An interview with Kate Doyle Griffiths, Marxist Center representative, by Muhsin Yorulmaz
As the political crisis of capitalism deepens alongside the economic crisis even in the heart of international imperialism, it is unsurprising that socialist politics provoke a renewed interest in the masses of the United States. Alongside the existing Marxist organisations being tested by their dynamic relationship with the mass movements, and the increasing struggle between left and right elements of the DSA, a new Marxist organisation has emerged: Marxist Center was formed by 19 groups from different cities across the US (including three groups from New York). It does not pose itself as a party, but among left “networks” in that country, it distinguishes itself from the others by its firmer lines and theoretical commitments. Marxist Center ought to provoke enquiry by outsiders, both to understand the significance in terms of the US left represented in its recent construction, and to draw lessons about what forms new critical engagements with the “existing” left take, which may be pertinent in diverse countries. What follows is an interview with one representative of the organisation, Kate Doyle Griffiths, who helps illuminate how Marxist Center understands itself and its own social/political context.
Muhsin Yorulmaz: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got politicized, first of all?
Kate Doyle Griffiths: I come from a family that was considered and considered itself far left in the context of Houston Texas in the 1980’s and 1990’s; my dad was a civil rights lawyer and anti-death penalty activist and my mom was a physician on the forefront of the AIDS crisis, which definitely shaped my worldview in pretty fundamental ways. My family has a long history of being “weird” and making it work; it’s multiracial, aggressively woman-led, with unconventional marriage and childrearing arrangements, and developed, I think, a way of making that an ethos. As far as “left” politics, Dad was then and is now a member of Democratic Socialists of America, and my mom’s parents (Dick and Ruth Doyle) were militant unionists who didn’t shy away from the word “Communist,” and were active anti-racists, feminists, and anti-war activists in the industrial center of East Texas, “The Golden Triangle.” It perhaps does a bit of violence to the memory of my grandparents to air my well supported suspicions that they were at some point Communist Party members, though, because they never told me that themselves, even under pretty close questioning. I could never bring myself to ask my grandfather, “are you now or have you ever been,” but once when I came back from a summer of union organizing in the Gulf, at about 19, my mom encouraged me to tell him about my union activity. His response was to ask, “so are you a communist?” I said no, and he said, “oh, well, a socialist then” (with maybe a look of amused disappointment). I said I wasn’t and he said “well you must be an anarchist then!,” which I also denied, though I was at that point certainly some sort of social anarchist. He just laughed and exclaimed, “that’s what they all say!”
To put my own history very briefly, I started out as a progressive liberal with particular interest in unions. When I went away to college, I was very much a democracy dork and a policy person, but the Battle In Seattle, and particularly the “Teamsters and Turtles” aspect of things, really won me to the potential of direct action as the truly meaningful power behind any real chance for working class politics to emerge. In college, I worked with a heterogenous group of student activists, Students for Social Equality, doing work with United Students Against Sweatshops, and provided labor support for graduate student workers, clerical workers and other worker organizing on campus, as well as some campaigns beyond campus like greengrocer organizing and laundry workers. It’s hard to remember the mood of the period, but compared to now it was decidedly anti-intellectual, pragmatic, and in retrospect rather aggressively apolitical. I remember feeling that calling yourself a “socialist” might put you outside the realm of the thinkable; it was then, to me, a scary word. But I was always interested in the theoretical aspect and lucky to be at NYU when many Marxist thinkers were teaching there. “History from Below” really changed my life, as did learning about the working class roots of the black radical and socialist feminist traditions.
My experience in and around the labor movement – during a period when student activists like myself were really seen by a number of union internationals as the answer to the accelerating collapse of organized labor movement – put me in close quarters with some really disappointing moments of opportunism, short-sightedness and cowardice on the part of the bureaucracies of more than one international and a couple of local unions. When I encountered the socialist group Solidarity and the rank-and-file strategy, it really gelled with my sensibilities; more than that, Solidarity members were among the first experienced activists I met who didn’t simply declare every rally and campaign a victory, no matter how small or how defeated, and confirmed some of my suspicions and analysis of the weaknesses of the various strategies – summit-hopping, media-blitz style “solidarity” of moral appeals, student substitutionism and the like. It was also a group of people who had material experience of shop-floor organizing and could do some “showing” rather than “telling” on that front, all of which impressed me, and reminded me of the kinds of stories my grandfather — a lifelong shop steward, and perpetual bargaining committee member, who refused advancement into management or apparently in the union – liked to tell over holiday meals.
