. There were choices along the way, you can mark them in the actions taken. It wasn’t inevitable, but it was forged from a narrative that continues to sustain it. It is the predominate narrative which must be transformed.

    As an ideology, socialism has no currency in the USA. Single payer does. But call it socialism and you’ve killed it. As I said we can create solutions which and must include social and economic justice. Organizations struggle with identity. The Green Party is no different; and in a two party “world” any idea outside the mainstream is readily marginalized. That is why I think local is the only dynamic that works for social and economic justice. If we reconsider our approach, building community from the inside out we have the opportunity for that end we share with or without calling it socialism.

    On the national stage the battle is futile. The old saying in boxing goes, “keep hitting the body and the head will fall”. In political terms it’s grass-roots transformation and the pyramid will topple. This is perhaps the one point that Obama makes that I agree with: bottom up.


  8. Max Shields said on February 11th, 2008 at 5:36pm #

    Just one more emphasized point, Jose. It is best not to underestimate the deep cultural underpinnings in the USA. This is an extremely individualistic, material driven, and, frequently, politically disengaged society (that is democracy is an occasion, not a way of life).

    The socialism you hope for will take much more than a new leader or a party. You mentioned the need for movement. That’s true but that movement must be built on top of a transformed culture. And again I think our best hope for that transformation is at the local level.

    When we’ve ideology (those times in our history like the early 20th century and 60s) has led the way, it has been undermined by our deep cultural characteristics. Capitalism, profits, competition are in the cultural “DNA”.

    I am optimistic that there are signs at the local level. But the work is huge.

  9. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 12th, 2008 at 2:50am #

    Hi Max,
    I think this is misleading. The Germanic/Scandinavian countries are hardly known for their “collective” mentality. On the contrary, ever since Roman times, the Germanic peoples were known (and admired) for their radical individuality and competitiveness. So I think the argument that the US is somehow more immune to “collective” ideas, particularly socialist ones, is inaccurate.

    The constant demonization of such intellectual sentiments, however, has made within the latter part of the 20th century socialist ideas harder to get out there. (McCarthyism, the first Red scare of the 1920´s, etc.) You can´t talk about the 8 hour work day, “weekends”, feminist rights, labor rights, etc. in the history of the US without noting that the socialists, particularly the Socialist Party, played a hugely significant role. FDR, scion of one of the wealthiest families in the US met with socialists during his first terms and is widely reported to have said “Look, I agree with what you are saying, now go out there and make me do it.” So the idea that somehow socialist ideas don´t get into USAmericans consciousness is historically wrong too.

    USAmericans get it. And more and more many are willing to look again at such ideas. I mean, let´s face it, every one of the “best places to live” as generally listed: Canada, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, etc. all have vigorous socialist policies in effect (single payer, paid maternity/paternity, 4-6 weeks paid vacation per year, etc.) and vibrant socialist parties. That´s no coincidence. They have mixed capitalist/socialist national economies, a greener emphasis, and a social contract that emphasizes people over profits and deemphasizes militarism and instead promotes negotiation. They didn´t suddenly wake up one morning and get those ideas. They had people fighting tooth and nail for years to get them.

    Thus, I absolutely agree that organizing “from below” is essential. But the quintessential USAmerican tendency to reinvent the wheel anytime an intellectual challenge arises, and to forget history and its lessons (and to ignore our own vibrant Left history) is killing us. Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Helen Keller among many, many others all espoused democratic socialist ideas in ways USAmericans understood and, more importantly, agreed with. Socialism, in that respect, is as “American” as compettition. The narrative depends upon one´s own adopted set of ideals.

    All I am suggesting is that we sit down and take a look at where many of our greatest ideas came from and revitalize that sector of the Left rather than giving up and saying “it can´t happen here” or hoping a few progressive Democrats appear on the horizon to lead us to the promised land. It won´t happen that way. For a start, I suggest reading Michael Harrington, Howard Zinn, Paul Foner, etc., or getting The Encyclopedia of the American Left just to see how exciting and vibrant our radical Left traditions were. Then check out the Socialist Party platform and seriously give it some thought.

  10. Derek Wall said on February 12th, 2008 at 7:27am #

    There is a strong ecosocialist movement around the world and we are active in the Green Party of England and Wales, for example..Joel Kovel’s book The Enemy of Nature is a good start.

