For the US Left, much of 2023 was marked by big shifts and big gatherings, taking stock and plotting paths. Convergence first conceived of this series before Hamas attacked Israel and Israel invaded Gaza, shattering lives and upending politics. But as the shadows of war and fascism deepen, so does our need for alignment, even as it becomes more difficult to buid.
To help envision how we move forward, we invited groups across the Left to contribute to this series in the spirit of building understanding across our movement ecosystems. Much of the work to block the MAGA Right over the next year will necessarily happen in electoral campaigns, but moving towards true multiracial democracy will take long-term work on many levels, from neighborhood to national, from community- and institution-building to winning races and ballot measures, as we contest for governing power.
We asked respondents to write about ways their strategy contributes to blocking MAGA in 2024, and how their short- and long-term plans inform each other; how their strategy contributes to building leaders, members, power and capacity; and how they fit into the movement ecosystem, and coordinate and collaborate with others in their niche. The order in which contributions appear reflects different organizations’ rhythms of work, rather than a political assessment by Convergence. This is the second article in the series; you can read the first one here.
Liberation Road is a socialist organization that, since our founding in 1985, has supported generations of movement leaders in developing the theoretical, strategic, and tactical proficiencies needed to engage in immediate struggles while building the long-term path towards 21st-century socialism. Our members are active in labor unions and racial, gender, and climate justice organizing across the country, with a strategic focus on the US South.
Both in and beyond 2024, we believe it is the shared task of all Left forces to contribute to the defeat of the far Right. Our approach to strategy is guided by an understanding that, while there are multiple contradictions within US racial settler capitalism, there is one central contradiction that is principal at any particular juncture. This means it is the contradiction which needs to be resolved in order to advance to the next stage of struggle. In this period, we assess that the principal contradiction lies between a multi-racial pro-democracy united front and a minoritarian but powerful front that we have termed the New Confederacy. Like the old Confederacy, the New Confederacy unites the most reactionary sectors of capital with nativist, right-wing populists around a white supremacist, Christian nationalist and cisheteropatriarchal agenda.
Over the past decade, this dangerous, reactionary front has consolidated their leadership of the Republican Party and used the latter as a political instrument to win governing power, with a particular focus on state-level government. Unfortunately, they have been remarkably successful in this regard, taking advantage of the structural biases of the US political system and intensifying the latter through aggressive legislation and partisan gerrymandering. Trump’s 2016 election catalyzed these processes, although his almost comic ill-preparedness for governance impeded the Right’s ability to use this to their full advantage. They will not make that error twice. Make no mistake: if the first Trump administration was, in part, a farce, a second Trump presidency would be an unmitigated tragedy.
It is thus imperative that all left forces contribute to a multi-pronged, sustained, and coordinated struggle against the New Confederacy, both in 2024 and beyond, until the threat it poses to our democracy and society has been successfully contained. This must not be construed as a limited task for those of us organizing in a handful of swing states, as crucial as those struggles are. True, the racist and undemocratic nature of the electoral college deprives people in most places of a meaningful role in selecting the next president. But MAGA candidates will be contending for power almost everywhere, in races up and down the ballot, with hugely significant stakes.
One need only consider the role of suburban New York congressional districts in delivering Republicans a House majority in 2022 to grasp the importance that ostensibly “blue” cities and states can have on deciding governing power at the federal level. Just as crucial are the myriad state races that the New Confederacy has long targeted as part of a concerted strategy to build power and rig elections by winning state-level governing trifectas. Particularly as the reactionary Supreme Court returns more and more powers to the states, these gubernatorial, state legislative and state judicial races are of critical importance. And as the far right’s concerted focus on school board races shows, even local elections can be important sites to contend against the New Confederacy. To defeat them, we must engage in all these races and places while making clear to our people what is at stake.
Contextualizing secondary struggles against centrists
In addition to struggles against the New Confederacy, many left and progressive forces are engaged in frequent and often fierce struggles with the Center. The relationship between these two types of struggle has long been a source of confusion on the Left, particularly as the peculiarities of US political structures compel forces with quite different and competing interests to operate inside an ostensibly two-party system. The geopolitics of partisan sorting further compound this confusion, as left forces are increasingly concentrated in urban areas where our immediate political opposition is composed, not of right-wing extremists, but of centrist Democrats.