I’ve since left Solidarity, though I still have many member-comrades and comrades who are former members, over a drawn-out battle over gender contradictions. Even without that, I would have opposed softening the organizational stance on the Democratic Party, though when I joined I likely would have supported that change. Over the last three years, I’ve organized mostly with the International Women’s Strike and with a small communist collective in New York called Red Bloom, now affiliated with Marxist Center, but I consider Marxists in and from many organizational traditions my comrades, both in principle and, as much as possible, in practice.
In IWS and in Red Bloom I have a chance to develop theory and strategy mostly with comrades who are explicitly Marxist feminist, internationalist, anti-racist, pro-immigrant, pro-queer-and-trans, and pro-sex worker, and who are committed to shop-floor and community organizing, which is important to me in terms of my own development and to the task of building new Marxist cadre. A lot of the work is political education. We are in a moment in the US of a flowering of the “socialist idea”; the DSA has become the largest socialist organization on the US left in some time, and more mainstream progressives are now paying lip service to socialism. Thanks to Bernie and to some of that ongoing electoral work, a lot of the “bite” of the word is waning. It’s a good development overall, in my opinion, and a really exciting time to be a Marxist. But I think part of the job of the cadre-fied left, especially those of us committed to working class independence and autonomy, is to put some of the “bite” back in a politically meaningful way rather than resting on the laurels of the declining power of McCarthyite scare tactics.
MY: Can you tell us about Marxist Center? Where did it come from, both in terms of political heritage and subjective self-definition, but also in terms of objective conditions, why is a project like Marxist Center important for US politics now more than before?
KDG: My account may be idiosyncratic, but I see the Marxist Center really emerging from two moments and currents. First out of the small subset of organizers radicalized by the Occupy moment into investigating Marxism, and an organized element of this emerging in Philadelphia, PA in the form of the Philly Socialists.
More broadly the “center” of Marxist Center, for me, references Hal Draper’s conception of an organizing center—a left pole that is multi tendency, active in working class organizing and organization-building, and a pre- (or non- by some accounts) revolutionary party-building formation that should not be mistaken for a reference to the 1932 formation of that name.
Marxist Center was formed by 19 socialist groups and circles from different cities around the USA (3 groups from New York City). First initiative towards the Marxist Center was gathered in Philedelphia two years ago. I was established in Colorado Springs last year as a network. It doesn’t have a constitution nor a programme, but these issues will be held in the next national convention.
It includes inspiration from and adherents to a range of currents from autonomism, to revolutionary socialism, left-Maoism, anarchism and the like. Some of these have been radicalized post-occupy, in this moment of the collapse of McCarthyism and in a context of the failure of Obama’s promise of hope and change, in the context of the clear fascist threat emboldened by the election of Trump. A lot of this second layer may have been radicalized by the Ferguson uprisings and the renewed movement for Black liberation, by the standoff at standing rock, by #MeToo, by the clearly limited economic prospects of young people from any level of education who lack substantial inherited wealth. A lot of their political education and mobilization has happened online; part of the task is to deepen this radicalization and to develop new revolutionaries as organizers in the world where they live, work, study and survive.
In terms of why it’s needed now; I think a project like this has always been needed in the US left in my lifetime as a Marxist and organizer, in that it’s a politically revolutionary formation that embraces multi-tendency organizing, working class independence, building organized expressions of this and clarity on the need for that, along with direct action as an emphasis over electoral and lobbying tactics, rejecting democratic centralism on grounds of strategy rather than on principle, embracing internationalism and movements for the liberation of all oppressed people.
