The Forthcoming War and Public Opinion

viveka kaliyuga at
Wed Jan 1 10:46:19 MST 2003

Paul wrote:

 > > The forthcoming war will go ahead regardless of public opinion, and,
> > this will give the left an opportunity to raise political issues,
> we
> > are weak and able only to approach a relatively small number of people,
> the
> > main effect will be to strengthen the sense of political estrangement
> > apathy.

Paul, I hear what you're saying, but it is wrong-headed and defeatist to
describe us as "weak."  The only reason we are weak is that we have
surrendered the masses of people to the opposition.  But, as you point out,
their loyalty to the ruling class is very tentative.  I have heard no
average person (and I work with many of them) even mention Iraq or voice
real support for the war.  Everyone of them is pissed off about their 401K
and distrustful of corporations.  If someone came along with a real
alternative, who spoke to them in their language, they'd fall like dominos.
They want to be on the winning side - don't we all - but when we describe
ourselves as "weak" (read: Losers) how do we expect to attract the average
person to our movement?

Lou wrote:

> Actually, you know, what you are describing is not entirely a negative
> development.  Maybe not even mostly negative.
  It sounds like what you are
> describing is a realization by the masses that we are in fact living under
> the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

An excellent point.  They DO realize it, though they would in no way call it
that, and our perfect opportunity to drive a wedge between them and the
ruling class, but we need to do so in their language, not ours.  We need to
further their discontent at the same time fostering loyalty and trust in
ourselves and our program.
> I think the natural result of the understanding of what the dictatorship
> the bourgeoisie really is, IS a sort of 'sullen apathy'.  We think that we
> are in control of the car we are riding in.  Then we try to turn the
> steering wheel and it doesn't go the way we want, and suddenly we realize
> that our democratic steering wheel is only a toy steering wheel, like the
> ones they make for two-year-olds who are riding in the car.  People then
> think "well, what can we do?  We're screwed.  They run everything and
> are hellish and we can't do anything about it."  I think this is natural
> probably inevitable, and, ultimately, a temporary stage.  Ultimately the
> other side of the contradiction manifests itself: "We can't do anything
> about it - but - we can't go on this way."  The sullenness deepens into
> rage.  The rage explodes through the apathy.  Our jobs, it seems to me,
> to (a) positively reinforce the masses for their insight into the real
> situation; (b) to fan the flames of the anger that underlies the
> (c) to extend the discussion of strategies which have been used and can be
> used for dealing with dictatorships - resistance, revolution, etc. - and
> to talk about the other valuable functions of demonstrations, which have
> always really been much more about mobilizing and educating and heartening
> and networking among our own class, than about imparting some sort of
> information to the ruling class, that N people dislike their policies,

I agree with this but would add just a couple of comments.  First off, and
in line with what you said, we have to stop saying "Let's send a message to
Washington" and look at how we can use whatever action we take to send a
message to the people.  When the people have joined us by the hundreds of
thousands, the message will get across surely enough.

When the Enron situation surfaced, I suggested to our local activist group
that sponsored a weekly anti-war rally, that we use ONE of these rallies to
focus exclusively on the Enron issue because that really mattered to the
average person rather than a war in some obscure country where we found
ourselves in opposition to the average person.  In no uncertain terms I was
told everyone should be able to hold a poster that reflected what they
wanted to say and any attempt to orchestrate the event was trampeling on
their rights, etc.  Promoting one's personal agenda was then more important
than reaching out to more people in the community.


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