Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Road Ahead: NonPartisan Alliance vs Right


By Carl Davidson & Marilyn Katz

We have been through a hell of a battle with the Bush regime in 2004. Each and every one of us engaged in this unprecedented electoral insurgency did all that we could to defeat him. But, by hook and by crook, George Bush narrowly pulled through. We didn’t win it, but losing by slightly less than three points is still no mandate for the Bush agenda, however they try to spin it.

We have nothing to be ashamed about. We gave Bush and the hard right a good fight, discovered some of our weaknesses, but also gained important strengths for the struggles of the future.

This is not to say that the Kerry Campaign, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) shouldn’t be called to account. Relying on a formula that has lost elections over and over again for the last quarter century (It is now 0 for 8! They didn’t even really win Clinton’s race; he won the first time out because Ross Perot was in the race.), the Candidate and the Party lacked compelling vision, discernable message and significant organization. The Republicans, on the other hand, skillfully combined an organizational apparatus built on fundamentalist churches with a message that brought out their core voters in larger numbers than expected.

Green activist Medea Benjamin put it well in an interview in the current issue of Progressive Magazine:

‘Kerry lost because he never provided a clear message or an inspiring vision about the direction this country should take. And we have to admit that Bush’s fear mongering and gay-bashing worked. Bush kept on message, while Kerry didn’t. On Iraq, Kerry had a terribly mixed message. It was very confusing to people to understand where he stood on that issue.’

Or as we have often said: It’s hard to be a pole of attraction if you don’t stand for something. Over the next months there is sure to be great debate within the, DNC and DLC about ‘notes for the next time’, but there is an equally important discussion for those of us who came to the elections from a peace and justice perspective – a discussion of plans for our future.

From Protest to Politics – A Look at What Has Been Gained

Very early on, when Chicagoans Against War and Injustice (CAWI) first started our electoral work, we knew the country was sharply and narrowly divided. We told our people, ‘Look, we may or may not win this election. Obviously we believe that unseating Bush is critical for the well-being of the world, but winning that prize is not the only important thing. If we do it right, whatever the outcome, we will gain new skills, new strengths and new organization.’ And it appears we were correct.

The 2004 election, from a national perspective, was remarkable for the new and creative forms of self organization that emerged throughout the country. While some of the unprecedented organization was directed by old elites, and while most was poorly utilized by the Kerry Campaign, there was an extraordinary flowering of mass participation and organizing, much of it generated independently, with few resources but great imagination. For example:

The ‘Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.’

This was the rallying crying of the Howard Dean campaign, which energized a large number of new campaign workers motivated mainly by opposition to the war in Iraq and the need for national health care. Based mainly among young people and the service worker unions, the ‘Deaniacs’ served as an opposing pole to the center-to-right DLC within the Democratic Party. After losing the primary and then backing Kerry, Dean is now working to regroup these forces into a new formation, Democracy for America. Added to the fact that a majority of the delegates to the Democratic Convention were antiwar, this sets up an explosive conflict within the Democratic Party which, if properly developed, could provide an important ally to the overall peace movement.

Kucinich and the Progressive Caucus.

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chairs of the 54-member Progressive Caucus in Congress, played a critical role in getting 125 votes against the 2002 $87 Billion appropriation for the war in Iraq. As a presidential candidate, Kucinich continued campaigning, long after it was clear he would not win, mainly to build the mass base of the caucus and continue the opposition to the war within the party. Immediately after the Democratic Convention, Kucinich teamed up with a number of Dean Campaign activists and other left progressives to support the formation of a new organization, Progressive Democrats of America. This organization already has key connections with activists from the Green Party and other political independents outside the Democratic Party.

Leading independent Democrats like Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ann Richards of Texas and many more, who committed to anti-war and anti-racist, pro-democracy principles and actions, continued to argue within the party for a more progressive, grass-roots based approach. Employing this outlook is what gave Schakowsky vote tallies in the 70s instead of the 40s. Their political wing within the party, while ignored by the DLC, continues to show it knows how Democrats can win.

Moveon.org, ‘Meetups’ and the Internet.

Organized by a small core of internet-savvy progressive Democrats, Moveon.org gathered millions of activists to its email lists. It brought in nearly $50 million in small donations to its PAC, which it distributed to Democratic candidates independently of the national leadership of the party. Through its decentralized network of local Moveon.org ‘meetups,’ it helped mobilize mass actions against the war and brought in an estimated 400,000 new voters. The meetups are a new decentralized form, facilitated by a central web site that enabled local supporters of every candidate to find each other in local areas, and poll each other to determine the time and place of local face-to-face meetings. Every candidate and every issue had one, promoting a vast increase in grassroots participation.

Mass Actions in an Electoral Context.

Early in 2004, over one million protestors, mainly women, turned out for the DC ‘March for Women’s Lives’ aimed at the Bush Agenda. In August 2004, over 500,000 turned out for the United for Peace and Justice ‘The World Still Says No to War’ march, also aimed at the Bush Agenda, at the GOP Convention in New York City. While not officially endorsing Kerry, these were powerful events that fueled the grassroots electoral insurgencies.

America Coming Together (ACT) and other ‘527’ Groups.

Set up to conform with the new campaign finance laws, these groups gave a way for traditional electoral players--trade unions, corporate elites and wealthy individuals—to channel large sums of money into campaign activity separately from regular party channels. ACT, for example, received millions from George Soros, SEIU and the Teamsters. Working in tandem with the League of Conservation Voters and others, ACT was able to finance large volunteer organizations in the ‘battleground states,’ including fielding 40,000 ACT workers on Election Day itself. While the right wing squawked about liberal 527 money, in the end the conservative 527 groups still managed to get more in total dollars than those aligned with liberal causes. In a backhanded way, the 527s also revealed a weakness in the Democratic leadership. As Benjamin explained:

‘The Democrats have really lost touch with their base. In this campaign, the ones who were out there going door to door for Kerry were the 527 groups….While these organizations galvanized thousands of activists, I witnessed a lot of duplicated efforts and wasted money by bringing in a lot of volunteers from out of state. Whereas when you look at the Republicans, they were more organized, united under a `central command’ in the party, and rooted in community through church networks. The Republicans emphasized local volunteers.’

Cities for Peace and against the Patriot Act.

In a new development, more than 190 city councils, including large urban centers and many small ‘blue dots’ in seas of ‘red states,’ passed resolutions against the pending war in Iraq before it started. Later, a similar number took a stand to change the worst anti-civil liberties features of the Patriot Act. This helped establish a network of local elected officials that found ways to work together with those organizing voter registration drives and mass actions in the streets.

And that’s just the national list. In cities throughout the nation, creative groups emerged, such as New York’s Sunday In the Park Without George, or Runners Against Bush or the Swing (state) Sisters in Chicago. These involved thousands of people, many for the first time, in political action where they work, study, live and play.

How did this play out for progressives on our local level?

In Chicago, as we went into this campaign, we were initially a largely spontaneous movement that had popped up all over the place. While focused on the invasion of Iraq, we were made up of all kinds of people--people who were upset about the war, people who were upset about the Patriot Act and its threat to civil liberties, people angered by the rise in chauvinism towards immigrants, and a range of other issues. We represented a wide span of political views--leftists, progressives, liberals, even a few moderate Republicans. Some of these people formed citywide groups, while others formed groups in neighborhoods. Our citywide group, CAWI, especially encouraged the formation of these neighborhood-based groups—in the city, in the suburbs and in the surrounding counties. Along with promoting mass action in the streets, we also utilized these groups to succeed in our city council resolution work. Thus the ‘grassroots base community’ was an important concept, and it was the way we tried to grow.

That’s where we stood when we started our ‘Regime Change Begins at Home’ voter registration campaign. We began by recruiting people to become deputy registrars. Each time CAWI activists, together with the city and county officials working with us, had a session of 50 or so people to train, we would ask how many people in the room had worked in an election. Maybe two or three hands would go up. The vast majority had never worked in an election before. They had never registered voters before; they had never gone into a precinct and worked it, but they were clearly fired up and militantly enthusiastic to do so now.

So where are we at now?

In the end, CAWI alone deputized and trained nearly 1000 registrars in Chicago and the suburbs; and, working with some close allies, brought in nearly 20,000 new voters. Hundreds of CAWI members and affiliates traveled and made phone banking calls to other states – gaining valuable skills and experience. Additionally, we were able to form strong alliances with other youth, Black and Latino activists—all new relationships that could be built on in the future.

All of these people now know how to go door to door on the issues; they know how to work their precincts and identify inclinations of the voters. They have thousands of new people on their mailing lists. They also know how to get out their voters and protect their votes, and know how to build alliances with new people and other groups. They found that they couldn’t mount a credible campaign alone; they had to go out and find other people and groups in their neighborhoods they hadn’t known before and make alliances with them, not only for this election, but for other struggles as well.

So look back at where we started from and where we are now. It is a very different world, in terms of how well organized we are and the experience that we have gained. We have moved some distance from all these small anti-war circles that we initially started with, to the kinds of experience, connections, alliances and the consciousness of the battle that we have now.

The level of political consciousness is also an important factor even if it’s harder to measure. One sign, for instance, following the election, is the discussion and activity on the internet and in other media, among hundreds of thousands of people outraged about how the election was stolen, or manipulated, or whatever.

There is a lot truth to it. Some of us older, more hardened hands, when we heard people say, ‘The Republicans did this! The Republicans did that!’ we often replied, ‘Yes, well, so what else is new?’ But for a lot of people, for whom this was the very first election they worked in, they were shocked by the shenanigans of business-as-usual elections.

