Friday, January 25, 2019

The Left in the USA and the UFT - Part 1

You will never understand the opposition in the UFT to Unity Caucus, or even Unity Caucus roots itself, without learning about the left and the various brands of socialism. The very idea behind activism on the left is to be involved in the work place and in the union. In fact, many take jobs for precisely that reason.

There is so much talk about "the left" and "socialists" -- like is AOC the same type of socialist as a Marxist-Leninist? - See AOC and the Left - She's Not Everyone's Darling.

There has been explosive growth in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and I'm looking to join myself to learn more. In fact the largest influx of new members of MORE has come from DSA. And that explains a lot about actions MORE has taken over the past year.

I was not a leftist when I entered teaching in Sept. 1967 - probably a liberal Democrat and totally unconscious about the left and definitely anti-Communist who bought whatever I had been taught.

I met my first socialists when I became involved in internal UFT politics in the fall of 1970, my fourth year of teaching. Most of the people in the opposition to Unity were different brands of socialists. In our own small group in District 14, there was a mix  -  red diaper babies (people who had grown up in committed socialist families - some parents had been in the Communist Party-  CP - (which was controlled from Russia by Stalin). They often went to the same summer camp. With Stalin discredited as was the CP, they became the New Left, which became a broad term to include the very anti-Stalin Trotskyists who came to dominate the New Left.

So in addition to one guy who was still a Stalinist - his dad had been on the run in the early 50s, persecuted under the Smith Act, we began to attract Trotskyists of different brand - the joke was that if you put 2 Trots in a room, you end up with 3 groups. (Note there are 9 Trotskyist groups listed below - and I know of some not included.)

And also other brands of socialists showed up too. I mean, who else would shlep to weekly meetings one night a week other than people committed to some ideology? Well, I did because I was focused not on changing society but changing teaching and learning. I was told that was not possible without getting rid of capitalism. I never have quite agreed with that but in today's world there seems some truth to at least controlling the capitalist system, though socialist theorists point out they will never give up the power of the profit motive without an armed struggle.

At one point I counted 4 or 5 brands of socialists in our own caucus. And when MORE formed I counted at least 4 brands plus at least two other brands of socialists in the UFT would refused to join MORE because to them the socialists in MORE were too reformists and would not call for the fall of capitalism. Oy!

I got some education from my close colleagues in the caucus, all of whom were socialists and I certainly moved in that direction - in fact it was this group that were the initial backbone of the ICEUFT Caucus when it formed in 2003.

As I said - you cannot understand UFT opposition politics without getting this basic fact - socialists will be the most committed over time because they operate from a broader ideology but they often come into conflict with UFT reformers without an ideology other than getting rid of Unity. I have always straddled both worlds, which has also brought me into conflict with both but also I've been a bridge. The original Ed Notes was designed to be that bridge - and it worked - which is why I am thinking of going back to that model.

As Ed Notes morphs into drilling down into issues, let me come back to my original premise -- you will never understand what is going in the opposition -- ie, why are there 3 groups running against Unity - without a map of the various brands of socialists.

In follow-ups I will get into the brands we see active in the UFT.

Being too lazy to do any real research on my own, here is a sort of map from wikipedia - not totally accurate - but since you will have a hard time finding a Stalinist today, the map focuses on the anti-Stalinist left.

Actually, I am doing some research and am reading a book on Lenin written by a Trotsyist -- Trots or anti-Stalin Leninists. Naturally Lenin comes off looking great and I do try to read between the lines, but I find him fascinating - one of the great figures in history, not the monster we were taught he was.

This is not a complete list.

American Left

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The American Left has consisted of a broad range of individuals and groups that have sought fundamental egalitarian changes[1][2] in the economic, political, and cultural institutions of the United States. Leftist activists in the United States have been credited with advancing social change on issues such as labor and civil rights, as well as providing critiques of capitalism.[2]



  1. 'it is true that liberty is precious,so precious that it must be rationed.'

    From one of history's greatest mass murderers, Vladimir Lenin

  2. Orwell was a socialist till the day he died. Was anti Stalin. You ought to read him some time instead of tossing around buzz words.

  3. The 1984 reference is related to truth and perception. Lenin was easily as barbaric as Hitler. Yet somehow in America people like you can venerate him and communism. There is even a statue of lenin in Seattle. Imagine a statue of Hitler in Philadelphia. I read all of Orwell. I even read "Keep the Aspidistra flying. Without googling it, what is the symbolism of the aspidistra?

    1. What absolute hogwash and propaganda bullshit. After revolution USA and Great Britain invaded Russia to kill revolution. Lenin won and pulled Russia out of the war where Russia lost 14 million and saved millions more while we tried to put in a regime that would continue war and lose more millions. Lenin and socialists were against that war - how many died all together? You discount those deaths that were due to imperialism. There was no reason for that war. Talk about liberty? Wilson put anyone in jail who uttered a word against. Eugene debs a pres candidate with millioof votes was sent to 10 years in prison. How easy you discount everything else. Because your really know nothing other than the narrow propaganda you were taught.
      It’s always Venezuela but never Pinochet.

