I agree with David's cogent comments, add my deep respect for both the long-time activity and deep insight of our elder members like Herb Fox. Many of us besides Michael Balter chafe at the longtime inutility of much leftism here and in many other countries. Fraticide is not, however, the solution, and indeed is quite the opposite of deep leftist principles, is it not?
As to David's good list of starting points, though -- I'd like to "trouble" them a bit, especially points (2) and (3), with the observation that for most Americans who are in (whether they realize it or not) the "working class," i.e., the exploited subjects of capitalist, patriarchal, sexist, and racist (etc.) hegemony, capitalism is good!
At least, that's what they think. As they circle round and round thinking some day they'll get the brass ring, some day their lottery ticket will be a winner, etc.
So my point (4): The working people that socialism and SftP speak to must first become aware that they are "working" -- for the elite, and against other workers and the planet. Not, as countless commercials and candidates have convinced them, destined to someday become rich people in big houses with every fancy toy money can buy, and China can make. This is a big educational challenge. I think it must precede or accompany all others.
On the good side? My ultra-conservative University of Idaho -- a university who measures their progressivism by liking Obama in a state that still votes for Larry Craig (who so did not do whatever the press claim... besides, he was in a frat here, and the student president, so we know he was straight. Pause for wild laughter) -- now has a student SOCIALIST CLUB! Started by undergraduates, in their late teens and early 20's.
What a hopeful sign of spring -- a red/green spring! Because their first big activity included showing two films, "How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," and "The Story of Stuff," to kick off discussion about how socialism includes sustainability, as well as being feminist, anti-imperialist, and against other race/class/gender/sexuality hegemonies. I was out of town when this happened, so I've emailed the young woman who's the "Co-Chair Representative" (another good sign, ne?) to find out more and ask to help.
Passing the torch (and not to China),
I share Michael Balter's frustration with the left, but I have very
different ideas about the solution, and I respect very highly the
orientation of my old friend Herb Fox towards "concrete action"; even though
I also differ with him about what sort of actions are beneficial. I don't
intend to get into "Balter-bashing", even though I disagree with Michael,
but I do want to offer an alternative perspective on the problems with the
left and what we who consider ourselves leftists should do to more
effectively oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lead the way to a
better society in the USA:
1) First of all, a big problem with the left has been that it has been too
bemused by revisionist-Marxist deviations, by which I mean Stalinism,
Maoism, Trotskyism, and Castroism. All of these ideologies have deviated
from the basic ideas of Marx and Lenin and, in the cases where they have
actually been applied, have led to the restoration of capitalism under a
"socialist" banner, leading the working class astray and destroying its
ability to organize a true path forward.
2) Second of all, left activists need to go to the masses and tell them the
truth about US imperialism, not spend time looking for liberal saviors such
as Obama, who have already shown ample evidence that they will betray the
left and the people at the very first chance. The truth about US
imperialism is that it is rooted in capitalism and that the masses will only
be rid of this scourge if they carry out a struggle on this basis.
3) Third of all, this orientation towards the masses should offer an
explicit working-class perspective, one that champions independent actions
on behalf of working people's economic and political interests, not
dependence on the liberal establishment for crumbs and favors.
These are some of the main principles that I have seen necessary for really
effective left action, effective in the sense that it will really have the
effects that we wish for. People on this list may think that these things
will not be effective in reaching people, but if we reach people with a
message that does not offer an effective solution, then what good is that
message? I would rather tell people the truth and risk disagreement, than
tell them pretty lies and help them live in a dream world. Thank you all