January 6: What It Was and What Socialists Should Do About It

by Matei Alexandru

August 17, 2022

January 6, 2021 represents one of the most controversial political moments in the recent history of the United States. It has stoked the impassioned response of every part of the political spectrum. It has stirred every commentator and organisation into frenzied attempts to rationalise and explain it. And it has meant many different things to nearly everyone who has an opinion on it. To conservatives, it was an attempt to prevent a fraudulent transfer of power in the name of the "legitimate" president. To liberals, it was an attack on the heart of democracy, and the closest we have yet come to its demise.

What is it to socialists? And comrades, what should it mean to our Party in particular? This has been the most confusing aspect of it all. The liberal and conservative responses make perfect sense. It is the way the socialist movement has reacted to events that seems confused and contradictory. Different tendencies within different organisations have taken different positions. Some have taken distinctly liberal positions praising the response of the security state. Others have looked at events as if a fascist seizure of power was right on the doorstep and called for mass mobilisations that have not amounted to anything in the year since the protest happened. It seems that the smallest portion of the socialist movement has observed events both with sober analysis and deft response.  Speaking strictly to you, comrades of our Party: there are lessons of incalculable importance to learn, and as a multi-tendency Party where these less sound interpretations of events earlier described is bound to have a degree of representation among our comrades, these lessons must be learned well. These lessons pertain to the class dynamics of the country, the relationship between the "Trumpist" movement and an emergent fascist movement, the health of the capitalist state, and what our Party's present priorities should be and how to achieve them. And based on a year of subsequent study and rhetoric, one might be forgiven for thinking the socialist movement has confused itself in its dismay. It is a reasonable assessment that many in this movement cannot see a clear path forward as it contends with an unstable liberal republic and a fascist movement that does in fact exist in the country. As a party, we must too discuss events and arrive at an understanding that either places us among the rabble, or distinguishes us a party that clearly perceives the political and social forces at play.

What WAS January 6?

First, if we are to learn anything from these events, we must view them through a clear lens. That is to say we should do away with how our revolutionary yearnings would have liked things to be and instead contend with them as they concretely happened. Many times, the difference between "protest" and "coup attempt" or "insurrection" is a difference in the emotional investment of the various ideologues and not a difference in the material realities of the matter at hand. No one questions whether anyone was chanting "hang Mike Pence," but whether that registers for a person as a protest action or a play for governing power depends on whatever the observer is projecting onto the facts. What is the rhetoric surrounding the protest (the only term I feel to be accurate)? Again, different take-aways from different organisations and tendencies. After taking stock of the contending positions, I will weigh them against a relevant statement our Party released which addresses both the events of the 6th and the inauguration of Joe Biden in the wake of the protests. It is important for us to place our Party in relation to the rest of the socialist movement, differentiate our position, and determine if it is a correct one. I will come back to that at the end of this section. Let's first consider the positions within the largest socialist organisation in the country: Democratic Socialists of America. While plenty of comrades among our Party would not include DSA in the socialist movement proper, we must understand that much of the general public thinks of them first when they think of socialism. Therefore, we must include their position in this analysis since this organisation will undoubtedly be lumped in with the rest of the socialist movement for a long time to come. Even if they are defunct organisation solidly within the grip of liberal politics (the contending positions of its local branches being neither here nor there), the general public still sees it as a socialist organisation and our Party must clearly differentiate itself.

 

In a statement by the Akron, Ohio local chapter, we find the following:

"The insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 was a fascist uprising" (Akron DSA. "Press Release on January 6 Vigil for Demcoracy", 2022)

The same statement described the crowd as "heavily armed" and ended the statement with the following call:

"We call for our elected officials to ensure all responsible for the insurrection be removed from public service positions, to protect the integrity of our elections, and to expand voting rights. We call upon our community to join us in promoting democracy in our government, our community organizations, and our workplaces." (ibid.)

