Criticizing the Democratic Party is not “Privileged”, It is the Duty of a Revolutionary
Neither AOC nor the rest of the Squad has mounted any significant challenge to the party’s corporate leadership, despite being elected for this exact purpose.
‘Black Americans are the lifeblood of the Democratic Party’s legitimacy, thereby making it necessary for the DNC to drape its loyalty to corporate power in the language of anti-racism.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, popularly known as AOC, was interviewed by the Democratic Socialists of America for their online journal Democratic Left this past January. The interview was published two months later and went viral on social media after observers pointed out AOC’s direct attacks on left critics of the Democratic Party. AOC’s disdain for the left was made clear in her answer to the question of whether Biden’s political history and current antipathy to the Bernie Sanders-aligned section of the party ensures that no “progress” will come under his administration. Her response is published in full:
“Well, I think it’s a really privileged critique. We’re gonna have to focus on solidarity with one another, developing our senses for good faith critique and bad faith critique. Because bad faith critique can destroy everything that we have built so swiftly. And we know this because it has in the past, and it’s taken us so many decades to get to this point. We do not have the time or the luxury to entertain bad faith actors in our movement. But also we have to value our solidarity with one another. For anyone who brings that up, we really have to ask ourselves, what is the message that you are sending to your Black and brown and undocumented members of your community, to your friends, when you say nothing has changed? Perhaps not enough has changed. And this is not a semantic argument. Just the other night, we in collective struggle were able to stop the deportations of critical members of our community. And that would not have happened in a Trump administration.”
AOC and the left-leaning Democratic Party members of Congress otherwise known as “the Squad” have come under scrutiny of late for their unwillingness to force a Congressional vote on Medicare for All or a $15 minimum wage. Over this period, the Democratic Party has won slight majorities in both chambers of Congress and succeeded in pushing Joe Biden over the presidential hump presented by Donald Trump last November.
“AOC’s disdain for the left was made clear.”
These conditions would suggest that there is no better time than now for the Democratic Party to push through a left-wing political agenda. Yet the exact opposite is happening. The latest COVID-19 stimulus package did not include a $15 minimum wage clause in large part because Democrats such as Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin voted against it. More troubling is that neither AOC nor the rest of the Squad has mounted any significant challenge to the party’s corporate leadership during a violent global pandemic and economic depression, despite being elected for this exact purpose.
While AOC decries “privileged” critiques of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party has been busy waging class war on all fronts. Contrary to AOC’s argument that undocumented immigrants suffer less under Democrats, the Biden administration has deported more than 100,000 people in his first few months in office. Biden and the Democrats have also bombed Syria, refused to engage in good faith negotiations with Iran, and propped up a brutal neocolonial regime in Haiti while deporting more Haitian immigrants in a matter of weeksthan Donald Trump in his full four years in office. The Black Alliance for Peace Solidarity Network is organizing a Day of Action on April 8th to demand that Joe Biden withdraw fully from the U.S.’s murderous forever war in Afghanistan before the deadline of the U.S.-Taliban agreement passes on May Day.
“Contrary to AOC’s argument that undocumented immigrants suffer less under Democrats, the Biden administration has deported more than 100,000 people in his first few months in office.”
Furthermore, Biden has maintained his opposition to Medicare for All and given health insurance companies a boost by subsidizing COBRA and ACA marketplace plans. Temporary unemployment and one-time stimulus checks have done little to soften the blow for workers navigating a low-wage capitalist economy in a yearlong state of contraction. Worse yet, the Democratic Party has paid lip service to racism in the United States yet has ignored their systemic roots entirely. Mass incarceration, the decimation of Black wealth, and racist police violence are far from priorities under the current administration. One must ask AOC: what message does this sends to Black and brown members of our communities?
AOC’s comments promote the tired trope that the Democratic Party’s mere presence in the White House represents “progress” for the people. This is not a “left” or a “progressive” argument; it is Democratic Party elite propaganda. AOC hints subtly that the victory of “diversity” over the Trump-led GOP this past election cycle has already led to concrete material change for the people. Harm has been reduced. Black and brown communities have tasted victory and anyone who claims otherwise must be “privileged” and operating in “bad faith.”
