More on the Greens, Workers World, and Peace and Freedom
Jose G. Perez
jg_perez at bellsouth.net
Thu Sep 4 20:11:31 MDT 2003
Lou Paulsen writes: "But why isn't the P+F campaign also reflective of
motion towards breaking
with the two party system? Since the Greens are not going to win, why
the position that building the Green campaign is the only non-sectarian
to go? Why not give the much-coveted WW endorsement to the left
whose platform is closest to ours, for what it's worth?"
Lou Paulsen asks why focus on the California election instead of a
thousand other things, and claims an election campaign somehow
inevitably becomes an all-encompassing focus that blots out everything
Well, the reason to focus on it is that this is where political debate
is taking place, that's all. And this California election is garnering
an extraordinary amount of attention nationally and most of all in that
state. As for elections blotting out everything else, well, obviously
that sort of narrow electoralism isn't anything people here are for.
As to why relate to the Green Party, that's because, as far as I can
tell, that's the vehicle through which this motion is finding
expression. Not through P+F. Camejo got 5%+ of the vote in the last
election. He has now gained recognition as a "legitimate" candidate that
has to be included in debates and so on. CNN, the Washington Post, the
New York Times all are being forced to give him (some) coverage. He's
getting fairly extensive coverage in the local press.
A lot of that is due, I think, to the political weight of the Latino
population in the state, and his being not just Latino, but giving voice
to the aspirations of Latinos, in a way that Bustamante does not. A lot
of it is due just to the national Green campaigns in the previous
elections. A lot of it is due to his effectiveness as a campaigner and a
speaker. But whatever the reasons, I think it is foolish to turn your
back on it. I think it is sectarian.
And the reason that is given, "Why not give the much-coveted WW
endorsement to the left candidate
whose platform is closest to ours, for what it's worth" is I think wrong
politically. What you're talking about is preaching socialism to the
very small, handful of people who may be ready for such a message. This
is the tactic the SWP ALWAYS follows in election campaigns, and there is
little to recommend it, except when there is simply nothing else to do.
What Camejo and other conscious Greens are attempting is something of a
different order. They're trying to gather forces for a mass break from
the two party system. They've identified sentiment, and are trying to
turn it into motion and organization, with some success, enough, I
think, to justify the judgment that the sentiment and motion is real and
must be related to.
In writing about his and Marx's role in the German revolution of 1848
many decades later, Engels explains that he and Marx had two choices.
"[I]f we did not want to take up the movement, adhere to its already
existing, most advanced, actually proletarian side and to advance it
further, then there was nothing left for us to do but to preach
communism in a little provincial sheet and to found a tiny sect instead
of a great party of action."
Thus they founded, not a proletarian or Communist newspaper, but a
democratic one. "[O]ur banner was determined as a matter of course. It
could only be that of democracy, but that of a democracy which
everywhere emphasized in every point the specific proletarian character
which it could not yet inscribe once for all on its banner."
And of course we could go over other examples, Marx and Engels's
activity in the First International, the July 26 movement and the Cuban
revolution, and many others including currently what is going on in
The specific demands and proposals put forward by Communists in trying
to develop a mass movement can't just be arbitrarily pulled from some
pamphlet like the Manifesto or the Transitional Program. They have to be
carefully attuned to the actual level of consciousness of the masses, in
Engels's words, it is necessary to "take up the movement" and "adhere"
to its most advanced expression in order to "advance it further."
I think the Greens represent that "most advanced, actually proletarian
side" under these circumstances.
It was only a month or two ago that I wrote here about the Henry George
movement in the mid-1880's in the United States, and how Engels
remonstrated against "the Germans" in the U.S. who wanted to preach the
Communist Manifesto at it instead of understanding Marxism as "a theory
of evolution," if I remember the exact word right. The course advocated
by Lou seems to me to be repeating the same mistake that Engels
It seems to me as Lou expresses it that the WWP position is simply
sectarian abstentionism. Workers World is just going to abstain from
intervening in the debate and discussions that take this electoral form.
For cover you're formally endorsing the P+F candidate, but it's a
meaningless rote formula, which not even the party's own members take
seriously, for Lou freely admits they plan on doing next to nothing
This is sectarianism, classic, textbook ultraleft sectarianism. Because
for *you* the elections mean nothing, you refuse to relate to them,
forgetting that what is true for you isn't true for the masses. THEY are
stuck in the swamp of the bourgeois parties and electoralism, but you
won't lift a finger to help get them out, not in that arena.
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