Three Ecosocialists Reflect on the November Election

September 25, 2020

Child at the border

© CanStock Photo / Sangoiri Licensed to Maura Stephens

For the Children, the Bunnies, the Redwoods, the POC, the Women

Voting for Biden won’t save them. Not voting for Biden will doom them.

Maura Stephens

System Change Not Climate Change

September 12, 2020

You couldn’t have paid me to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016; I’d voted for all prior Green Party candidates over the dreadful Democratic Party choices — except for the year I voted for Barack Obama, in the vain hope that he had a hidden true progressive self behind the Wall Street-cozy veneer. Live and learn.

The Green Party’s 2020 candidate, Howie Hawkins, and running mate Angela Walker have put forth a platform as close to my ecosocialist beliefs as any mustered in my lifetime. I respect Hawkins, and I supported and advised his 2010 and ‘14 New York gubernatorial campaigns. I’d love to believe in their vision of the future, but that would ignore the corrupt, corroded state of our electoral system and, indeed, all our political, economic, and social systems.

As a longtime activist on just about every progressive front — environment, civil rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, Nature rights, justice, antiwar, victims’ rights, prison abolishment, reparations, anti-imperialism, anticapitalism, antifracking, antiracism, biodiversity protection, animal protection, child protection, and, well, you name it—I am finding myself compelled to make this critical vote against the most abominable creature ever to occupy the White House, and the sycophants who’d permanently enthrone this 21st century Hitler wannabe.

The question at this pivotal time in history is:

“If Trump gets four more years, what happens to the tens of millions of us — retirees; Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Immigrant People of Color; unemployed, underemployed, uninsured, and union workers; asylum seekers; women; food- and shelter-insecure children; the incarcerated and death-sentenced; and anyone who wants to protest anything done by an authoritarian government — who aren’t walking in lockstep with that despotic lunatic?”

It’s infuriating that we are left with the choice of annihilation or Biden.

In all the “Least Worst” voting we’ve had these last decades, it has been relatively easy to vote conscience and let the electoral process, ridiculously flawed as it is, take its course — at least for those in socially “liberal” states. But now, the DNC rejected the only true candidate of the people (Bernie Sanders) and has delivered a Rockefeller-style rightwing Republican who’s in bed with frackers and opposes Medicare for All.

I HATE that. You can HATE that. All of conscience and heart can HATE that. But the Earth is at stake. Ruth Bader Ginsburg won’t live forever. The experiment that was the United States of America is rapidly self-destructing.

But there are also good signs: The status-quo Wall Street DNC is dying, and a Progressive bloc is rising in congress and some state houses.

Noam ChomskyNorman SolomonCornel West, civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, civil rights attorney Benjamin CrumpHuman Rights Campaign head Alphonso David, Philonese and Rodney Floyd (brothers of George Floyd), Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Emma González, Judy and Dennis Shepherd (parents of slain Matthew Shepherd), and SCNCC’s Ted Franklin all know why we must vote for Biden and Harris: We need to save the immigrants, prisoners, LGBTQIA folks, women, children, and the nonhuman species and ecosystems that have no way to defend themselves. We would never, ever be able to do this if Trump gets another four years.

Thus in true conscience we absolutely must vote for Biden/Harris, and as Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen have written, the minute they’re in the White House, hold their feet to the fire. And unleash the Howie Hawkinses, Angela Walkers, Angela Davises, Cornel Wests, Glen Fords, and every ecosocialist actor from System Change Not Climate Change and allied groups, to  continue to be in the streets until we force their neoliberal agenda into extinction—before they do the same to the rest of us.


Prof. Cornel West says the choice is between Biden “a neoliberal disaster” and Trump “a neofascist catastrophe.” Photo credit: Tasnim News Agency under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Trump or Biden? Duh! We’re picking our battleground, not our leader

Ted Franklin

System Change Not Climate Change

September 4, 2020

Joe Biden’s political resume is a catalog of reasons we on the Left condemn the Democratic Party as one of the “two right wings“ of the single party of capital. Yesterday’s Man is frack-happydances with billionaires, and wants to jail anarchists along with arsonists. Installing Biden in the White House and electing a Democratic majority to the Senate will not usher in a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, racial equality, or a major reduction in the military budget.

Should a Left that Biden wholeheartedly rejects lift a finger get him elected?