CAWI sent hundreds of people out to Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa. It was a radicalizing experience for them because they came up against Republican goons who were out there doing this ‘depress the vote’ stuff. They met up with the GOP intimidation of young, poor and minority voters first hand, and to counter it and protect the vote, they quickly had to learn the tactics of counter-intimidation. It was quite a learning experience.

So we are now in a very interesting political space.

These changes in consciousness and organization are the fruits of the struggle. Even though we narrowly lost removing Bush from the Presidency, we still have all these fruits.

Bringing in the Harvest

What is the most important thing about fruits? We have to harvest them. If we don’t harvest them, if we just leave them in the fields or on the ground, shame on us! If we don’t consolidate these gains, all of our ultraleft critics who opposed the election as a big diversion will be largely correct. If we allow all these gains to slip through our fingers, we will have been little more than a tail on the Democratic Party.

We have to find new ways to consolidate these gains into new and stronger forms of organization.

We have a good start in Chicago, because we were community-based to begin with and the work we did during the elections just strengthened that base. We used the opportunity of the elections to enhance peoples’ organizing skills – and there’s nothing like door-to-door leafleting or doing voter registration on the issues to sharpen those skills. Our deputy registrar trainings, development of voter lists, even our coalition work added to mailing and phone lists, which in turn were used to recruit people to participate in everything from antiwar rallies and voter registration to trips to neighboring states. And in fact CAWI’s consistent identification with both the issues and the elections meant that at our first post-election meeting, we had nearly 40 new people in our core group. We are clearly a pole of attraction in our area.

But if we are going to consolidate our gains and move forward, we also have to be bolder and more visionary about our prospects for the future. We especially have to be creative in fashioning new instruments and programs for social change. In Chicago – and we hope elsewhere, we think it is time to build on what we have done and create a new organization – one that is:

1) Rooted in the anti-war politics that spurred the creation of CAWI (and other entities) and will continue to give it energy, but over time manages to develop a more holistic vision;
2) Committed to grass-roots organizing on issues, particularly the war, but with a willingness to work both within and outside the electoral arena, recognizing that there is strength in ‘walking on both feet’.
3) Value-based and nonpartisan by design, with a willingness to work with progressive issues and candidates within and outside of the Democratic Party, the Greens and others.
4) Local in origins but aggressively works to create a national federation of groups with similar interests and strategies.
5) A poll of attraction and center for people whatever their level of activity. Activists may be at its core, but our experience tells us that it is important to create spaces where people can participate at their own level.

This is the context of both our electoral work and our prospects for mass direct action. How, then, do we build the new forms of organization appropriate to the tasks at hand? Here’s how we would elaborate on the key points:

We need to be value-centered.

Our starting point is the idea of expanding the core values of peace, justice and democracy in the political, economic and social spheres. We are not candidate-centered, single-issue centered or party-centered. Our commitment is to finding the ways to translate our core values into effective programs, sustainable policies and life-enhancing changes here and around the world. We are not anti-capitalist, anti-socialist or even necessarily anti-corporate. We understand that meaningful and gainful employment, the anchor of a decent livelihood, requires the high-road expansion of high-value, high-skill productive industry and wealth creation, even as we oppose the race-to-the-bottom rapaciousness of low-road corporate raiders and polluters. We thus seek allies in all classes in society.

We need grassroots participation.

Our organizations must be community-centered. They must be neighborhood based, workplace based, faith based and school based. We need thousands upon thousands of local activists and supporters. They must be independent with their own finances, donors and resources. It is not sufficient simply to make ‘coalitions of letterhead advisory boards’ that represent millions of people on paper but can’t get more than a hundred or so folks in the streets or a handful of volunteers at events. This requires a practice of mass action in the streets as well as electoral activity. It also requires a commitment to diversity, tolerance, non-sectarianism, and a democratic style of working with people who agree on some issues but disagree on others.

We need to be nonpartisan and seek broad alliances.

Just ending the war in Iraq will require a tremendous mobilization of progressive forces, winning over of moderate forces and isolating Bush and his Neocon hegemonists. It will also require the defeat of pro-war forces in both major parties. Likewise, electoral reform is going to require the participation of Greens, Libertarians, Progressive Democrats, Civil Libertarian Republicans, the fledgling Labor Party and other minor parties and political independents.

Nonpartisan alliances are not new to American politics. In the early part of the 1900s through the 1920s, the Nonpartisan Leagues were formed throughout the Midwest, from Wisconsin to the Rockies. They rallied the rural population against the Robber Barons and railroad owners by running their own candidates, as well as running slates of NPL candidates in both Democratic and Republican primaries. They managed to take over several state legislatures and win important reforms as a result.

Today, the GOP rightists are pursuing their own broad ‘encirclement’ alliance of uniting the rural areas, winning over the suburbs, and dividing the urban centers by appealing to a new version of ‘white male identity politics.’ We need to oppose it with a counter-hegemonic, broad alliance of our own that exists as a new organization. We can call it the Progressive Nonpartisan Alliance of Illinois, Progressive Illinois, the Network of Peace and Justice Voters of Illinois, or whatever. The concept is what is important, but serious workers and serious funding must be found to start growing it now. Finally, by starting it here, we will be in the best position to use it as an example or ally of similar efforts across the country. In this way, we can prepare for 2006, where we can selectively work to defeat pro-war candidates and elect antiwar candidates.

We need to keep our ability to focus.

We can connect and relate to a wide range of issues, but we need to keep our focus on the critical issues that brought us into being in the first place. This is primarily ending the war in Iraq, opposing wider war elsewhere, and opposing the impact of war, especially its racist and chauvinist threats to democratic rights, on the home front. We are most effective as a broad front against Bush and the policies of his War Party, rather than as an anti-imperialist bloc that equally takes up every conflict or issue against all Republicans and Democrats.

David Frum, one of Bush’s top speechwriters, has an interesting piece in the Nov 9 Wall Street Journal in this regard. He fretted about ‘ferocious partisan dissension’ hurting the war effort; but if we are wise tactically, we are in a good position to expand this dissension, and likewise oppose all the ‘bipartisan reaching out’ and ‘healing the wounds’ rhetoric coming from the DLC types. Frum’s also upset about Bush’s opponents possibly taking advantage of the ‘inevitable mistakes’ in war; but we are also in a good position to do just that. Finally, he worried about ‘partisan wrangling’ when much of the Patriot Act come up next year; but we have the ability to encourage ‘partisan wrangling’ over the Patriot Act and work to change and repeal at least some of its worse features.

The Shape of Future Battles

What would this organization – locally, and together with others, nationally, do? It would address the issues at hand – from the particulars of the War in Iraq and other new follies of Empire, to the consolidation of power of the far right, and even to changing the electoral system itself.
Bush and the far right believe they have a mandate. They believe it even though the GOP margin of victory was slim and their support is disproportionately based on an unstable insecurity among white male voters. They are not likely to stop with Iraq. They have their eyes on Iran and a lot of other places. They have this incredible delusion that they are going to bring democracy throughout the Islamic world by using the Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne as instruments of social change.

In the real world, American GIs are finding themselves fighting urban guerilla war against people who claim to ‘love death more than life’ when it comes to fighting ‘the infidel’. This is not going to be a cake walk. This is not going to be Grenada. Bush and his Neocons are not going to get their victory on the cheap. This is going to be a horrible, drawn-out and unjust struggle. The longer it goes on, the worse it will get. What is more, the hard right will be pushing its ‘culture war’ on the home front, trying to repeal the 1960s, taking aim at civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and many other progressive programs.

On the Fight against War and Occupation

In regard to the war, Tom Hayden recently summed up our tasks as well as anyone. In a piece published on Alternet.org, ‘How to End the War in Iraq,’ he prescribes a focused ‘Plan of Action’ for us. Here is a shortened version:

‘One, the first step is to build pressure at congressional district levels to oppose any further funding or additional troops for war. If members of Congress balk at cutting off all assistance and want to propose ‘conditions’ for further aid, it is a small step toward threatening funding. If only 75 members of Congress go on record against any further funding, that’s a step in the right direction - towards the exit.

‘Two, we need to build a Progressive Democratic movement which will pressure the Democrats to become an anti-war opposition party. The anti-war movement has done enough for the Democratic Party this year. It is time for the Democratic leadership to end its collaboration with the Bush administration - with its endorsement of the offensive on Fallujah, the talk of ‘victory’ and ‘killing the terrorists’ - and now play the role of the opposition. The progressive activists of the party should refuse to contribute any more resources - volunteers, money, etc. - to candidates or incumbents who act as collaborators.

‘Three, we need to build alliances with Republican anti-war conservatives. Non-partisan anti-war groups (such as Win Without War) should reach out to conservatives who, according to the New York Times, are ‘ready to rumble’ against Iraq. Pillars of the American right, including Paul Weyrich, Pat Buchanan and William F. Buckley, are seriously questioning the quagmire created by the neoconservatives.

‘Four, we must build solidarity with dissenting combat veterans, reservists, their families and those who suffered in 9/11. Just as wars cannot be fought without taxpayer funding, wars cannot be fought without soldiers willing to die, even for a mistake….Groups like Iraqi Veterans Against the War deserve all the support the rest of the peace movement can give. This approach opens the door to much-needed organizing in both the so-called ‘red’ states and inner cities, which give disproportionate levels of the lives lost in Iraq.

