By The Editors
By Christian Høgsbjerg
By Adam Johannes, Tom Gann, Alyson Macdonald, the PPR Project, Philippa from Barnet Housing Action
Usefulness of the experience is that it produces wisdom. What is missed in the answers is that successful revolutionary activity directed to improve the existing socio-economic system can take place only based on well developed model of the new or improved system. Poor development of social sciences does not stimulate working out of such a project. Instead a lot of oracles for the future of capitalism or its alternative. Thus, the most useful revolutionary activity is proper development of social and economic sciences in order to replace suggestions and assumptions with strong knowledge about objective laws of existing and functioning of society and its development. Task is difficult, but it is just challenge for real revolutioniers.
For what it’s worth, I think most of this is spot on. It’s interesting to consider Rudd’s post mortem observations in the context of the UK and the opposition to the Iraq war.
Trying to end the system rather than end the war divides/divided the AW movement – hence the need for unity (even if it means putting wider aims like revolution on the back burner). In the UK the AW ‘movement’ did not unite much behind the aim of stopping the war. Rather, I think what happened was that groups with other existing priorities tended to tack their war opposition on to their banners, and carried on a usual.
He mentions cliched demonstrating, and talking to the converted. Presumably he implies that (as opposed to talking amongst ourselves), substantial and concerted efforts are needed to reach the wider public with the truths and realities, and getting them involved. I wonder what he thinks about the role of the media here – is it the chicken or the egg.
It’s interesting that he (albeit reluctantly) highlights the Democrats as the vehicle of change in the US. The image of the all nasty, white, racist, capitalist Republican party excludes other ethnic groups and guarantees the role of the Dems as the natural alternative. The Labour party occupies a similarly undeserved ‘natural’ position here in the UK.
“The job will be to activate and mobilize the half the population that doesn’t vote. This will take an enormous community organizing effort, taking decades.”
He is probably right about the effort that is required. I wonder how he thinks it should be sustained - so I wasn’t sure about this:
“Another source of “left-wing infantilism” is the sense of crisis and impending disaster.”
He dismisses as infantilism attempts to ‘save a particular mountainside’. What about the importance of small battles in building support, motivation and gaining publicity? Would it not be difficult to harness long term support of currently unharnessed sympathisers, without some concrete engagements? People surely need something to unite behind, particularly those who are currently not involved in politics.
“It will also be (an enormous community organizing effort) to wage an enormous internal war within the Democratic Party, to turn it from center-right to center-left. It’s a big job.”
Perhaps that’s about the size of it over here too. There is one problem of timing I’d like to know his thoughts on - how to stop any growing movement from joining issue with mainstream politics too early, and melting ineffectively into the existing Democrat/Labour parties.
The basic premise, that society can be radically changed through voting and ‘democracy’, is, unfortunately, invalid. The US isn’t really a ‘democracy’ at all. It’s a Republic which, from the very beginning, designed a ‘perfect’ system to channel and control excessive democracy, which then, as now, was rightly seen as direct threat to minority control of society’s wealth, and by extention, Power.
Essentially the Democrats and Republicans are two factions of one ruling party, this is painfully obvious when one looks at their economic policies and foreign policy objectives.
The very structure of the US political system and the Constitution have an inbuilt conservative bias which has more-or-less guaranteed a monopoly, a ‘two-party’ dictatorship, for over two hundred years. A truly amazing feat, unparalled in the modern world.
It’s an illusion bordering on delusion, to believe that the Democratic Party will ever change its character and become a modern ‘social democratic’ party along European lines. It won’t and it can’t. That isn’t its role in the US system. Like the Republicans, the Democratic Party is, first and foremost, a party controlled by powerful business interests.
Even when the American people massively reject the Republicans and their policies and vote for ‘revolutionary’ change by supporting Obama, the candidate that supposedly showed that the system works; what they get isn’t real, substantive change, what they get is a change of style, a calmer rhetoric, a smile instead of a frown; whilst the basic, underlying imperial agenda continues almost as if the election had never taken place.
It’s like there exists an invisible House of Lords in the United States, only one with real power and a veto. A form of parallel, shadow, government, which the politicians continually look to for guidance and leadership. Politicians and Presidents come and go. They are mostly awful, cowardly, willing to serve the shadow government and chosen by the ‘lords’ and allowed to pretend that they actually rule, when they don’t. It’s the people who actually own society that have real power, power that isn’t changed by voting or elections.
There is a saying among Anarchists: “NO war but CLASS war—fight the rich NOT their wars!”
However—and to place that ethic into context—there was a moment last year here in the States when single-payer health care was on everyone’s lips—versus on the table in sequestered committee meetings on Capitol Hill. The corporate Right, however, threw endless funding to venal legislators via K Street ensuring that single payer would die stillborn—as it did surely did. In fact, K Street had ONE HUNDRED lobbyists working the Hill to defeat single payer for every one Left-of-center advocate of same. This is NOT a war—this is in actuality a MASSACRE! Said another way: workers and/or their family members will most certainly die owing to the failure of elected representatives to insure adequate heathcare access to all
Therefore, and having noted that, the working class of the world—considered as the battered, beleaguered collective that it is—has every right to DEFEND itself via EVERY non-violent means at its disposal. In fact, not only does the worker have the right to such self-defense, NOT to defend himself would seem to imply some sort of moral failing—e.g., cowardice, enabling the rentiers to wreak havoc across the globe via cyber-finance looting, being a negligent caregiver to one’s children, etc.
Of same: It need NOT be a grand gesture, merely 1) authentic and 2) diffuse.
It’s as simple as A, B, C:
action, bulletin (de rigueur: inform the Fourth Estate “why”), copy (i.e., repeated by others, elsewhere)
Social movements have essentially become various forms of identity politics, which circles back to the Democratic Party, forming much of its base. Combined, these movements have not materialized into a mass movement mobilizing for progressive social change. Instead, by focusing on party politics, elections, campaigns for votes, pushing for public policy out of DC, they channel substance that might otherwise go into building a mass movement. This is not to say that organizing around elections and the Democratic Party necessarily deprives mass movement building of its substance, but I would argue it essentially has.
This reflects a deeper problem with organizing campaigns to build mass movements in a society where anomie inflicts us so deeply With our society so fragmented and consumer driven, it does not offer, as it once did during the industrial age (limiting my thinking here to advanced capitalist countries), an arena from which a collective subject exists to organize the ‘masses’. Essentially, the ‘masses’ no longer exist from which to organize a mass movement.
While I find myself sympathetic with the great majority of what Rudd says here, it is with his belief in the potential of electioneering and party politics that he disappoints.
I find it interesting that Rudd says little about economy and class. It is here that antagonisms dominate in our society and it is here where the effort to bring democracy must be emphasized. Attention must be given to democratizing economy. Only with this will a truly democratic politics be originated.
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