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A Night with the Resistance

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I went to a Resisting Trump in California workshop in Oakland on Friday night put on by the California Nurses Association (CNA) and Jacobin Magazine. The young (to me) speakers were Baskar Sankara , founding editor and publisher of Jacobin; Stephanie Schwarz of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Jeremy Gong of the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). I liked what all 3 panelists had to say around the broad topic of resisting Trump while building a left, giving meaning to a successful rollback of the Trumpzkrieg beyond, as one might fear, or grimly expect, a return to the hyper-capitalist militaristic murderous recent status quo, probably turned up a notch, with liberals defending the lesser-of-2-evil-ism death spiral with greater fervor than ever.

Someone at the building’s entrance was hawking newspapers for 50¢. I told her that I gave all my small bills to dancers on the train and only had 20s. I thought a comrade might front one to an interested newcomer, especially to a man-of-the-people who supports our local buskers, but no deal.

Someone from the CNA introduced the panel and told us about the Single Payer drive coming up on the ballot this year and said that we need to form broad coalitions to push our issues. Single Payer and broad coalitions: I was in the right place.

Single Payer for California 2017!

Each panelist spoke for about 15 minutes and I can only allude to what I remember because I didn’t come as a scribe. Baskar Sankara spoke of his fear that Trump would “find his footing,” where he starts to deliver the goods in a certain populist public/private works-building way that strengthens his core support. He articulated the importance of “dislodging the Clintonite center” with a left-led opposition.

Stephanie Schwartz talked of “how to relate to liberals in the movement,” (a reality that I can’t avoid –see below). She said that, as much as possible, we need a “united front” where we work with everyone with whom we share goals while maintaining our political independence from the Democratic Party and keeping our sights set much higher. There might times and places where the best strategy is to run as a Democrat and times and places where the best strategy is to run as an Independent, as long as one is clearly and openly independent of the Party in policies and funding sources.

Jeremy Gong said, “the Uber CEO isn’t bad because he associates with Trump. He’s bad because he’s rich and exploits his workers… but fuck him for associating with Trump.” He emphasized strategic thinking, working on movements within California. Making, keeping and building on gains. He specifically thought of Single Payer as something to strive for in 2017: Everyone’s covered; no insurance companies; no co-pays; no deductables; more union leverage without health insurance stifling their bargaining power and freedom from a great source of debt and stress, something that, if successful, would have broad appeal.

Single Payer for California 2017!

A group of about seven or eight to my immediate right, including the inflexible newspaper lady, were smirking and taking notes. They were from something called the Spartacus League (are some readers starting to wonder where the hell I’ve been?). A couple gave prepared proclamations during the question session, critiquing the DSA and ISO and explicitly calling for revolution on the Bolshevist model, of a “worker’s vanguard” (themselves?) organizing “the masses.” Their focus was on criticizing and insulting the “reformist left” and broadly talking about what must be done, but nothing about how to get the masses ready for revolution (perhaps there was something about this in that newspaper). I had to admire their uncompromising spirit: It’s not lost on me nor did it seem lost on the panelists that a lot of left/progressive history is one of cooptation and rollback, but who refuses to front one 50¢ newspaper to a curious newcomer? And, because I had seen those talented dancers on BART, and was planning to go to a bar where a friend was spinning funk and soul records, I thought that nobody in this group looked like he could dance to save his life. I think we have way too many people with that particular defect in power already.

Being part of a group event with the politically like-minded lightened my step and softened my heart as I traveled across the Bay to the bar. At a second bar (the first was packed with shiny young people and I didn’t stay long), someone who was kind enough to buy me a drink and someone who was kind enough to give me a ride shared praise for Nikki Haley for something she said about the Ukraine, that the Donald Administration, in this one important aspect, was beginning to take the right position. Instantly blood-chilled, I stammered out something about “CIA-funded coups and neo-Nazi shock-troops,” got pleasantly categorized as a “such and such leftist” and walked home under a storm cloud.

Tonight, some geniuses organized a cardboard animal parade with kids and brass bands and drums, dancing and playing through miles of City with no permit, no underwriters and where the “T”-word was never heard. I think we’re going to need more of those, too.

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