Nader and Race

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Mon Jun 5 17:21:28 MDT 2000

Mark Jones wrote:

>  If you have to use the electoral Saturnalia for any pripose at all, then
> make a carnival of the oppressed from it, and hold up your banners to remind
> the people back home about Chiapas, about Colombia, about Peru, about Cuba,
> about Narmada, about the traffic in women and children, and in general be a
> voice for those condemned by this very electoral process to silent death.

Mark's rhetoric, as often, leaves one a bit breathless, but this is
correct, particularly in its centering of the concept of *mobilizing*. Reading
it it occurred to me that while in 1996 and again this year I had thought of
*voting* for Nader, I had never thought of *Organizing* for Nader -- the
idea seems absurd on the surface. In other words, in my casual response
to Nader there had been no element of political thinking but only a
consideration of how I might as an individual express myself towards the
demirep candidates.

The Jackson campaign of 1988 (not so much 1984) was profoundly
different -- this despite the fact that it would not be difficult to make
as heavy a *personal* case against Jackson as against Nader. Jackson
was not particularly someone to vote for, but he was profoundly someone
to organize for. Working in his campaign immediately brought together
people who had been perfect strangers before. Talking to anyone
about his candidacy immediately involved talking about the core issues
of u.s. politics.

A protest movement in the u.s. -- any progressive movement in the
u.s.-- that does not somehow or other mounting a challenge to racism
within the working class and in the society as a whole is pretty empty.
Will campaigning for Nader not just allow or encourage but necessitate
a frontal attack on the War against Crime? Will it not only allow but
necessitate an attack on police and prison-guard treatment of blacks?
Will it not only allow or encourage but necessitate a frontal attack
on welfare reform? Will it not only allow or encourage but necessitate
a demand for hugely increased child care facilities? Kosovo?
Puerto Rico? Haiti? Colombia? Electoral work that does not force
organizers and campaigners to discuss these issues is not just deficient,
it is reactionary.

Leftists in the United States are demographically insignificant, and it
does not make a damn bit of difference who we vote for. But it
makes a huge difference who we organize for and around what
issues we conduct that organizing.

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