    For my take look here http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/2007/10/socialism-today-must-be-green.html

    The Venezuelan united socialist party is pretty green as well http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/the_draft_programme_of_venezuelas_revolution_01602.html

  11. Max Shields said on February 12th, 2008 at 10:06am #


    Let me be clear, I agree with the sentiment of your last paragraph. In fact in many respects it is my point.

    I don’t think the USA invented individualism or materialism. But it is (and has been) the predominate narrative. A predominant or dominant narrative is never the ONLY narrative. There are always counter narratives trying to become more persuasive in the ether of our collective consciousness. We are after all the stories we tell ourselves and one another.

    Negative narratives are powerful – domination, fear, control. Materialism as a means and an end is a powerful habit which is reinforced daily and leads to the ever increasing demand to dominate and control the world’s resources which leads to war, etc. etc. etc.

    But there is a counter narrative which is growing. That is the movement which runs counter to the dominant USA narrative. It has yet to replace that narrative. It is one that will take time. A simple story I read yesterday about a workers’ coop which was started by a group of immigrants who had lost their restaurant waiting jobs on 9/11 (Wall Street), decided to start a workers’ owned restaurant. At various points there was squabbling about shares, profit, and retiring to islands, and making a killing off the workers’ coop. Totally contrary to the whole enterprise’s mission! With time the workers’ cooperative prevailed. But it took time and these were relatively poor immigrants (not middle/upper middle class white yuppies!).

    Socialism and capitalism both need to be more than just words that are defined by how they’ve manifested in various incarnations. What humans are and can be must also be central to the type of change you and I (and million/billions) of others wish to see. We have examples, imperfect, but they do show us alternatives which are not dogmatic or purely ideological. They are authentic, pragmatic, spiritual, and sustainable.

    Peace José – we share much!


  12. Max Shields said on February 12th, 2008 at 10:08am #

    José, to your note about reading material – I have read all but Zinn’s last work and some of Harrington’s but not Foner.

  13. rjvas said on February 12th, 2008 at 11:04am #

    All, thanks for the thoughtful discussion. For what it’s worth here’s how it looks to me:

    The left, in all its various manifestations, seeks to broaden the distribution of control of resources (Power). The differentiating aspect of the various flavors of Left/Progressivism is Identity. Identity is the political vehicle through which individuals and groups on the left seek to redistribute control of resources (Power). Unfortunately, the indirection of effort through Identity diffuses and disperses that effort. It seems to me that only effort that *directly* targets control of resources (Power) has any chance of changing the status quo; that as long as Identity politics is the norm broad distribution of control of resources (Power) will remain an elusive goal.

  14. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 12th, 2008 at 11:44am #

    Hello Max,
    Yes, we are kindred spirits. I have no beefs, no disagreements with you. I passionately support my own ongoing evolution and, in this case, will trumpet such, not because of ideological fervor or purity, but because I believe our world needs compassion and kindness, justice and fairness, liberty and cohesion. The socialists always believed that. Still do. As a way of fighting, one way, supporting a socialist party electorally is no anachronistic phenomenon. It is an attempt to carefully define what we want and to say, in effect, “Damn the words! Full steam ahead!”

    Again, the countries whose living indices are the highest in the world are those where socialist ideas reign in the environment, in health care, in education, in social services, in social cohesion. That’s no coincidence. As one ex-pat friend told me, “Americans would rather have fascism than socialism since at least fascism is compatible with the “free” market.” He’s right. USAmericans are convinced that the so-called “free market” is what makes us “free” and “great.” Not values such as compassion or social justice. When we change that mentality, we will win. But my story is a personal one in which I feel others might benefit looking at. As George Orwell once wrote,

    I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue. — George Orwell (“Can Socialists be Happy?” 24 December 1943)

    If we start from there, I think we will see a world that reflects idea that are normatively—outside the US, anyway—“socialist.” So why not just say so?

  15. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 12th, 2008 at 1:48pm #

    For those interested:
    One can follow articles and links from the SP-USA that are self-explanatory. But also Monthly Review is an excellent , non-partisan socialist/Marxist resource from which an education could be had. It has a range of writers and thinkers and the books advertised on their site are dynamite. They also put out, MR Zine, both on the web. I highly recommend both.

