Replying to Matt was Re: Once more on you know what...

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Fri Dec 15 14:46:40 MST 2000

Hi Matt,

How are we to proceed here?  I started the name calling by labelling your
position anarchist.  You responded my suggesting that my position was
liberal. You also had a go at Henry saying that getting involved in the
elections was like dragging the workers to the cess-pool. Let us continue
this discussion but also let us try and ensure that we do not raise the
heat too much. Ok?

After reading your posts I looked up Engels and Marx on Bakunin and  was
severely tempted to read our debate in those terms.  However there is a
crucial difference.  In a speech in 1871 Engels attacked what he called

However he then went on to say

"Apart from that, abstention for us is impossible.  The workers' party
already exists as a political party in most countries.  It is not for us to
ruin it by preaching abstention".

The rub here is that there is no such party in the USA - the all too true
case of American exceptionality.

So what does one do in the USA?  It is not of course my place to tell
American comrades what they must do and I really shouldn't.  But you do
live in the beast and the beast does effect us on the semi-periphery. In
any case I cannot resist giving advice.  So what would I do if I lived in
the USA?  Well I would have definitely supported the Nader campaign.  I
have heard quite clearly all the criticisms here.  But the Greens were way
to the Left of anything that Gore's team put up.

I would also have tried very hard to get as many workers and other
oppressed layers as possible to vote for Nader.  That would, I know, have
made Bush's task all that much easier. But a large vote for the Greens
would have been a clear signal to the Democrats that they were bleeding to
the Left.

Now when the post election near crisis broke out - I think the correct line
would have been to demand the democratic rights of all who had voted for
Gore in Florida and the far-right should have been confronted when they
were mobilised. I quote again from Engels here:

"The political freedoms, the right of assembly and association, and the
freedom of the press, these are our weapons.  Are we to fold our arms and
abstain if they seek to deprive us of them?"

Now I am not sure what your attitude was to the post election traumas.  But
a position of abstentionism makes it difficult to suddenly say that what
the Republicans did was wrong and had to be opposed.  The Afro-American
vote came out in their thousands to try and vote for Gore.  Harris and
others organised against this.  What would your line have been here?  When
Harris move to disenfranchise the blacks would you have condemned her for
trying to prevent the poor from going into the cesspool?  Presumably you did.

Yet as I interpret your line those who sought to vote were making a
mistake.  They were in some way "behind" those who abstained.  So how could
you criticize those who like Harris also tried to encourage
abstentionism?  According to your logic was she not an unwitting instrument
of political enlightenment for the poor of Florida who tried to vote?

The problem with Anarchist thought is that it is all too much of the "one
key fits all" variety.  It is of the night when all things are
black.  Abstractly correct as it often is it simply does not fit the messy
chaotic real world we inhabit.  It seems to me that looking from here at
the USA the fact that some 60% of the population either are excluded or
exclude themselves for the electoral process works primarily to the benefit
of the powerful.  It may also explain why all candidates have to adapt
lunatic positions such as support for the death penalty.



More information about the Marxism mailing list