“Mass incarceration, the decimation of Black wealth, and racist police violence are far from priorities under the current administration.”
Of course, words such as “privilege” and “bad faith” are never defined and thus easily weaponized to legitimize the dominant system of U.S. imperialism. We’ve seen this before. During the Obama administration’s two terms, the U.S.’s corporate machinery invested heavily in the concepts of “diversity” and “inclusion.” Black and brown faces in high places were celebrated non-stop at the expense of pesky topics such as policy and power. Left critics of Obama were “haters” or “racist” and deemed no better than the GOP.
Now, as then, it is critical to highlight just who is and isn’t included in the “solidarity” that AOC speaks of or the “diversity” achieved during the Obama period. Not included are the millions of Syrians, Libyans, and people across the Middle East and North Africa who have been killed or displaced by U.S. wars. Also not included are the 1.4 billion Chinese who are currently surrounded by hundreds of U.S. military installations and hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel. The tens of thousands of mostly Black people languishing in solitary confinement or the dozens of political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal being tortured behind prison walls also don’t make the cut. If they did, AOC and the Democrats would be having an entirely different conversation.
“During the Obama administration Black and brown faces in high places were celebrated non-stop at the expense of pesky topics such as policy and power.”
The duty of a revolutionary is to take any action, including criticism, that advances the cause of transforming U.S. imperialism into its opposite—a socialist system capable of truly meeting the needs of the oppressed and exploited classes. AOC makes clear that the duty of Democratic Party politicians is to preserve the system of imperialism by framing their substance-free crusade against the GOP as genuine “resistance” or “solidarity.” Unlike the GOP, the DNC is not bound to the ideological limitations imposed upon corporate rule by overt white supremacy. Democratic Party politicians must respond to an increasingly youthful base that finds itself living in worse economic conditions than prior generations. Black Americans are the lifeblood of the Democratic Party’s legitimacy, thereby making it necessary for the DNC to drape its loyalty to corporate power in the language of anti-racism.
Less than two weeks after her Democratic Left interview went viral, AOC took to social media and explained in more detail her thoughts on immigration policy. According to AOC, the “border crisis” is really an “imperialism crisis,” a “climate crisis,” and a “carceral crisis.” She goes on to directly name the U.S.’s “interventionist history” as a source of destabilization and laments having raised these points “in this term” and during “this president.”
‘AOC makes clear that the duty of Democratic Party politicians is to preserve the system of imperialism by framing their substance-free crusade against the GOP as genuine “resistance” or “solidarity.”
The “woke” politics of the Democratic Party render words meaningless since they are never tied to concrete action which places the interests of workers and oppressed people at the forefront of politics. Imperialism can be named for likes and views on social media but criticism of Biden’s direct role in placing starvation sanctions on Venezuela and Syria or leading disastrous interventions in Honduras (2009) or Libya (2011) is akin to operating in “bad faith.” We are told to express solidarity with undocumented immigrants by praising Biden’s leadership as progressive while ignoring the fact that thousands are currently incarcerated in deplorable conditions in just one “detention center” in Texas.
AOC and the “Squad” offer an important lesson to aspiring revolutionaries, socialists, and militants on the left. It is a lesson that was never fully learned during Obama’s immensely destructive tenure as president. That is, the Democratic Party exists not to nurture and develop social movements but rather to send them to their early grave. In this period of intense crisis, a potentially more formidable foe is emerging onto the political scene—one that openly espouses “socialism” yet remains fully committed to a thoroughly capitalist and imperialist Democratic Party anyway. If you criticize this foe, then you may end up being labeled “privileged” or a “bad faith actor” in the movement.
Still, the criticism must go on. Criticism of the Democratic Party is the bare minimum duty of a revolutionary. Anything less is a betrayal of the people, intentional or not.
Danny Haiphong is a contributing editor to Black Agenda Report and co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” Follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny at www.patreon.com/dannyhaiphong
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