‘Five, we need to defeat the U.S. strategy of ‘Iraqization.’ ‘Clearly, it’s better for us if they’re in the front-line,’ Paul Wolfowitz explained last February. This cynical strategy is based on putting an Iraqi ‘face’ on the U.S. occupation in order to reduce the number of American casualties, neutralize opposition in other Arab countries, and slowly legitimize the puppet regime. In truth, it means changing the color of the body count…There is no sign, aside from Pentagon spin, that an Iraqi force can replace the American occupation in the foreseeable future. Pressure for funding cuts and for an early American troop withdrawal will expose the emptiness of the promise of ‘Iraqization.’

‘Six, we should work to dismantle the U.S. war ‘Coalition’ by building a ‘Peace Coalition’ by means of the global anti-war movement. Groups with international links (such as Global Exchange or other solidarity groups) could organize conferences and exchanges aimed at uniting public opinion against any regimes with troops supporting the U.S. in Iraq. Every time an American official shows up in Europe demanding support, there should be speakers from the American anti-war movement offering a rebuttal to the official line.

‘In short: pinch the funding arteries, push the Democrats to become an opposition party, ally with anti-war Republicans, support dissenting soldiers, make ‘Iraqization’ more difficult, and build a peace coalition against the war coalition. If the politicians are too frightened or ideologically incapable of implementing an exit strategy, the only alternative is for the people to pull the plug.’

On the Prospect of Right Wing Consolidation
and an Ever-More-Repressive State at Home

Many are nervous about the prospects of a fascist state emerging in the U.S. The remarks made by former AFL-CIO Education Director and current CEO of TransAfrica, Bill Fletcher, at a recent antiwar conference in Connecticut, are probably a better estimate of reality:

‘What we do not see, at least at this moment, is a mass movement that is attempting to end the party-system and end bourgeois democratic capitalism. What we do see, is a highly repressive State that is overseeing massive wealth redistribution from those at the bottom to those at the top, reducing civil liberties, tolerating limited terms of resistance and which is supported by a well-funded and highly organized, reactionary, theocratic movement. This reactionary, theocratic movement is grounded in a form of right-wing populism and as such could probably evolve into fascism, but at this juncture there is no indication that the capitalist class is in the midst of a political crisis that they believe that they cannot resolve through existing means and mechanisms.

‘This should NOT make us feel warm and fuzzy....What is particularly dangerous is that this authoritarian-theocratic state is seizing upon the broad insecurities of the population, but particularly the white section of the population. We must keep this in mind since the November elections were not only a victory for political reaction in general, but also for racial politics.

‘The insecurity much of white America feels is, in my opinion, not simply or solely about terrorism. Terrorism, in some respects, has become the focal point for the societal anxieties felt by white America as their world collapses--the collapse of the American Dream, the collapse of the notion that the lives of our children will improve over our own, the collapse of the bubble of ignorance that has surrounded us and within which we all too often found comfort.

‘And while we forge an alternative vision and entity that hopes to address positively the insecurity from a progressive point of view, it is clear that all organizations that emerge, must battle to preserve civil rights, public space, women’s rights, gay rights and fight against the tide of racism, sexism, homophobia and jingoism that is inherent in the Bush agenda and critical to the Rove strategy.’

On Reforming the Electoral System Itself.

Here is the basic starting point of the American political battleground that we have to deal with: Until now, we have been stuck with the two-party system. There is nothing in the Constitution that says we have to be limited to a two party system. It is not chiseled in legal stone that we must have a two party system, but we nonetheless have it for a reason. It didn’t used to be this way; we used to have the Populist Party, the mass Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and lots of other popular tools for change. During hard times, people made use of a variety of tactics like fusion and nonpartisan voting to build insurgent parties and candidacies and win a substantial number of elections. But the ruling class of this country was threatened by these expansions of democracy. That’s precisely why they rewrote and changed the electoral laws, state by state, to make it difficult for the broader people’s voice to be heard.

Electoral law biased towards two parties has rotten consequences. Every two years for the last 40 years we have been involved in politics, the discussion goes this way: ‘How can you work with the Democratic Party- these people will sell you out! Work with the Democratic Party is the death of the mass movements!’ Then the other side says ‘Third parties are diversions, irrelevant and marginal! The best thing you can do is become a spoiler and elect somebody worse!’ Here’s the rub: both sides of this argument are absolutely right about each other! So how do we get out of that bind?

There is only one way to get out of it. We have to change the election laws. We have to build a massive grassroots citizen’s initiative, state by state, to change our election system from an anti-democratic polyarchy to a popular participatory democracy.

The election law has to be reformed to allow for instant runoff, preferential balloting, fusion tactics and other measures encouraging broader participation. These are not weird ideas. In every industrial democracy in the world, except this one, this is the normal way they do things. It is the American system that is weird! In nearly every state, there are already groups and committees dedicated to this work, but they usually have only a handful of people and allies working with them. This has to change. We have to take the energy and anger from 2000 and 2004 and get busy working with them in a big way, especially in the periods between elections.

It can make a significant difference. For example, in New York City, they have the left-progressive Working Families Party, which has won a number of local seats now. The reason why it’s having the impact it has is because in the state of New York, fusion is legal. Fusion means your party can cross-endorse and vote for somebody on another ticket - like the Working Families Party put Hillary Clinton on their ticket as their Senate candidate when she was running against a Republican. People could vote the Working Families ticket and, for better or worse, also vote for Hillary. But they also had their own local candidates, and in that way they could show and grow their strength. That is what fusion means. That way you do away with the spoiler effect. Fusion used to be legal throughout the whole Midwest; the Populist Party and the Socialist Party both used it to build themselves. That’s precisely why the ruling class took it away, and that’s why we have to fight to get it back.

Nor is fusion necessarily the main or even the best reform in the arsenal we need to gather. Preferential balloting, which now operates in San Francisco, made a huge difference in the last mayor’s race, where the Greens nearly defeated the Democrats and moved the entire political climate and debate in a progressive direction. Even non-partisan voting, like we have in Chicago in the City Council races, makes independent organization more feasible than otherwise. There are other simpler measures that can also increase participation, like same-day registration or having elections on a weekend.

One thing is certain. It will be an incredibly tough fight, since both the Republican right incumbents and the Democratic center-right incumbents have every reason to oppose election-law reform. Still, our next steps are clear-cut: Consolidate the gains of the election battles by forming new organizations, energize the grassroots by a wide range of decentralized local actions against the war and the Bush agenda (there are many events planned already for the holiday season), build a major protest around the Bush Inauguration, and come together as a newly organized network of activists from cities and towns throughout the nation.

History is not static. The United States is a changing landscape, with the young, Latinos, Blacks, immigrants and women becoming an ever-increasing majority in the nation. The demography of the nation points towards a progressive politics – but it will become dominant only if we have the vision, the breadth, and the energy to crystallize and organize it.

If the election of 2004 has demonstrated anything, it is that there is no one to do what needs to be done other than the millions of us who fueled the energy of the anti-war movement and the grass-roots activities the past 18 months. Sustaining that moment and movement may well determine the future of the nation. The task is daunting, but the alternative is not acceptable.


Carl Davidson and Marilyn Katz are Co-Chairs of Chicagoans Against War & Injustice (www.noiraqwar-chicago.org). Davidson heads up Networking for Democracy, a group working on ‘digital divide’ issues in the inner city; Katz is the president of MK Communications, a public policy consulting group. Both live in Chicago and have a long history in the peace and justice movements going back to the 1960s. Email at CarlD717@aol.com or MarilynMKC@aol.com.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Socialism for Today: Economic Democracy vs Neoliberalism


Published by:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2002
PB: $23.95; 193pp.

Reviewed By Carl Davidson

In this short book, building on his earlier work, ‘Against Capitalism,’ David Schweickart has given us an excellent breakthrough in finding the road to a new socialism for the 21st century. Using both practical and ethical arguments, his main objective is to take on the ‘TINA’ argument—‘There Is No Alternative’—of the neoliberals. He convincingly shows there is at least one alternative, a ‘successor system’ that he calls ‘Economic Democracy.’ His critics will find it hard to dismiss his ideas lightly.

First, Schweickart’s Economic Democracy alternative is a working hypothesis, and not a rigid or doctrinaire model. While rooted in historical materialism, Schweickart’s Marxian notions of science are more in tune with the ‘open systems’ and critical instrumentalism of modern pragmatism. He casts a wide net to draw lessons from practice—from the failed Soviet-led command economies, to the ongoing surge of China’s market socialism, to the new smaller and more tentative projects in Spain’s Mondragon Cooperatives and Brazil’s Worker’s Party projects. He uses all these as resources, but he returns to American soil to work out his basic ideas and proposals.

‘Successor-system theory’, Schweickart explains, ‘is meant to be theory with practical intent. If it cannot offer a plausible projection as to how we might get from here to there, successor-system theory remains an intellectual exercise in model building—interesting in its own right, perhaps, and capable of providing a rejoinder to the smug apologists for capital, but useless to people trying to change the world.’

So what is ‘Economic Democracy’? The core idea is that the workers themselves democratically elect the managers of their firms. They also share the wealth they create by sharing the profit among themselves. They make their money the old-fashioned way: by finding consumer needs, meeting those needs with decent products, and selling them to satisfied customers at reasonable prices.

But how are things like costs, prices, new products and production goals determined? Here Schweickart departs from traditional socialist conceptions; he affirms the primary role of the market rather than relying on nationally centralized planning. What to produce is shaped mainly by consumer demand; what to charge for products or services is determined by competition for market share with other worker-controlled or private enterprises; and what to pay the workforce is limited by what’s left over after total costs are deducted from total sales.