  16. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 12th, 2008 at 2:53pm #

    To rjvas,
    I think you are mistaken, particularly in the USAmerican example. The Left was the first place where cross-racial, cross-cultural unity was preached and well-served. Witness Italian-Americans and African-Americans at the start of the 20th century calling each other “brother” in the mines, or the way Jews worked with Protestants, or the multi-racial composition of the CP or SP. Oh, there were prejudices for sure, but under a higher goal, a socialist one, people came together.

    The New Left of the 60´s is what you may be referring to, when “identity politics” seemed to fracture much of the cross cultural solidarity earned before. I have written about this elsewhere (“Reaching My Father”, OpEd News) but the old fashioned New Deal Democrats (many working class socialists like my father) were simply out of style for the break-necked speed of changing morés that went hand in hand with other great changes in the 60´s. These people were now”squares” and the Left has suffered since by their exclusion of such people. Joe Bageant writes about them well. Those people died for 8 hour work days, or overtime pay, decent working conditions and benefits, and picketed some of the nastiest company bosses imaginable. And they frequently overcame their prejudices to join hands with brothers (and sisters) who were very much unlike themselves.

    It is NOT just about power and its distribution, its about how we want to live with each other and what kind of world do we want for our children. I urge you to read the Orwell quote I posted above and to look around at histories of the Left in the US. Michael Yates over at Monthly Review has an excellent piece there now and I urge you all to read it as well as others. No, identity is not the problem though it has been problemmatical at times. As I see it, THE problem is the loss of solidarity between workers, something the destruction of unionism in the US has achieved quite well. In Europe (and elsewhere) where unions are strong, there is far greater solidarity between average folks than I ever saw in the US. (And greater class consciousness) If we get get that back, we´ll win for sure–and the Powers That Be know it.

  17. Jonathan Nack said on February 12th, 2008 at 4:50pm #

    I take no issue with socialists supporting the Socialist Party-USA. I will point out that the Green Party has some significant things to offer socialists. While it is not a socialist party ideologically, it is a big tent party of the radical left with many socialists, and even some revolutionaries in it. It is a much larger organization, active in all 50 states and some most territories (colonies). It provides a mileu within which socialists can interact and act along with a larger group of leftists.

    The Greens have been mischaracterized by some as a capitalist party. This is untrue. There is no ideological commitment to capitalism in the Green Party’s Ten Key Values. Further, the party is not rooted in the capitalist class, as are the Democratic and Republican parties. There are no big corporations or super rich funding the Green Party.

    While there are Green Party activists with variants of a capitalist perspective, as a socialist, I’ve not encountered hostility to socialist ideas or red-baiting.

    Ideally, the SP-USA and GP USA, as well as other organizations of the U. S. left should find ways to work together, or at least in harmony. with each other. Greater communication than has occured is necessary for that to happen. When left parties do find themselves competing in the same election, we should be careful not to focus our polemics against each other, but our common ruling class enemies.

  18. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 13th, 2008 at 1:14am #

    Hi Jonathan,
    And absolutely right you are! And since the Greens are so wed to the hip of the Democratic Party, (and riddled with Dem spies determined to make sure the Dems lose nothing) a capitalist, corporate, more socially moderate wing of the one ruling class party of the US, the best place for those eco-socialists to go is the SP-USA since they have always maintained their independence from the capitalist ruling class parties.
    Just my opinion, of course!

  19. Max Shields said on February 13th, 2008 at 9:22am #


    I think the point being missed, and due in large part to the use of the terms socialism/capitalism to define fundamental ideological differences, is that I think there is a “third way” regarding economics.

    For me, the Green Party represents this way. It is a way that finds its roots in economists and urbanists such as E.F. Schumacher (and in turn Ghandian ecomonics), David Korten, Jane Jacobs, Henry George and others. This is not so much a right/left economics but it is fundamentally based on living democracy and wealth distribution (not government reshuffling or philanthropy). These thinkers note the historical trajection, the choices and turns that have led us to where we are. And perhaps as important as any other focus is that of LAND.

    Land is central to an understanding of wealth, conflict and hegemony/imperialism. Marx at first thought Henry George was simply trying to “save” capitalism; and then realized, and praised him, the incredible genious George was – one of our greatest classical economists with superior powers of synthesis. But George is not alone.

