SocraticGadfly: The need for third parties of the left

June 11, 2018

The need for third parties of the left

Ever since Zach Carter got elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a Democratic Socialist of America candidate, the DSA has been getting plenty of touting. Brains recently posted an NYT piece about DSA-ers in Texas. The Nation recently had John Nichols with a DSA bromance, which I blogged about.

There's just one problem, though. The DSA is not a political party; it's an activist group within the Democratic Party.

And, like other such groups, it's subject to being co-opted.

Howie Hawkins, a Green Party candidate for various state offices in New York State, makes the case very well for full-blow third parties in a long read here.

I agree. That said, that third party, or the leading left party of multiple ones, does not necessarily have to be the Green Party. I agree with Ohio Green Mark Lause that I'm looking for the best third-party vehicle of the left for me.

Speaking of, the board of The North Star, of which Lause is a member, did an outreach event to DSAers during a lefty convention in New York City last week. Some DSAers admitted that working solely inside the Democratic Party is an uphill struggle at best. North Star members said DSAers need to see winning third-party candidacies and so, specific to Greens, third parties need more focus.

That said, the Greens are not the only third party — actual party, not Democratic-based movement — of the left.

In 2016, as I was less than totally sold on Jill Stein for president, I looked at the possibility of voting for the Socialist Party USA candidate Mimi Soltysik. However, I found both its platform and a top touter I ran into online (who threw Stein in the ditch) both offputting. The platform, to ignore the messenger, I found even more "out there" on some things than Greens.

No more.

The updated SPUSA platform is improved.

Beyond calling for labeling of GMO foods, it's not anti-GMO. It does reject irradiation for food preservation, so it's not totally free of anti-science stances.

It has rejected unilateral non-nuclear forces disarmament, though it still calls for citizen referenda for declarations of war. I've softened on that ... I don't consider it totally nuts now. I could buy it, if it had a waiver saying it only applies if the US has not been attacked. Yeah, I know, that leaves semi-sized loopholes for the repetition of James K. Polk and LBJ, among others, but ... I'd still feel more comfortable with that.

In other ways, the platform is better than that of the Greens. No footsie-playing with antivaxxers. Indeed, no indulgence of claiming that alt-medicine pseudomedicine is medicine. Like me, it wants a US version of Britain's National Health Service, not "just" single-payer health care coverage. It calls for some type of nationalization of parts of the Internet. And, it does NOT make a shibboleth out of decentralization.

Whichever party becomes the best vehicle for the left, Hawkins, who has never run for a federal office, encourages bottom-up party-building. Part of that, he said, should be dues-paying membership, something the old Socialist Party and today's SPUSA both have, and that the Greens are considering.

Hawkins has other good insights, like this about modern American unionism, including its relation to today's political process:
The labor movement also tends to reproduce the corporate class structure. Some unions do practice a social movement unionism that engages their members in education and decision-making and seeks to build a class-wide movement with labor and community allies. But most unions practice a transactional business unionism where the officers and top staff make the decisions and cut the deals and the members’ role is minimized.
Beyond that, more and more unions are willing to make outright bed-feathering with corporations, even at the expense of taking regressive stances on issues such as environmentalism.

Give Howie a read.

And, speaking of third parties, David Bruce Collins noted Texas Greens failed on the ballot access petition drive. I'm out here in the boonies, so never even had a chance to sign, unlike in the early 2000s, when I lived in Dallas.

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