What about ownership? Each Economic Democracy plant or workplace is controlled by each respective group of workers, but the firm is not owned by each particular group. The firms are socially owned by the public at large. Because of this public ownership, the local workers are also required to meet the cost of paying into two funds: a depreciation fund, to be used locally by the firm for capital expenditures, and a government-controlled capital investment fund. This latter payment is in the form of a capital assets tax also added to the firm’s costs. In a sense, the workplace is leased by the workers from the government. But what’s left after all the costs are met, the profit, the workers divide among themselves as they see fit. The depreciation and capital assets taxes that the government takes in is used to finance new enterprises, to maintain and develop infrastructure projects, and other costs spread across the whole of society.

That’s the bare-bones model. Naturally, it has further implications and raises many more questions, not the least of which is how we get from today’s globalized capitalism to the ‘successor system’ of Economic Democracy . In the course of the book, Schweickart addresses a good deal of these problems; but for some issues, he has only hints or open possibilities.

Here are some of the critical implications of his theory:

1. Labor is not a cost, as it is under capitalism. Rather, labor gets its return from the local profits. This means there is no pressure to keep the workers’ compensation low. Just the opposite: the pressure is for the local workers to produce good quality, desired products efficiently, since that is the best way to gain better profits and a thus a better share for each of them.

2. Firms are under no pressure to ‘expand or die’, as they are under capitalism. If the workers produce and sell to a share of the market that gives them a comfortable living, all they need to do is maintain it over time. If the firm grew its market share simply by adding more and more workers to produce more and more products to sell, it would just mean that the resulting greater profit would be divided by a greater number on workers. Each worker would still receive about the same. Economic Democracy’s tendency, then, is to maintain small and medium-sized firms supplying more local and regional markets, rather than to expand into larger firms reaching a global scale.

3. Worker-controlled firms do have an incentive for technological innovation, but differently than under capitalism. They will want to increase productivity per worker, but not to eliminate workers, expect perhaps through attrition. They will, however, want to eliminate drudgery, but in a way that enhances and upgrades the skills of all workers, and/or in a way that shortens the working hours per worker. But they will not want to enhance profits via automation at the expense of themselves, as the current system works now.

4. Inequality will exist in worker-controlled firms, but not to the degree of the huge inequalities between CEOs and production workers under capitalism. To keep especially good or skilled workers and managers, or to account for the difference s between new and older workers, the factory council will likely give some categories a greater share in compensation or benefits. Otherwise a competing firm may lure them away. But the varying compensation packages will be set by a process of one vote per worker in the enterprise. This creates a different and more restricted dynamic than the current setup, where decisions are made by management arbitrarily or by stockholders with one vote per share of stock, with vast differences in the amounts of shares held per voter.

5. Entrepreneurship will encouraged under Economic Democracy, but in a different way. Groups of individuals with projects for new products or enterprises could apply to the government’s capital investment fund and its subsidiaries, rather than relying on venture capitalists. If approved as risk worthy, socially appropriate and capable or generating new wealth, the project would be funded with a grant, not a loan. The grant, however, would become part of the new enterprise’s capital assets and hence taxed over time, assuming the project is successful. The creators of a successful project could pay themselves a startup fee for launching a successful enterprise, but afterwards would only be compensated if they were a worker or working manager. Straight-up capitalist entrepreneurs can apply to the capital assets fund, or even raise money privately, and make money from their ventures (subject to being taxed, of course). Under Schweickart’s model, however, a capitalist firm, when sold, must be sold to the state.

6. All information about a firm and its finances is open to all workers in the firm, unlike the many restrictions on information needed for decision-making under capitalism. This way, workers can make informed decisions via direct democracy in periodic assemblies, or through the managers they choose to hire or fire as their representatives. Workers can also still have their unions to settle problems with management and to work on larger social issues.

Schweickart offers only a brief concluding chapter about the strategy and tactics of getting from the present order to economic democracy. Briefly it is quite flexible and open, but he mainly discusses two possibilities:

1. A political party of popular and economy democracy could win a majority of the electorate, and take a majority of seats and positions at all levels of government. The new administration would decree economic democracy by passing laws and executive orders that would nationalize stock and redefine corporate charters with varying degrees of compensation.

2. Economic democracy, including its firms and political groupings, could be grown over time as an expanding counter-hegemonic community within the existing order. Step-by-step, it would demonstrate its superiority to the old way of doing things, competing over a longer period within a mixed system, but as a growing force that ultimately would supplant capitalism.

There is also a third option. While Schweickart doesn’t directly mention it, there is nothing in his perspective that would prohibit it, and it’s worth pointing out:

3. A political party of popular and economy democracy could take power through revolutionary insurrection at a time of severe crisis brought on by war, fascism or ecological and economic disaster. Economic democracy would be organized as the way to resolve the crisis and put the country on its feet again.

Apart from these three projections, I have stressed only the economic aspects of Economic Democracy. What about the broader political and social reforms that would accompany Economic Democracy? First off, no particular set of political reforms are strictly required by Economic Democracy , even though winning a wide range of structural reforms under the existing order would be both helpful and desirable. But Economic Democracy can develop, to a certain extent, even under an authoritarian regime with little in the way of a social safety net.

Schweickart is very clear on the implications of the structures of class privilege on democracy. He defines democracy as existing where ‘suffrage is universal among adults’ and ‘the electorate is sovereign.’ A sovereign electorate, he adds, requires open information and public education, but especially that ‘there exists no stable minority class that is privileged,’ i.e., ‘it possesses political power at least equal to that of elected officials and unmatched by any other stable grouping.’
Systems with these elite privileged groupings Schweickart calls ‘polyarchies.’ Since that accurately describes our existing order, Schweickart bluntly states ‘we do not live in a democracy.’

Economic Democracy, however, has a built-in political bias towards radical political democracy. By dampening great inequalities in wealth and diminishing the role of corporate lobbyists and PACs, Economic Democracy enhances the prospect for public financing of political campaigns and reduces the role of private wealth in politics. It thus opens the door to reforms like preferential ballots, instant runoff, and proportional representation. The practice of participatory democracy in the workplace—which is usually punished in today’s world—would likely stir political participation and a multiparty system in the political realm of the broader society.

Economic Democracy thrives where social well-being and social capital are widely generated. It is especially enhanced by access to life-long learning for all who want to learn, and by access to universal single payer health care. Having these social costs born by general revenues is a spur to the successful launching of new enterprises and sustaining those that may have temporary difficulties.

Schweickart stumbles a bit, however, on the ‘safety net’ issues of guaranteed full employment and the guaranteed annual income—’Jobs or Income Now’ as the old slogan declared. One problem is that these reforms often receive substantial opposition within the working class itself. ‘Guaranteed Jobs’ is often seen as ‘make work’ that creates nothing of value and drains public resources. ‘Guaranteed Income’ is only supported for the physically disabled, but opposed as a subsidy for slackers and freeloaders.

One alternative solution to these reforms, as well as the minimum wage, is the concept of the ‘social wage.’ Here anyone who creates social value would be able to obtain a subsistence level of financial support-say $18,000 per year. The idea is that value for society can and is created in realms that reach beyond the job market. Students learning in schools, for instance, create value in the form of their skills; caretakers of young children create value in raising the next generation of producers and creators; teaching sports in the parks creates value in the form of public wellness and health, and so on. Third sector nonprofits can set the base standards for what constitutes social value, but the social wage package would be low enough and on a sliding scale to always reward regular part-time or full time employment. Since full employment is not naturally built into Economic Democracy, this would be an important supplement to regular employment.

Finally, how does Schweickart relate Economic Democracy to the broader problems and conflicts of globalization? Our country, after all, exists in a world of savage inequalities between North and South, and a reverse flow of wealth from South to North.

Schweickart points out, first of all, that since Economic Democracy has no ‘expand or die’ dynamic, it has better conditions for a more progressive and democratic foreign policy. If anything, it has a bias toward promoting Economic Democracy elsewhere. One fascinating passage in the book is a long list of alternative foreign policy decisions that could have been made if the organizing principle for U.S. policy was democracy rather than anti-communism over the last six or seven decades.

Schweickart goes on, moreover, to promote a number of measures to help reduce the North-South divide that have been around for a few years—the Green Tax to price commodities at their true social and environmental impact costs, Carbon Taxes to deal with pollution, stock transfer taxes on the global financial transfers, etc. Even if petroleum alone were priced at its true cost, it would change the price differentials between North and South due to the higher or true cost of transport. ‘Free Trade’ is often riddled with hidden subsidies.

Schweickart, however, offers a new and controversial solution that he calls ‘socialist protectionism.’ Here, our government would put a tariff on U.S. importers to raise the price of imported goods to be competitive with goods produced here. Nothing new here, but what Schweickart wants to do is to remit the tariff, not to the US treasury, but to the country of origin to improve conditions there--hence ‘socialist’ protectionism.

It’s an interesting idea, as it transfers some wealth from North to South. But the devil is in the details. Who would get the remission? The Third World governments? The local unions or NGOs? The workers themselves?

In any case, Schweickart has provided us with a fine piece of theoretical and political analysis, as well as ethical and visionary thinking. It’s a relatively easy read, and an excellent starting point and organizing principle for both socialists and radical democrats. It’s already having an impact in the academy; it’s a good time to bring it the wider audience of global justice activists.