 

Compare this against Bryan D. Palmer's article "The Meaning of January 6, 2021" in Jacobin Magazine. I choose these two pieces because neither official DSA publications, Democratic Left or Socialist Forum have significant material on January 6. Though my own research did not reveal whether Palmer is a member of DSA, Jacobin is widely acknowledged as an associated (though unofficially) publication. For the purposes of this article, I will operate on the assumption that the tendencies espoused in it are to be found among DSA members. Palmer writes, in stark contrast to the Akron statement:

"The Capitol riot that has sparked such vehement condemnation among liberal commentators and sitting members of the United States Congress was certainly troubling, given the prominent place of white nationalist, fascistic elements within it. But it was no insurrection.
"Most of the crowd was not armed, there was no public display of loaded guns, and bear spray and flag poles were the weapons of choice in battles with the police, hardly the kind of firepower needed to bring the state down. No concerted effort had been made to coordinate a riotous demonstration against a symbol of state power, with actual insurrectionary intent among the military, sections of the media, or many other spheres where power is concentrated and perpetuated." (op. cit.)

 

One description of events differs greatly, even incompatibly so, from the other. The kind of response each statement calls for only deepens the problem. While the Akron statement calls for cleansing the state of its association with protest sympathisers/co-conspirators (to match the tenor of the language used in the statement), and "promoting democracy in our government", Palmer's article strikes a different tone:

 

"One thing is certain. Unless there is a substantive organized left response to the contemporary impasse in bourgeois politics—decidedly lacking in our present conjuncture—nothing good can come from where we are now. January 6, 2021 has made this clear, at the same time as it has given liberal emissaries privileged ground on which to make their stand in defense of capitalism and its ostensibly democratic order." (ibid)

 

Now, in an article written by the editorial board of Spectre Journal, we can compare both positions in relation to the mainstream liberal response Spectre Journal describes:

 

"Liberals will outdo themselves in a rush to rally behind bipartisan capitalist unity and state repression to deal with the fascist threat. They will lend credibility to the law and order consensus articulated by both parties on Wednesday by police authorities and the media, particularly CNN, which rooted for police suppression of the right. Liberal forces are magnetically attracted to the law and order regime because they see the state, not mass anti-fascist action, as the key to dealing with the right." (Spectre Journal. "We Cannot Let Yesterday's Farce Become Tomorrow's Tragedy")

 

Supposing the Akron statement and the Palmer article represent different tendencies within DSA, we can weigh them against Spectre Journal's summary of a typical liberal response. The varied responses reflect a level of confusion within DSA on the most basic level.  On one hand, the Akron statement clearly represents a turn towards the state. Even though they call for community participation, that participation is directed towards the state. On the other hand, Palmer's article makes a rather vague call for a "substantive" response but makes no mention of socialist-driven governmental reforms. It may be a subtle invocation of mass organisation, but it is not a direct call to action. As a socialist organisation, which direction should DSA embrace?

 

But Democratic Socialists of America is not the only socialist organisation in this country (or socialist at all, depending on who you ask!). The Party for Socialism and Liberation released a statement "Assault on the Capitol: 24 questions and answers" where it seeks to offer a comprehensive analysis of the events. To be fair, their analysis is both sensible and comprehensive— due credit to the authors. Let's start with their general characterisation of events, what they constituted, and their political or ideological motivations. The authors write:

"This was an attempt to overturn the 2020 election outcome." (op. cit.)

"The violent takeover of the Capitol Building was designed to stop the election certification." (ibid.)

Now that is a very sober description of what happened, and the demands of the protest. Now let's talk about its political and ideological motivations.

"Donald Trump is a political opportunist who entered into a relationship of convenience with fascist forces. He is using them and they are using him." (ibid.)

"Trump would have preferred to stay in office by either winning the election outright or overturning the election results by judicial order. It was only after failing in the courts that Trump turned to a strategy centered around fascist mass mobilization and street fighting. Trump would not have felt this was necessary if he had won the 2020 election, and in such a scenario the United States government would not have necessarily become fascist." (ibid.)

