Camejo, elections, independent politics
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at netzero.net
Fri Jul 11 23:12:42 MDT 2003
Adam writes, "Yep. Missing my point."
He took the words right out of my mouth.
In discussing whether or not the Green Party represents a "movement" he
talks about things like, does it do anything around something other than
elections and so on, stresses that any "movement" around a Camejo
candidacy would be just that, not a more generalized phenomenon, and so
This is entirely, completely, 100% a misunderstanding of what I'm
talking about when I say Peter Camejo's last campaign represented
"movement" towards independent political action.
What I'm saying is that it represents *motion*, sentiment being
translated into action, on the part of working people. It has nothing to
do with how much of "a movement" the Green Party itself is, at least NOT
in any IMMEDIATE sense.
What I'm saying is that out there, among the people, there is all sorts
of sentiment and pressure, and probably a great deal of seemingly random
brownian motion, waiting to crystallize or flow together into a
This movement-to-be is the result of the accumulations of decades of
struggles and social movements, beginning with the Black civil rights
movement. It has an initial program, the cliché laundry list of
accumulated social causes/demands: equal rights, affirmative action,
abortion rights, health care, living wage, money for social programs not
for war, and so on.
Some are still in the process of fighting their way onto the laundry
list, like decriminalization of being an immigrant. MORE will arise in
the future and be incorporated.
What all these different struggles and campaigns have lacked, over the
decades, is *their own* political expression. One important aspect of
this is the realization that they are all aspects or facets of a single
overall movement or struggle.
Now it looks like they are finding an expression, in a real and
substantive way, one that *clearly* has a mass audience and the support
of at least a small but significant minority of the masses in
THAT is the FACT we need to grapple with. BEFORE getting into a big
discussion about whether this is really all that it should be. Because
Camejo's Green Party in California may be inferior to the one of Adam's
dreams in nearly every conceivable way, but it is superior in ONE way
that is decisive: it exists.
Adam poses the question of whether the "Greens" are really "a movement"
in an entirely undialectical, formalistic way.
Whether or not the green party in its own name and through its own
mechanisms mobilized people for protests and rallies and other
activities, it is clear, for example, in our area, that people in the
Green Party were very much up to their necks in all sorts of other
movement organizations and campaigns.
But what is even *more* significant for purposes of THIS discussion is
that the greens are succeeding in attracting key people from all those
other groups/causes to itself. Adam should know this, being a founding
member of Solidarity's Atlanta branch, a socialist group that initially
in Atlanta had no relations with the local greens a year ago and now
basically has a big subset of its members who are in the greens and is
fairly interpenetrated with it. And not because the Soli branch is
"intervening" in the greens, our branch doesn't really function that
And it is was just a question of the Soli folks, well, members of small
socialist groups talk themselves into doing all sorts of strange things.
But it isn't. They're attracting people --top notch people-- from the
labor movement, from the movement to defend the rights of immigrants,
from antiwar groups. You see that, you start thinking, this is
symptomatic of something. Then you see Camejo getting more than five
percent of the vote in California and HOW he did it, and compare it to
what is going on locally, and you can draw up at least some tentative
hypothesis. However you want to phrase it, the essence of the hypothesis
is that you're dealing with something that is reflective of a much
Now, a lot of the things Adam raises are very real concerns. People
in/around the greens are involved in anything and everything progressive
going on, but shouldn't more of this really be done in and through the
green party as such? Can the party develop into what it should be if it
doesn't do that? Should it be so absorbed with the formalities and
technicalities stipulated in the election laws, or should it, for
example, view the annual state or county meeting as a formality to be
complied with by a small committee of reliable people, without making
those state-mandated forms major events for the organization? Is
consensus-type internal functioning really all that democratic, never
mind efficient? Tons of other things.
And it may well be that some of these things will be the ones that lead
to the Greens not becoming the mass party of working people that finally
arises, or will be changed along the way.
The point is, though, that there is the beginning of *motion* by working
people in *significant* numbers towards political independence in this
form, through this vehicle, or however you want to express it. When THAT
begins to happen, ALL the issues that Adam raises and many others are,
simply, *irrelevant* to the question of whether revolutionary Marxists
should be part of this. You are either IN this movement or OUT of the
That's what Engels was explaining in relation to the Henry George
movement more than a century ago, what I was quoting in the previous
post. The self-styled Marxists in New York who had come over from
Germany with Communist Manifesto-itis on the brain were all going, "What
an absolute turkey! His program is a single tax --on land-- and for
And Engels's response was, BEFORE you look at what it "says," understand
what it "is," it is the first independent political movement of the
working class. The advanced workers will get to a Marxist understanding
THROUGH experiences like this, but YOU guys want to abandon the baby in
the crib because it all it does is babble, it can't put together a
coherent two or three word sentence. The baby will NEVER learn unless
you take the time to interact with it.
And it wasn't just the labor party that nominated Henry George, this was
a general METHOD, he advocated the same approach to the Knights of
Labor, and reiterated this is what he and Marx had done in Germany in
the revolution of 1848.
And Engels was RIGHT. Eventually, 15 years after the Henry George
boomlet (and about 14 after the monomaniacal single-tax idiocy led to
its losing its character as a broad workers movement), Debs and his
friends founded the Socialist Party on a much clearer class basis. And
of course there were a whole series of intervening experiences.
THAT wouldn't have been *possible* unless the workers had already gone
through the experience of the single tax and other nostrums, found out
through their own practical experience what was wrong with it, and moved
That said, the Greens, and especially Camejo's campaign, are already a
very advanced expression of class politics. If you listen to what the
man says without sectarian ear muffs that block out everything that
isn't a direct quote from the Communist Manifesto or the Transitional
Program, you can actually learn something about how to talk to masses of
people, not just the already convinced and committed.
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