Jack Ross: New Dynamics On The American Left

Less than a week before September 11, I was at a pool hall in Adams Morgan, the night club district in Washington, chatting it up with a girl who works as a bike courier in Downtown Washington. The massive protests that were planned for the upcoming world bank meeting entered the conversation, and we both contemplated the carnage that would come of the protests. “Its gonna be a nightmare” she said, neither of us having any idea of the inconceivable nightmare that would befall the world in just another six days.

Have the events of September 11 brought any halt to the rise of militant hard left protest in America and the world? Hardly. Only six weeks prior had their numbers in Genoa risen to 200,000, and the crowd overwhelmingly radical and the carnage reaching unprecedented levels including the loss of life, and the events in Washington were expected to only be worse. But the World Bank meetings were cancelled and so were the expectations of an unprecedented state of emergency in Washington that weekend. But the opportunism of the leaders of the protests did anything but subside in the wake of the attacks. On September 29, the day that would have been the peak of the World Bank protests, a rally was held in its place to “stop war and end racism”.

The rally drew 5000 (though organizers made the ludicrous claim of 20,000), and the message sent was crystal clear: the neo-Communist movement isn’t going anywhere. Had the attacks on America not halted their momentum, recent protests in Canada and Europe that just barely lived up to previous events could have swelled as much as to a million, and may have led to full fledged battle. But there is no reason to expect that such possibilities have ceased, for while the neo-Communist movement is taking a significantly different shape than it had before, it will be just as strong if not stronger, as the upcoming protests at the World Economic Forum in New York are expected to get the movement back where it left off.

Recent History Of Anarchism

Among academics, the neo-Communist movement is considered to be simply the post-New Left or Third Era in the history of the American left, and we will certainly not dispute that premise here. So it is natural that we should find that the modern anarchist movement, which while certainly not the main ideological force behind neo-Communism is the source of its surprisingly large cadre, to largely be an outgrowth of the New Left. One of the fathers of the anarchist movement as we know it today is Murray Bookchin, who had led the Trotskyist faction of SDS. Upon the disintegration of SDS, Bookchin held on to a following that was surprisingly strong through the 70s and 80s known as the Social Ecology Project. In 1987, the SEP merged with the organizing committee to form a US Green Party, and became the Left Green Network.

In its infancy, the Green Party was largely made up of rugged individualist environmentalists mostly from the western US. The merger with Bookchin’s following did relatively little to change this since they themselves were largely anarchist. But it was the entry of the Left Green Network that steered it in a direction that allowed it to become the Marxist-statist organization that it is today. When they merged with the social democratic Association of State Green Parties (ASGP), they took on a clearly left leaning tone, and of course, the real undercutting of their revolutionary potential came with their nomination of super-statist Ralph Nader for President. It was this combination of factors that made the Green Party into the swamp of hard leftists it is now on the verge of becoming.

It was, therefore, that there was a distinctly leftist character to the example set by Murray Bookchin. But the tendency toward violence was not set by Bookchin, but by another hard leftist - Ward Churchill, author of the book “Pacifism as Pathology”, which lays out the doctrine followed by the Black Bloc, which was formed by many different strains of anarchists under the example of Murray Bookchin. Churchill, who is part Cherokee, was a leader of the American Indian Movement, which modeled itself after the Black Panthers and contained both hard leftists and anarchists. Churchill was considered among the leftists but he supported AIM leader Russell Means after the leftists broke with him when he had helped in exposing the atrocities committed by the Sandinistas against indigenous people.

When asked about his ideology, Churchill says that he is not a Marxist, proclaiming it to be “Eurocentric”. But he is in lockstep with the so called “progressives” who align themselves with both the hard leftists and the anarchists in the anti-globalization movement. Taken together with his activities with AIM, this would point to his being an outright pro-third world imperialist, a thinly veiled version of which is becoming the ever dominant tendency on the left. What then, has brought this kind of reaction to the left, and how could anarchists ever align themselves with these sorts of leftist reactionaries?