Some argue that we should never support a Democrat. They justify this on grounds that we will never get to revolutionary change if we keep voting for the “lesser of two evils.” Voting third party or even staying home will challenge the farcical choice between tweedledum and tweedledee. So they say.

But this is not just another quadrennial opportunity to choose who will mislead us. “Another four years of Trump may literally lead us to the stage where the survival of organized human society is deeply imperiled,” warns Noam Chomsky. The choice is between a president who would like to crush the Left and one who hopes to coopt us.

The question for the Left is not whether Joe Biden is the “lesser of two evils” but whether a Biden or Trump administration will create better conditions for the Left to organize. Despite the mobilization of millions in Black Lives Matter demonstrations in recent months, the Left has no chance of making a revolution this year.

But the Right does! A neofascist bloc with expansive ambitions has captured one of the two major parties. This bloc aims to consolidate its grip on state power this fall, whether Trump wins or not. We underestimate Trump at our peril. At the end of August, FiveThirtyEight gave Trump a 31% chance of winning the election. Michael Moore, who correctly predicted Trump’s victory in 2016, has sounded the warning again. That’s without resorting to any post-election hijinx. If Trump loses the election with less than a crushing defeat, he can pursue “legal” pathways to remain in power.

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And, for Trump, illegality presents no red line. Trump knows that a cold prison cell may await him in New York State if he fails to extend his stay in office or, alternatively, flee the country. If we still have a functioning bourgeois democracy in 2021, it will not be because Donald Trump has willingly left office, but because Trumpism has failed to assemble a sufficiently powerful coalition of right-wing forces to pull off an authoritarian coup.

The consequences of Trump’s remaining in the White House will not favor the Left. We may find humor in Trump’s attempts to paint Joe Biden as a socialist, but Trump is dead serious about crushing the Left if he can make it to another term.

Democrats shook their heads when Trump boasted in his convention speech four years ago: “I alone can fix it.” Yet Trump has already done a prodigious amount of “fixing” on taxes, climate, judicial appointments. He has eviscerated regulatory agencies. Although his “cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes” are legion, he has delivered for his most powerful backers. If Trump holds on to the White House, he’ll do more of the same, and worse, to ensure that no future administration will bring him and his cronies to justice.

Still, the point is not just the magnitude of Trump’s evil — that’s a two-dimensional political assessment. We are engaged in a multidimensional Gramscian war of position, building strategic alliances with working-class forces that can ultimately wield hegemonic political power.

Trump’s continuation in power would make Left progress impossible. Every movement for social justice — whether focused on climate, race, workers’ rights, Indigenous sovereignty, reproductive rights, policing, or international solidarity — would be attacked and pushed into a defensive posture if not silenced, jailed, and forced underground.

“Preservation and expansion of democratic space is crucial if the working class and all those damaged by capitalism are to have the most favorable conditions to organize for power,” writes radical strategist Max Elbaum. And says Angela Davis, this election “will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist movement.”

As Elbaum urges, the Left has much to gain by aligning with the “labor, racial justice, climate justice, gender justice, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, tenant rights, public health and other organizations that will be going all-out to beat Trump.”

“The central polarization in the country today,” writes Elbaum, “is between a Trumpist bloc driving toward authoritarian rule vs. a majority opposition that, for all the vacillations and differences within it, is defending the democratic space that movements for justice, peace, and radical change require to advance.”

Mounting campaigns for third-party candidates with miniscule support will dangerously isolate us from essential allies. It certainly will not persuade them of our superior grasp of revolutionary strategy. Voters overwhelmingly think Biden v. Trump matters more than past presidential choices, and they’re right.

The question we need to ask is, “What would the battlefield look like under Trump, and what would it look like under Biden?” Unless we want to come off as dilettantes, we need to address the dangers of this moment and, as Norman Solomon puts it, “reject and elect Biden at the same time.”