But contra earlier projects along these lines, MC has a particular opportunity in a moment of working class upsurge and socialist resurgence to “group” a new layer of revolutionary-minded individuals and collectives rather than “regroup” the remnants of the last wave, and to project a revolutionary Marxist perspective in the context of a growing socialist movement that is of rather than outside or apart from that crucial development.
It’s been exciting to see MC form in terms of speed of political orientation and commitments, but also because of its overall youth, geographic diversity and working class character. I think we have something quite special and a rare opportunity here.
MY: How would you compare Marxist Center to DSA, the other well-known “big tent” organisation in the US which defines itself in terms of socialist politics? Does Marxist Center see itself as a rival to the DSA, or is there significant ground for cooperation?
KDG: I think I would challenge the characterization of MC as “big tent.” We aren’t. While the formation is multi-tendency, we have a shared commitment to a revolutionary principle and to a programmatic unity around shop-floor, tenant and cooperative organizing.
We don’t consider ourselves rivals to the DSA, an organization that we overlap with and which includes revolutionary perspectives and program, but which is dominated by social democratic politics and is largely oriented toward electoral organizing and lobbying for reform, particularly Medicare 4 All.
We strive for cooperation with DSA members and formations and other socialist revolutionary and workers organizations committed to the broad project we are advancing, of building independent working class power in the spheres of production and social reproduction. So far we’ve been able to build this cooperation practically in a variety of contexts and our hope is to keep doing so.
MY: One issue that is continuously raised by leftists critical of the DSA, to which the national leadership of that organization can’t provide a clear answer, is that anti-imperialist and pro-liberation politics are sacrificed in favor of maximum effectiveness in the electoral sphere. How does Marxist Center imagine this contradiction can be overcome? Are people like Sanders or AOC an obstacle to the sort of politics Marxist Center wants to be doing?
KDG: This is a complex question. On the one hand there’s a clear but overrepresented and politically weak trend in the leadership of the DSA toward the kind of class reductionism you describe. On the other hand, it would be too simple to simply ascribe this to a dominant strategy of electoralism or to extrapolate that to a single agreed-upon strategy in the MC as to how to “relate” to “socialist” politicians as a whole or in specific.
In fact, I think there are at least four overlapping but contradictory electoralist trends in DSA, which have specific relationships to the most visible elected socialists and candidates, and which orient quite differently to the ongoing debate about the relationship between “class” and oppression. The most obvious is the attachment of the class reductionist strain represented in the now defunct, then rebranded, caucus of DSA, Momentum (now Spring). In its older form it was more clearly committed to a strategy of winning a section of the “white working class” on the basis of color-blind class politics, into a new insurgent Democratic Party coalition that might elect Bernie Sanders with a majority of the existing electorate. In its new iteration, it rejects a strategy, as Bernie now too does, of ignoring and eliding specific aspects of oppression. The new strategy, clearly a response to mass left criticism, still emphasizes an electoral and lobbying mechanism, focused on reforms which are not particularly focused on specific oppressions, but instead on access to education and health care broadly. This strategy is self-described as Kautskyist; overtly laudatory of his pre-Renegade phase, but implicitly anti-Leninist and apologist for a theory of one (metropolitan) country state “socialism.” This tendency sees itself as tactically using Democratic Party ballot lines toward the destruction and replacement of the capitalist center-opposition with a party rooted in the organized labor movement bureaucracy comparable to its original namesake faction in the UK Labour Party led by Corbyn.
On the other hand, AOC is much more clearly oriented toward a more standard left-liberal commitment to liberal feminist and anti-racist politics, and less clearly opposed to the leadership of the Democratic Party, and is instead clearly attached to the historic perspective and strategy of DSA; realignment of the Democratic Party to the left via an “inside/outside” strategy along the lines of Michael Harrington’s strategy formulated during the crises that the Vietnam War and a wave of class struggle precipitated for the Democratic Party in the 1970s.