The tone of this statement neatly matches an article published on Socialist Alternative's website:

"...the American ruling class does not want or need a right-wing dictatorship at this point." (Socialist Alternative. "The Aftermath of January 6: Build a Mass Movement Against the Far Right")

"Corporate America was fine with Trump cutting their taxes and removing environmental regulation, but they see the attempt to storm the Capitol as a direct attack on their interests." (ibid.)

 

We can draw three crucial points from these insights. The first is that Donald Trump does not have a strict political ideology. Not too long ago, Trump was echoing Democratic Party messaging surrounding abortion rights and single-payer healthcare. He is whatever the intersection of the political moment and his personal interests calls for. The second takeaway is that his political relationships since becoming a political figure have been made with respect to the acquisition and retention of power, not a political or ideological agenda. The third takeaway is that his attempts to sidestep the constitutional process was motivated by a desire to remain president which both had political and personal ramifications, and not to install a new government in the name of an ideological movement. All of this points to a level of absurdity in calling the events a "coup attempt" or a "fascist insurrection". While fascists may well have been involved, their only real demand was keeping Trump in office. Furthermore, the simple fact of the matter is that their play for power was not tolerated or supported by the industrial and financial capitalist class.

This leads us to the next piece of our analysis of events, and as socialists, the most important part: the class composition and class analysis of the protest.

 

From the PSL statement:

"People from the middle classes who perceive correctly or incorrectly that their position in society is slipping, form the backbone of the political movement around Trump." (Party for Socialism and Liberation. "Assault on the Capitol: 24 questions and answers".)

"The people who stormed the Capitol travelled from great distances in the middle of the workweek despite the absence of a robust grassroots organizing effort to transport people. However, that does not mean that there are [sic] not a large number of working and poor people who have been swept up by Trump's populist appeal." (ibid.)

From this, we can make the following observations: 1) the petit-bourgeoisie was the leading class element in the protest, and they increasingly constitute the most politically active class in American society, and 2) in the absence of a socialist movement with roots in the working class, the proletariat has been swept up by the petit-bourgeoisie—a class that has answered its slipping position of economic security in the neoliberal economic order with a turn to fascism—as an auxiliary force.

Let's weigh this against what the Socialist Party USA has to say. The only statements relevant to the events are in a statement addressing the Biden Inauguration. The only text from that statement that invokes January 6 is this:

"The unfortunate reality is that despite leaving office, despite a peaceful transfer of power, Trump is not going to go away, and the political and social forces he rode into office have not disappeared. A great many Americans shocked by what they saw on Jan.6 had hoped that this event was the last gasp of Trumpism as a political force. The uncomfortable truth is that this is far more likely a harbinger of where of our politics is headed rather than an aberration." (Socialist Party of the United States of America. Statement on the Inauguration, 21 January, 2022)

 

That is the extent of what our Party has to say about the events. This is only an excerpt of a larger document whose main concern is not January 6. I'd prefer having too little to say than too much to say, especially when so much of it is emotionally driven drivel that dramatically hyperbolises the nature of the events. Our Party was right to focus on the coming challenges and tasks in our statement than to dive into the mob losing ourselves in talk of fascist takeovers all the while doing in terms of organised opposition.

So is it responsible or accurate to describe January 6 as a fascist insurrection? We have to understand that without the support of the industrial and financial bourgeoisie, the fascist political aims of the petit-bourgeoisie never stood a chance at seizing state power. More importantly, we must remember that the only demand of the protest was to keep Donald Trump instated as President. It was not, at least outright, an effort to usher in a fascist dictatorship. According to the protestors, they were ensuring that the election's "legitimate" results were honoured. There were no ideological demands whatsoever, only the "Stop The Steal" phraseology.

