Left-Democrats Abandon Struggle for the Working Class to the Right

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

All indications are that Joe Biden is heading for a landslide win. Losers will be Trump and those Republicans who have not already defected to the Democrat’s big tent. Collateral damage, however, may be the progressive cause. Some leftists have advocated temporarily subordinating an independent working-class alternative to campaign for the leading neoliberal candidate.

For example, the Open Letter: Dump Trump, Then Battle Biden argues for “the most urgent task — defeating Trump in the election with as big an Electoral College margin as possible, to undermine his predictable efforts to steal the election.” Among the 55 signatories of the open letter are some of the most dedicated and productive people on the progressive left.

Many of them would agree that ultimately there needs to be a political force representing working people not tied to the dictates of capital – but now is not the time. The open-letter signatories argue, “Protestations that Biden is beholden to elites are true but beside the point.”

Current predicament of the ruling class transition of power

Despite the fear based speculation by other left-Democrats that “the fading 77-year-old Biden will blow-up much of his polling lead,” his expected win should be anticipated. A tanking economy, a still uncontained pandemic, and unprecedented protests against racialized police brutality all are attributed to Trump’s watch.

The financial elites are disproportionately lavishing their support on the Democrats. In contrast to Trump frantically crisscrossing the country holding campaign rallies, Biden is comfortably resting at home with a too-big-to-fail war chest, letting his campaign’s domination of the airwaves carry the day. Combined spending for all 2020 campaigns is projected to be $10.8 billion, substantially greater than the GDP of Haiti.

Yet for certain left-Democrats (not the open-letter signatories) democratic electoral means to remove the “preening Antichrist” are insufficient. They demand “Trump out now,” arguing “the world can’t wait until January 20th, 2021 for the defenestration of this lethal lunatic.”

Some of the same people, who believe Trump “continues to lie” and is moronic, delusional, and incompetent, also believe Trump can carry off a coup. Trump, they claim, will command “white supremacist paramilitaries to be prepared to attack his and their ‘enemies’ if he loses on Election Day.” Adding, “Trump also wants Joe Biden and other leading Democrats imprisoned and perhaps even executed.”

Those who find this coup scenario somewhat hyperbolic are accused of “naivete and [taking] childish enablement of abuse to new levels.”

Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace and a proponent of a third party alternative observes:

“Democrats and deeply confused radicals are [in] a race to see who can advance the most farfetched notions of a pending Trump coup. All of it is quite insulting. Why would [the] ruling class risk a revolt and support a Trump coup and what elements of the state would support it? What childishness.”

The Secret Service may have to pry Trump out of the Resolute Desk and physically escort him from the White House. But how the ruling class handles their transition of power from one emperor to the next is not our problem. Differences exist between the pretenders to the Oval Office, but those differences do not extend to which class they serve.

Rather than this being the time when never before has there been a greater need to support the lesser-evil Democrats and give them an extraordinary mandate to rule, this is a time to leverage the ruling class’s loss of legitimacy to articulate a left alternative. We should be celebrating splits in the ruling class and welcoming their internecine warfare. Polarization, rather than unity and harmony with the ruling class, is what class struggle is about. If the left does not rise to the occasion, the right will.

Regaining the initiative after the preemptive surrender of a left alternative

In synchrony with the Democrat’s suppression of the Green Party, the left Biden boosters explicitly rejected the argument that “more votes for the Green Party’s or any other third party’s presidential candidate are necessary to win long-term progressive goals.” For sure, the victorious Democrats will not be returning any favors to their leftist supporters, who counselled us to subordinate other progressive struggles to “the most important goal” of campaigning for Biden.

More stringent party registration rules targeting left alternatives, recently imposed by Democrats, foreshadow a dearth of left choices on future ballots. Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for president, comments on the eve of the election about the lack of left solidarity with an anti-neoliberal agenda: “Reliance on the lesser evil has historically led to greater evils…The result of progressives consistently settling for the Democrats as the lesser evil has created a political dynamic [that] has been moving US politics to the right for decades.”

Folks who campaigned for the new CEO of the capitalist world on Tuesday may not be as convincing when they start organizing against him on Wednesday. The Democratic Party ignored the issues of their left-leaning constituency during the campaign and are even less likely to pay any attention to them afterward. The left-Democrats’ argument that we should give Biden the vote when it counted, but “pressure” him afterward is not a resounding argument to workers looking for leadership in their struggles against neoliberalism.

The voting left will have negligible impact on this presidential election. The Greens and other left electoral alternatives will likely garner less votes than in 2016. The extant left bloc cannot swing the outcome of the presidential election, but it can be an embryo for system change if it breaks with the “graveyard of social movements,” which is the Democratic Party, and provides an independent alternative.

What is key now is to fan the embers of the independent left. Otherwise, there will be little alternative to the rule of capital, which in its current neoliberal form portends ever increasing austerity for working people, entrenched institutional racism, oppressive surveillance and security state measures, and an aggressive imperialism abroad. With the rotten rule of capital more than ever exposed and more people, especially youth, engaged in protests such as the BLM, the progressive potential is propitious.

Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.