[David Schweickart is professor of philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago, and hold Ph.D’s in both Philosophy and Mathematics. He is also the author of ‘Against Capitalism’ (1993), and ‘Capitalism or Worker Control? An Ethical Economic Appraisal’ (1980). He is also the coauthor of ‘Market Socialism: The Debate among Socialists.’ (1998).]

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Another Round With Some 'No Voting' Anarchists

Debate On the Slogan, 'Don't Just Vote'
from Chicago Indymedia

By Makhno
07 Oct 2004
Let's change that slogan around a little bit, shall we? Instead of "Don't just vote", make it "Just Don't Vote!". Remember, no matter who you vote for, the government wins. Why are so many so-called American "anarchists" so reluctant to take a hard line against voting?


by Carl Davidson
07 Oct 2004
Maybe, Makhno, its because they don't want to sound like aristocrats or Southern segregationists, who have always deplored the idea of the rabble going to the polls.

Must be the ongoing impact of the American revolution, the extention of the franchise after the Civil War, the Chartists in England, the Women's Suffrage movement, and the 1960s fight for the right to vote for Blacks in the South. Some ideas are just pesky and seem to stick around...

by Pagan Anarchist
07 Oct 2004
Yeah, this statist thing has been a pesky idea that americans seem unable to shake off. That so called revolution could only get up the gumption to take a baby step towards freedom. Time to unload the baggage and demand the whole thing. It simply cannot be done by voting. Do what you will but expect the same old results and understand you perpetuated it.


by Carl Davidson
07 Oct 2004

Re: Pagan 'It simply cannot be done by voting.'

Well, Pagan, I can't think of anyone the left who thinks it can be done ONLY by voting. There are some who think it can be done MAINLY by voting, but I'm not one of them.

Given the fact that we have 'polyarchic' or 'dollarocracy' elections, rather than far more democratic contests, I can understand your disdain, but why give up the tactic altogether?

In fact, how do you run a society, or even a large organization, without having folks registering their opinions and getting the lay of the political landscape? Consensus is fine for small groups and Quaker meetings. But on larger scales, we debate, propose, vote, elect delegates, hold them accountable, etc, don't we?

There are some examples of societies where folks don't vote, such as the feudal "organic communities" under absolute monarchs or pharonic slavocracies, but I assume that's not what you mean.

I always assumed anarchism meant 'No Rulers' (An Archos, from the Greek), but not 'No Voting', so tell me more about what you DO mean....


by Makhno
08 Oct 2004

Carl, You have hit the nail on the head. The larger, more formally-structured and more complex an organization is, the more likely that some form of political decision-making such as voting will have to be employed. As an anarchist, I see several problems with voting:

(1) It is a form of domination. One individual or group is imposing their will on another individual or group through the process of majority rule.

(2) It is a binary, yes/no form of decision/making, with no allowance for uncertainties, ambiguities, or changes of opinion (unless one waits for the next formal election).

(3) It is impersonal and dehumanizing. Through voting, one is reduced to an interchangeable number or statistic.

If an organization is so large and complex that voting seems to be the only option for making decisions, then perhaps people should question the rationale for such a social structure in the first place.


by Effortless Struggle
08 Oct 2004

carl wrote: 'But on larger scales, we debate, propose, vote, elect delegates, hold them accountable, etc, don't we?'

No. Actually we do not do any of those things.

The "debates" are exclusionary to candidates who might truly represent anyone.

We propose and are unheard.

Most of us do not vote. Those who do vote are not counted, and can be easily contradicted by the electoral college.

We do not elect delegates. We do not elect representatives. "Government is the shadow of big business cast onto society." Read Chomsky and consider it.

Hold them accountable. Oh yeah, we have the means to do that. When will you realized that this system is rigged against its subjects.

Finally, no one can represent my interests better than me. Fuck the vote.

On the other hand, Carl. It was a good try to use some historical explanations for why to use the slogan "Don't Just Vote." I would say they are mostly verosimilar but not accurate reasons for why this language has been chosen.

Primarily, anarchists believe in "Just Don't Vote", but using "Don't Just Vote" gets us beyond the fruitless, endless debate as to whether or not voting matters and onto more productive ACTION. Action being something Makhno may be unfamiliar with.

So we're saying: go take 10 minutes or whatever to vote, and then what are you doing in the rest of your life? Of course, the weakness of "Don't Just Vote" is that it doesn't encourage people to move beyond campaigning for candidates, which I think pagan anarchist and makhno would both agree with me that this needs to be encouraged.

Of course, I would encourage anarchists to stop wasting their time on campaigners and go out to the masses that do not vote, do not campaign and start making connections there.


by Carl Davidson

09 Oct 2004
RE: Effortless

I think you mixing up two things here, 'Effortless.' My description of a democratic process was not of our current electoral setup, which I described as a 'dolloracy' worthy of some disdain, but of how we try to run our own large-scale organizations beyond the consensus method appropriate to smaller groups. We should work toward a society where its actual elections are far more democratic, but we're not there yet by any means.


by My Two Cents
10 Oct 2004

I would agree with Carl along these lines; the act of voting itself takes little effort or time, and from that little effort/time there could be some beneficial change for some people.

I don't think the presidential election has enough legitamacy to even cast a ballot for a major candidate, but it may be worth the few minutes it takes to pick various local representatives and judges that aren't racist or homophobic if there are any running.

What I have a real problem with is people calling themselves progressives or activists, and spending months or even years doing little but electoral organizing, ala Carl D.

What a waste of time and energy, and I do wonder how some people feel being sold out by candidates they've been asked to support. I suspect pinning hopes for change on political candidates leaves many feeling disenfranchised and disempowered. That's the point if you ask me.


by Carl Davidson
10 Oct 2004

'Two Cents' Says: 'What I have a real problem with is people calling themselves progressives or activists, and spending months or even years doing little but electoral organizing, ala Carl D.'

Sorry, 'Two Cents', but I'm not a very good example for your argument. My main orgainizing over the past five or more years has been in the community technology movement. We've build CTCNet-Chicago, a federation of about 75 CTCs in low-income neighborhoods, plus I worked of the national board of CTCNET, where we have 1500 CTCs across the country. Aside from that, I've worked with ex-offenders fighting for job training, helped build antiwar mass actions, and engaged in ongoing theoretical work around globalization through the Global Studies Association.

In the past, it's true I worked in the Harold Washington Campaign, I've helped a bit in Helen Shiller's campaigns, with my local alderman, Rey Colon, and helped the New Party/ACORN in a few races.

It's also true that I've been speaking up on Indymedia defending our Peace & Justice Voters 2004 registration and GOTV drive against it's anarchist and left critics, but I'm never been an "elections are the main thing" guy.

[If you're interested, look it up on www.cyrev.net, www.soldarityeconomy.net, www.net4dem.org/mayglobal, www.ctcnet.org, and www.net4dem.org/techtrain ]

But even so, what's wrong with folks who are? Progressive electoral work is a lot more than 10 minutes in a voting booth. It's really getting to know all your neighbors, building independent block, precinct and ward clubs, doing ongoing political education, protests at city hall and congressional offices, building alliances with other progressive groups to work together, etc.

Most on the left would agree, I think, that at least at some phase of the effort to radically transform this country, the people are going to have to create, among other things, dynamic popular organizations that can win seats and even majorities in legislative bodies, even if only to prove decisively - not just to a handful, but to millions - that extra-parlimentary means are required to carry the struggle through to the end.

What wrong with some folks starting that process now? If it's not your cup of tea, don't bother, but why trash folks who do?

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Exchange: Building Alternatives While Voting for Kerry?

Voting for Kerry & Changing the System?

by John Reimann
Email: wildcat99@earthlink.net

02 Oct 2004

Is it possible to vote for Kerry while also organizing against the system?

I recently had a conversation with a friend about voting for Kerry. My friend completely agreed that Kerry was nothing to get excited about. She agreed that he was nothing but the lesser evil. She even agreed that we need to build a movement to change the system. But she said that this was not "mutually exclusive" with voting for Kerry.

My friend hits exactly on the main point - whether voting for the Democrats and building an independent movement of the working class are "mutually exclusive" or not. This is exactly the issue, and I believe that all of history shows that they are mutually exclusive. Look what happened to the civil rights movement. At one point, it was forced to conclude that it needed to have a presence in politics. One of the things that developed out of this conclusion was the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). This was sort of a hybrid - partly oriented towards the Democrats and partly towards political independence. When it could not find a way to build an independent party, and when the movement as a whole could not find this, then this movement got swept up into Democratic politics. Thus the career of such former civil rights workers as Julian Bond in Atlanta. What happened was that the movement was demobilized, taken out of the streets and into the backrooms of politicians, where it was sold out and died.

Look at the labor movement today. It is clear that a major motivation of the union leaders is to stay in line with the liberal Democrats.

In other words, it is not possible to build an independent movement of workers over the longer haul without also having as one of the goals workers' candidates and a workers mass party. Some people say, "yes, yes, I agree. But since we don't have such a party or candidates now, I'm going to vote for the Democrat until the alternative comes along."

This is exactly the problem - the alternative will not just "come along"; we have to fight for and build the alternative. "Yes," they say, "but in the meantime I'm going to vote for Kerry (or whoever)."

But if we are serious about organizing and about what we are doing, then if you vote for Kerry and the Democrats, then at election time you must campaign for others to vote for them. The history of the last 50 years has proven nothing if it hasn't proven that it's impossible to build an independent movement while also campaigning for and voting for the Democrats.