Both politicians are overwhelmingly popular on the left, particularly the new social democratic left, but differ enough that AOC has not as yet endorsed Sanders’s campaign for the presidency; almost as if the party establishment takes more seriously Sanders’s threat to the party as such than does the base for his campaign or socialist voters broadly. At the same time, both Sanders and AOC share a commitment to towing the Democratic Party litmus test on Zionism and on (anti-)imperialism generally, both taking a left-Zionist position on Palestinian oppression and a US nationalist stance on borders, immigration and relations with Latin America, despite AOCs campaign branding, which raised the slogan “Abolish ICE.”
The second two trends are much more minor and represent the left and right pseudo anti-imperialist versions of the former two aspects previously outlined. Tulsi Gabbard represents the possibility for a red-brown inflected version of DSA Bernieism; she’s represented as “independent” and much lauded for her criticism of the US intervention in Syria, and for praising Assad as an anti-imperialist figure, while also maintaining public and longstanding ties with Hindu fascist forces on the subcontinent. Her small in number but highly motivated forces seem to be largely angling for a Sanders/Gabbard ticket, despite the increasing unlikeliness of such an alliance and despite the contradiction of such an openly anti-Semitic proto-fascist milieu endorsing someone as plainly culturally, if not religiously, Jewish as Bernie Sanders, as well as with Bernie’s own positions. This group rarely if ever criticizes Trump, but harshly criticizes all other progressive candidates and politicians including left-liberal Elizabeth Warren, but also AOC and Omar. Their “anti-imperialism” is quietly both antisemitic and Islamophobic, openly anti-feminist and opposed to all forms of “identity-politics,” which is very broadly construed. It amounts to right-isolationism.
On the other hand, Ilhan Omar, originally run as a clear avatar for liberal diversity politics and toward the realignment strategy, has played a genuinely historic role by openly and repeatedly condemning Zionism, over the discipline of the Democratic Party, despite opportunistic charges of antisemitism, and the overt threat of being ousted by other Democrats after one term. Rather than buckle under widespread misrepresentation, attack, and even formal congressional censure, Omar doubled down, extending her criticism to the “pretty”-yet-Imperial face of Barack Obama. She raised publicly, in a way no previous comparable public figures have, the essential fact and central problem of promises left unfulfilled and unacknowledged in the moment of liberal leadership, raising the specter of Obama’s campaign promise to close Guantanamo and the bald facts of his oversight of extensive war, torture and innovatively mass policy of deportation, internment, and “self-deportation” that paved the way for Trump’s assault on immigrants.
So all that said, how MC relates to politicians isn’t something we’ve set a protocol for, beyond our general agreement that Democratic Party elections are not a path to socialism and our strategic emphasis on prioritizing independent organizing. Implicit in that framing, is an argument that this problem can be overcome through direct action and demands, independently of the success or failures of any left candidate this I think is a developing consensus and shared practiced based on our points of unity as they refer to the state and to reforms.
As to whether Bernie, AOC, Omar, and the like are obstacles (it’s clear Gabbard is a dead end and a path to normalizing politics most closely resembling Strasserism), that is something the Marxist Center doesn’t have a fully worked out perspective on, even if we have defined differences with the DSA and I think a widely shared sensibility. While many left critics in and outside of DSA and MC condemn Sanders and the rest as not true socialists, as racists or liberal on race, the same for feminism and detached from organizing, I’d offer my own (highly personal and not endorsed by the full MC leadership) opinion.
It’s both true that Bernie and his tendency, and that AOC and hers can, (and already have done) thwart moments of opportunity for both the insurgent working class and for non-sectarian/non-Democratic Party aligned engagement and organizing with other left formations. In just one crucial example, as the most recent government shutdown reached an apex, Sarah Nelson, president of of the flight attendants union began to call for a general strike and civilian occupation of the airports. Bernie, AOC or Omar might have used their platform as public socialists to endorse this and to explicate the implicit logic of the action; that there is no need to “choose” between government workers being compelled to work for free and Mexican workers and migrants, or between the Democratic Party “alternative” of increasing security at the most militarized border in world history and building Trump’s highly impractical wall. But none did, or even close. Bernie voted for the bill that would fund the compromise, while AOC, in the lower body first voted for, then against it. Given that this threat alone was sufficient to reopen government without an agreement, there’s no reason at all that the imposed opposition between govt workers and “Mexicans” and immigrants, between starving the US working class and building a wall should have been allowed to prevail.
