An Introduction: Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Politics & the Future

Against the Current, No. 15, July/August 1988

The Editors

NO EVENT IN decades of U.S. electoral politics has captured the imagination of U.S. social movements and the left as Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign for the presidency. Towering over the field of Democratic contenders, Jackson appeared to many as a real possibility for the nomination, until the consolidation of the party’s mainstream leadership around Dukakis made the odds unbeatable.

Previous articles and editorials in Against the Current have discussed the contradictory situation confronting the pro-Jackson left, which provides the grassroots workers for an electoral campaign increasingly shaped by the established Black Democratic leadership and by the necessities of “practical” politics, with ever-decreasing left input into the campaign’s agenda.

For this issue, the ATC editors invited a number of individuals and organizations to contribute viewpoints on the theme of “Jesse Jackson, the Rainbow and the Future of the Movements.” The intent of the collection was to focus on the future: what will be the legacy of the Jackson campaign in the post-Reagan environment? Will it facilitate a break from the Democratic Party, or the incorporation of the movements into it?

The participants whose contributions we present here include Joanna Misnik of Solidarity, Wayne Price of the Revolutionary Socialist League and Charles Sarkis of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, three views within the organized socialist left; Mel Leiman, an economist who contributed to ATC on the subject of market socialism; and Abdeen Jabara and Angela Sanbrano, respectively a leader of the Arab-American community and a Central America solidarity and Latino activist, who were interviewed for this discussion.

Most of these contributions were completed prior to the New York and California primaries, and therefore reflect a context in which the Democratic nomination was not yet considered a dosed issue. Their assessments of the meaning of the campaign, however, will be important long after the Democratic convention has come and gone. The discussion is obviously a complex and controversial one — and which ATC will certainly be continuing to discuss.

July-August 1988, ATC 15

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