Recent History of the Hard Left

“Our understanding of the national question deepened our understanding of all the other special oppressions - of women, and of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people”. This most unusual form of Stalinism, characterized by the above statement, has become the prevailing tendency among hard leftists in America. The statement was made by Larry Holmes, one of the leaders of the Workers World Party, in his eulogy to the party’s leader, Sam Marcy. It is most appropriate that such a self-satirizing statement was made in a eulogy to Marcy, for he in the white bread world of the 1950s created out of Trotskyism this most unusual form of Stalinism that would become the ideological basis for the pro-third world imperialism that dominates the American far left and indeed that of the whole world.

Sam Marcy had been a leading activist in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the 40s and 50s. Marcy was a leader of the “Global Class War” tendency in the SWP, which urged that the geopolitical defense of “socialism” took priority over the Trotskyist argument against Soviet bureaucracy. Their ideology dictated that the Cold War was in fact a “global class war”, which essentially translated into the belief in a struggle of the whole world against “American Imperialism”. What this meant in practice was demonstrated by the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, over which Marcy’s following broke from the SWP and became the Workers World Party. The Workers World doctrine was revolutionary, for it was the antithesis of what had been the core intellectual foundation of the American Left - that it was the ultimate realization of the American democratic project. It was with this that Workers World was the first to be bombastically anti-Israel, and that it was the first to declare sexual minorities as a part of the proletariat.

Workers World barely made a blip on the 60s radar - that one blip, most tellingly, was that their front group, Youth Against War And Fascism, was the one group to support the Weathermen at the SDS convention in 1969 where it broke up. But what gave it life was that it was the one group from the Old Left to support the New Left - it was the only group to openly align itself with the Black Panthers and with the infamous Young Lords, a Puerto Rican street gang claiming the status of revolutionaries. On an international scale, this translated into simple pro-third world imperialism, which has been quite successfully propagated through their front group, the International Action Center (IAC). So while Workers World is the dominant force today, its rivals have only been able to challenge them because they have adopted this same world view. The main case in point is the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which was the largest and most cohesive splinter from SDS, and is the US affiliate of the Maoist International. They have arguably been more successful at the Workers World’s game of establishing a front group, Refuse and Resist, which has found for itself a niche in American pop culture.

With this path into outright pro-third world imperialism being taken by the hard left, the less hard core have taken the path of the post-Soviet Communists of Europe, which is that of Reform Communism, which seeks to achieve revolution by working within the parliamentary system. A most intriguing drama is unfolding now as there is a growing synthesis of Reform Communism and modern pro-third world imperialism. Both the Reform Communists and those in affinity with Workers World are working toward the subversion of the Green Party. But as you will see, the story of American Reform Communism and the path it has taken toward such synthesis is one of good old fashioned Leninist thirst for power.

Recent History of the CPUSA

Much of the rise and relative success of Reform Communism in America is due to the work of one Ron Daniels. Little is known of Daniels’ origins, but it is believed he was a protege of the American Afro-Communist poet Amiri Baraka, who in many ways was the Al Sharpton of his time. Starting in the early 70s, the CPUSA was able to establish a friendly working relationship with many liberal anti-war and environmental groups, most notably the anti-nuclear group SANE, and had even gained a foothold in the institution perhaps most responsible for blunting the rise of the CPUSA in the 30s and 40s - the black church. With this, they were able to wield significant influence in many left-liberal circles, and hence had great influence on the Jesse Jackson campaign. As a member of Jackson’s inner circle, Ron Daniels was the undisputed leader of the campaign’s Communist faction. When Jackson decided to focus his energies on helping build the Democratic Party, Daniels and his cadre left and began to take the third party route.

