The Revolutionary Democratic Party
April 7, 2016 § 2 Comments
The Democratic Party’s Fear of Change
Last February, I expressed my despair in an essay that viewed Bernie Sanders’s heroic effort to convert the Democratic Party into a relevant organization as foredoomed. His continued successes during the past six weeks have re-kindled some of my excitement but I still regard his chances of becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party as unlikely. The Democratic Party’s past struggles with Communists in the 30’s, Dixiecrats in the 40’s and “Reagan Democrats” in the 70’s have prompted it to insure against fundamental change by adopting procedural barriers designed to limit change.
As a result, it is virtually impossible to make radical changes within the Party in its present form.
Can Violent Revolution Succeed?
I have spent some time considering the nature of the people whose lives inspired me. Leon Trotsky, Mao, Emiliano Zapata, Poncho Villa, Patrick Pearse, Che, Malcolm X – I read about these men and their violent lives. They acted out my anger and thrilled me with their reckless courage. The poetry and the music that celebrated their efforts as well as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and SNICK – these were the sources of the emotional part of my life during several decades of unsuccessful efforts as a political organizer and a few individual episodes of private law practice. The key word in that sentence is “unsuccessful”. I never turned any of my dreams into reality. Like Bernie Sanders, I was often counseled to be “more realistic” and “practical” but, somehow, that advice was never seductive for me.
I never actually met any of the men who inspired me. I did meet a few people who had been involved in some of the exciting history in America in the 30’s. I knew and was enthralled by a woman who was involved in some of the Trotsky-inspired efforts of the Communist Party. Like thousands of others, her heart was broken when Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler’s Germany. I had a long chat with a man who rode a boxcar into Seattle to join an IWW strike there. I became friends with Magdaleno Dimas, whose participation in the Farmworkers’ Strike in Starr County changed him from a violent man with a criminal past to an idealist willing to sacrifice himself on behalf of the campesinos who were trying to improve their lot through collective nonviolence. Magdalena’s life ended tragically after he was arrested and jailed in Torreon after trying to make a marijuana deal to raise money to finance the Starr County huelga.
The Lessons of My Past
As I look back over the decades of my life, I see that those who actually sparked changes that changed the lives of thousands of people suffering the injustices of capitalistic greed and thievery were nonviolent people whose lives, while they were not typical of the society in which they lived, were only lawless in ways that were designed to invoke moral outrage and never in ways intended to physically injure anyone: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Ralph Yarborough, e.g..
If Bernie Sanders is not the nominee of the Democratic Party this year, I think he should continue to organize and speak in support of a new organization within the Democratic Party. Its name should proclaim its allegiance to the Party, but it should also identify it as a haven for people who yearn for and demand fundamental change in the Party and the United States of America. It should focus on a statement of goals and principles, not on a hierarchical organizational structure. It should make full use of technology to build a web of like-minded people in the U.S.. The designers should study Alcoholics Anonymous as a model. It should be built around colleges and universities, but it should use the energy found there to expand into diverse neighborhoods. It should avoid any alliance with any religion. Anyone willing to conform their efforts to those consistent with the statement of goals and principles should be empowered to create local “study groups” or “action pods”. An appropriate name would be the Bumble Bee Group and local groups could be organized around “Hives” and “Cells”.
Each cell should meet once a week or once a month. Dues should be $2, payable at each meeting. A treasurer should open a bank account and keep $1 to finance the Cell expenses (literature or rent for a meeting place); and $1 should be sent to a national office. The national office should be limited to a skeleton staff authorized only to maintain orderly books of account. A newsletter should be created and circulated to all Cells.
Those financially able to do so should be encouraged to support these efforts, but their contributions should not entitle them to any authority to dictate policy or procedure. Contributors should be entitled to choose whether or not to be identifiable. Contributions would not be tax deductible.
Anonymity should be optional but members should be encouraged to establish a digital connection to the National Office and to other Cells and Hives in a city or county. All communication should be by email or iMessage. Hacking would become a constant threat and some kind of security and password protection would have to be designed.
These groups should become active participants in the governance and affairs of the Democratic Party and members should become candidates for precinct chair positions and executive committee positions. Democratic Party candidates should be supported if their goals and principles conformed to those of the Hives and Cells.
I offer this as an alternative to allowing the organizing done by Bernie Sanders to be wasted and embalmed in the dustbins of the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton hobbled the Democratic Party with his Democratic Leadership Council. Bernie offers a way to respond with an organization to make the Democratic Party an agent for change, not a permanent role as the lesser of two evils.