An HDP for the USA: Election 2016

In response to my sharing the ROL’s analysis of the post-Sanders fallout, I received this comment from the comrade writing under the name “John McDonnell’s Kalishnikov”:

Excellent analysis! A break from the Democrats is possible, and we must do all that we can to achieve it. However, we need to be sure to combine such activities with militant anti-Trump work, especially to refute charges of “spoiling” and letting the greater evils win. Gain as much support as we can, form an American HDP, confront and expose Clinton, drive off Trump, that is what needs to be done. Of course, the question is how. Protests at the DNC are definitely a great place to start. What worries me, though, is the inadequacy of the U.S. left to organize something like this without either squabbling with each other, hijacking it for their own ends, being sectarian and isolating themselves from it, or driving people away with relentless newspaper selling. Still, outside of the organized U.S. left, there are some great and capable people, and lacking the baggage of the U.S. left, can organize a split, build a mass left-wing third party of some sort, and work for a revival of mass working class politics here. Have faith in the masses.

I can say that this comment contains most of the elements that are important to Marxists today, with an emphasis on the US particularities, and I am very pleased to see a US comrade express such enthusiasm for these ideas. There are two points within related to the US context which I want to address:

  1. The building of a HDP-like party for the US
  2. The question of the 2016 election

What are the main differences between Turkey and the US? For starters, Turkey is a semi-colony of great imperialist powers like the US. In our analysis, the Turkish state is also fascist. This is not only because of the complete lack of security for the dissenter in a bourgeois state with almost no separation of powers, but also because the perpetual state of terror is enforced by successive governments which frequently appropriate elements of the language of the left (rhetorical resistance to “imperialism” even while of course acting as its loyal pawn, rhetorical opposition to “capitalism” while objectively strengthening it) while relying on militant movements (whether “racist” or “Islamist” in their primary character, and they usually utilise, in their own words, a “synthesis” of the two) which cooperate with the police, secret police, and military and draw their strength from the petty bourgeoisie. In consequence, the HDP presents itself first and foremost as a party which will bring about democratic rights in Turkey (which would include the democratic rights of the Kurdish people, naturally), even if most of the forces behind it have deeper ideas and many understand this fascism as a natural outgrowth of capitalism-imperialism.

By contrast, the US is a bourgeois democracy which is sliding towards fascism. There are clearly fascist elements growing in the US mainstream now, but they have not yet needed to be “unleashed” and the bourgeois democratic rights of US progressives are still (largely) in place. What is interesting about this state of affairs is that it is clear that financial crisis has brought about bolder and more fascist trends, and that it is elements which make progressive demands for “the 99%”, like Bernie Sanders, which are most capable of being mobilised in defence of the positive features of bourgeois democracy. A US HDP would be, in some sense, a progressive party of labour, something which we can see a concrete example of in the rise of Corbyn, who stands up for the interests of the working class while opposing British imperialist wars, providing a strong Menshevik centre around which a more Bolshevik politics may be (re)built.

Additionally, Corbyn’s strong hand within Labour has coincided with the ascendancy of the SNP in Scotland, in a similar way to how the HDP draws on the strength of the Kurdish national movement: As the SNP has risen in Scotland, the “electability”-obsessed Blairites have been exposed as unelectable, while the persistence of the Kurdish question in Turkey means that previously chauvinistic Turkish leftists and democrats are forced to make peace with the Kurdish movement and work with it and not against it.

In general, the question of contradictions between the various nations and nationalities within a state is at any rate related to the power of the proletariat: The bourgeoisie does not want to “share” power with rival bourgeoisies, with whom they have divergent interests due to the question of wanting to maximise their “share” of exploitation/profit. Consequently, navigating between the contradictions of the various bourgeoisies offers the chance to isolate and therefore more effectively combat them. Further, by taking an active role in the national movements of the Scottish, Welsh, Kurds, Afro-Americans, Chicanos, etc., we earn the confidence of these “subordinate” nations’ masses that we stand for their real and immediate liberation, and that when we speak of “internationalism”, we do not mean the subjugation of their local culture or interests, but the real equality in struggle of various nations around the world. As the oppressed nations and nationalities of the US do not yet represent the powerful force that the SNP and other Scottish “national” elements do, this is also an area of vanguard struggle that must be upheld in the construction of a US version of the HDP, or the Labour Party: We must struggle as much as possible to make “mainstream” the idea of concrete demands for the liberation of various marginalised peoples in the imperialist US, in addition to our opposition to US imperialism “abroad”.

