Save “Our” Democracy!??

by Christian Gebhardt

The Republicans are out to bring down “our” democracy. The upcoming midterm elections will be a choice between an extremist autocracy or the real deal: the “best democracy” we’ve ever seen on earth. Or at least that’s what the Democrats are trying to make us believe three months ahead of the midterms in November. Afraid of losing their razor thin majority, the Democrats are pointing to the fact that more and more Republican primaries are swinging towards the Trump-backed candidate instead of the “moderate” choice. These radical Trumpers will be a threat not only to democratic rights (e.g. abortion rights or gay marriage) but also to democracy as a whole.

And there is a grain of truth to that. The primary results in favor of hardcore Trumpers for the coming midterm elections are not only a sign of Trumpism’s ongoing influence inside the Republican Party, but also a sign of a continuing influence on politics and society even after Trump left office. The Republican Party is in the midst of a right turn fueled by a base of constituents that believe the “big lie” theory of the stolen election putting pressure on “moderate” Republicans to either lay low for now or change their politics. Either way it speaks to a right shift of the Republican Party that for revolutionaries is not all that surprising. However, whether this shift to the right comes from a true belief or from opportunism, it’s still a legitimate threat to many democratic rights of the US working class as a whole: i.e. attacks on abortion rights, gay marriage, voting rights, etc.

Overall, the current situation in the US can be characterized as a polarization in which the far-right, partnered with the christian-right, is gaining more and more influence and the ability to push through specific points of their agendas.

But who are those “moderates?”

Democrats are calling on moderate Republicans to come to their senses and start realizing the reality of the current Republican Party. One person most popular in this so-called moderate pile is Liz Cheney, a politician that voted 93% of the time with Donald Trump’s policies and was not known as part of the “progressive wing”, whatever that phrase means, inside the Republican Party. With her defense of the harshest forms of economic neoliberalism against the working class and of waterboarding and torture as legitimate foreign policy options, she could not have been defined as a “moderate” by any Democrat even as recently as two years ago.

So what changed? Cheney found her way into the heart of Democrats by taking a stance against Trump’s involvement in the January 6th attack on Congress, her role in the “January 6th” committee, and her vote in Trump’s second impeachment. Although, these were important political stands against Trump’s form of authoritarianism, they can’t wash away her prior political life as a hard core right wing politician who was, politically, just as nefarious as her infamous father, former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney.

Democrats election strategy for the midterms

So this poses the question: why are the Democrats now praising Cheney? We could give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt and say that they believe that Cheney’s politics changed fundamentally and that she is now a respectful ally. However even if the Democrats are stupid enough to think that, it points more to their overarching misguided strategy for the midterms, a topic that is much more important to look at.

Painting Cheney as a moderate and calling on her and her supporters to search and strengthen common ground means that the Democrats are trying to, on the one hand, put pressure on Republican lawmakers to either vote with them on certain issues or break ranks and change parties altogether. On the other hand, they are imploring these Republican “moderates” along with independents and undecided voters, to vote for democracy. And this means voting for the Democratic Party.

For us revolutionaries it is important to note, rather unsurprisingly, that the working class does not play any role in that strategy. Instead of an orientation towards the working class to fight the rise of the far-right and Trumpism in the US, the Democrats are trying to convince us to join forces with people that are partly responsible for the political right shift we are facing in the first place. Another sign that the democratic establishment is taking a stance contrary to the best interest of the working class is its current use of this debate to attack the progressive wing inside the Democratic Party for being “too radical” and in fact not any better than the radical Republicans, a disgusting form of “both sides” equivalency. Even if we don’t agree with the political strategy of this progressive wing either, we see it as necessary to point out this attack and call on the members of this wing to draw the correct conclusions!

Bourgeois Democracy – the glue that holds it together

The Democrats are obviously not proclaiming openly that their strategy is actually not to fight Trumpism on behalf of the workers. They assert that the fight for democracy is the most important one and that everyone should rally around it. Opposing the Democrats, even if from the left, puts them in the wrong camp and thus, not worth working with. This call to defend “our Democracy” is the glue meant to hold this strategy together and bind working class activists to the Democratic Party, even when the Democratic Party is not on the side of the laboring class.

However, no one mentions the character of this “Democracy”. It is painted as an abstract, natural law instead of what it really is: bourgeois democracy! A social structure that is in place to rule and defend capitalism and its destructive forces. A “democracy” that puts the burden of crises on the shoulders of the working class while it makes sure that the profits for the capitalists keep flowing. In short, a democracy that we as revolutionaries want to eliminate and replace with a workers’ democracy and a workers’ state! A state that is truly run by the people, for the people and not by a puppet show completely favoring the capitalists.

We need a workers party!

The fight for an abstract democracy that in reality is a fight for a bourgeois democracy and is not an option for US workers. Instead of working within the Democratic Party, trying to fight for more progressive positions and influence inside a party that doesn’t want them – as Bernie Sanders, the DSA or Representatives like the Squad are trying to make us believe – we need an open and clean break with the Democratic Party. This break should lead to a Workers’ Party, a party that truly puts the perspective of the workers and their struggles to the forefront, not only when it helps to gain more leverage or votes in elections, but that can also lead the day to day struggles of working people in the USA. A party that engages with the ongoing strike waves, the fightbacks against the elimination of reproductive rights, voting right restrictions, gay marriage, and all the rest of the attacks on democratic rights that are happening right now. A party that will build a coalition of representatives of all our current struggles for a united fightback. A party that allows workers to finally decide about their politics and their political program.

Organizations like the DSA or Labor Notes should lead such an initiative and form local branches to give a structure for a political debate that should focus on producing a program and campaign plan. These debates should not include only rank-and-file organizations of the working class but also call on the trade unions to participate, to break their affiliations with the Democrats and to join such an initiative in full force. Even if we know that the trade union leadership will not willfully engage in such an initiative or will sabotage it if necessary, we should call for their participation. This way the leadership will present its rotten core to its own membership, giving us the perfect arguments to break with them and join our cause.

We revolutionaries have to engage in such an initiative fighting for a revolutionary perspective. We should organize ourselves as a revolutionary current inside such an initiative, based on a revolutionary action program. We argue for this program and try to gather as many members as possible to fight for that program inside as well as outside of the party. Such tactic would inevitably lead to only two possible outcomes: either we end up winning the majority of the party for our revolutionary program and, thus, creating a revolutionary workers’ party or it would lead to an open split inside the initiative with reformist and centrist forces. A split, however, that would bring to light a stronger and more focused revolutionary organization in the US. An organization that would enable us revolutionaries to argue for our revolutionary ideas with a stronger voice in the current struggles of the working class, e.g.: the necessity of overcoming bourgeois democracy by implementing workers’ democracy and forming a workers’ state!