Indeed, geographic context determines much about the content of such struggles. In “red” states and regions where the combined power of Left-progressive and centrist forces is low, their struggles concern strategic and tactical differences over how best to defend against the power of the Right. In “purple” states and contested districts, left and center forces struggle over how best to contend for power, with competing electoral strategies rooted in differing theories of change. Only in “blue” states and (relatively) progressive municipalities where our front is dominant do we directly contend with the center over how to exercise governing power—prefiguring the broader struggles that will emerge between Left and centrist forces, should we be successful in defeating our common enemy.
Because we believe that the New Confederacy is the main enemy in this political period, whose decisive defeat will require the combined efforts of all those committed to opposing it, we believe struggles against centrist forces must be understood as secondary. This does not mean they are not vitally important. Rather, it means that decisions as to how and when to engage them must be made with an eye to whether they strengthen or weaken our combined ability to defeat the New Confederacy.
Left forces should engage in such secondary struggles when they give us an opportunity to win more people to our positions, shift the overall balance inside the broad pro-democracy front to the Left, and strengthen our ability to defeat the Right. We should avoid such struggles when they risk alienating people from our positions, isolating the Left within the front, and detracting from our ability to defeat the Right. The same adage we use when organizing a shop floor or neighborhood applies at the broader electoral and societal level: in any given context, we should seek to unite the advanced, win over the middle, and isolate the opposition.
Working inside and outside electoral politics
To do so, we have for many years argued that Left-progressive forces must pursue a two-pronged strategy—working inside and outside electoral politics broadly and the structures of the Democratic Party narrowly. Our members have long been active in such efforts, helping build new IPO projects and contributing to the growth of the electoral efforts and expertise of existing community and labor organizations. Happily, in recent years this position has gained broader credence, as more and more movement forces have come to realize that we must break out of the silos of narrow issue-based and sectoral organizing and build towards a shared vision of governing power. Whether we think of national entities like the Working Families Party, state formations like the Carolina Federation, local groups like the Richmond Progressive Alliance, or the field operations of unions like UNITE HERE, movement forces are increasingly working to integrate electoral work with year-round organizing, so that we can contribute to immediate electoral wins while building the base needed for longer-term transformation.
The development of this inside/outside trend is encouraging, but its component parts are still nascent and fragmented. To meet the urgent tasks of this political moment, it is of critical importance that Left forces 1) continue to build and develop IPOs, 2) increase alignment among IPOs and other components of the inside/outside trend, and 3) engage in a coordinated program to defend, expand and transform democracy towards a shared longer-term vision of progressive governing power.
Promoting alignment and left-progressive political strategy
One niche Liberation Road occupies within the broader Left and progressive ecosystem is to help facilitate just such alignment. The dialectical relationship between theory and practice happens constantly within individual campaigns, organizations and movements, as people take actions and learn from them. But too often, the urgent needs and practical requirements of such work do not allow for these learnings to be systematized, synthesized and widely shared, preventing us from increasing alignment between organizations, learning lessons across cycles of struggle, and building a Left greater than the sum of its parts. Liberation Road works to coordinate left-progressive political strategy by helping develop and propagate shared concepts, frameworks and theories across our movements.
Internally, our organization works to facilitate this process by developing our cadre’s proficiency as leaders and strategists, engaging them in the summation of practice and the ongoing development of theory, and supporting them in making sharper and more strategic impacts in the mass movements in which they are involved. Ours is not a vanguardist position in the sectarian sense of the term, for we respect the autonomy and internal decision-making mechanisms of mass movement organizations. But neither is it a tailist position, for we do not assume that correct theory and strategy emerge spontaneously from practice. Instead, we strive to provide a space to help formulate and disseminate shared strategic frameworks as a guide to more cohesive and effective action, while contributing to the growth of a broader socialist core of which we are clear that we are but one part.
Externally, we work to build alignment with the organized socialist Left as well as with unaffiliated socialists active in labor and the social movements. This has long been a priority of Liberation Road but we have intensified those efforts as the urgency of the challenges we face increases the necessity of building a stronger and more coherent movement. To that end, we are excited to be in co-partnership with Left Roots and many independent socialists around an exciting Socialist Organization and Strategy (SOS) Process—a non-sectarian effort to sharpen our shared impact in the crucial political struggles of 2024 while laying the foundations for a stronger and more powerful Left. Through these and other efforts—including this symposium—we strive to help cohere a broader and more powerful Left that can help to build and align political power, defeat the Right, and advance the struggle for socialism.
Nzinga Amani, Bennett Carpenter & Anca Stefan
On behalf of the National Executive Committee of Liberation Road
Featured image: Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, OR, June 23, 2020. Photo by Pete Forsyth. Licensed CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Photo treatment by Convergence.