So if a person has no plans to be active in building a fighting, independent movement in the streets, the working class communities, the work places and in the unions - if they have no plans to do this - then there is not much reason not to vote for the lesser evil and postpone the date when we will all be pushed over the cliff. But if one wants to reverse directions, and organize a fight for a better world, then voting for (and campaigning for) one of the candidates of big business is not possible.

Re: Voting for Kerry?

by Carl Davidson

02 Oct 2004

Eugene Debs started off by doing both, running as a Dem and supporting a few Dems at first and building his Socialist Party along the way. Same with the Populists in earlier years.

But the ruling class of the time struck back by, among other things, passing laws against fusion candidates and for winner-take-all primaries, not to mention the "white" primaries in the South.

If you want a serious progressive party, you have to achieve a number of precursors to it:

1. Get rid of the "winner take all" primary system,
2. Win the right to fusion candidates,
3. Get preferential balloting and instant runoff.

These are not weird ideas. They exist, in one form or another, in every industrial bourgeois democracy in the world. It's the U.S. system that's weird, out of step, and thus without multiple parties.

Some people even think the "two-party" system is embedded in the US Constitution, which it's not; but it is embedded in existing state statutes, which have to be overturned to expand democracy.

The problem is that so many of the folks who want a third party (really a first or second party) are not to be found in the non-election season when these reforms have to be fought for, state by state.

You're right to point out all the progressive groupings working in the orbit of the Dems, but you can't break up the tacit alliance between them and the DLC 'corporate caucus' without winning the above-mentioned structural reforms.

It's a simple, but hard-to-achieve truth. But it doesn't do any good the flagellate other progressives for exercising their only realistic options, while remaining passive on electoral law reform campaigns.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

It's Late, But Some Are Still Debating Voter Reg

Note from CarlD: Third Coast Press is a left publication in Chicago, and this debte broke out on Chicago Indymedia when they announced having a voter registration party

Commentor: Third Coast Press endorsing Kerry? Inquiring minds want to know.

Another Commentor: Since it’s a "Third Coast Press" endorsement of another rich liberal who will carry out the same tired policies, but with "feel your pain" bullshit, it can't be too direct. Therefore, its talk about "register to vote" and then plenty of verbiage about how bad El Busho is. Isn't the alternative rather apparent?

CarlD: Goodness, haven't you guys yet been able to figure out that there's a difference between ENDORSING a candidate because you support some or most of his positions, and VOTING for a candidate because you want to unseat or defeat his or her opponent? It's really not rocket science, but I guess it's a little too deep for a few folks.

Garth: I don't want to diss my 3rd Coast compadres, I don't know the specifics of why the Voter Registration party was organized. All I can say is that it's not just Kerry that's being decided upon. I think also that it's a step to make ordinary folk a little more politically aware. This is one goal of the paper.

Folks should also be aware that some 3rd Coast people are more liberal and more radical and even more conservative than each other. This avoidance of a straight dogmatic political rag is one reason I love the project so much.

Speaking for myself, the "Anybody but Bush" philosophy sets the bar pretty low. Hence Kerry. Remember the whole,"Will the real Peace Candidate please stand up?" We went from Kucinich as simply too radical, to the Peace Puppet Dean being taken out by the media with his "Primal Yell" And finally, Kerry, who banked on his Vietnam experience to stand in as the "Real Peace Candidate" who now claims only to wage a "better Iraq war."

Carl's argument quickly puts one in a dangerous camp. For one, why are we 'in the trench folk' doing the work of Democrats? Especially when they have more resources than we? Even more so in a non-swing state that's Democratic? The 'vote against your enemy' approach leaves me with no options to vote for.

Anyway, it's beautiful outside and I need to go do some constructive things. Ciao.

CarlD: Garth says: 'Carl's argument quickly puts one in a dangerous camp. For one, why are we 'in the trench folk' doing the work of Democrats? Especially when they have more resources than we? Even more so in a non-swing state that's Democratic? The 'vote against your enemy' approach leaves me with no options to vote for.'

Garth, you're looking at the 'work in the trenches' too narrowly. We are assisting the Democrats only in one tactical respect: most of the people we register are likely to vote for Kerry. But the people we are training as registrars, poll watchers, election judges, fundraisers, canvassers, neighborhood alliance builders, etc, are doing it for THEIR neighborhood peace & justice groups, not for the Democrats.

Except for the antiwar Democratic elected officials who come to our meetings, we don't even meet with the Democratic party. After Nov 2, no matter who wins, these organizational gains will belong to US, not the Dems. AS for someone to positively vote FOR, I agree its slim pickings. We had Kucinich in the primaries, and that was about it. As for Illinois being in the bag, so far we have sent hundreds of volunteers to work weekends in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa.

As for what's most dangerous, I think that's to follow Uncle Karl Rove's advice to the antiwar movement: stay away from the polls on election day.

Garth: Carl, Later I thought I shouldn't use that phrase about the "dangerous camp."

One concern of mine is exactly about the day after the big election. If Kerry is elected, will many of those mobilized voter people think all is won? and what about if G.W. gets it? Will those people turn away in frustration?

It seems to me that a lot of hope is being put into this election, and that is it's own little trick bag. Would I rather have Kerry than Bush? That's an easy question for a lot of people. But when I think about the Iraqis who are suffering, how can I pretend to put hope in this election?

From my meager readings on Tricky Dick and LBJ during the Vietnam war, (or American war as the Vietnamese called it) I see Kerry as a person who is beholden to many of the same corporate interests as Bush. Nor do I think that he'll resolve the war and have 'peace with honor', because the methods he proposes using are the same.

So, back to the electoral thing, I think if people feel motivated to go out and 'rock the vote', then it's the next step in their progression that hopefully leads to a fuller critcal consciousness.

Ultimately for this war to end, I think we all need to stop accepting the benefits. Soldiers need to refuse. etc. As a hypocrite, I remind myself of Berrigan's words. That of course we still have war, because war is being waged by so many with such totality. Yet we wage peace with half a heart...

I hope you're right. I hope that some of the electoral work moves people past electoral work. Guess if we could do a survey we could find out...

CarlD: Garth, I've found that electoral work is like anything else--you have a wide range of views. Most people we work with have few illusions about Kerry, they are just determined to fire Bush. If Kerry wins, they're ready to hit the ground running the next day to mobilize against the war aimed at him. Still, I do run into people who are enamored of Kerry and claim that if he loses, they're moving to Canada or Europe or somewhere--who knows?

To me, the critical question is how do we CONSOLIDATE most of these folks we've mobilized into ongoing grassroots independent political organizations. If we don't do this quickly and creatively right after the election, then some of the critique of our work will be true, that we're just a tail on the Democrats.

We'll see how it works out...
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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Debate Following Aug 29 'Unity Rally' in Chicago

An Exchange between CarlD & Some Left Critics...

Opening Comment on Chicago Indymedia
from Bob Schwartz on Chicago's 8/29 Rally:

"According to the local daily propaganda sheets, between 500 to 1,000 folk turned out for the Chicago version of the Kerry rally, the not-so-cleverly named "No to the Bush Agenda." Left rhetoricians Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez were trotted out to provide cover to the DLC Kerry campaign...

"I've heard talk from some progressives, that the proper course of action is to vote Bush out (i.e., for Kerry) then organize against Kerry's less evil war on workers at home and abroad. This is whistling in the wind. Having failed to drive home the lesson that only mass organizing and protest can force change, nearly all Kerry voters will sit back and let AnybodybutBush save the day. And the downward spiral will continue."

Answer from CarlD:

RE: Bob Schwartz

"Sorry, Bob, but I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that the vast majority of folks at the rally will be voting against Bush whether Jan or Luis told them to or not. These two speakers REFLECTED the views of most of the protesters, just like most of those in NYC, and you only drop a little insult on these folks by suggesting that they are sheep to be herded, unlike much wiser vanguards like yourself. As for 'whistling in the dark,' it seems to me that applies much more to those who think it doesn't matter if Bush wins..."

Bob Again:

"Carl, I'm not suggesting that people are "sheep to be herded." Most antiwar activists just like you and me are eager for what they think of as the "Bush nightmare" to end. Yet, there is no denying that virtually all of our miseducation from grammar school to the TV focus on Republicrat candidates teaches and promotes voting as THE political act. And people like yourself and the CP, folks with a long history on the left, also promote the illusion of change by voting for Democrats.

By promoting the Democrats as better than the Republicans, however marginally, Carl and his friends, who have seen this strategy fail time after time, promote the illusion that a Kerry administration will return things to a state of "normalcy." That is, US rule using the fig leaf of internationalism by acting sometimes behind the UN, and cobbling together a coalition of the other imperialist nations by giving a little more than El Busho and his gang have been willing to do.

This is the "normalcy" of US government rule, pursued with a vengeance since the close of WW II. Rather than leading actions to protest and disrupt the US war effort in Iraq, its campaigns against Cuba and the Palestinian people, and its troop presence in over 100 nations, Carl's wing of the antiwar movement shills for John Kerry, the one time critic of imperialist war, now eager to lead the world's number one rogue state.

Under present circumstances with both parties representing the interests of the system of exploitation, racism and war, to advocate voting is actually counter-productive. As Carl himself has acknowledged on more than one occasion, no matter who is elected we will end up with an agent of capitalism and imperialism sitting in the Oval Office. And that is exactly my point.

I am not a member of a "vanguard" party, but I emphatically support the strategy of employing the methods of direct action to force social change. Why not help folk to understand that this is the only strategy that can win in the long term?"