 

But for argument's sake, let's imagine that it was a fascist coup attempt. Why did industrial and financial capital not back the petit-bourgeoisie with Trump as their political figurehead? And why did the big tech companies silence Trump instead of platform him further? If the bourgeoisie truly had interest in a fascist state, would they not have tried to lead a fascist-friendly petit-bourgeoisie and amplify Trump's voice instead of silence it? As it stands, and stood at the time of the protest, the liberal republic is the (more or less) most effective means for the capitalist class to exert its interest across society.  Why is this the case? The answer is simple: the socialist movement in the United States is measly, and for the most part does not incorporate the working class. Therefore, it does not represent a threat to the interests of capital or the existence of the capitalist state. The working class is firmly in the grip of the bourgeoisie, and no elements of the socialist movement can make a substantial threat to that. The liberal republic is doing its job well enough for now.

 

We must explore this more deeply. The lack of an impactful socialist movement has been America's surest defence against fascism. It has been no defence for the working class, but the country writ large has enjoyed the comparative benevolence of this liberal capitalist dictatorship, no less havoc-wrecking, but infinitely more invested in public relations. Why is this our state of affairs? The socialist movement in the United States is comprised of many parties ranging in size from the very small (such as our Party), to the noticeably large (DSA being one of the largest, boasting nearly 100,000 members). But despite their differences in size and platforms, they are connected by the fact that they are all sects—they are all parties who promote programmes of their own and largely place greater importance on accomplishing those programmes than aligning themselves with the everyday struggles of the working class. Many of our more energetic comrades see themselves as qualified to offer political guidance to a class they more or less do not interact with. Instead of shaping organsationsal tactics to the daily struggle of the working class, some of these misguided comrades within and without our Party expect the working class to support us by virtue of the fact that they are workers, and supporting a socialist programme is just in their material interest. But look at the socialist movement since the Red Scare, most importantly the history of our Party of Debs. We have been forced out of union leadership, and failed to manoeuvre around the restrictions of the Taft-Hartley Act. In the absence of meaningful socialist representation, those unions have come to have an overall reactionary, yellow, corporate-friendly character. How have we responded? By declaring that we are too good to be associated with reactionary working class organisations, or hopelessly resigning them to being beyond the reach of our influence and freely, though somberly, ceding the field to the enemy. This has allowed these institutions to fall further away from socialist influence. They have only deepened their reactionary character. Our Party does not need to shoulder all of the blame, but we indeed took part in this retreat, and must energetically reverse course.

 

And in our retreat, where did we go? We fled into academia as an intellectual safe-haven, and the Democratic Party as a "realistic" means of left-wing political organising, and counter-culture as a reaping field of ready hearts and minds. Instead of promoting an organised working class and class struggle through independent socialist parties and working class institutions, we took the way of the liberals and turned to the state instead of turning to the masses to fight the proletariat's enemies. We rushed away from the working class into institutions which do not concern themselves with working class or its political goals. Predictably, these institutions do very little to tempt the working class let alone engage them. When forced out of actual working class organisations such as unions, we made a quick march for other institutions which the working class is almost uniformly skeptical of, and absent from. The universities are dominated by liberal ideology, and largely petty-bourgeois and capitalist in class composition. The Democratic Party sees even its progressive wing, let alone socialists, as an internal opponent. Democrats don't even command a significant level of working class support! Yet it is those places we ran and clung to. This has been, and in many ways remains, our chief failure. It, again, is not a failure that is ours alone, but seeing it as a failure, we must reverse course.

 

Under these conditions, it is unrealistic, and even detrimental, for the bourgeoisie to embrace a fascist takeover of the state. There is no socialist movement today that holds the majority of the working class in its sway. And more, any socialist movement that does exist has not presented workers with a means of independently conducting their class struggle. That mass support and means of struggle would constitute a direct threat to the liberal republic. That, and that alone, would inspire the capitalist class to turn away from the liberal republic in favour of a fascist state. Had such conditions existed at the time of January 6, 2021, industrial and financial capital would have poured its support behind the fascist-friendly petit-bourgeoisie. It would have taken them under their wing as an auxiliary the way the petit-bourgeoisie is taking sections of the working class as its augmenting force.