    The Green Party, while not claiming to be Georgists, have generally embraced Land value tax as a superior means of wealth distribution. You can see it in local Green platforms through out the country. Size become important when you think of the “third way” socialism of Cuba (since they’ve converted their farming to small biodiverse agriculture), and Venezuela with its preponderance of workers’ cooperatives. This is not simply capitalism nor socialism. Marx never refuted capital. What has happened over the last century is that the dominate economics (what Thatcher’s coined as TINA) took nature (land) out of the economic equation an subsumed it under capital. Land became a commodity and with it all of nature. This has led to what we see today as preditory corporate capitalism – neo-classical economics (ala Milton Friedman). It is this brand of economic that is foisted on students – Henry George is no where to be found in their syllabi.

    I don’t see the Green Party as progressive Dems or wandering socialists. I see the GP as a major alternative with the need to build a coalition with those who share much including the SP but also progressive libertarians and independents. That is if it is to be a viable Party with the power to provide a voice yet heard in the halls of congress.

    On the other hand, the European form of Green, Socialist, Communist, may provide an enlightenment that leads to single payer universal health, but it is really the cultural and historical outcome of those cultures. The USA does not reflect the physicial and psychological scares of WWI and WWII, not to mention the many long term wars on Euro continent.

    In any casae, a movement need not wait for any party, in fact should not. I sense and see a growing, transformative movement that has yet to find political muscle. I don’t think we can simply borrow a model in its entirety. That is the old industrialized way that brought us the kind of industrialized agribusiness farming we have today: Plug and play. But there are models on which we can surely fashion our future.


  20. rjvas said on February 13th, 2008 at 12:21pm #

    Jose, your stamina is inspiring. This is, again, one of the most thoughtful discussion streams I’ve read on DV.

    My comments were directed to (my perception of) the current state of the left. Certainly, the economic advantages that ordinary people enjoy today (for a limited time) are due to the efforts of those who “frequently overcame their prejudices to join hands with brothers (and sisters) who were very much unlike themselves” and “died for 8 hour work days”.

    Those people, however, were *not* engaged in the politics of identity. They were engaged in a fight for power, which transcends political identity and forms the common substrate for solidarity. (I use the word ‘power’ in a strict way: control of resources, both ‘natural’ (as in ‘natural resources’) and human.) The successful fight for an 8 hour work day took partial control of the human resource back from the company. Decent working conditions and benefits put more power in the hands of labor by taking it away from companies.

    It IS “just about power and its distribution” because with control of resources concentrated in the hands of the few “how we … live with each other and what kind of world … we [get] for our children” is *imposed* upon us not decided by us.

    “THE problem [of] the loss of solidarity between workers” is due in large part, in my opinion, because of the successful insertion of identity into the politics of the left. Finding common ground is necessary for solidarity. That common ground, in my view, is attainable only by understanding that we are fighting now, as they did in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and will until humanity is just a greasy smudge in a sediment layer, for control of resources.

    Is Socialism the way forward? As you said earlier, Americans want what socialists have always stood for. But, by pointing at *outcomes* of broad control of resources (“the 8 hour work day, “weekends”, feminist rights, labor rights, etc.”) instead *explicitly* at control of resources, the real goal is obscured, even hidden. This, to me, is where the left is currently failing.


  21. Rev. José M. Tirado said on February 14th, 2008 at 3:02am #

    Wow…This is an admirablly conducted discussion and I am grateful to DV for providing us this forum.

    I can´t repond to everything as I´ve probably taken far too much time as it is to practicpate but a couple thoughts.

    The examples of Venezuela and Cuba, while being informed by ecological “Green” ideas, remain by definition, “socialist.” Ask them. Socialism is not merely, as it seems some here believe, an anachronistic analysis superceded by newer, “greener” forms of analysis. If you want a look at what´s hot intellectually around the world, then we need to simply acknowledge that the basic tools for analysis, the visionary ideals that inspire, and the form the models take are socialist, through and through. And Monthly Review, Z Magazine, MR Zine and others demonstrate quite clearly how rich and vibrant, diverse and applicable new socialist thought really is. All I have suggested is we admit this and, in our search for ways to do things, take an electoral strategy of revitalizing a comprehensively acceptable configuration (the SP-USA) already in existence.

