United States - Solidarity
The political moment in the United States can by characterized by the capitalist crisis that has continued since 2008. Though the historic bank bailouts stopped the economic free-fall, the US economy contracted immensely and unemployment officially reached 10%, though more realistically total unemployment is closer to 20%, with workers of color experiencing even higher rates (from 25-50%). While the three imperial wars continue, military enlistment is considered one of the only means of youth and working class employment (a “poverty draft”). An accelerated wave of bank foreclosures on private homes coincided with the 2008 crisis and continues. Obama’s presidency has seen an increase in federal deportations, and a chain of anti-immigrant bills, beginning with Arizona in 2009, have been passed across a number of US states. Immigrants continue to be scapegoated for high levels of unemployment and government deficits.
Both political parties, Republican and Democrat, have since been committed to aggressive austerity measures, differing only on implementation. The lag in the economy plus tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations have produced a fiscal crisis that is real and artificial, similar to the crises of European governments but different in that the US is diffused through a federated system. Federal stimulus money to US states ended in late 2010, and politicians of both parties began a series of monstrous cuts to all social services and attacks upon trade unions in the public sector.
This led to a heightened level of struggle in 2011, beginning with trade unions in Wisconsin combating legislation that would effectively destroy public unions. Though that struggle ended in defeat, its dramatic month-long capitol occupation served as a kind of “watershed moment” for Occupy Wall Street and the encampments OWS has inspired. “Occupy”, which began in September, has spread across the country and attracted many disaffected youth and energized a layer of new activists. While initially criticized as being very white, Occupy has broadened its base in recent weeks and a number of people of color-led encampments have begun under the rubric “Decolonize” and “Occupy the Hood”. Mass actions in Oakland, California in early November seems to have shifted the gravity there from New York City. Other important actions in 2011 have been civil disobedience campaigns by undocumented immigrant youth against anti-immigrant legislation and the large rallies to halt the execution of Troy Davis, an African American on death row. Lastly, the pace of these struggles are sure to shift in the 2012 election year as movements have to orient to Obama once again.
SOLIDARITY, like others on the US left, is trying to relate to ongoing struggles in a situation with a miniscule organized left. SOLIDARITY comprises about 300 members, while the largest socialist organization in the US is only about 900 members. SOLIDARITY was founded by militants primarily from the ’68 generation to be a principled and pluralist organization that aimed for a regroupment of the broader left and is known largely for its work in trade unions and independent politics. Twenty-five years in, the organization is undergoing a kind of generational transference to younger activists with different experiences and orientations. SOLIDARITY is currently faced with issues of low capacity, internal development and a desire to change member composition as well as broader movement questions about what to do in the current period.