Leo Panitch on 9/11

sherrynstan at igc.org sherrynstan at igc.org
Sat Dec 8 07:24:49 MST 2001

It is a tactical mistake to go to our working class and tell them "democracy is destructive".  Too much tied up with it, especially with the Black Liberation Movement.  The front lines right now is "democracy", because the last mass movement (Civil Rights) laid down lives simply for the franchise.  As reaction is now beginning to roll back those gains (2000 General Election), we are faced with the impasse of accommodationaism, the integration of selected members of the Black colonial surrogate class into the hallowed halls, and their service as mediators between power and the masses.  The defensive alliance with the Democratic Party is breaking down, and the left is in competition with racial essentialists like the NOI for the attention of the masses, even as the crises deepen.  The cudgel we are taking up now is not rejection of "democracy", but exposure and delegitimation of bourgeois democracy, as we point to an alternative: popular democracy.  The latter is distinguished i!
n our appeals by a very real analysis of power, by erasing the bourgeois-instrumental distinctions between political, economic, social, and ideological "spheres", using popular education as a vehicle, and re-marrying the notion of democracy WITH power.  We seek POWER, and when we get it, that IS democracy.  Direct action is a key practice associated with this notion of "popular democracy."  As with my Haitian comrades who do not engage the masses on the question of the existence of God, because to confront the masses here is to sever our connection, we are not going to go to the American working class, especially oppressed nationalities, and say, we oppose democracy.  Instead, we are directing the flow of a redefinition under the system in order to erode its foundations around its epistemological pillars.

That said, I understand that this is a conversation among marxists, and that this may be semantical in this context.  We are just extremely preoccupied with these problems right now, because we are winning people away from the war, painstakingly, and we are trying to intervene with folks who have hit the wall with pluralist organizing and are hungry for the next level of interpretation/organizing.  These impasses, far from being the obstacles they appear, constitute teachable moments, and are the mini-conjunctures where we find and develop new cadre.

I hope others will share their current experience in this regard, actual organizing.  This would be extremely helpful.


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