We desperately need a mass socialist party. But the dictum “build it and they will come” won’t get us very far. Such a party has preconditions. It demands grounding in dramatic and sustained uptakes in the level of popular struggles and, above all, the generalization of institutionalized, vibrant bases of working-class support. Yet after the multi-decade defeat of the labor movement, it’s precisely such bases of deep support that are so conspicuously absent. External factors like another economic crisis, even if it leads to a powerful political backlash, will not magically generate this foundation. Nor will it come about through some spontaneous dynamic internal to unions. In the current moment, the creation of such a working-class base has its own preconditions. A central one — bringing our dilemma full circle — is a significant socialist presence in the working class. We consequently face a seemingly irresolvable impasse: no party without a base, no base without a party. Is there a way out of this closed circle?

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