This is all very well and good to say: We want a progressive party in the US, which stands for labour, which stands against imperialism and its wars, which stands for liberation struggles at home and abroad. As Marxist-Leninists we can add: That acts as a popular front for electoral struggle for various progressive organisations and parties.

But as our comrade put it: “Of course, the question is how.”

Before everything else, I am obligated to say: Through engagement by progressive forces in popular front action on a local level, through unity in struggle and struggle in unity, through winning over more of the masses to various forms of radical struggle and exposing the perfidy of the Democrats. All of this is true and I hope all readers already accept that the ballot box, while very important, is but one part of struggle. But I would be ignoring the particularities of the US if I didn’t discuss the issue of what the ROL calls “the duopoly” of the Democrats and the Republicans, which is so deeply entrenched that it is difficult for any US citizen to imagine a politics without the “choice” between the two as a primary reference. This leads me to the question of what to do with this election.

Election 2016

All of my US comrades who I have discussed the matter with in private correspondence have told me they will be voting for Jill Stein and hope others will as well to show that there are real masses who do not accept the Democratic Party’s politics and pretensions to a right to the “progressive” vote. They emphasise that the ugliness of the Clinton campaign’s behaviour has led to a dip in her showing in the polls against Trump, which is evidence that despite the extreme politeness of the Sanders campaign, the masses themselves increasingly see that Clinton is unprincipled and represents very “undemocratic” interests. As you say: “Have faith in the masses”.

Several who are following Turkey closely also agree that an “HDP-like” organisation in the answer: Jill Stein has made clear that she is open to discussions aimed at unity of action with people like Bernie Sanders. This should be the stance of all real progressives towards one another, and the eventual goal should be that as the Greens and the various communist parties in Turkey are able to work together within the HDP and HDK, so too should Greens and communists and other progressives in the US work towards the building of an umbrella “party” which will aim to win over the “left Democrats” who have wanted to leave the party for years, and work together in an on-the-ground dialogue with US citizens of all national backgrounds, whether they presently vote Democrat or Republican, and learn from/teach them, in a dialectical process aiming at a higher level of struggle within the imperialist United States.

For the actual casting of a ballot this year though, what should US citizens do? With Sanders effectively out of the picture, many will vote for Clinton, which is emotionally understandable but cannot be understood as a real solution, as it will empower Trump-like politics when Clinton inevitably presides over continued social and economic decline. It is no surprise that the revisionist CPUSA chose this path (even before Sanders was effectively defeated), and indeed it is the stance of washed-up Marxists in other countries as well: To opportunistically support the very forces responsible for the rise of fascism “against fascism” without presenting any real viable alternative.


Most others will vote for Stein, and will inevitably be accused of “spoiling” as third party voters in the US always are no matter the facts of the situation. Given that a Clinton presidency would not provide “breathing space” for progressives (but on the contrary will empower fascist forces, and it is to be noted that Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein have been far fiercer in their attacks against the Trump worldview than Clinton has been), I encourage all US comrades to maximise this protest vote, to show both the masses and the Democratic Party elite that they cannot do whatever they want and have everything they want at the same time. In light of the Sanders campaign, the Democratic Party elite cannot pretend that left-of-Democratic politics have no popular appeal, as they have for years, and yet each new statement by the Clinton campaign is a slap in the face to the millions who voted for Bernie Sanders. If there was ever a time to punish the Democrats, now is that time. If you have any comrades who don’t vote or who are going to vote for their sectarian candidate (the PSL comes to mind), please encourage them to vote for Jill Stein, whose popular appeal is increasing every day since Sanders effectively dropped out of the Democratic race, and who is the only hope to rally the real masses against the “two-party system” in this particular context.

But focusing entirely on the casting of the ballot is also a mistake. Even in terms of parliamentary struggle, we need to begin building stronger local and national networks in all countries. As the Green Party struggles to get on the ballot across the US, all electoral and non-electoral parties must struggle to build meaningful links to the masses they claim to speak for. All electoral and non-electoral parties must struggle for a principled unity in the form of a popular front, and Marxist-Leninists must take a vanguard role in these popular fronts, engaging in their contradictions in order to resolve them in our favour and in favour of the concrete liberation of the masses, in the United States and around the world.

Workers and Oppressed Peoples and Nations of the World, Unite!


4 thoughts on “An HDP for the USA: Election 2016

  1. I’m glad that my comment spurred this excellent piece! This, and other articles like it, need to be spread far and wide so that the Left can organize for the fight to come. We need to go to the masses, learn from them so that we may effectively lead them. Sectarianism, opportunism, isolation must be cast aside, or it will be too late. Our time is limited, and the longer we wait, the easier it’ll be for Trump and those who follow him to win.

    Liked by 1 person

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