 

So what was January 6? It was a petty-bourgeois outburst whose only political goal was maintaining unconstitutionally extending the presidency of a man who only entered into political alliance with them as a matter of political expediency. It was handedly put down by the security apparatus of the liberal republic and was scorned by the capitalist class, and ultimately failed to achieve its goal, all the while isolating the far right much in the same way that the Charlottesville protests did only a few years before. But this doesn't mean it was a non-event. It was also a sign of the times: a fraying political order, a crumbling social unity in the country, and dire economic situation for the broad majority which only appears to grow more dire. So, as Lenin once asked: What is to be done?

 

 

What Should Socialists Do?

So having assessed the nature of the events of January 6, what do the pieces we've examined call for as a response?

The Akron DSA statement, as we have shown, made rather liberal turns to the state calling for reforms of this or that nature in the name of "promoting democracy in our government".

From the Palmer article:

"One thing is certain. Unless there is a substantive organized left response to the contemporary impasse in bourgeois politics—decidedly lacking in our present conjuncture—nothing good can come from where we are now. January 6, 2021 has made this clear, at the same time as it has given liberal emissaries privileged ground on which to make their stand in defense of capitalism and its ostensibly democratic order." (Jacobin Magazine. "The Meaning of January 6, 2021", Bryan D. Palmer)

 

From the PSL statement:

"An effective anti-fascist movement must be led by socialists and be anchored in the working class." (Party for Socialism and Liberation. "Assault on the Capitol: 24 questions and answers".)

"A socialist program can drown out fascist demagoguery by building up a multi-racial, progressive movement aimed at breaking the power of the Wall Street and Washington elite and united [sic] around demands like cancellation of rents and mortgage payments, free healthcare for all, free education and the cancellation of student debt, and a jobs or income guarantee." (ibid.)

 

From the Socialist Alternative article:

"If the left and the labor movement have not organized a mass movement independent of the Democratic establishment to defend our interests, the door will again be open to the populist right and the fascists to capitalize." (Socialist Alternative, "The Aftermath of January 6: Build a Mass Movement Against the Far Right", Tom Crean)

"...only a mass working class centered movement...can definitively push these forces back, This means mobilizations... but also a program that speaks to the interests of a mul[t]iracial, multigender working class and can pull millions away from the siren songs of the right populists and isolate and smash the reactionary core."

 

Our task is to determine this "substantive organized left response" and the strategies and tactics of building this mass movement which can "smash the reactionary core". In the Socialist Party USA's statement, essentially nothing was said in terms of such a response. While our Party did well to stay grounded, it failed to lay out any path that Party work might follow. It made no indications about actions to be taken, how changing circumstances would affect current postures and dispositions. What ours and every party needs to understand is that the historical moment calls for a serious evaluation of our forces, of our level of organisation, and of the strength of our connections to the working class. Now is not the time for vague calls to action, but for concretely inventorying the forces at our disposal, and determining in which direction they are to be marshalled. To this "substantive left response," far be it from me to claim to have all the answers to the sundry questions wrapped up in these tasks. But there is historical example to look back on, and we can wade into the waters of strategic investigation without making blind jabs in the dark.

What is most striking about the socialist response to January 6 is that many socialists have forgotten or overlooked that if our movement was able to attack the state, we would! But the material basis of this ability is totally different for the left than it is for the right. What is the difference between a left- and right-wing seizure of power? The right-wing can do this through existing institutions, and the left-wing cannot. Being a movement intent on establishing entirely new productive relations at society's base, and with them a new political order, the socialist movement has already since the days of the February and October Revolutions (arguably since the Paris Commune!) learned that bourgeois political institutions are unsuitable for use by a working-class movement. While socialists elected to office may serve to heighten the contradictions of the liberal republic and call sharper attention to its iniquities, elected socialists do not, have not, and as a historically observed fact cannot make the revolution. Conversely, the Nazi Party learned from its attempted putsch that bourgeois institutions were in fact the most reliable (though not only, as Mussolini demonstrated) method to bring a right-wing movement to power.