But Black America was rejecting the hollow answers being given by Jesse Jackson and in more radical form by Ron Daniels. Those who would not support the Democratic Party had many options, prime among them the dynamic populist leadership of Lenora Fulani - who by 1988 was the undisputed leader of the independent left, and was already looking for ways to move beyond left and right. Daniels saw how Fulani had shown many black people the inadequacies of Jackson’s leadership, thereby greatly sabotaging Daniels’ efforts to subvert the organization on behalf of the CPUSA. So Daniels knew the first step in his rise to power had to be to undercut Fulani’s support. He quickly found an ally in this endeavor - the Old Left faction of the California Peace and Freedom Party, which had made a viscous but unsuccessful attempt to block Fulani from receiving their nomination for President in 1988.

In 1992, Fulani and Ron Daniels were the two major candidates for the Peace and Freedom Party nomination. In the popular vote, Fulani received 51% to Daniels’ 33%, but Daniels underhandedly tampered with the delegate vote in order to get the nomination for himself. This debacle was the beginning of the end of the Peace and Freedom Party, which is now defunct, but to Ron Daniels it was only the first step in his rise to power. Fulani was moving on from this left wing childishness, and has gone on to become arguably the foremost beyond left and right agitator in America, but Ron Daniels, with his capture of the Peace and Freedom Party, went on to gain a foothold in the up and coming Green Party, and established a front group for his operations, the Center For Constitutional Rights.

In the meantime, the CPUSA had no choice after the events of 1989-91 but to revert to becoming an extremist wing of the Democratic Party. This was easier for them to do and gave them a lot more traction because of the bridges they had built with the so-called “progressive” community. The key event in making the CPUSA any kind of serious force was in 1997 when the AFL-CIO lifted its ban on Communist membership. Naturally, because of the irrelevance of the CPUSA, the AFL-CIO thought this would be not but a ceremonial gesture, but they were mistaken. Though there has only been significant subversion in the California AFL-CIO, their strength is growing. There is already a hard left trend emerging, as the San Francisco Labor Council has recently endorsed IAC led actions against the upcoming World Economic Forum meeting.

The biggest boon for the Reform Communists has been the debacle of the 2000 Presidential election. While the hard leftists were hurrying to jump on this bandwagon (in fact, before Election Day they were already planning to protest the death penalty among other things), the CPUSA was in a perfect position to capitalize on the sentiment of rather mainstream Democrats, and with that established a new front group, Votermarch. Votermarch most notably established its presence at May 2001 rallies in Washington and San Francisco, and quite fortunately many third party and beyond left and right activists managed to get a large piece of the pie. Votermarch quickly signed on when Ron Daniels began to build his mass movement at his Pro-Democracy Convention in June 2001, and just like at the Votermarch rallies (I attended both of these events), the prevailing sentiment was in favor of broad based populism.

Had it not been the circumstances that gave birth to the rise of Reform Communism in America, the independent left would have stayed and continued to grab on to the Fulani bandwagon, and her largely successful work in building bridges and moving beyond left and right would have given birth to a massive broad based populist movement in America. But be that as it may, the rank and file that have found themselves supporting the Reform Communists overwhelmingly favor broad based populism, and the evidence suggests that the rank and file among the more intelligent anarchists favors this as well, albeit a more radical version of it. But you can not truly transcend left and right unless you transcend the radical vs. moderate dichotomy as well. In any event, more and more of these radicals are realizing the kind of box they’ve been put into, and are struggling to find a way out.

An Interesting Three-Way Dance

Up until now I have demonstrated how these three trends emerged and evolved into what they are today, but most important is how and why they have converged as they have. Naturally, the story begins at Seattle, which if not the birth of the neo-Communist movement was certainly its coming out party. Many “progressive” leaders of Seattle and more notably in Washington the following April condoned and in some case even supported anarchist street violence. The reasons for this were put so brutally honestly by Nadine Bloch, the de facto leader of the World Bank protests in April 2000, when she quipped on more than one occasion “what kind of attention would we have gotten if there were no broken windows?”. So the “progressives” wanted nothing to do with these anarchists, but they had every intention of using them for their own purposes.