Unite the Right Rally

Trump replied, “When people proudly hang their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South.” By Anthony Crider; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 20:37, 9 April 2018 (UTC) – Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally, CC BY 2.0,

Vote the Lesser Evil

Richard Smith

September 18, 2020

I agree with Maura and Ted. Personally, I’ve never bought the leftist “principled” rejection of “lesser evilism.” Why would we want the greater evil? Of course the Democrats and the GOP are both capitalist parties. Of course in many elections the difference is veritably Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. Yes, the German Social Democrats murdered Rosa Luxemburg and, yes, Democrat Lyndon Johnson launched the US war against Vietnam. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally evil in all situations, that it never matters. There’s no Bernie Sanders, AOC, or Ilhan Omar in the GOP — and winning Medicare for All in this country would be tantamount to a socialist victory, as the Wall Street Journal never ceases to remind us. The Democrats generally support Social Security, Medicare, the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA, the EPA, the FDA and other pro-worker regulations and protections. The Republicans want to gut all of those. That doesn’t mean the Dems are likely to become a social democratic party as Bernie had hoped — though never say never because, after all, the Democrats used to be the party of slavery. But it does mean that our own freedom to organize in this period is vastly better under the Democrats than under Trump who has stated his intention to demolish Social Security if re-elected and whose Attorney General wants to, among other things, charge us protestors with sedition, like the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong.

Right now we’re living in a period in which the right is ascendant around the world. In this situation, as in some others, it DOES make a difference. Marxists tend to downplay the role of individuals compared with social classes in history, rejecting “great man” theories of history. But individuals often do make a huge difference, for better or worse. Karl Marx for one. Or Lenin, or Mao, etc. If Goldwater had been elected in 1964 we might not be here to have this discussion. In Volker Ullrich’s second volume HITLER, Downfall 1939-1945 (2018, trans. 2020) reviewed by Peter Fritzsche in the NY Times, Ullrich maintains that one particular man made all the difference. Summarizing, Fritzsche writes:

All the major decisions of the war were Hitler’s, and these were often made on extremely short notice: the decision to invade Poland and then Western Europe, the priority of the push against the Soviet Union, the declaration of war against the United States, the fateful choice to divert Army Group A from Stalingrad. “Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the Führer’s coming decisions” is how Joseph Goebbels, the powerful propaganda chief, pointedly described the general situation. Hitler’s generals followed him, usually eagerly, always obediently

Hitler was also the driving force behind the Holocaust . . . Hitler’s toxic anti-Semitism set the pace and set the stage. He repeatedly returned to his “prophecy” of January 1939 in which he predicted the annihilation of the Jews in the event of a new world war. By February 1942 the conditional future tense of the prophecy was expressed in the present tense, and in May 1944, Hitler spoke in the past tense. With every speech he tightened the circle of complicity. Ullrich makes the persuasive case that Hitler abandoned a “territorial solution,” in which Jews would somehow be pushed into the far reaches of Russia, for physical annihilation at the end of 1941. (Either “solution” was genocidal.) Goebbels set the scene of a meeting of party leaders in Hitler’s private apartment in the Reich Chancellery on Dec. 12, immediately after Germany’s declaration of war on the United States, and with the Soviet Union suddenly on the offensive: “The Führer has decided on a total cleanup” of “the Jewish question.” What had been postponed would happen now. Ullrich accepts the historian Saul Friedländer’s conclusion that the line had been crossed from “local murder operations” to “overall extermination” in newly purposed death camps.

“Without Hitler,” Ullrich asserts, “there would have been no Holocaust.” But, he adds, without thousands of accomplices there could have been no Holocaust. Ullrich extends the list from the party apparatus to the Wehrmacht, and to railway officials, career diplomats and foreign collaborators, as well as “untold numbers” of ordinary Germans, both men and women, who “bought up the household items” of deported Jews “at bargain prices” in public auctions.

Without that one very evil man there would have been no Holocaust. That’s something to think about. Fortunately, Donald Trump is a self-obsessed imbecile without coherent politics or policies. But he panders to and promotes the most far right American politics: KKK white supremacists, American Nazis, racist cops, vigilantes, QAnon conspiracy theorists, etc. He lacks the fanatically  driven single-minded purpose of an Adolf Hitler (the Berlin Museum of Terror displays the fearsome power of a systematically organized and focused fascism, a far cry from anything here, yet). But there are far more coherently evil people waiting in the wings behind Trump. We live in a very dangerous time. Howie Hawkins is nice guy with our ecosocialist politics, but this is not his moment. Sometimes, or in secure Democratic states, voting for a third party is fine. But in this year’s election, a principled vote for Howie Hawkins as a rejection of “lesser evilism” would enable our own and the planet’s destruction.

Maura Stephens

Maura Stephens is a journalist, educator, theatre artist, and activist. She is a cofounder of the Coalition to Protect New York and other environmental and social-justice organizations, and an active member of System Change Not Climate Change.

Tags: American politics, building resilient societies