The protestors who stormed the Capitol had several favourable factors emboldening their actions: a sitting president sympathetic to their demands, ideological representation in Congress, and a military apparatus that has been showing signs of low morale and disunity for several years now. These factors, in all likelihood could never come together for socialists. Even the thought of a socialist president is a pipe dream regardless of what the Sanders campaign in 2016 did to engender the American public to socialist ideas. No matter what, the basis of a socialist seizure of power have almost nothing to do with the composition of the liberal republic. And once more, we are socialsits—we do not turn to the state to respond to fascist threats or the iniquities of capitalism. We turn to the masses. But our movement has been turned away from them for much of living memory.

The basis of a socialist seizure of power is dual power applied to the state. And this is not a practical question without a socialist movement which encompasses large sections of the working class. So it is the second part which should concern us most—growing the connection between the working class and our Party. That should be a foremost concern of all parties. But let's imagine a scenario where we do command such a level of working class involvement, and discuss this dual power in practical terms.

Lenin says it best: "The basic question of every revolution is that of state power." (www.marxists.org, The Dual Power, Vladimir Lenin). And we have already determined that this "state power" has nothing to do with sitting presidents, Cabinet positions, or Congressional majorities. So what does it look like?

Lenin replies:

"The fundamental characteristic of [the Soviet/Paris Commune] type [of state] are: (1) the source of power is not a law previously discussed and enacted by parliament, but the direct initiative of the people from below, in their local areas—direct 'seizure', to use a current expression; (2) the replacement of the police and army, which are institutions divorced from the people and set against the people, by arming the whole people; order in the state under such a power is maintained by the armed workers and peasants themselves, by the armed people themselves; (3) officialdom, the bureaucracy, are either similarly replaced by the direct rule of the people themselves, or at least placed under special control; they not only become elected officials but are also subject to recall at the people's first demand; they are reduced to the position of simple agents; from a privileged group holding 'jobs' remunerated on a high, bourgeois scale, they become workers of a special "arm of the service" who remuneration does not exceed the ordinary pay of a competent worker." (ibid.)

How is this relevant to our modern struggle? While our movement has yet to bring a critical mass of workers into its fold, we have an image of the proletarian organ of class struggle that must exist before a full seizure of power can take place. The text should frame our expectations while indicating the thing towards which we should direct the mass movement we organise. Those expectations must include a period where a working class political formation exists side-by-side with the liberal republic, slowly accumulating state functions as faith in the latter diminishes, and grows in the former. What the text does not highlight is that the liberal republic will be facing threats from both sides. On one side, there is a working class movement that recognises the liberal republic as an obstacle to exerting its interest across society. On the other side is the bourgeoisie who sees the exact same thing. So while organisations today speak of "mass movements" and "mobilizations", this text gives us a direction to mobilise workers towards. This text serves as a compass in a time when we must still bring workers into our midst, and must be able to clarify their class tasks. Namely, we must clarify the understanding that state power is the fundamental question of a proletarian revolution. Assuming a sufficient bond between the working class and our Party, developing the means for their seizure of power, developing their means to claim legislative authority over larger and larger sections of society becomes the task at hand. The text's relevance lays in the immediate goal that sits before a full seizure of power and the obstacles to expect.

