Camejo, elections, independent politics
Jose G. Perez
jg_perez at bellsouth.net
Thu Jul 10 16:27:40 MDT 2003
I'm sorry if I led people into a false polemic by my calling Peter's
campaign "socialist." I mean one thing when I say that, but many others
(quite reasonably) mean entirely another.
The important difference is NOT that between a "socialist" and a "green"
The significance of Camejo's gubernatorial campaign last time around is
that he led a breakaway by at least a sliver of the masses (370K votes,
that they counted, 5.2% of the total) in the political arena from the
main instrument the bourgeoisie uses to ensure its political and
ideological hegemony, the two party system. He did so with a campaign
that identified with and supported the actual social movements of
working people in this country, and that took a very firm position on
the *central* political and foreign policy question facing the country
and the world right then, Iraq, even though it was a gubernatorial
I posted here the first five minutes or so of the major speech Peter and
his friends had on the web site. Contrary to he representations made
here that this could have been any left liberal democrat campaign, that
Camejo didn't attack the two party system, I think those five minutes
show quite clearly reality was otherwise.
Some folks on this list pooh-pooh the campaign and the vote. Just
"liberals" venting against Gray Davis and so on. From my point of view,
on one level, that doesn't really matter, because I believe for the
masses consciousness comes from action. This Camejo guy has the capacity
to communicate with millions of people and to get a significant number
of them to take the next step --and a giant step-- towards political
As for "socialist" campaigns, as most people here seem to understand the
term, they're not all that useful. The problem with them is what Engels
identified as the problem if Marx and Engels had tried to intervene in
the revolutions of 1848 as "communists" or "proletarian revolutionaries"
or whatever. They would have cut themselves off from the actual
So this raises a very interesting question. Is there an actual movement
in the United States that we cut ourselves off from by running a purely
propagandistic socialist slate? I believe that's what Peter's
gubernatorial campaign showed. There is such a movement. What movement
is it? It is the movement of "the 60's" the accumulation of experiences
and causes and demands of the real social struggles of previous decades.
I think that legacy is embodied in those of us of a certain age, but
also, that it has been passed on or reconquered by younger generations.
It exists right now inchoate, atomized, with tremendous amounts of
energy expended in seemingly random Brownian motion.
As movements "in the streets," so to speak, those fell apart or fell
into quiescence or their main organized expressions were domesticated at
various points in large part because they did not have their own
political expression. Yet I think Seattle, the antiwar protests many
things that have gone on in the past few years show the potential is
still there. And when you *study* the exit polls and demographics of
American electoral politics, like the spontaneous boycott by nearly 100%
of Blacks of the last presidential primaries in some states, and put it
together with those other manifestations, the picture that you get is
that of a super-saturated solution that hasn't crystallized or
precipitated out because it needs a place to START.
A tiny, full program, hyper-abstract socialist election campaign is
extremely unlikely to be the seed crystal for the process. Not because
it is "too radical," but because it doesn't attract. The seed crystal
needs to have this property: it cannot be inert. It has to attract the
other molecules of the same type in the solution so they can bind and
create a growing crystal.
Today's radical cliché seems to be connect the dots, everyone wants to
I thought it very ironic that Peter's campaign was accused of failing to
do this, of not really drawing the disparate sectors around a central
message or force. I think that's all wrong. The medium IS the message.
The central message is that all these things Blacks and women and gays
and Latinos and unions have been fighting are really all part of a
common political struggle.
The common political struggle of the oppressed and exploited *is the
message* of a campaign like Camejo's that identifies with these
struggles, champions their demands, promotes their activities. Of
course, many of us have been associated with such campaigns in the past,
different in various ways from Peter's, but all of them sharing one
difference in common with Peter's.
Viewed as extensions or as expressions in the electoral arena of those
popular struggles THEY DID NOT WORK.
What do I mean by "They did not work?" They did not succeed in drawing
even a sliver of the masses that identify with these popular causes to
extend their fight into the political arena as a common fight. Peter's
campaign DID succeed, enough, at least, to allow us to say, this is a
And no, it wasn't just a "protest vote." The campaign, from what I heard
and read, wasn't run as a protest vote campaign.
Its singular virtue, in my view, was this. It spoke to people starting
from the level where they were at. And it sought to take them the next
What should be that next step? To go from opposing the Iraq War to
eliminating the entire Pentagon budget? I don't think so. The NEXT step,
the one Peter was promoting, is to create *our own* party, the Green
party. What working people need is their own political movement, their
own political expression, their own political voice. That is what the
Greens in California are beginning (barely, but they ARE beginning) to
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