Bernie Sanders -in particular, as the most notable and widely respected “socialist” in the country- might have amplified and clarified Nelson’s call, pointing to the Faustian nature of the blackmail scheme imposed by Trump and to the proven spectre or reality of mass strike as the only plausible way forward. That he and others did not is a clear indication of the limits of the current “socialist” politics of electioneering. But AOC’s flip flop–along with symbolic “no” votes from standard issue Democratic Party liberals and neoliberals, Warren and Harris, demonstrates at least that, in primary season, even disorganized outcry from the left has some ability to sway the debate.
For this reason, I think that socialists should engage sufficiently to develop and organize that pressure, while building institutions of the working class that can enforce it. Even principled abstentionists should take the tack of praising the three left strains of “socialist” politician and their cohort when they “do the right thing.” while continuing to raise and identify and explain their limitations, both in terms of the class forces backing their candidacies and roles, and in terms of the conditions forced upon them by the formal and, most powerfully, informal pressure of the Democratic Party particularly with respect to Palestine and any border policy that includes significant scaling back of the extreme regime that currently prevails.
I think the pre-Bernie success of Kshama Sawant as a local and independent socialist candidate in Seattle suggests that the “ballot line” path taken up by Bernie Sanders and strategically justified by leading elements in the DSA was not the only possible path for a popular national-level socialist candidate, while at the same time its clear even her small success has been overwhelming to the small sect backing it (SALT, the US section of the CWI). The missed opportunities of Democratic Party affiliated socialist candidates suggest an alternative, and potentially important role for a candidate committed to using a large scale campaign or national office primarily for the purposes of propaganda. So in that sense, I am not principally opposed to a socialist electoral strategy.
That said, I am tactically opposed to this as an initiative of the Marxist Center in its current form and to our organized support for any candidate running as Democrat. The resources required for either version of a socialist electoral strategy are simply too burdensome for our group and really for the socialist left in the US as currently constituted, and inevitably entail both drains and pressures on the primary task of organizing independent working class power.
That said, supporting a Sanders run seems all but certain to be the primary activity of the majority of “socialists” in the US over the next two years and of the DSA. Its the task of an organized revolutionary left pole to engage this on three levels; interpersonal, organizational and in the sphere of debate and polemic. We should, in the first two levels, engage the reasons and motivations for socialists who are taking this up–in many cases their choice represents a commitment to goals and values we share. On an interpersonal level, this should be an ongoing conversation with criticism rooted not in abstract assumptions and conjecture, but in facts as they continue to unfold. At the level of organization, where we share projects for building tenant, worker, and social movement power we should advocate for independence, and similarly identify where the lack of it impedes forward motion and undermines these projects; for example, the notion that the teachers strikes–a “red” wave of class struggle first forming in “red states” dominated by Republicans (yes red iconography in the US is contradictory in the extreme) being channeled into a “blue wave” of electoral aspiration for Democrats, rather than into a further expansion of the strike itself and the development of leadership from the ranks of teachers, across and between existing teachers’ unions.
For the next period, it seems to me, this will be a wildly unpopular opinion. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome ─either Bernie loses in the primary again, he wins the nomination but loses to Trump in the general election, or he wins the Presidency─ socialists radicalized in or just before his first campaign or by the election of Trump are likely to be potentially demoralized in a way quite distinct from the last election. Then, Bernie’s candidacy was a surprise dark horse, and for many the first time that the word socialism had been uttered on a national stage in a way that needed to be taken seriously by the bourgeois media and establishment politicians. That “break” will not exist this time around, and it means it will be much harder to turn defeat into a victory for the social-democratic left. We will continue to see, as we already are, increasing numbers of the small but growing layer of radicalizing socialists looking for the kind of alternative that the Marxist Center represents and can begin to actualize. Building a real space for that is increasingly important as the existing sects on revolutionary left seen to be rapidly and dramatically collapsing.