When such a time comes that our Party and the socialist movement and the working class form a single body moving in a unified direction, the question will undoubtedly arise: do we overthrow the government? Or do we coexist with the capitalist state?  After all, January 6 may not have constituted an attempt to overthrow the government itself, but it was an attack against the constitutional order of the liberal republic. So we may rightly assume that the forces surrounding Trump asked themselves the same question. But from their perspective, they were fighting to preserve the constitutional order as they saw it. They concluded that their actions would re-establish a constitutional order that in their minds was under attack by the "illegitimate" president-elect and his supporters within and outside of the government. So, when conditions force the same question upon us, what should our answer be?

Again, Lenin replies:

                  "My answer is: (1) [the Provisional Government] should be overthrown, for it is an oligarchic, bourgeois, and not a people's government and it is unable to provide peace, bread, and full freedom; (2) It cannot be overthrown just now, for it is being kept in power by a direct and indirect, formal and actual agreement with the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, and primarily the chief Soviet, the Petrograd Soviet; (3) generally, it cannot be 'overthrown' in the ordinary way, for it rests on the 'support' given to the bourgeoisie by the second government—the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, and that government is the only possible revolutionary government, which directly expresses the mind and will of the majority of the workers and peasants." (ibid.)

 

But all of this is predicate. The subject, especially in the here and now, is the gap between the working class and the socialist movement. All talk of dual power, government overthrow, and seizure of power means nothing if the socialist movement does not bridge this gap which has been widening for decades. One thing can be said of the fascist movement that cannot be said of the socialist movement: it is a "mass" movement in that it encompasses broad swaths of the petit-bourgeoisie. It is such a broad inclusion that it can even exert influence on the working class. If Charlottesville showed us that fascist forces were coalescing into a more unified core, January 6 showed us that that core has extended into the middle and working classes and set them in political motion. It is lamentable and shameful that the socialist movement so far does not seem to be setting anyone in motion.

 

In response to January 6, socialists have called for mass mobilisation of the working class around a revolutionary programme. But in all this talk, there is no sober acknowledgement of the fact: the socialist movement is defined by dozens of sects of various sizes calling themselves parties, our Party among them. We have little connection to the real, everyday struggle of workers, and often arrogantly place ourselves above the need to subordinate our priorities to that struggle. So if a mass movement is to be mobilised, we must come to terms with the gap between us and the broader working class. How is that gap to be bridged?

 

First, we must address the weak ideological ground the socialist movement stands on. The statements of the various organisations reflect widespread tendencies both within and between each other that can only be expected to come into conflict. Different parties will unavoidably have differing positions on this or that question. That is unavoidable. And within themselves, different tendencies naturally emerge to struggle over the nature and direction of an individual group. That is predictable, and even healthy to a point. But some of these organisations have competing tendencies whose contradictions are more likely to crumble them than to forge stronger ones. And other organisations find themselves promoting socialism either opportunistically, or without an awareness of how un-socialist their programmes truly are. Which of the two is worse? Anyone can say. On the bright side, this array of tendencies allows for ideological struggle where organisations truly capable of leadership may emerge. But the fact remains: at present, no constituent element of the socialist movement has produced a theory which has demonstrated the ability to organise and mobilise the mass of workers. This certainly included our Party. Whatever our strengths are, we have not proven ourselves capable of presenting an explanation of capitalist society and the working class's political tasks that has actually set them in motion. At present, our battle is not with the capitalists. It is with ourselves: organisers who do not yet possess the capacity to lead the movement of a class. And at the centre of this struggle are our own perceptions of the existing class dynamics, the present-day's political reality, and the sense of what the tasks of this movement truly are. The failures on display to clearly articulate the realities of January 6 speak to this inability. The theory we seek that can perform this function is simply the result of our ability to soberly interpret reality. If some of our comrades are so wildly off on this subject, what else are they failing to adequately explain?

