Simultaneously, Socialists can proudly proclaim our support for two ideas that have fueled Occupy – horizontalism and direct action. Democratic socialism is horizontalism.
Statement of the Socialist Party USA National Action Committee
Most years, May Day is an opportunity for socialists to look backward. This year, thanks in large part to the appearance of Occupy Wall Street (OWS), we are looking forward. The future is, as it always has been, filled with both the treacherous pitfalls of capitalism and the glorious opportunities to create a world based on justice and equality. This May Day, Socialist Party USA members will take to the streets all over the country to offer a vision of another, better world, that is possible.
Clearly, OWS is a critical movement for the future of the Left in America. Socialists have important contributions to make to this movement. We can demonstrate the way in which political protest can be organized into multiple forms of resistance to the system. These include the spectacular direct actions carried out by Occupy along with community organizing, rank and file trade union organizing and even left independent electoral campaigning. Ultimately, the goal of our movement is to contest the influence of capitalism in every part of our lives. To help to inspire a movement capable of organizing a society based on grassroots democracy that makes sure that wealth is controlled by those who create it.
Simultaneously, Socialists can proudly proclaim our support for two ideas that have fueled Occupy – horizontalism and direct action. Democratic socialism is horizontalism. If, for a moment, we think backwards we will find that at the origins of the Socialist movement at the turn of the 20thcentury, anarchists and socialists worked closely together to create a vibrant anti-capitalist movement. Subsequent efforts at the “vertical” organization of socialism during the revolutions of the 20thcentury extinguished much of the democratic impulse of early socialism. Those of us in the democratic socialist side of the movement have always kept this horizontal vision of early socialism alive. We share that value with Occupy and we should look to collaborate with other socialists interested in pushing this idea forward.
And, Socialist Party USA members have always been at the forefront of direct action initiatives. Non-violent civil disobedience has always been a hallmark of first, the Socialist Party of America and then the SP-USA. Think Eugene Debs protesting World War I, or A. Philip Randolph leading the Civil Rights movement or David McReynolds protesting the Vietnam War or, more recently, members of the SP-USA engaging in direct actions to protest war, or anti-union legislation. If horizontalism is our goal, non-violent civil disobedience is our democratic weapon to get there.
We will need all the momentum and enthusiasm that OWS has inspired, because in important ways the future also looks quite bleak. Capitalism has transitioned from the public looting that defined the immediate aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008 to the politics of austerity that are being imposed all over the world. Austerity has swept across Europe, decimating a once significant social safety net and driving millions of people into unemployment and previously unheard of levels of deep poverty. The same is true in other parts of world, as capitalist governments roll back all manner of supports.
This global trend is sure to hit the US in a significant manner after the 2012 Presidential elections. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have dedicated themselves to the politics of austerity. Romney with a cruel glee and Obama behind a public relations mask that offers empty claims of “hope” and “change.” Socialists can begin to resist this drive towards austerity today by involving themselves in local movements against budget cuts and by putting their energy into the Socialist Party Presidential campaign of Stewart Alexander and Alex Mendoza. Though the pair will not win the elections, their campaign represents the clearest socialist voice in the elections against the coming capitalist cutbacks. This effort should work seamlessly with the existing campaigns against the cuts.
So, on this May Day, Socialists can raise our banners high in the streets, we can join with the OWS protests and we can encourage others to join us in resistance. Though we can find inspiration and intellectual sustenance in the past, ours should be a movement with an eye toward the future. As the old Civil Rights slogan reminds us, “keep your eyes on the prize.” And, in this case, the prize is a new society where a job for all, housing for all, education for all and freedom for all becomes the norm. Long live May Day!