MY: Marxist Center defines itself in terms of a strategy of “base-building”. Can you give us some examples of successful base-building that could help demonstrate what you mean by this?
KDG: There are a number of perspectives on this even within the Marxist Center, as well as without, as there is a “base building” tendency in the DSA as well. I can say for myself I think the conception has both a very important core orientation, while in practice it can be quite vague and on some level constitutionally apolitical.
In general when people refer to base-building, they mean building within and among the working class “for the long haul” rather than simply intervening in existing debates or institutions, and rather than agitation, protest and self-defense. However, base-building need not be hostile to these other forms of activity. Concretely, for the MC, it means a program of building tenants unions, shop-floor worker organization and, somewhat less often, worker and consumer co-ops. In other instantiations, base-building is sometimes used to refer to more service oriented projects, like food shares or in DSA, famously, the brake-light program of fixing brake-lights for free as a method of protecting working class Black and Latino communities from unnecessary police contact that might be potentially deadly, while agitating for socialist ideas.
I find the idea most useful as an expression of the importance of organizing outside and beyond the election cycle and outside service-model non-governmental agencies, who while formally apolitical, largely operate as a base for the Democratic Party machine. I’d like to see “base-building” develop, through the experience of MC collectives and other efforts in to a more specific strategy for reforming existing unions along the lines of rank and file democracy, building new workplace and shop-floor unions, industry-wide and cross-sectoral networks, tenants unions at the level of building, block, city, state and even beyond, combined with and supported by worker-controlled alternatives to patchwork, coercive, and neoliberal state and NGO services.
I think the best and fastest way to build this model, and these institutions, in relation to each other, is in the now increasingly common moments of confrontation, with landlords, city governments and bosses. “Social strike” tactics and ad hoc mutual aid that arise in moments of strike and struggle can be a basis for building longer organized connections between job and neighborhood and the spheres of production and reproduction, with the most potential, I think for building concrete relationships of solidarity across national borders yes, but also across the divisions internal to the class that occur within as well as across and between international lines.
MY: One question that often comes up when discussing the US left abroad is when, why, and how the CPUSA ceased to be a revolutionary organization. In your personal view, what trends within the CPUSA led to its current irrelevance, and how should Marxists in the US, whether they identify with Marxist Center or not, avoid such a retreat from revolutionary politics?
KDG: My interpretation of this really centers on struggles very far removed from today, two generations at least of the left and class struggle, so far, in fact that I don’t even think this is necessarily the most relevant cautionary tale for the left in the US today. That said, I mentioned above that my grandparents were members of the CPUSA, joining, near as I can tell, just before its underground period and operating in a geographic area of the US that was quite isolated from broader left politics for all of their adult lives.
Again, this is a question that I think will have many different answers among the perspectives housed in the Marxist Center, and really, because we have a layer of newly radicalized cadre, likely many who do not have a worked-out answer to this question. And really, there are several moments of crucial choice where the CP even once detached from class struggle and the possibility of independent working class organization might have turned back and renewed that line of fight, and moments where it partially did. I think that the late 1930’s represented a crucial moment in which the interests of the elements of the party now entrenched in the new bureaucracy formed out of a wave of militant class struggle took priority over further development of that class struggle, drawing talent and focus away from the shop floor and toward an orientation to popular frontism.
Even still, the victories of the period pressured the capitalist class to offer real concessions in the form of “The New Deal”; at this juncture the CP might have taken a left, militant and class conscious tack of demanding even more in the way of protection of the rights of workers to organize, pushing back against the “deals” exclusions of women, Black people and other racial minorities, fighting Jim Crow from that basis as well as the newly emerging system of racial disparity that would become entrenched through the “universal” entitlements of the GI bill combined with racist private sector discrimination and predatory norms in bank lending and housing sales.
