I had some further thoughts triggered by the Berman/Robin controversy [and thanks to Dean for his/her kind remarks]. They concern the subject, now much under discussion in the media, of the relationship of those identifying themselves as Democratic Socialists or Social Democrats to the main body of Democratic Party elected officials and operatives. It strikes me that it is less than helpful to draw elaborate comparisons with European struggles between the two wars. My reason is as follows.
Multi-party parliamentary politics always poses for the members of one of the parties, especially one of the smaller parties, a problematic choice: whether to work with, perhaps even to join, one of the larger parties, thereby gaining some measure of political power, but at the price of compromising severely with one’s principles and programs; or alternatively to remain separate and thus able to preserve the authenticity of one's principles and programs, but at the price of giving up even such power as participation in a coalition might afford.
I do not see this choice as a matter of existential purity, as it would be perhaps for a religious splinter sect convinced that precisely its interpretation of holy writ is the only pathway to salvation. Rather, it is a choice forced on the party by the structure of parliamentary politics.
The American political system is not a parliamentary system, a fact that makes minor party political efforts unsuccessful save in the most unusual of circumstances. The Greens, the Libertarians, and other minority parties are in general doomed to failure by the structure of the American political system. The fight between the left of the Democratic Party and the establishment wing is taking place within the party. Next January, if the Democrats have retaken the House, all the candidates who are elected on the Democratic ticket, whatever their political orientation, will choose a Speaker of the House and share around the committee chairmanships. The fights will go on, just as they have in the Republican Party, and as the successes of the so-called Freedom Caucus demonstrate, unified minorities can have considerable success. But the experiences of European Socialist, Communist, Social Democratic and other left parties do not, I believe, offer useful lessons or guides to American left activists.