    For practical models, things like Parecon are superb. But there are others. But for electoral strategy, the SP-USA invigorated can shift an already moribund discussion into a newer, higher “gear” and maybe make some local waves, as well as giving people an opportunity to not waste their votes. but voting Green is fine, too. I have however, come to the conclusion that the Green “third way” is simply a greened over socialist vision and that electorally Greens refuse to challenge the Dems as a Party, all the time. Even the Communist Party in the US supports the Dems. This is not a strategy for breaking the hold the mindset of “two parties” holds on the USAmerican imagination.

    And trying yet another configuration (The Labor Party have all the right ideas and their membership could fit into my library here where I´m writing, The New Party had some great people and ideas and are even smaller, The Peace and Freedom Party and The Working Families Party are unfortunately appendages of the Left, left wing of the Dems, etc. ) or trying to get the Reps attention (Ron Paul) or even the Libertarian (sic) Party (a capitalist outfit with socially progressive views) are not, in my mind viable options.

    As I mentioned in the article, coalitions in Europe seem to work. Here in Iceland is called “The Left-Green Movement”. Fabulous, no? but the present US system doesn´t seem to allow for such. (I worked for a brief spell with Jesse Jackson´s campaign in the late 80´s and The Rainbow Coalition had such a chance but was–you guessed it–folded into the Dems for whom any movement away from their gravitational pull is heretical and punished.)

    And workers solidarity remains for me a place to start again. I became a union president at Warner Bros. Pictures in 1993-1994 and saw how average workers yearned for a real analysis of their situation and reacted very well when they understood their common struggles against capital. It took me a long time to get there, but people were jazzed up. It can be done. And when it´s done, we win. A simple starting place is asking how many posters here belong to unions? It starts with us.

    Lastly, I want to stress again that I was not aiming for too much here. Simply one man´s struggle and one man´s conclusions about what I think we are missing and what I think might be a good strategy electorally. I so appreciate the civility and reasonableness, the thoughtfulness and decency that has been expressed here and hope that in this cyberspace we share, through comments and articles in DV and elsewhere, we all remain committed to a greater goal of solidarity and justice, in whatever form, with whatever name we coome up with. Nice to be here,

  22. Harmoon said on February 16th, 2008 at 8:14pm #

    The main reason for failure of socialist movements in US is peneteration of Zionism in the first lines of this movement. Left in US has lost his aim and focus as an antiemperialist movement and naturally has to lower its messages to micromanagement such as “a little ” equality or “a little” improvement the condition of poor in this country.

  23. Thomas Scott Tucker said on March 31st, 2008 at 12:03am #

    Thank you, Jose M. Tirado, for your article. And thanks to the respondents (with one exception) for keeping a website thread of discussion out of the usual gutters. I am an openly socialist member of the Green Party. I am also considering dual membership in the Socialist Party. In my view, we ought to be working toward the kind of coalition politics which would tend overall toward peace, ecological sanity, and social democracy. In strictly tactical alliances, for example, there is no reason Greens, Socialists, and Libertarians should not join forces to reform certain ballot access laws. But on many other issues we will have good strategic reasons to preserve and defend partisan independence. Certainly the left wing of the Greens (in this country and globally) have much in common with (small d) democratic socialists. Finally, a message of encouragement to those who are too disillusioned with career politicians to vote at all: Truly, politics is too important to be left to politicians, and many community organizers do fine work outside the electoral arena. In my youth I was a resolute anarchist for several years. Those who remain anarchists all their lives also have an honored place in public life. On the democratic left, our aim should not be to waste our time and energy “reforming” the parties of war and empire. Nor should we sink all our efforts into electoral campaigns or election days. But the institutions of representative democracy are too important to be abandoned. The electoral realm is one dimension of public life– and ought to be one site for a fair struggle for socialism. Peace and solidarity, Scott Tucker

  24. Rev. José M. Tirado said on March 31st, 2008 at 3:43am #

    Thank you Scott,
    And I absolutely agree with you about the electoral arena being only one, and yet, one in which our struggle should engage. I think the key within your response has to do with those “tactical alliances”: We cannot afford to be so enamored of our own ideological purity (an affliction of youth, by and large) that we refuse the hand of those who would work with us. Ending the war is one example. But the ballot access laws are one huge obstacle to real democracy in the US and that is a major area where, were we to unite, we could make an invaluable contribution to our country. Ot is an area where, in most of Europe, allowed for the voices of different parties and political persuasions to gain access to power. We can do just as good if we tried.
    In solidarity,