The North moves: chronicle of a trip to the WSF in Montreal and New York

 

Pedro Fuentes

The WSF in Montreal and Quebec Solidarie Party

I was fortunate to go along with Juliano Medeiros, president of Lauro Campos Foundation attached to PSOL, to the WSF in Montreal and, then, pass through the US. This article is nothing more than a report with some characterizations of what I saw there.

On the Lauro Campos Foundation’s website, there is an article on the activities in Canada. I just want to add to them somethings. The WSF continues to exist; attended around 37,000 people and, as it is now common, over 1000 workshops. As the companion of Frente Amplio Peruano Richard Arce was telling me, companion that participated with us in the activities we did, “this is a dispersion, lack a purpose,” and this is the increasingly acute reality, the lack of a goal, and therefore, it follows the decline of what has been, in its first moments, very progressive and very impact on the global avant-garde.

Nevertheless, it had its productivity for PSOL and for all Latin-American anti-imperialist, that are a little far from North and from what is happening in these imperialist countries. And this has to end, because in the north there is class struggle and similar struggles. In Quebec, two years ago, there was a massive student strike, similar to those that happened in many countries, in the United States with the Occupy Wall Street and, later, with more magnitude, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon, processes that somehow were reflected in the Forum.

In Canada, we participated in the Parliamentary Forum, parallel to the World Forum organized by “Quebec Solidarie”, a party similar with PSOL, dynamic and with several deputies in Quebec state. We were impacted by the figure of Manon Massé, a deputy for the working-class district of Sainte Marie, a great feminist fighter who was one of the founders of the World March of Women. She is a deputy that has been placed at the service of the worker’s struggle, of the poor and the LGBT movement. The important thing, which is not an exception, are the aspects of Quebec Solidarie party, an anti-capitalist party, very fraternal with us and, at the same time, full of Latino immigrants, especially young assets that are part of the political leadership bodies. Therefore, the fraternal relations with them, that were opened and we have to cultivate, are fundamental to PSOL, and for all anti-imperialist Latin-American left that debate a new situation: the end of Chavismo stage, and also of PT, although, as we have written in other texts, were not the same, but opposite processes.

It is very important the task of understanding the Canadian and US left of the present situation – difficult task despite Maduro’s abrupt turning with Arco Mineiro and more noticeable now with the relations with Erdogan – and in Brazil, where Dilma’s neoliberal social politics is unknown, which is being hidden now by the idea of coup.

The changes in the US

These are more remarkable, we have written several times, but it’s different to feel them directly. It was forty years ago the last time I went to New York, and now is another New York, as is another USA. The city’s large buildings continue to impact, some already higher than those that it had before, but more similar to those of the large cities of the Third World. Overcrowded public transport, the dirt in the subways, where overnight walk mice, their old stations, the dirt in the streets and the huge contrast within the island of Manhattan, where coexist the big money banks, corporations and Wall Street, with district of Harlem, where you see the poverty in which the black population live. Despite not having passed, I imagine the same is true in poor areas of Brooklyn or the Bronx.

The appearance are these characteristics of lack of cleanliness, dirt in the streets and in the subways. The homeless, the poor asking, the mentally sick people walking the streets, and the number of people overweight in poor areas because of bad diet. The essence is the decay of American capitalism, the end of its economic boom. The growing presence of Latinos and blacks who make up the most exploited sectors that, added to the Asians, already make up a third of the population, allows clear comparison between North and South. The change was structural; the North is “Latino-americanizing”.

Another remarkable thing is the outsourcing services and the precariousness, the overexploitation that workers are submitted. It is felt on the subway when you see the tired faces from work after 10 or 12 hours of working hours; at airports, that is what more I could see of a large scale phenomenon, and that explains some improvement in economic indicators for the bourgeoisie. Because the reality is that 50% of the US population is below the poverty index.

The black movement deserved more than a paragraph, but for lack of time, I didn’t get in touch with Black Lives Matter. But, as I was in Harlem, I could feel not only poverty, but also the pride, the social weight that blacks have, and most importantly, the permanent reference to the leaders of 1960s: Malcom X, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers. It is seen in photos, bars, murals in the neighborhood, but also through the recognition that history is not forgotten, the municipal administration naming two large avenues with the names of Malcom X and Martin Luther King.