  4. And what did Lenin and Trotsky do to the "other" socialists once they got power. Purged them all along with intellectuals,officer corps, and clergy. The "Red Holocaust" was perpetrated against the majority of the population. only 5% of Russians supported the Bolsheviks. Money from America was the decisive factor. Look into bankers Warburg and Schiff. There is a senator by that name I believe. Maybe they are related. Who the leaders of the 5% were is meticulously described in 200 years together by Alexander Solsenitzn. A brilliant writer who spent 11 years in the gulags. You wont find it in America because only one version of events is allowed. There is a six hour documentary on Youtube by an Englishman,Denis Wise, The reatest Story Never Told, (of course it is continually banned but cannot be eradicated) that also portrays an historical figure, Hitler, as..."not the monster we were taught he was. You should watch it. Take notes. and fact check what yo disagree with.

  5. The refreshing thing in the big picture is that the internet has broken the monopoly on information enjoyed for generations by vested interests in sustaining old orthodoxies. People are learning that much of what they were formally taught in school and college is lies and propaganda. The easily proven truth that Bolshevism was the midwife of nationalism was never taught in any school I attended. I never heard
    of the Holodomer ( genocide of 7 million Ukranians in 1933 who fought for the whites in the civil war) until I expanded my "narrow" knowledge with some independent reading.

    As for WW1. Remember the old saying. All wars are bankers wars.The old empires had to be destroyed, vis the monarchies before, Bourbons etc. A new internationalist wind was blowing. Check out Louis Brandeis, W Wilson, and the Balfour Declaration.

  6. Woodrow Wilson ran on a neutrality platform in 1914. The reasons why he became rabidly pro war in 1916 provides great insights into the unfolding events that are even relevent today. Why was Sigmund Freud's nephew given a 6 million dollar budget to demonise Germany and create a pro war fervor in America. What were the underlying currents that made this possible. Yes imperialism was evil and needed to be stopped, but other dynamics were at work as well.

  7. “Hitler was not the monster we thought” may be your best comment ever. I was taught to be skeptical of the standard view of what happened in the Soviet Union etc in communist world by my Hungarian prof kiraly a general who had been in a Stalin death camp. Critical analysis and examining all sides. Context. Did Lenin pull a coup or did bolsheviks have real support? Outcome of civil war with all forces arrayed against them shows he did. Did Stalin betray rev as trots maintain. People slam Castro while ignoring right wing police states all over central and Latin America and at least Cubans got education and health care for giving up freedom. Like they had freedom before. Given a choice you’d prob choose Hitler over Stalin because you hate the ideology of socialism. Hitler ideology doesn’t seem as dangerous to you and fits right into your white supremacy

  8. You diminish yourself with ad hominem. I was merely comparing your general quote about Lenin. I actually was giving you the benefit of the doubt as you appear to have read the Trostskyists analysis with an open mind You are obviously reasonably intelligent, yet you dismiss those with whom you disagree with insults. I am an old man and had many relative s who fought in WW2. I have heard many points of view. As for Pinochet I was on many marches against Maggie Thatcher giving him refuge in London. All Tyrrany should be opposed. And as for socialism, the egalitarian variety, I have no objection. Authoritarian socialism, or communism, is consolidated by political correcteness. Hence Orwell's objections characterized in Animal Farm. Orwell learned to hate and mistrust communists in the Spanish Civil War. He saw how they co opted the popular front and rationed weapons. They particularly hated the Catalonian anarchists.had the communists won that war they would almost certainly have purged the other socialist groups. sadly in todays climate it has become too easy to dismiss alterantive viewpoints labels and name calling. My practice is usually to guard against those overly reliant on pejoratives.

  9. It has ben interesting, and I will read up on some of the points you made. Goodbye

  10. There’s a recent book on Orwell and Churchill worth reading. Orwell joined an anti Stalin trot brigade and the Stalinists attacked them viewing them as the bigger enemy. At that point I believe he turned hard against Stalinism which is a particular brand - animal farm is a rejection of the Soviet model of control. He was a freer spirit but still a socialist of an ideal type. Democracy was an essential but can it be compatible

  11. Interesting comments. Stalin is virtually unknown to most Americans, while Hitler is the devil. They are co-monarchs in that realm. As for Churchill believed the same things Hitler did, from eugenics to his election slogan 'Keep Britan White'. He was also responsible for a genocide, many atrocities and public executions of those that rebelled against British rule, that are now national heroes in their respective countries. The only person that comes close to Churchill's mentality now is Trump. People love to compare him to Hitler but he's much closer to Churchill in every way. As for Cuba if you don't have anything, Cuba is a paradise. No one starves and everyone is educated. The problem is once you have that, you want more - that's where the Cubans are right now. Cuba for me is both upsetting to my American psyche and fascinating intellectually - as a social experiment that has largely succeeded, but now is threatened by its own success. Castro and Cuba have set up symbols throughout Latin America to lead those nations that strive to survive towards the Cuban way. Ingenious plan culminating during Castro's elongated wake.

  12. Great comment. Nuanced and balanced. Most of the left despises Stalin for what he did to ruin such potential - mostly the wiping out of so many people - the Old Bolsheviks - I think my uncle was one of them purged in 37. As for the cold war I think the feeling is that Churchill's and others wanting to wipe them out made them have a buffer from Easter Europe - and it took 40 years to come apart. Ultimately if you compare Putin's Russia and Stalin's Russia -- I wonder over the long run. I think Lenin's vision is interesting to study. It still drives many people on the left.


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