In many ways a year-end review is artificial. The structures of injustice, oppression and environmental destruction continue to grind people down and seriously threaten all forms of life on this planet, and they will keep doing so next year. Conversely, progressive organizations of varying sizes and effectiveness, including some governments, will continue to resist and build alternatives, continue to strive toward a world in which the words, “peace on earth and good will to men and women,” will be not empty and hypocritical words but truly the operating principles of human society.
In a number of respects, 2005 has been a better year for us than might have been expected. One year ago many people on the Left were deeply apprehensive, scared of what a second Bush/Cheney term would bring.
Without doubt, there is much damage that has been done this year by the cabal running the government. Their criminal neglect after Katrina led to much unnecessary and continuing suffering and death. They are deliberately denying the science which tells us that global warming is real, it is accelerating and that there is an urgent need for governments to take action now to slow and stop it. They continue the war, they continue support of Israel’s occupation, they continue to attack the rights of labor, they continue to cut back on programs for “the least of these.” The list can go on and on. They are doing and attempting to do what we expected.
But they have failed in a number of ways. The effort to weaken Social Security was an abject failure. The war in Iraq has gotten worse, the U.S. peace movement demonstrated its strength in August and September and, as a result, the Bushites have lost the support of a majority of the U.S.
American people and growing numbers of Congresspeople. Just recently, at the United Nations Climate Conference in Montreal, thanks to international mass demonstrations, effective lobbying by environmentalists and nearly unanimous world sentiment, they were unable to prevent an agreement by 180 nations to move forward to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol. And just this week they came up short in their attempt to get the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act extended, although it is uncertain what the final results in this area will be.
What about movement toward a more unified, mass-based, progressive alternative to both Republicans and Democrats?
Without such a movement and its organizational expression, a political party or something functioning like it, there is really no hope that U.S. society will ever fundamentally change for the better.
Here the concrete developments in 2005 are certainly limited.
As far as the two major third party groups, the Green Party and the Labor Party, neither has made much progress this year. They are both alive, they are active in various respects, and there are some modest accomplishments, but “treading water” feels like the most honest summation of their situation, and that may be a generous description.
The call by Minister Louis Farrakhan for a “party of the people” at the October 16th demonstration in D.C. organized by the Millions More Movement was a potentially significant development, but so far there has not been much follow up.
United Progressives for Democracy, a grouping that emerged a year ago out of a meeting organized by the Independent Progressive Politics Network, has played a valuable role as a meeting point, a “circuit center” for a range of progressive leadership, most recently around post-Katrina coordinated action, but its potential is certainly much greater than what it has been able to actually accomplish so far.
Finally, there have been various statements and articles from prominent labor, African American and women’s movement leaders to the effect that we can’t keep blindly supporting the Democrats and/or that we need to be looking for alternatives. However, these haven’t been much more than statements, have not taken concrete shape as far as actual organizing.
An optimist would say about all of this that, given the reactionary, repressive nature of the Bush regime, we should feel positive that we’ve been able to accomplish what we have, that we’re still very much alive and kicking, that we’ve in no way lost our will to resist and that there are grounds for hope that, sooner or later, this year or some future year, we’ll get it together and burst forth onto the U.S.
political scene with the multi-cultural, multi-issue, mass-based independent political force so clearly needed.
A pessimist would say that we’re still spinning our wheels, unwilling or unable to join together into a potent, dynamic coalition, able to talk together, yes, but not act and organize together.
Both would be right.
Will 2006 see a change?