Back to Matt was Re: Replying to Gary was Re: Once more on you knowwhat...

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Sat Dec 16 15:15:00 MST 2000

Of course Matt, my view of America is very distorted.  I spent 6 weeks in
New York in 81/2 and as my second wife, whom I met there, used to say "New
York ain't America!"  It is also true that I should not be giving advice to
American comrades, and it is good of you to tolerate my ignorance, take the
trouble to read my posts and to reply at length.

But let me try and answer honestly what I see as your key question - Do I
see the Democrats as some kind of substitute Labor Party?  In other words
do I have in some part of my brain internalised a model that comes from the
Days of Earl Browder?  Do I think that the Democrats have a different
relationship to the working class than the Republican Party?

Hand on heart I would answer 'no' to all of the above.  Why then did I find
myself hoping Gore would win?  Well I think the answer is that I recognized
an offensive from the far-right and felt that its defeat, rather than
Gore's victory, was necessary.  Gore's response was as has been pointed out
by Michael Moore and others, piss weak legalism.

Of course one cannot defeat the far right in the courts but you can push
them back and you must use all the means in one's power. That also may
include using the vote.

Now what about abstentionism?  I find your ideas interesting here.  The
classic texts of Marxism are as you would know very
anti-abstentionist.  Indeed the battles between Marx & Engels with Bakunin
were often on this very issue.  But M&E both believed that the working
class were instinctively non-abstentionist.  The situation in the USA
though appears to be the exact opposite. the workers won't vote. Perhaps it
is possible to dialectically akido this absentionism and take it to a
higher level.  That is certainly how I understand your strategy.  Perhaps
you are correct.  How could I tell from here?  In any case good luck with
the struggle.

BTW 'liberal' is an infinitely greater insult in my book than 'anarchist'.

warm regards


At 04:07  16/12/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Gary wrote:
> > 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.
>Would a vote for Nader be better than an equally well-publicized, leftist
>abstention campaign?  Why?  And what effect are we trying to have on the
>Democrats?  Make them "more representative" of their "base" among the "poor
>and disenfrachised"?
>I know next to nothing about Australian politics.  What little I do know
>comes from your often excellent posts on the subject.  But I wonder if
>you're not looking at the situation in the U.S. through a somewhat distorted
>lens.  Particularly, you seem to have some notion that the Democratic Party
>is somehow, in some sense, "really" more on the side of our class than the
> > 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
> > you criticize those who like Harris also tried to encourage
> > abstentionism?  According to your logic was she not an unwitting
> > of political enlightenment for the poor of Florida who tried to vote?
>She was indeed, at least potentially, just such an instrument.  Whether any
>"enlightenment" -- maybe it would be less condescending to say "political
>education" -- is spread and takes root depends on how the movement responds.
>Inaugural demos that focus on the bourgeoisie's contempt for supposedly
>sacred "rights" are good.  Demos that focus on how "Gore was deprived of his
>victory" are not.
>Exposures that analyze how elections are a game run by the man to fool the
>people are good.  Analyses that worry about "counting every vote" WITHOUT
>taking up the question of how the whole elections circus is used to
>*constrain* choices, to *marginalize* folks who don't accept the system on
>its own terms (and no, I don't mean our millionaire friend Mr. Nader), to
>*muffle* authentic voices of discontent, to *channel* the more-or-less
>inchoate disatisfaction felt by folks from many strata into a system that
>the professional ideologists can then use to *blame* people for making a
>"bad choice" if they're unhappy with the state -- these kinds of analyses
>are bad.
> > The problem with Anarchist thought is that it is all too much of the "one
> > key fits all" variety.
>I thought we were going to try and move away from this, Liberal.
> > 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
> > of the powerful.
>This is because you enterain a notion that the "electoral process" of our
>latter day imperium has anything more than a (very attenuated) entirely
>formal relationship to the localized, yeoman agriculture and petty commodity
>production based, "democratic" institutions of the pre-civil war U.S.  Our
>elections do *not* determine anything except *maybe*, *sometimes*  *very
>slight* *marginal* variations in the rate at which the bourgeoisie draws
>blood from our veins.  (And they usually don't even determine that.  A
>single Seattle is worth an infinitude of Gore victories in affecting the
>internal debates of the ruling class.)
>Now, I ask again, how much of our *very limited* resources should we invest
>in possibly having some miniscule influence on this aspect of the class
>struggle (which, after all, is not the crux of the class struggle, wouldn't
>you agree)?  Particularly in light of the fact that there are substantial,
>well funded organizations already in the business of handling these matters
>(for example, the unions).  I suggest that this is not a good deployment of
>what little communists have to offer here in the States.  Whatever we say or
>do, it should be *different* from what the unions, the environmental
>organizations, the so-called "human rights" NGO's, etc. are *already doing*.
>Most Americans already recognize that voting does not give them any more
>ability to determine their destiny than not voting.  This is a *correct*
>analyis, but largely unarticulated and "unconscious" (for our purposes,
>we'll take this to mean "internally unarticulated" -- still experienced as
>an "intuition" or "hunch").  What reds need to do is gather and sum up that
>concrete experience, concentrate and sharpen it, and bring it back to the
>people in a way that lets them take the struggle higher (including on the
>level of folks' own self-understanding).  Not join in the chorus -- led, of
>course, by the professional lackeys of the bourgeoisie -- that condemns them
>for "not caring" or "dropping out".
>-- Matt D.
>P.S.  There is a group of Americans who have a very conscious and articulate
>understanding of the complete insignificance of voting.  These are those at
>the heights of state power and the top of the bourgeois food chain.  Until
>Dubya tapped him for VP, Dick Cheney, for example, hadn't voted since the
>'70s or some such time, if I recall correctly.

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