independent politics

Louis R Godena louisgodena at
Fri May 24 21:28:56 MDT 1996

Dear Jeff

               You are right to point out that (a) the organizational
structure of both major parties is in steep and
probably irreversible decline, and (b) most registered voters (still only
about 55% of the eligible electorate)
now opt for  "independent" status.   But then,  Americans, clearly, are
turning away from the type of party "discipline" (political, religious,
sexual, etc.) that has been a marked feature of past eras in their history.
As  American society becomes more fragmented and begins to implode from its
own internal contradictions,
these trends can only accelerate.

               All this has important manifestations for the left as well;
and, especially,  for the type of revolutionary party that I understand you
to be advocating.   People generally are not willing to embrace entire
programs, much
less ones based on esoteric political constructs and which are, at best,
only dimly apprehensible.   They will, to varying degrees,support a
"liberal" on abortion, a "conservative" on gun control, a "leftist" on the
minimum wage, a "reactionary" on the death penalty, and so on.   If you are
correct in saying that the left is not a monolith, the
same is true for the American masses--and for much the same reason.  No
leftist party as of yet has been able to successfully fashion itself after
the peculiar, almost unique,  landscape of contemporary American mass
political thought.   Perhaps the political makeup of the left, too, does not
easily lend itself to such an enterprise.

               Organizing a mass political party in an era of when people's
faith in all institutions--and
especially those political institutions which have performed so badly in the
latest period-- is at its nadir, does
not offer the most encouraging prospects.    This has led to a form of
"subtitutism" by left parties--including
the CPUSA--to seek out allies and prospective alliances with those inside
and outside the Democrat Party.
They do this, it is true, in the belief that the environment for socialist
agitation is poor; so poor, in fact,
that socialist demands--from the nationalization of banks to the total
expropriation of corporate wealth--
must succumb to temporary electoral alliances with the Democrats.   This by
itself, I agree, is a dead end.
In that context, alone,  Comrade Zeynep's idea of totally boycotting the
elections (in a public and politically principled way) has a much stronger
visceral attraction for me, personally.

                 But this option, too, is problemmatic.   First of all, the
left simply does not have the strength or
influence to successfully undertake such an enterprise.   Its program is in
disarray.   It is hardly news to
the workers that their leaders are insouciant and corrupt, or that
elections, in and of themselves, change
nothing.   What they seek is not new reasons to be apathetic or disengaged;
they already possess a surfeit of that commodity.   What they want to know
is what the left itself has to offer--a concrete program that addresses
in some meaningful fashion their concerns over employment, health care,
public education, safety for
themselves and their families, hope for the future, etc.   They want to be
listened to and taken seriously.
They are willing, I believe, to enter into a dialogue, however tentatively,
with socialist ideas and concepts--
as long as it is tempered by a practical course of action that meets them,
the workers, on their own terms.

                  This is the real value of working in elections, not, as we
are told over and over again, as an end
in itself, but as the means to an end--to gain a greater good or avoid a
greater evil.   It is going where the
masses are--and elections in our country are still a mass activity despite
the decline in participation, just
as trade unions,  despite their increasingly precipitous fortunes, are mass
organizations which, as Lenin,
declared, provide the "sea" in which revolutionaries "swim".

                   It does not require great gifts of political acumen to
denounce the capitalist system as brutal, racist,
and corrupt.   By the same token one's energy is poorly spent in re-cycling,
ad nauseum, tales of deceit,
betrayal and malfeasance emitting from the top of the trade union movement
or the Democrat Party; both
institutions are a corrupt manifestation of the diseased essence of
capitalism.   What is needed is a principled,
spirited, and determined party of the masses to bring that message in an
honest and uncompromising way in
whatever forum circumstances and struggle make available.   I believe the
Communist Party, despite its often
flawed and ambiguous approach to electoral work, is correct in siezing this
important moment in our history
to do just that.

                     Now, I would like to hear from Neil C and yourself
about some concrete alternatives.

             Louis Godena

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