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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