The Sanders phenomenon

Dan La Boltz, who was an excellent host, has written excellent articles about the current situation. In the New Politics, which he is co-editor, there is a recent one on “The Contemporary Crisis of the American Ideology”, where he lists the paradigms in collapse, that we can synthesize by the idea of the end of the “American Dream”, and the new ones that have emerged around the Sanders process with the weight of the masses that it reached, which includes, among others, the socialization of the economy, democracy at all levels, self-organization of the oppressed, social solidarity.

That is because the Sanders phenomenon was undoubtedly the most important achievement of politics in this country in recent decades. This account, which we had already written, continues after the end of the primaries; it doesn’t end with the fact that Sanders calls vote for Clinton. Since it is a movement to the left of a large sector that voted and will vote for the Democrats, with structural bases marked by the crisis: the increase of poverty by 50%, the precariousness of work that can be seen all the time, in short, the general crisis of capitalism that exists in the country.

Trump is also a new phenomenon and we also have written about it. He is the other opposite face that generates the crisis. While Sanders represents the youth, the organized labor sectors, the democratic middle class, his entering in the black and Latino movement, Trump represents the white people in decline, the impoverished old middle class and old white displaced workers. They see on social chauvinism, on racism, on his politics against immigrants and on the use of fear of terrorism to Islamophobia, an escape from the crisis. It is proto-fascism.

Trump

 

Which one of them has the best prospects to develop? We can’t have a categorical answer, but we bow to the prospect that expresses Sanders, youth, avant-garde sectors and the general phenomenon of looking for its progressive measures that attack the banks, the high bourgeoisie, the defense of the minimum wage and of working class and the unions, which is more structural, and it’s more than an episodic phenomenon. It is a conscious change, and youth is the highest expression of this, as well the workers, who have fought more, and the democratic middle class. It express and can continue to express the rejection of broad sectors of the base of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton and the establishment.

However, compared to Trump, Hillary logically appears as the lesser harm, despite not being a dear candidate. It is not just the history of e-mails, but her history as a member of Clinton family, as a part of the establishment, of the ruling class and, therefore, her lack of empathy with people, because all the Hillary speech sounds false.

But this situation does not mean mechanically a third party with mass influence, as an alternative to both. What is certain is that it is being produced more quickly a division or dispersion, or even a burst of old Abraham Lincoln Republican Party, comparing to the Democratic Party. Although Donald Trump try to change his extemporaneous way of acting, he still continues being something foreign to the “ruling class”. The Republican Party has entered a period of decay and polarization that has already begun with the Tea Party, and even more with the almost certain loss of the presidential election, and it also means losing the parliamentary majority that they have in both chambers.

In this aspect, the situation of the Democrats is different. The poor, the black people and immigrants and workers will vote for Democrats, not because they trust Clinton; they will do so with the nose covered, as a lesser harm, in order to establish a containment barrier on the offensive right and proto-fascism of Trump. It has its own logic, and it is inevitable to happen and that is a process that will still last for a while.

The need for a third party

This task is placed against the social and political crises which we live. However, it is a long-term process, if you want to build a party that is a real alternative. Because there is polarization in the Democratic Party, but the experience with it is not completed; so it may be, if Hillary rule. Nevertheless, there is no ultimatism to believe that this work in the middle of this situation. The third party is acquiring a solid foundation of self-construction, but the political timing has not come. These bases, we repeat, are the large vote in Sanders, that represents the programmatic dissatisfaction with the two parties and, on the other hand, the possibility that the disruption of the Republicans can eliminate the idea of the need of a “lesser harm” and of the defencism behind Democratic. But this is a hypothesis, we cannot say it will be like.

I got the impression that the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) and particularly its youth, see the process this way. And it seemed to me that they are the only ones who will be able to take it forward, since ultimatists groups, which are now very critical to Sanders, fall in propagandism and will win by atoms, by individuals, in a way that they lose and don’t take into account the political times marked by the characterizations we have mentioned throughout these notes. Establish fraternal relations with the DSA and its youth, as well as Quebec Solidarie is the best way to now establish the much needed bridge that we have to build between the exploited and the socialist from South and North.

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