Movement Strategy and Tactics Vol. II

July 22, 2016


On November 13, 2015, I posted an article entitled “Movement Strategy & Tactics” on my website In it, I said the following:

I have been a part of the left movement for over 40 years. For a long time, I have carried a cartoon of Sluggo and Lucy. In the first frame it shows the two in the woods. Sluggo says to Lucy “Lucy I think we’re lost.” In the next frame Lucy says “no, I have a map.” The next frame shows Sluggo looking perplexed and says to Lucy “let me see the map”. The next frame Lucy takes out a miniature globe of the world and shows it to him. Anyone who has been lost in the woods has to laugh. However, that is what we are often faced with on the left.

Since this is my 50th year as an attorney, I should have admitted that I have been in the left movement for over 50 years. My position on the importance of an articulated strategy and tactics of implementation of every position must now expand given the success of Bernie’s campaign and the creation of an army of Bernie Democrats.

I now take the position that every political program is defined by the articulated strategy it expresses or the lack thereof. The working class must make demands on the ruling class. The alternative is capitulation. A good example is a union strike. Strikes are called only when necessary and a wrong move can result not only in losing the strike but also busting the union.

When Bernie spoke to the Verizon workers, his first comment was recognizing that a strike is a big decision, a dangerous decision for every working family. That is why he gave complete support.

When a union leader calls a strike, he/she outlines not only the reasons for the strike but the strategy for accomplishing specific goals. Without a strategy for success, the strike will not and should not be supported. The same is true for political elections. Asking for people to vote for failure is not only useless, it is irresponsible. Just as unions are formed to improve the economic and social status of workers, political parties are formed or should be formed to fight for political power. That is to say, political elections are a part of the class war being waged throughout the world.

Like any war, class war presupposes won battles and lost battles. There are decisions made to protect positions. Just as in war, generals fight rear guard actions to preserve their armies. In the electoral arena, we have fought rear guard actions for the last 50 years. That means we have attempted to preserve a criticism of capitalism to the extent possible while having no popular voice. That is not voting for the lesser of two evils; it is recognition that without a voice, we fight to protect.

The corporate media has exposed the failure of communist experiments in the Soviet Union and China. The success of the corporate media and its ideological war is illustrated by the fact that the chaos in the Middle East, the extreme concentration of wealth, the crumbling infrastructures, the impoverishment of children, and on and on are not considered in the general populous the be failures of capitalism.

Progressives can and must consider the failure to obtain a voice for alternative positions to the corporate media propaganda as battles lost. I generally view these defeats as caused by being overpowered by the immense wealth. The New York Times (7/22/16) front page states that the Republican Party is uniting because “money adapts to power.” However, money is power and adapts when a battle is lost as is the case in Trump’s nomination.

But progressives have consistently adhered to myths that establish invalid and unsuccessful strategies. One rarely articulated position is that the more capitalism oppresses and exploits the working class, there will be a spontaneous revolt against capitalist class. That position is invalid. The ruling class has learned to mobilize a section of the working class based upon hatred and cultural prejudices. Trump personified this development: a billionaire who has captured a large section of the white working class with no intent to alleviate the burdens of that class.

In addition, Bernie has proven that the working class will respond to a progressive agenda when a winning strategy is articulated. Elections are not simply a process of outlining positions. Elections are a struggle for power. But working people will not act until the possibility for a success is established.

That is why fighting inside the Democratic Party is required. Third party positions or positions by left organizations will not lead the working class struggles because they do not present a formula for success.

The fact of a class war should not be a matter of dispute. One does not have to read  V.I. Lenin The State and Revolution, or What is to be Done or the Manifesto of the Communist Party to perceive the existence of an intense and consistent war by the Ruling Class against working class people. I reread Georgi Dimitroff, The United Front, but I did not find it helpful to outline the strategy and tactics of today’s battles.

Today, the books I have found most helpful are Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty; Dark Money by Jane Mayer; and Why Minsky Matters by L. Randall Wray. I am reading The Shock Doctrine the Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. She along with Jane Mayer exposed the strategy and tactics utilized by the current ruling class. Klein is most disturbing in exposing the strategy of the ruling class as follows:

Torture as Metaphor

From Chile to China to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free-market crusade. But torture is more than a tool used to enforce unwanted policies on rebellious peoples; it is also a metaphor of the shock doctrine’s underlying logic.

Torture, or in CIA language “coercive interrogation,” is a set of techniques designed to put prisoners into a state of deep disorientation and shock in order to force them to make concessions against their will. The guiding logic is elaborated in two CIA manuals that were declassified in the late nineties. They explain that the way to break “resistant sources” is to create violent ruptures between prisoners and their ability to make sense of the world around them. First, the senses are starved of any input (with hoods, earplugs, shackles, total isolation), then the body is bombarded with overwhelming stimulation (strobe lights, blaring music, beatings, electroshock).

The goal of this “softening-up” stage is to provoke a kind of hurricane in the mind: prisoners are so regressed and afraid that they can no longer think rationally or protect their own interests. It is in that state of shock that most prisoners give their interrogators whatever they want – information, confessions, a renunciation of former beliefs. One CIA manual provides a particularly succinct explanation: “There is an interval – which may be extremely brief – of suspended animation, a kind of psychological shock or paralysis. It is caused by a traumatic or sub-traumatic experience which explodes, as it were, the world that is familiar to the subject as well as his image of himself within that world. Experienced interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the source is far more open to suggestion, far likelier to comply, than he was just before he experienced the shock. (Page 18) (Emphasis added)

Naomi then explains the application of these concepts to the strategy by the ruling class to economic conditions.