CarlD Again:
Reply to bob:

"Bob said: 'I am not a member of a "vanguard" party, but I emphatically support the strategy of employing the methods of direct action to force social change. Why not help folk to understand that this is the only strategy that can win in the long term?'

"This is an odd way to put things, Bob. The ONLY strategy? First, I always thought 'direct action' was a tactic, not a strategy. The first question of strategy is distinguishing friends from adversaries, and the first problem is finding ways of uniting the many to defeat the few. Strategy thinks in terms of the whole, and deploys a wide variety of tactics, depending on time place and circumstance--direct action, elections, strikes, debates, armed self-defense, etc.

"The only tendency I know that emphasizes direct action over all others, and even to the exclusion of others, is some varieties of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism that worship the 'general strike' or, even as some proto-fascist theorists like Sorel put it, 'the myth of the general strike.' I'm not saying you hold to this 'strategy,' but doesn't the one-sided elevation of 'direct action' and 'propaganda of the deed' push us down this slippery slope?"

Hmmmmmm Jumps in:

"Carl, please don't speak down to the rest of us on the left. We all know that the Unity Rally was a pro-Kerry/Edwards rally in disguise. Anything else would have angered Katz' meal-ticket, da mayor. I find it particularly disheartening, and telling, that groups like CAWI, JWJ, CP-USA and others did not mobilize for the RNC and instead chose to have a "solidarity" rally back here in Chicago that did nothing to challenge the GOP whatsoever. Nor did they make any significant attempts to get their members or others to go to the RNC. This is especially puzzling since the main organizer of the march yesterday was UFPJ, which is the main antiwar coalition that they all belong to.

"WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU ORGANIZE FOR NYC? It's fine to have a rally here for those who really CAN'T go but you didn't put any effort into getting people there in the first place or even giving them an option and that's the problem!

"But thanks for giving Palestine 3 minutes worth of lipservice, it's a hell of a lot more than any other people fighting for liberation received. What about Afghanistan?"

CarlD reply to Hmmmmmm

"For the record, CAWI supported the UFPJ action in NYC and encouraged people to go; for those who couldn't make it, we organized a rally here that was in solidarity with the one in NYC. We took as our main slogan here, 'Say NO to the Bush Agenda', the same as the rally in NYC.

"Goodness, why would I oppose the NYC rally? Apart from agreement with the general politics, Leslie Cagan and I are both leading members of the same group, the CCDS, which went all out for Aug 29 in NYC.

"Moreover, the Chicago event was not simply CAWI's rally, but a coalition of a lot of folks, with the more progressive unions in town at the core of it, along with some anti-Iraq war Democrats, such as Munoz, Gutierrez and Schakowsky. Everyone fully expected these folks to speak up for Kerry and the vast majority of the crowd cheered the idea of voting for Kerry over Bush. Nothing hidden here! Good grief, MILLIONS of progressives are going to do this Nov 2!

"Still, CAWI itself doesn't ENDORSE Kerry; most of us will likely VOTE for him, but a few will vote for Nader or the Greens, if and where they can. Likewise for some of the others in the rally coalition, which is why the rally itself did not make pro-Kerry a basis of its unity. That's a distinction that may not mean anything to you, but it does to us. The rally's politics was exactly what it said it was: Unity vs. the Bush Agenda, Yes to Peace & Justice, Solidarity with UFPJ in NYC.

"There are plenty of things about our event that could have been better, especially the relatively small size, but it was important to have had it anyway. Finally, I won't dignify the snide comments against Camille and Marilyn with a response, but the real problem you have is that this was a left-liberal coalition vs. the hard right, not an anti-imperialist bloc against liberals and conservatives equally. Fine, you do things your way and and we'll do our thing our way; we don't have to agree, we can just cooperate tactically when its practical and necessary."

"Another Angle" Jumps In:

"This is the same Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) that supports maintaining the $5 billion in "official" aid that the U.S. sends to Israel each and every year. The same Schakowsky who has repeatedly spoken in defense of the right of Israeli's to defend themselves while demanding that the Palestinians lay down and die. The same Schakowsky that attends and supports AIPAC conferences where the agenda is how best to spin, distort and cover up the crimes against humanity being committed against the Palestinian people each and every day by the Israeli's, how best to silence critics of Israel whether they be students, academics, politicians, writers, Muslims, Christians or even other Jews, and how best to continue funneling more money into the TINY state of Israel than goes to all of Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean combined when you remove Egypt and Colombia.

"Yeah, she's some progressive. Thanks for being a real fucking hypocrite Jan!"

CarlD replies to 'Another Angle':

"One problem you have is that there's hardly any electoral districts in the country where a majority of the potential electorate holds the views on Palestine that you express or would be happy with.

"Our task, at the base, is to change that condition, through action and education, so a democratic (small 'd' intended) leader can represent the views of those who elected him or her. At the same time, I would also agree that the task of progressive leadership, elected or otherwise, is to help transform progressive minorities in their districts into progressive majorities, in a step-by-step fashion in good time.

"I know some people think there is no such thing as a progressive, peace-minded grouping of people who support Israel's existence, or that one could ever emerge and grow. Let's hope this isn't the case, or we're in much deeper difficulties than we might imagine.

"In the meantime, while I don't agree with Jan on the Middle East, I would measure her of this question by where she stands within the range of views in her district, whether she promotes dialogue and joint efforts for peace between Jews and Palestinians, whether she is trying to build a pro-peace majority, by what the rightist pro-Israel lobby thinks of her, and, finally, by where she stands of a whole range of issues compared to her adversaries, not on one issue, however important.

"Politics is a process of development. While it's critical to be clear and keep strong on core values, such as support for Palestinian self-determination, it's also important to do so in a way that doesn't build a wall between you and a broader range of allies who agree with you on some things but not others."

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Debate: Chicago Unity Rally vs Bush Agenda

This is a brief exchange on Chicago Indymedia over the slogans and relevance of the Aug 29 Unity Rally in Chicago opposing the Bush agenda and expressing solidarity with the actions at the Republican Convention in NYC:

From CarlD
RE: (a)'s comment on Aug 29 Rally Slogans:

(a) says: "'A Real National Security * Diplomacy, Not War * Genuine Family Values' What the fuck is this shit?"

Carld: It's not so hard to figure out, (a). 'Real national security' is having peaceful and helpful relations with other countries; 'Diplomacy, not war' is the preferable way to handle conflicts between countries; 'genuine family values' is access to health care, education and employment that can sustain couples and their children and elderly parents. Or do you think we should call for greater insecurity for the American people, the war of all against all among states, and smashing the family?

From Bob Schwartz:
"...access to health care, education and employment that can sustain couples and their children and elderly parents."

Does Carl Davidson really believe that these laudable goals will be met by voting for Kerry and Edwards? These goals will be brought closer only by mass organization and protest, as occurred with union rights, black rights, women’s rights.

When the rights won in the streets and on the shop floors were turned over to the damned Democrats for defense, it has resulted in a downward spiral of defeat followed by defeat.

As for the phantom "real national security" and "diplomacy," Carl knows full well that US aggression in the interests [i.e., "security"] of big business will be executed with or without the fig leaf of "diplomacy."

Reply to Bob Schwartz:

CarlD: Once again, Bob is missing the point. I make no promises for the Democrats, nor try to prettify them in any way. As I have said repeatedly from day one, in this election, they simply represent a different faction of imperialism than Bush--multilateralists vs unilateralists, globalist vs hegemonist, however you want to describe them.

They have some tactical differences with Bush and the Neocons on foreign policy and are not a straight up antiwar party, thanks to the DLC and the defeat of Kucinich. But their potential victory would weaken the war policy of Bush and the Neocons, which would be a plus for the antiwar forces everywhere. We would have to fight the DLC/Kerry war policy the next day, but we will be more energized and in a better position to do it if Bush loses.

As for whether social reforms like health care are won, I agree that these are a reflection of the degree of social power and fighting capacity of mass organizations around these issues at the base, as well as their ability to focus that power nationally.

Even so, any reform won this way can be taken back--and often is taken back--if conditions change. As Lenin put it, every reform, however positive, contains a 'police snare'. But that doesn't mean we should not raise demands for them.

If you're looking for an apologist for the Democrats and their leadership, you undoubtedly can find some in the antiwar movement, but you won't find one here, even if I, like many others, vote for a few of their candidates from time to time to defeat a greater danger. I also vote for third parties where appropriate, or refuse to vote for either option. I never voted for Clinton, for instance. I liked Jerry Brown in the primary back then.

As for the range and wording of the demands for the Aug 29 rally, they reflect the combined politics of the various groups making up coalition. Most are just fine; some I would have worded differently. But then I didn't have the final say-so, nor should I have. Overall they aim the main blow at Bush and the Bush Agenda and express solidarity with the protests in NYC, which is why we should all turn out for it and then express our additional or opposing perspectives independently, if we want.

The real question is: Are your tactics helping to build an independent grassroots electoral organization in the communities? One that can challenge the DLC Dems strategically? That's what our Peace and Justice Voters project is working toward, however modestly. How about you?

From: cynical2:

Another rally with the same old phrases, buy the same newspapers. Hurray.

I'll show solidarity by watching the action at home on cnn. This is the Olympics of protesting, lets all watch instead of chant.

From CarlD
Reply to cynical2:

Gee, Cynical, sorry the Bushies got you worn out and demoralized so early. As I recall, the Vietnam War and protests went on for 15 years. At what point would you have given up and stopped to just watch the rest of us on TV? 5 years out? 6? 7? Whatever happed to the spirit of Keep on Keepin' On?