As for the hard left, however, they wanted everything to do with the anarchists and every intention of using them for their own purposes. This was a central reason for the success of the RCP through Refuse and Resist over the clearly dominant Workers World. Refuse and Resist, especially through the endorsement of the pop-alternative powerhouse Rage Against The Machine, allowed the RCP to easily conform to the MTV image of a revolutionary, which IAC/Workers World could not. So through the guise of formally establishing the Black Bloc as the Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Bloc, there was an easy way to get the anarchists working for the Communists, with a basic sectarian unity at work in the following way: Refuse and Resist is run by Clark Kissinger, who is also a chief member of the legal team of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who while a deity to the whole neo-Communist movement, is mostly in affinity with IAC since the main Mumia advocacy group, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, is clearly a part of the IAC web.

The best example of how the movement under IAC’s leadership operates was how they mobilized to protest the last Presidential Inauguration. They were already planning to come out to protest the death penalty among other things, but when the debacle of the 2000 election occurred, they had a gold mine on their hands. Before the actual event, they used traditional tactics toward taking over anarchist groups involved, but at the actual event, they had a group of black blockers obstruct a march to the Inaugural parade led by Votermarch, which forced the entire rather mainstream group into the IAC crowd, which made IAC appear as the dominant force in the crowd of tens of thousands. Most telling is that the one significant group of protestors to escape the clutches of the IAC was that led by Al Sharpton.

While significant divisions have never been addressed, by the time of the absolutely volatile riots surrounding Quebec and Genoa, the entire hard left, including the anarchists, were working in coalition with the IAC. But the real conflict came when the IAC web and the CPUSA web began to further intertwine. At the Pro-Democracy Convention in June, there was no sign of the hard left - except for a few scant pieces of IAC literature and a sudden crash by no more than five teenybopping RCPers. But the growing ties became clear at the IAC led antiwar demonstrations - when the speakers included Ron Daniels and Cheri Honkala, the leader of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, a front for the League of Revolutionaries For a New America, a group on the fringes between the Reform Communists and the hard left with remarkable mainstream appeal, formerly known as the Communist Labor Party.

It was clear from the entire scope of the Reform Communist presence at the antiwar demonstration that Ron Daniels was focusing on capturing the entire left - the League of Revolutionaries for a New America is a member organization of the Independent Progressive Politics Network (IPPN), which was the original front for Daniels’ operation. Where such Leninism combined with just barely disguised pro-third world Imperialism leads was made abundantly clear this past October 31, when the New Black Panther Party, a hard core black supremacist organization, took over the National Press Club. This event attracted a wide array of white leftists, traditional black leftists, and other curious observers, to listen to Muslim fundamentalists come out in open support of the Taliban regime, praise what had be fallen America, and yet still not blame it on them.

The featured speaker at this event was Malik Zulu Shabazz, the leader of the New Black Panthers, who showed the charisma to convince the far left to follow him in establishing a black supremacist order, which is the exact realization of the pro-third world Imperialism that is being promoted by the hard left. Shabazz has in turn derived a unique synthesis of the classic Communist strategy of being wrong about everything except the ravages of war and to a lesser extent racism, with the classic Fascist strategy of being wrong about everything except the tyranny of the international bankers. Here is where you begin to see fault lines in the neo-Communist movement: whereas the anarchists are always for the most part uneasy with their alliance with the Stalinists, it is this ultimate realization of neo-Communist totalitarianism in the form of the New Black Panthers that the anarchists see where the path they have taken has led them, for they actually believe the hard leftist tales of the boogeyman called racism.