The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely, attempting to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in the interrogation cell. The clearest example was the shock of September 11, which, for millions of people, exploded “the world that is familiar” and opened up a period of deep disorientation and regression that the Bush administration expertly exploited. Suddenly we found ourselves living in a kind of Year Zero, in which everything we knew of the world before could now be dismissed as “pre-9/11 thinking.” Never strong in our knowledge of history, North Americans had become a blank slate – “a clean sheet of paper” on which “the newest and most beautiful words can be written,” as Mao said of his people. A new army of experts instantly materialized to write new and beautiful words on the receptive canvas of our post trauma consciousness: “clash of civilizations,” they inscribed. “Axis of evil,” “Islamo-fascisim,” “homeland security.” With everyone preoccupied by the deadly new culture wars, the Bush administration was able to pull off what it could only have dreamed of doing before 9/11: wage privatized wars abroad and build a corporate security complex at home.

That is how the shock doctrine works: the original disaster – the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane – puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorized prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect. Jamar Perry and his fellow evacuees at the Baton Rouge shelter were supposed to give up their housing projects and public schools. After the tsunami, the fishing people in Sri Lanka were supposed to give up their valuable beachfront land to hoteliers. Iraqis, if all had gone according to plan, were supposed to be so shocked and awed that they would give up control of their oil reserves, their state companies and their sovereignty to U.S. military bases and green zones. (Page 19) (Emphasis added)

Jane Mayer in Dark Money describes how inherited wealth of Charles and David Koch, Richard Scaiff, and John Olin have slowly infiltrated every instruction in this country to obtain ideological control of the working class. Once accomplished, they have then turned to the electoral arena to consolidate power. These facts (and they are facts), however, have led to the history of response of the left that appears to be unconsciousness of the strategies of the ruling class. In today’s environment, every position is defined not by the programs submitted but by the strategy and tactics utilized to fight the war being waged by the ruling class.

Unfortunately, the left response to the sophisticated tactics utilized by the ruling class is to articulate tired and failed positions of the past. The ruling class propaganda machine hammers away that free market agendas provide the answer. Advertising imposes a consumer requirement for the purchase of things to address individual identity. In Klein’s book, she describes how the ruling class destroyed Solidarity in Poland.

With no voice, the left including the Green Party remained dormant and appeared comfortable in their irrelevance. The working class deserves more.

In Hunger Games, President Snow outlined the requirements of left operatives. He asked his henchmen “why don’t we pick up 24 teenagers and kill them. That would instill adequate fear. We would not need a winner.” The henchmen had no answer. President Snow responded: to provide hope. Hope is the only emotion more powerful than fear. But too much hope is dangerous. The requirements of progressives is to provide as much hope as possible. It is only the hope of success that will generate sufficient energy to unite a diverse working class. Taking positions that feel good for the left organizations or the Green Party are irresponsible unless they outline a path for successful struggle.

In a system that promotes individualism, provides entertainment, but hides the class war, building organizations that promote collective struggle is neither easy nor simple. As manifested by the electoral success of Trump and Bernie, the working class is aware of the blatant unfairness of the system both electorally and economically.

Several principles can be articulated. Cynicism and pessimism are the enemy of the progressive movement. Strategies that provide no hope for success will not mobilize any one to sacrifice their lives. Past analyses such as the observation that the ruling class controls both parties provide no reason for struggle.

Left groups and the Green Party present cult like appearances. Making pronounments while providing no basis for struggle gives the appearance of irresponsibility. In fact, because there is no agenda for success such pronouncement have turned off anyone looking to fight for power. Again, strategy and tactics are the litmus tests for every proposed agenda. In fact, the proposed strategy defines the political position. Not the other way around.

For instance, Bernie’s campaign provides the basis for mobilizing millions of people fighting for a progressive agenda. The response of the left was to express support but not soldiers to fight. The response of the Green Party was essentially to pimp off Bernie’s success all the while expressing cynicism, skepticism and pessimism. While those attitudes attract individuals of like mind, such positions are bereft of any basis of struggle.

In the meantime, the cynical denial of Bernie’s success sets the basis for building Trump’s movement. In that way, these groups become counter revolutionary. More importantly, these positions are very comfortable for the advocates who claim righteous intransigence. As a result, the left groups weaken the long term efforts of working people to better their lives. That is why the entire program of the left groups and the Green Party is rejected by the working class just as a union leader who leads a failed strike will be ousted.

As a result, the groups appear useless to the struggle for power. In taking the positions and never acknowledging the problem, the working class naturally turns to alternatives which provide the hope of success.

The base problem is the refusal of the left and Green Party to recognize that the left has no voice; it is powerless to respond to the corporate media. The simple observation that the corporate media ignored Bernie’s campaign and gave Trump hours and hours of media time would mean that Bernie’s voice is our only weapon. The left and the Green Party in their arrogance refuse to accept that Bernie has built a movement with his strategy when all of their strategies have failed.

Yours in Struggle,




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