Elections and Anti-War Struggle

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 3 10:39:37 MST 2002

José Pérez throws a tantrum because I dare to suggest voting for Democrats
if necessary.  He reminds us of the horrendous historical record of the
Democratic Party.  Maybe someone like José can afford to spend his whole
political life drooling and sucking his (left) thumb, but a collective
effort that wants to win needs to grow up.

Marxists should know by now what making a political deal is all about.
Lenin used this illustration.  Suppose you're mugged by an armed robber:
Your life or your wallet.  You cooperate with him, you give him your wallet,
he lets you walk away alive.  That's a compromise.  You have not become an
accomplice of the assailant.  You're not promoting crime.  You are not
endorsing his criminal career.  You are advancing your own interest. Suppose
you have the high ideals of eliminating the social roots of crime.  If you
don't compromise with the robber, then so much for your ideals.

Notice the example Lenin uses.  You make a compromise, not with someone who
is nice to you and shares your values.  You make a compromise with a crook
if need be.  Alliances, whether temporary or long lasting, are compromises.
You don't make them because of whom THEY are.  You make them because of who
YOU are, what YOUR interests are, what YOUR goals are.  Of course, if you
don't know what your goals and interests are, how can you make any
meaningful deal with anyone?

Let me use another metaphor.  Trotsky trying to persuade radical German
Communists to strike a deal with a broad range of forces and stop Hitler:
One killer is going to gun you down.  Another killer is going to gradually
poison your food or water.  What do you do now if you cannot get rid of both
of them at once?  You disarm the gunman first.  You ensure your political
survival.  You advance your interest.  Then you can go on to the next item
on your agenda.  Refuse to cooperate with the reformists, let Hitler
strengthen his hand, then cry because your "principled" stand was as stupid
as irresponsible.  A "principled," uncompromising pose is as cheap as can be
fake.  A principled strategy combined with superb tactically flexibility is
what counts.

This is what I see, but correct me if I'm wrong: No socialist or communist
in the US Congress.  No socialist or communist State governor.  Few if any
socialists or communists in state legislatures.  Few if any in local
governments and local assemblies.  Maybe a few in Oregon, a few in Vermont,
and that might be all.  The Republicans and the Democrats are the political
parties that prevail across the country, on all the levels of government.
The media only voices their views and suppresses disenting voices.  But
that's the corrupt two-party political farce.  I guess the Left doesn't want
to cooperate with the crooks.  It doesn't want to prop up the rotten system
and share the dubious credit for that.

Okay, then let's look for them at labor associations, trade unions, and
other popular organizations.  How many socialists and communists are there
in positions of leadership?  Not many.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  Occasional
local movements that involve particular constituencies (anti-police
brutality, anti-racist rallies, defense against abuses in the justice
system, etc.) appear to drive leftwing group participation.  Little islands
of hardworking and well-meaning lefties scattered around the country,
surrounded by oceans of conformity and conservatism -- Cockburn says.  And
now, the onset of an anti-war movement with leftist groups leading coalition
building and organizing demonstrations.  That's it.

When you're are politically weak, you have to do two things.  One, is to
sharpen your identity by debating and defining your distinctive ideas more
clearly and forcefully.  Two, you need to compromise with reality.   That
implies that you observe and tactically exploit the slightest differences
between the ruling classes, groups, and political parties.  You have to do
both things, chew gum and walk at once.  When you're strong, you may afford
ignoring shades and slight distinctions among your enemies, but by then they
may be already forgetting their differences and joining forces against you.
But let's get there first.  José can keep wetting his political bed if he
wants, but the Left should grow up.

*  *  *

In his response to my post, Lou Palsen's makes good points.  But they are
not all equally convincing.  Lou implies that you can only vote for the
Democrats because of an ILLUSION about how progressive they are.  Well,
again, no.  You can vote for the Democrats because of the REALITY of how
weak we are.  The question is: What's the best choice to strengthen our

Lou suggests that a vote for Democrats would have to be conditioned upon
their opposition to all imperialist wars and actions.  They should support
the Palestinians, oppose the blockade against Cuba (well, a bunch of them
are there already, I think), etc.  First, they should stop being crooks,
then we might strike a deal with them.

Lou also says that the difference between Republicans and Democrats in
Congress on Iraq is only about "war today vs. war tomorrow."  Well, in the
present context the differences between "war today vs. war tomorrow",
unilateral aggression vs. UN-sanctioned aggression, blatant assertion of
imperial prerogatives vs. formal recognition of international law are HUGE
DIFFERENCES.  The Left must sharpen these differences and exploit them to
its advantage.  Voting in the next election is an opportunity for this.

Abroad, these "small" differences are a matter of life and death.  It is
absolutely not true that, as Lou seems to suggest, that a massive war on
Iraq is just a continuation of the "war that has been going on since 1990"
in the form of frequent bombings and sanctions.  No.  A massive war would be
a discrete jump in viciousness.  The time rate of casualties, devastation,
displacement, and suffering from a full aggression would be several orders
of magnitude higher than what the people of Iraq are currently enduring.  No
doubt about that.


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