However, for whatever signs pop up here and there about the anarchists breaking from the movement, it does not appear as though it will happen, because the anarchists are trapped in the box they have put themselves in. Even more so now, since the orthodox assumption was that the anarchists were being driven out largely because of their distaste for the “progressives”, it was indeed the “progressives” who began this web of exploitation, and it is they who in bringing their gross PC ideology, which has been grossly amplified to self-satirizing levels by the Stalinists, who ironically may have saved the movement from fracturing by creating tolerance for violence under gross PC guise of “diversity of tactics”.

But there is a way out for the anarchists, and more and more of them are finding it, which is to move beyond left and right. Indeed there are those who for their part are reaching out to them. Most striking was a statement in a recent column by arch-constitutionalist Joseph Sobran which said “while it would indeed be a great improvement to restore the Constitution, there are certain purists who say that even this small amount of government power is too much (don’t tell the kids, but Patrick Henry was one of them!)”. If only the anarchists can take this wide and open road out of the box, they just might evolve into a serious political force with a serious ideology of their own.


The organizational future of the anarchists, to the extent that there is such a thing, was made clear this past January 12, when a large convergence of anarchists, mostly led by Anti-Racist Action, was made on York, PA, where they sought to violently shut down a lecture held by World Church Of The Creator leader Matt Hale. The anarchists ended up badly beaten, with scores among their ranks arrested and/or injured. Observers of this anarchist current note that it would only take two or three more incidents such as this to smash the anarchist movement. But the anarchists are completely and totally delusional in how they have assessed the situation. Not only have they convinced themselves that they won in York, but they actually believe that their success in getting several scores of mostly intoxicated local black youth into the fray constitutes their success in leading the working class.

As long as the anarchists subscribe to these sorts of delusions, they will keep at their vainglorious efforts to “smash fascism”, but the growing strength of the white supremacists will make for many future scenes harkening back to Weinmar Germany. If one would take the parallel to Weinmar Germany and run with it, this may quite ironically spell the ultimate fate of the neo-Communist movement - the neo-Communists would be nowhere today had it not been for their ability to exploit the anarchists, both in terms of using it as a source of cadre and in using their antics to get attention in the real world. Now that the anarchists have gotten themselves in a horrible mess of a box, there are two possibilities: either they will drag the neo-Communists down with them or the neo-Communists will abandon the anarchists and thereby largely kill themselves.

On the other hand, just as the very entry and presence of the “progressives” kept the movement from fracturing before, they just might do it yet again, and if they do the consequences and ramifications will be enormous. The fusion of the neo-Communists and the “progressives” would mean the near credibility of this largely Stalinist ideology. This comes at the same time as the influence of the CPUSA within the Democratic Party continues unabated, and as it will only continue to grow as the Democrats plan to take back the government on a platform of a welfare-warfare state under the Republican-invented fascist guise of “homeland security”. Not to mention the likelihood that just as in the 60s, today’s radicals will grow up to be leaders of the liberal mainstream. But we should not look on this with desperation. Time is on our side, as surely this wave of radicalism has only begun, and now more than ever, all that the rank and file of the movement wants is broad based populism that moves beyond left and right.

Nowhere was this more clear than at a Green Party function in Pennsylvania I attended this past December. The two keynote speakers were campaign reform agitator and true American hero Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who has always spoken in favor of moving beyond left and right, and Mike Morrill, the Green Party candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. Morrill spoke of the work he had done as a consumer advocate in building unity in the struggle, and all those in attendance to whom I spoke said they overwhelmingly favored the broad based program that Morrill spoke for. Two things were most telling: first, that the event was held at the same time as a nearby neo-Communist ruse (free Mumia rally), and second, that when I paid an old labor singer in attendance in NORFED’s American Liberty Currency, she was absolutely thrilled.

In short, the creature is still rising one way or another, but there is every hope that we will indeed move beyond left and right. What exactly will happen next will be clear at the upcoming protests of the World Economic Forum meetings in New York. Should the protests be successful, let this be the story of how we got here, and should they be a bust, let this serve as a chronicle of what a long strange trip its been.

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Author`s name Editorial Team