I think we need to raise the issues that are affecting people in their daily lives, keep these issues in the forefront as the military budget drains the public coffers. What are you terrified of more-Al Quaeda or not having food, clothing, shelter, a living wage, access to medical care and decent education? We need to say that we are not human resources; we are human beings. We need to stop accepting the voting booth as our only legitimate means of expression.
I have been extremely depressed since the recent elections. I am beginning to snap out of it because I realized that once again, I allowed myself to have faith in the electoral process. I have not always voted. I used to vote when I felt I needed to for the lesser of 2 evils. I voted for Carter when he lost. I voted for a republican governor in Pennsylvania because she was pro-choice. I felt very bad about that and I really didn’t want to do it. She was for 1 issue that I felt very strongly about and against 99 other ones that I also felt strongly about. Voting is a very unsatisfying experience. It’s like having one lick of lemon ice on a really hot summer day and then being told you can’t have any more.
In 1992, I wrote an article for Regeneration, A Magazine of Left Green Social Thought. The focus of Regeneration 4 was Green Electoral Politics, The 1992 debates. One of the things I said was, “As activists, our primary activity not to educate, but coordinate the … anger and frustration that we all feel; to encourage people to see that we can live in a human way and to point out that the capitalist system is stopping us from saving ourselves and the world. Whether we win or lose a particular struggle, the struggle itself is important because involvement in it is a step away from passivity and isolation and a step toward humanity and community. It’s important for people to stand up and say that our lives matter more than their profits and that a system that recognizes capitalism’s right to profit over our right to live must end. Do people come to that realization through electoral activity?”
I feel the same way today. I think for me the problem is in finding a community. There are faith-based groups and race based groups, student groups. There the Labor Party such as it is. But for people working in a non-union office environment in an industrial park, not religious and with anti-capitalist politics, there’s not much community or hope for one.
I don’t know if anyone saw the article in the January 2002 issue of Monthly Review, “Left Politics in the Age of Transition,” an exchange between Immanuel Wallerstein and the Editor’s of Monthly Review, but Wallerstein said some interesting things.
One of the things he said is “Use defensive electoral tactics…Once we don’t think of obtaining state power as a mode of transforming the world, they (elections) are always a matter of the lesser evil, and the decision of what is the lesser evil has to be made case-by-case and moment-by moment.”
The entire article is very good and I think worth reading for everyone here, but let me just summarize his alternative strategy:
“1. Expand the spirit of Porto Allegre-What is this spirit? The coming together in a non-hierarchical fashion of the world family of antisystemic movements to push for a) intellectual clarity b) militant actions based on popular mobilization that can be seen as immediately useful in people’s lives and c) attempts to argue for long term fundamental changes.
2. Use defensive electoral tactics.
3.Push democratization unceasingly. The most popular demand on the states everywhere is “more”- more education, more health, more guaranteed lifetime income.
4. Make the liberal center fulfill its theoretical preferences. This is otherwise known as forcing the pace of liberalism. The liberal center notably seldom means what it says or practices what it preaches.
5. Make anti-racism the defining measure of democracy. Democracy is about treating all people equally-in terms of power, in terms of distribution, in terms of opportunity for personal fulfillment…Racism is not a secondary issue either on a national or a world scale.
6. Move towards decommodification…instead of turning universities and hospitals into profit making institutions we should be thinking of how we can transform steel factories into non-profit institutions…
7. Remember always that we are living in the era of transition from our existing world system to something different. We should not be taken in by the rhetoric of globalization or the inferences about TINA. Not only do alternatives exist, but the only alternative that doesn’t exist is continuing with our present structure.
…The key problem is lucidity. The forces who wish to change the system so that nothing changes…have money, energy and intelligence at their disposal…only careful analysis will keep us from falling into their many traps.”
Sounds good to me. I just don’t know how and if we can do it. I think it was Ted Glick of IPPN that sent out an e-mail saying that we should hold Town Meetings in every community. This at least gives people a chance to get to know each other and communicate. I suppose we could try to hold town meetings on specific issues that are not necessarily seen as local issues-like healthcare- and see what people think, what the problems are in our area. It’s difficult to do anything that involves regular people though without the local honcho’s getting involved. A few years ago in Allentown some women tried to organize a group of people to discuss what the problems were with the downtown area and local political people were all over the meetings trying to co-opt the issues.