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Saturday, July 17, 2004

Kucinich vs. Kerry's Democrats

Kucinich's Ongoing Battle
in the Democratic Party

By Carl Davidson

Here's two quotes from a long piece by Ron Jacobs in Counter-Punch July 16:

"One would think that Mr. Kucinich would not give up so easily on his desire to get some antiwar language into the Democratic platform. After all, what does he have to lose? Instead, his supporters and the rest of the Anyone-But-Bush mindset are left to vote for John Kerry, a man who not only supported the Iraq war from its beginnings, but also hopes to expand it to NATO if he's elected. How is that any different from George Bush?"

"How times have changed. After 1968, the antiwar forces briefly took over the Democratic Party and ran George McGovern in 1972. Thanks to a lack of support from the party's corporate backers, an uneven campaign strategy, and a Republican campaign that included a number of dirty tricks, McGovern lost and the progressive forces within the Democratic Party moved back into the shadows. Since then, these forces have played a role that revolves primarily around keeping progressive independents from running a third-party campaign (a role ironically now also played by the third party Greens). By performing this role, these forces have prevented the progressive voice in US electoral politics from being heard in any effective manner and have helped create the current political situation in the US where most people don't vote and those that do have a choice that only represents the American right wing."

Jacobs is missing the point.

Kucinich didn't surrender on his antiwar plank; he was DEFEATED. He didn't have the delegate strength to push it any further, expect in his ability to speak his own views, should he get to address the convention. There's no shame in taking your forces as far as they can go, even if the other side wins out.

Now he faces a choice: he can leave the party and go out in a blaze of glory in the eyes of the third-party left; or he can continue his project of building a left-progressive grouping or faction among the ranks of the delegates in order to fight other battles, now and in the future.

In either case, he has to keep in mind the main task and where to aim the main blow vis-a-vis Nov. 2.

I think there's an appropriate struggle to be waged either way. The Green Party's Cobb campaign, with its 'safe states' tactics, is a good third party approach that will both help to unseat Bush and build the Greens; Kucinich's approach will also help unseat Bush while, if he plays his cards right, he could also help develop the forces for political independence within the Democratic party that will sharpen the antagonism to its 'corporate caucus' in the longer run.

The strategic idea is for these 'inside' and 'outside' forces, in good time, to unite as a broad electoral form of popular democracy, either as a third party or as a Democratic party purged of its corporate caucus. I think the former is far more likely than the later, but results on the ground will resolve the argument in the real world.

I also think Jacob's assessment of McGovern in 1972 is a bit overblown. McGovern's candidacy was both a reflection of the strength of the antiwar movement and the split in the ruling class over Vietnam. Even with McGovern, the bourgeoisie, albeit its peace-minded sector, was still very much in control of the Democratic Party; the Democrats hardly belonged to the popular antiwar forces even then at the peak of the battle.

To repeat a point I've made before: we are not going to have a clear effective choice between antiwar and prowar candidates in this election. (I'm assuming Nader will fizzle and the Greens will grow slightly on the margins.) Instead, we have a choice between two factions of imperialists, one of which at most disagrees with the policy of unilateral pre-emptive war.

That's a small difference, but it means we cannot be indifferent to which faction wins. That's why we are not endorsing Kerry or anyone else, but just bringing large numbers of new antiwar voters to the polls. They will do what they think best in their situation, whether it's a vote for Cobb or Kerry.

Believe me, if Bush is defeated, it will be seen as a repudiation of the war around the world, even as we continue to wage struggle against a Kerry White House the very next day.

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Monday, June 28, 2004

Mini-Debate over Green Decision vs Nader

Comments on Green Party Decision
from Carl Davidson & Bob Swartz on Indymedia

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Bob

Put aside the issue of Nader ego-driven flawed strategy vis-a-vis the Greens. Also put aside David Cobb's party building efforts.

The Green decision to back a candidate who promises to give "anybodybutbush" Kerry a free ride in the so-called "swing states," is a victory for people who still don't understand the necessity of breaking with the Democrats.

Breaking with the Democrats needs to be a centerpiece of any program leading to a break with the damn corporate enterprise.

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Carl Davidson
Contrary to Bob, I think the Green Party made the best decision for itself and for progressives generally. First, they aimed the main blow at Bush and the NeoCons. Second, by fielding candidates and a platform, they distinguished themselves from the Democrats in the electoral arena and maintained their ballot status gains from the past. Third, by adopting the "swing state" tactic, they strengthened their internal unity and their alliances with nonpartisan progressives beyond their ranks. Fourth, by emphasizing party-building from the base upward, they will come out of the election stronger than when they entered it.

That's what counts for third party success in these times in my book.

Bob's "scorched earth" approach is one of aiming the main blow at the Democrats, especially the more progressive "conciliators" among them, in order to effect a radical rupture NOW as a matter of "principle." That's what I assess as the subtext of his argument. Even if it didn't help re-elect Bush, it would leave the Greens deeper split internally and more isolated from most of their progressive and left allies. If they did spell the difference in helping a Bush victory, it would take them decades to recover, if ever.

The problem with the right wing of our movement is that they're all tactics and no strategy; the problem with our ultralefts, however, is that they are all strategy and no tactics. Both are recipes for failure.
See also: http://www.carldavidson.blogspot.com

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Bob Schwartz
That the Democratic party is the "graveyard" of progressive movements is a fact ignored by Carl Davidson. We keep running up this hill time and again, only to slide down the other side.

Carl and I have both been around long enough to go thru this run-up several times.

Sure, I have a principle that it is wrong to work for and vote for Democrats. A fact as well known to Carl as to myself, is that both parties are parties of big business.

For the Green nominee to advocate for Kerry is to jettison the independence of the Green party, no matter how incisive its program might be. How can one party endorse a candidate of another party, and still be independent of that party? Or be taken seriously by voters looking for an alternative?

Of course party building is critical to the future of the Greens, but entering thru the back door to back the candidate of another party is poison.

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Carl Davidson
The Democratic Party isn't the only "graveyard" of progressive movements, if you want to put it that way; the same can be said for any number of third parties as well.

The Democratic Party's leading core, its "corporate caucus" so to speak, frequently co-opts progressive movements by subordinating and dividing their leadership, fragmenting their programs, and demobilizing their insurgencies through partial reforms--"giving up a little to protect a lot," at least for a time.

Third parties, on the other hand, often derail or confine progressive movements to the margins of society, isolate them from allies, and keep them from wielding power, except as indirect "pressure groups" that, consciously or unconsciously, rely on the corporate liberals of the "corporate caucus" to implement some portion of their demands. They become co-opted into a semi-permanent extraparlimentary opposition, fired up now and then when the corporate liberals in power need a little "street heat" in dealing with their rivals.

Almost every third party I can think of has, to some degree, bragged about their co-optation, ie, about how at least some part of their program was implemented by one or another of the two major parties, even if it never wielded power or got more than a relative handful of votes itself.

Yes, we have had this discussion before--"same old, same old" for the last 40 years of my life, at least. You can take articles written advocating both sides of this question from 30 years ago, change the names of the wars, a few issues, a few statistics, and a few people, and run them again and it would be hard to see the difference.

It's time for something new. Each side of this argument is mainly right about the other side, but has serious problems about itself. Those working as progressives in the Democratic party, for instance, have no strategy (that I know of) for ridding the party of the control of the corporate caucus. The third parties, on the other hand, have no tactics for winning over those who vote or work for Democrats--other than demanding "clean breaks" on "principle," which may count as ineffective propaganda but not effective tactics. They often end up avoiding many arenas where the fight is actually going on.

Here's an irony. The left has hundreds, even thousands of nonprofit, tax-exempt 501C3 organizations all across the country. It's one of the first things new insurgent groups often clamor for. But there are two main requirments for a 501C3: first, you are not allowed to campaign for a candidate; second you are not allowed to campaign for a specific piece of legislation.

In other words, if you are an anarchist or otherwise opposed to electoral politics, the foundations will fund you, just as long as you stay that way and only indirectly lobby for your cause--no political parties or electoral groups, please. I'm not saying we should totally abandon 501C3s, but isn't there a deeper lesson here? Hasn't our movement suffered from co-optation from the "left" as well as the right?

I think some of the answers are in this direction:

First, in order to do electoral politics, you have to have something to do electoral politics WITH. Otherwise, whatever postions you take, it's just so much "left" posturing. In my book, that starts with community-based groups that belong to themselves, that have their own voter lists, contacts, funding sources, allies and leaders. They start winning campaigns and positions locally and work their way up, federating with like-minded groups in other areas along the way. Second, they understand that you can vote against someone without "endorsing" that someone's rival (unless, of course, they want to.) Our group, Peace and Justice Voters 2004, isn't endorsing anyone. We will just bring tens of thousands of new progressive voters to the polls for "Regime Change" in November, voters who will decide for themselves whether to vote for Kerry, Nader, Cobb or even, in rare instances, Bush. Our main impact will be, predictably, against Bush and the neo-cons, but we are not endorsing Kerry or building his organization. We are building our organizations, organizations that will have to continue the struggle against the White House and the war regardless of the occupant.

Second, we have to campaign for electoral reform BETWEEN elections--Instant Runoff, Proportional Representation, Allowance of Fusion, etc. Without these, we are forever inflicted with the two-party system.

Third, we need a program of radical structural reform that contests not only the maldistribution of wealth, but also the creation of wealth on the micro as well as the macro level. It is mainly in these campaigns that the people themselves are schooled in becoming the masters of society.
See also: http://www.cyrev.net

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