Is the Democratic Party “the other” capitalist party or a progressive people’s party?

BY:Juan Lopez| May 12, 2024
Is the Democratic Party “the other” capitalist party or a progressive people’s party?


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Let’s start by establishing the overall framework.

The main contradiction today is not an ordinary succession of one capitalist government by another, but the substitution of one form of class rule – capitalist democracy – by another – open terrorist dictatorship, to paraphrase Georgi Dimitroff’s still-valid axiom.

In the U.S. we have a two-party electoral system at the federal and state levels, unlike most other countries where proportional representation allows for parties including the Communist Party to participate in coalition blocs with other parties.

Role and composition of the two parties

Over time, the Republican Party has morphed into a far right and, with Trump’s inducement, fascist party representing the most reactionary sections of monopoly.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party has evolved into a left-center people’s party composed of a wide variety of class and social forces and a field of struggle with progressive activist trends engaging with more centrist “moderate” trends.

Alongside the Democratic Party, the main mass progressive people’s organizations have independent electoral and legislative formations which play key roles.

Among these are the multiracial labor movement as well as the women, people of color, youth, and LGBTQ+ movements and a wide array of organizations like Indivisible, Our Revolution, and labor’s Working America among others.

The twin evils and the lesser of two evils

Sections of our country’s left mechanically try to superimpose the multiparty system on our country’s reality where third parties tend to act as spoilers, except for a few states that have won fusion electoral systems.

Meanwhile, they see the Democratic and Republican parties as one-and-the-same tool of the ruling capitalist class.
A larger slice of the left does understand that the Republican Party has been taken over by the far right and, more recently, by a fascist cabal serving monopoly capital’s most reactionary sections.

This left category generally views the Democratic Party as a tool of the capitalist class, albeit its liberal section. While favoring progressive Democratic candidates and legislation, they see the Democratic Party as the vehicle progressive peoples’ movements must utilize at the state and federal level.

They see the progressive people’s movements and independent formations as the principal force to win reforms, and view the Democratic Party, except for its growing left section, as an unreliable partner.

Symbiotic relationship

In my view, this thinking is undialectical in that it is oblivious to organic interconnection between the people’s movements and the Democratic Party.

It is pivotal that the main mass progressive people’s organizations have their own independent electoral and legislative formations which play key roles.
But many on the left fail to see the symbiotic relationship whereby the people’s movements operate alongside, with, and through the Democratic Party on electoral and legislative matters at the federal and state levels.

So, what do I mean?

The day before the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC) leading progressive women’s groups held a summit aimed to ensure women’s perspectives were front and center at the Democratic convention.

The summit’s stated aim was to elevate women’s voices, especially women of color who have been a crucial voting bloc, to ensure that issues especially affecting women, including access to abortion, paid family and sick leave, pay equity among many others, were uppermost in the conversation.

Mindful of majority public sentiment at the time and the general view of delegates, then vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris warned of the damage of “structural racism,” which she said leads to “injustice in reproductive and maternal health care, excessive use of force by police, and our broader criminal justice system.”

Among convention delegates were hundreds of leaders and members representing unions key in shaping policy and electing the party’s presidential candidate.

There is also the well-known case of Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent senator, at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Sanders understood that to run a credible presidential campaign he had to do it under the Democratic Party banner. In addition, the senator and his supporters fought vigorously to influence the platform emerging from that convention.

In Congress, Sanders caucuses with Senate Democrats and, while arguing for his personal political positions, votes with them overwhelmingly, whether it be with their united majority or their breakaway left flank.
More recently, the progressive and nationally largest state central labor body, the California Labor Federation, after holding its own democratically conducted candidate selection process, launched a multi-union campaign to encourage members to become Democratic delegates to promote labor’s agenda and labor endorsed candidates at the Democratic Party state convention.

President Biden nominated U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor – and former California Labor Secretary – Julie Su, to succeed U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

Su has won widespread backing from labor unions for her role in the administration’s support for striking workers and those seeking to organize, and for carrying out a series of pro-labor regulatory, enforcement and legislative actions.

As soon as he took office, President Biden ditched the Republican majority on the National Labor Relations Board and replaced it with Democrats who have been making pro-labor decisions including the ground-breaking ones reported by Mark Gruenberg in People’s World on Jan. 19 and March 2.

These clearcut facts, I believe, show the “lesser of two evils” characterization of the Democratic Party holds no water.

For the viable left, including the Party, it is important to recognize the symbiotic relationship in fashioning strategy and tactics now, when the country is facing a fascist danger represented by Trump and Republican Party, and the necessity to build a peoples united front to defeat it.

I can only suppose the battle between labor and its strategic allies on the one hand and capital on the other over control of the Democratic Party will intensify, if we manage to win and secure the November elections and subsequently to isolate and incapacitate far-right/fascist political and economic power.

Much depends on how the people’s progressive class and social forces come to see their chances in the Democratic Party at that time.



    Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.

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