None of this, of course, happened. The CPUSA, detached from its previous source of strength on the shop floor and neighborhoods was weak and vulnerable, forced underground with leading members jailed. The union bureaucracy had not only acceded to the nationalist need for a ban on WW2 era “war time” strikes, but accommodated itself to the legal realities of Taft-Hartley (1947) which outlaws many basic militant tactics, and also to the continued existence of Jim Crow, culminating in a purge of communists from the AFL-CIO.
As for lessons to be drawn, I think there are really three, which probably apply beyond the example of the CPUSA–first, internationalism or transnationalism. We have to cultivate an ethos but also a real practice of cross-border solidarity which engages and helps to build a global working class movement in fact, and which is not reduced to taking sides in battles of competing imperialisms or sub-imperialisms, or even just generally with the national bourgeois of any nation over the working class and communist organizations who reflect us, who really are and must be “us.” This is the essence of the error of the popular front in my view, but is also at the heart of a great many other sorts of mistakes. It entails an uncompromising commitment to the rights of migrants, to the free movement of the working class as a whole and in every instance. Second, a commitment to direct action at the point of production, as well as circulation, and even reproduction over and above (without being absolutely opposed to) contractualism or legalism. This is the source of our power over and always above any cross-class strategy of agenda-pushing and negotiation; in fact as soon as this is abandoned, so evaporates any power we may have to make deals and win reforms in the interim. Third, a clear assessment of the “universal” aspect of class struggle as something we have to build out of the divided and diverse reality of working class life and movement struggle, rather than something approximated at the level of lowest common denominator.
It can both be true that the ‘New Deal” was the closest the US has ever gotten to something like a welfare state, and that its a point of deep nostalgia for layers of working class people, most of whom have never lived in anything like it, and be true that it was a disaster for recomposition of the working class as such in the US, rendering the de jure gains in civil rights more toothless at the level of social end economic equality than they might have otherwise been, while sucking power and energy out of the movement that won even those limited and brief gains. I think it should be an object lesson in how we formulate and approach struggles today, for a “Green New Deal.” for “universal” health care, for full employment and also for the full civil rights of immigrants, women and queer people, and for how we think about confronting the overwhelming reality of deeply and systemically racist state violence in the US today.
MY: Does Marxist Center have any international connections? What is Marxist Center’s understanding of internationalism and how international solidarity can be built under current conditions?
KDG: There isn’t one perspective on this in the Marxist Center, beyond a general agreement that we oppose all imperialisms and the that we share a vision of a global revolutionary working class movement. For myself I can say I am deeply persuaded by arguments that the phrase “internationalism” relies too heavily on the assumption of nations states as a stage or step toward such a vision, and a 20th century approach to unity-in-diversity that I think fails to address the complexity that we are facing.
Beyond that, I think we are open to contact and dialogue with an array of groups in different countries. For my part, I am very excited to see a wave of women’s and feminist strikes across Europe and Latin America, and a growing global movement along these lines spreading to and influencing workplace struggle and open-ended street protests and demonstrations. For all the hyper-connectivity of the 21st century, the lines of any new international are far from clear, but this seems to be one avenue through which it could potentially emerge.
MY: Is there anything you’d like to add?
KDG: I don’t think so. Or, almost certainly so. Maybe two things; First, I think the real hope for and test of the Marxist Center is whether we can maintain a role as a left and revolutionary expression of the new wave of socialist/marxist/communist consciousness in the US that is both of this wave, open to it and one which concretely orients it to building independent organs of working class power. Furthermore, I hope we can translate that experience as it develops into theoretical framings and political interventions that are not, as has often been the case for revolutionary organizations in the last period, merely abstract even when correct. Our goal is not merely to interpret the world, and not merely to build a base, but to change it, to build a base for revolutionary working class politics, and for the purpose of exiting capitalism.
Second, this is clearly a project we cannot achieve alone–we have to, and quickly, consolidate forces toward this end in the US and with comrades abroad, around the world. That seems both, to me, a real possibility and a very daunting task. Sharing my thoughts with you, at least one small step partly in that direction.