 

Second, comrades of our Party, we must not think like a sect, but like a party. This means subordinating our revolutionary dreams to the everyday struggle of the working class. We must earn prestige from workers and earn their willingness to come to us for political guidance instead of expecting it, thinking we just simply deserve it! We must extend ourselves into the working class by way of its unions and unorganised workplaces. But we must also extend into the non-party, non-union activist circles. These are single-issue organisations like the fight for a higher minimum wage, women's rights, anti-racism, environmentalism, co-operatives, tenants' rights, etc. They are not strictly socialist organisations, but their missions are part of the socialist mission. We must also earn a reputation of competence and reliability from these groups which are currently undergoing a crisis of identity: do we pursue more socialist tactics dispositions, and associations, or do we continue to rely on the Democratic Party as our means of political expression despite its open disdain for us? These organisations can be persuaded to conduct their struggles not for their own sake, but under the banner of a broader struggle for a socialist society. But why should they if socialists only interact with them at a distance, or not at all due to their "not being socialist enough"? Along with the labour struggle, all these elements—recognizing the socialist movement as a dedicated and reliable partner, persuaded to turn to its parties for political guidance, aimed in the same direction, and pursuing the same end goal— together represent the mass movement we seek to build.  The day will come when we can fully pursue a revolutionary programme. But right now, most workers cannot possibly see how those programmes relate to what they struggle against daily. Grandstanding to them will not change that. Adopting their priorities until they can see their liberation in our priorities will!

And finally, the socialist movement at large must do an about face on its retreat into academia and Democratic Party politics. As I have already said, the class composition of university campuses is capitalist and petit-bourgeois. And the Democratic Party is a self-avowed capitalist party. Not only this, it is openly hostile to its progressive element. And both institutions, again, as already stated, are subject to workers' deep and well-earned skepticism. It serves neither us nor the proletariat to continue on this path. We must be a movement within the working class, not external to it. A mass movement capable of mobilising the masses against the forces of capitalism can only come from returning to our roots: organised labour (the only workers currently in any motion against the forces of capital), the non-organised workplaces who have yet to be set in motion which today constitute the majority of workplaces in the country, and the single-issue organisations whose current crisis of identity is a wide-open door for us to present a new forum of political expression. Entering into these places and cementing a reputation of dedication and reliability will build this mass movement and can make socialism a truly relevant political question. Before this takes place, there is no point in discussion of state power—not seizing it, and not wielding it. Until the working class and the socialist movement constitute a single body, all talk of state power is premature at best, and irresponsible at worst. This does not make the question of state power any less fundamental. But we should be sharply aware of our present unreadiness, and the remedies to that problem. If January 6 opens our eyes to anything, it should be that we must prepare the ground for our own seizure of power. And that starts with recognizing our own unreadiness. Over are the days emphasising the student activist and the political science course. Over are the days of "using" the progressive wing of the Democratic Party when, clearly, we are the ones being used! 

To the comrades of our Party, we should not look at the events of January 6 and cry in horror at what happened. We should see a vulnerable state presiding over a fracturing social landscape. We should see that fascist forces are willing and able to take advantage of those circumstances. While their protest failed to accomplish its demand, it did shock the liberal republic, and for a moment put it on its heels. We must recognise that a fundamental task of our movement is the seizure of state power. The fascist movement understands this and has worked towards it, readying the ground with alarming pace. And while conditions were not matured then, it would be asinine to think they did not learn from the experience. A new opportunity will come when they may threaten the existence of the liberal republic more seriously, or even successfully. We must recognise that we cannot presently do the same. Even if we want to make our play for state power, we cannot wish the right circumstances into existence. We must forge them ourselves. We must see that the opportunity is there, but the means to grab hold of it are not. In order to take advantage of that opportunity, the majority of the working class must be a part of the socialist movement. Today, they are not. In fact, many workers have become auxiliaries of the fascists we are fighting. And this is precisely because we have gone into the places where workers are nowhere to be found. We have isolated ourselves and have not made ourselves fit to lead.  We fail to make the necessary changes at our own peril!

 

Matei Alexandru has been a member of SP-USA since 2016 amd the chairperson of the SOuthern New Hampshire local party branch. He also serves as Regional Coordinator for the party's Northeast region.