Revisiting the MPP After Its “People’s Convention”
By ALAN BENJAMIN
(reprinted from The Organizer Weekly No. 9 – Sept. 11, 2020)
One month ago, The Organizer Weekly published an editorial with our assessment of the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP). We affirmed, based on MPP texts and actions that (1) the MPP was not proposing to build a party truly independent of the Democrats and Republicans, and (2) the MPP was not proposing to build a working-class party rooted in the struggles of workers and oppressed communities — proposing instead a multi-class “people’s party.”
Many readers of our newsletter wrote to express their agreement with this assessment, but a few others wrote to say that our judgment was too harsh. The MPP, we were informed, has “evolved” and is now using the term “working class” in its postings. More important, the MPP has jettisoned its “inside-outside” approach toward the Democratic Party.
Is this criticism of our editorial accurate? Has the MPP evolved to the point that it is now calling to build an independent working-class party, forged in a clean break with the parties of the bosses?
Let’s take a closer look at the August 30 “People’s Convention” sponsored by the MPP to see if our assessment of the MPP is off base.
Breaking with the “Inside-Outside” Strategy?
On the first point, our editorial referred our readers to postings on the MPP’s website that embraced an “inside-outside” approach toward the Democratic Party, such as this one:
“Historically, a successful inside-outside strategy involves pressure from within an establishment party and pressure from a major independent party. Together, those from within and those from without work as a team to either force an establishment party to represent working people or replace it with a party that does.”
“People’s Convention” keynote speakers included Nina Turner, a national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, and former Democratic Party presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.
Turner, a member of the Democratic Party National Convention Committee in 2020, reiterated the MPP’s basic political orientation when she stated on the eve of the “People’s Convention (The Guardian, Aug. 29), that:
“There are some progressives who want to ‘#DemExit’ but there are some progressives who believe, ‘It’s my party, I can cry if I want to and I’m going to stay inside and push.’
“I support both of those forces because I think at the end of the day, even though they might be going down slightly different roads, they are parallel and the end point is the same. … I recognize and support those who say that they’re gonna stay inside the Democratic Party and give ’em hell and keep pushing them to the left. Both of those forces are needed. I consider those yin and yang.”
That is “inside-outside” all the way. No shift there.
Evolving toward a working-class party?
On the second point, we took issue in our editorial last month with the very concept of a people’s party, explaining how this differs from a working-class party in that such people’s parties historically — and worldwide — see the struggle not in class terms (workers vs. capitalists) but rather as people of all social classes vs. the oligarchy (the financial elites).
We took particular exception to MPP National Director Nick Brana’s repeated reference to self-described “left populist” parties in Europe as models of “successful” people’s parties to be emulated. Brana had pointed to three “examples of success” in forging “coalitions of progressive groups” — Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and France Unbowed in France.
“These are not examples of independent politics,” we wrote. “They are not rooted in the working class and its organizations. They all have bowed, to one degree or another, to the dictates of the European Union, that is, to the dictates of global capitalism. They are all openly and proudly multi-class political parties fighting the 1% oligarchy.”
What does the “People’s Convention” tell us on this point?
Interviewed on Rising Up with Sonali Kolhatkar (KPFK Radio, Los Angeles) on September 4, MPP media spokesperson Carol Ehrle affirmed that the MPP is not just appealing to people on the left. “We are appealing to people on the left and the right,” she said. “We don’t look at it as a left and right thing, we’re trying to shift the paradigm.”
Sonali was a bit stunned. “You say you’re appealing to people on the right? How so on the right?” she asked.
Ehrle insisted that, “there are issues that unite all Americans. We don’t believe you can build a new party with just progressives or people on the left. You have to reach out to everybody to fight the 0.5% at the top. That’s where our name — People’s Party — comes from.”
Ehrle is not wrong when she points out that the left vs. right paradigm is not a good one. The only paradigm that is valid is working class vs. capitalist class, but that is not what Ehrle and the MPP are proposing. They are proposing a populist, multi-class party — a party for everyone except the 0.5% at the top.
A party for everybody, indeed: Another featured speaker, introduced glowingly “as a very special guest” by Nick Brana, was former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Lest we forget, Ventura is a politician who has long espoused both antiwar positions and far-right and libertarian politics. In 2011, he appeared on the fascistic Alex Jones program to call for a vote for Texas Member of Congress Ron Paul during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.
Ventura reminded participants at the “People’s Convention” that he is a “fiscal conservative” — which in plain English means that he favors cuts to social programs to balance budgets.
MPP National Director Nick Brana clarified further what was meant by a “party for everybody” when, in his closing remarks to the “People’s Convention,” he reiterated that the examples to be followed are Syriza (Greece), Podemos (Spain), France Unbowed (France) … to which he now added a new one: MORENA in Mexico. This is the ruling party in Mexico headed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
The “example” of MORENA is perhaps the most revealing. AMLO made it clear from the outset that his new party would include everybody — and by everybody he meant workers, students, and peasants — but also leading sectors of the capitalist class. He opened the MORENA floodgates to ex-leaders of the right-wing PRI party. Some of the country’s billionaires are members of MORENA. Many were with AMLO when he traveled recently to Washington to applaud the signing of the new corporate NAFTA 2.0 treaty and to announce that, “Trump is a good friend of Mexico.” (AMLO also has been implementing Trump’s heinous and reactionary immigrant rights agreement.)
It’s not that Brana is not aware of the true nature of these parties. This author has discussed these questions at length with Brana. The foreign populist examples are not insignificant; they point to where Brana and the MPP are hoping to steer their new People’s Party in the United States.
So, no, there has been no shift by the MPP on this point, either.
Join us at the “Break the Grip” conference!
The Organizer Weekly remains fully attached to the slogan coined by Tony Mazzocchi and the Labor Party of the 1990s: “The bosses have two parties, we [workers] need one of our own.”
We are committed firmly to the orientation expressed in the two prongs of the LCIP’s Statement of Purpose [see http://www.lcipcampaign.org], and we support actively the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” national conference.
We call upon our readers to register today for the “Break the Grip” conference. Don’t delay. This, we believe, is the orientation required to build a truly independent working-class party rooted in the unions and oppressed communities.