More on the Greens, Workers World, and Peace and Freedom

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at comcast.net
Sat Sep 6 23:31:40 MDT 2003


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jose G. Perez" <jgperez at netzero.net>


> As for whether the WWP is engaged in typical sect politics, consider
> this remarkable outpouring of super-r-r-r-revolutionary phrase
> mongering:

[Paulsen quote begins here:] [Staircase eliminated]
"See, my alternate hypothesis is that the masses are basically trapped, NOT
by their own stupidity or passivity or faith in or acceptance of the
two-party system, but by the fact that this is the Dictatorship of the
Bourgeoisie.  Furthermore, my hypothesis is that the masses are more aware
of this than you think they are.  They know that this is the dictatorship of
the bourgeoisie.  They know that these are bourgeois elections.  They know
that nothing that happens in the elections is going to change the fact that
this is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  They know that the only choice
they have that can be expressed through the elections is the choice between
the Democratic frying pan and the Republican fire, except on the rare
occasions when both seem completely indistinguishable.  They know all these
things and are correct about them.  Perhaps they have not more, but FEWER
electoral illusions than some people on the left."
[end Paulsen quote]

[But which part does he disagree with?]

> What Paulsen presents here could have been lifted from a pamphlet by the
> German and other left communists in 1919-1920. "... All reversion to
> parliamentary forms of struggle, which have become historically and
> politically obsolete, must be emphatically rejected," they wrote,
> summarizing the essence of Lou's argument.

But where did I say that I reject all parliamentary forms of struggle?  My
party has engaged in parliamentary forms of struggle plenty of times.  One
of us has even run for Governor of California, as it happens.
http://www.workers.org/ww/1998/lariva0528.html
http://www.workers.org/ww/1998/lariva0813.html
http://www.workers.org/ww/1998/lariva1029.html

Unless José thinks that I have dramatically broken with my own party's
theories, traditions and practices, it is very illogical for him to claim
that I reject all parliamentary forms of struggle.

In fact it is all the more illogical for him to do it because, in the very
post he is replying to, I wrote that maybe the Peace and Freedom campaign,
which is a parliamentary form of struggle, had some real potential.  I have
also written here recently that in my opinion it would be very important for
there to be an anti-war candidate in the 2004 presidential election.

This argument is not about whether I emphatically reject all parliamentary
forms of struggle.  It is about WWP's supposedly "rabidly sectarian" failure
to emphatically accept the -particular- parliamentary form of struggle that
José thinks that all thinking Marxists are compelled to emphatically accept,
namely, adherence to the Camejo campaign in the California gubernatorial
recall election.

Now permit me to quote my two sentences that FOLLOWED the quote above.  I am
adding some emphasis to a clause which José apparently missed the first time
around):

"The only thing that can alter this equation is an 'upheaval', a social
movement on some progressive basis, directed against both the Republicans
and Democrats, which would raise up on its shoulders a party or candidacy
which the masses would see as an expression of their movement.  Which is to
say that if you want to break up the two-party system (OF COURSE THIS IS NOT
THE ONLY REASON TO GO INTO THE ELECTORAL ARENA, BUT IT IS THE ONE THAT JOSE
IS EMPHASIZING) the thing to do is not to create a third party with a sort
of left line and try to make it seem like a 'legitimate player', while the
masses know very well that it isn't a legitimate player."

The electoral and parliamentary arenas are, for revolutionary socialists, an
arena of struggle against the bourgeoisie.  We participate in them but we
are not playing the same game that the bourgeoisie is.  We are going into
enemy territory for the purposes of education and agitation.  We are trying
to expose the lies and bourgeois allegiances of the capitalist parties.  We
are trying to win adherents.  We are NOT trying primarily to look
'respectable' or 'legitimate' in bourgeois terms.  We are not trying to win
votes or elections 'by any means necessary'.  In fact, we are trying to do
exactly what José charged in the last round that we wouldn't lift a finger
to do: to rescue our class from the electoral swamp.  We absolutely do not
reject electoral forms of struggle as the German ultraleftists of 1920 did,
and we also absolutely do not make a fetish of electoral struggle and bind
ourselves to run in every possible election no matter what else is going on.

My argument in the excerpt quoted by José is not that we should never engage
in elections.  It is basically that the 'two-party system' is a symptom of
the problem and not the problem itself.  It is a symptom of the
powerlessness and disorganization and demoralization of the workers and
oppressed, and of the control of the electoral process by the bourgeoisie,
and of the difficulties faced by socialists in this fortress of imperialism
in developing a movement of opposition to the bourgeois parties.  And if I
am right in this, then "busting up the two-party system" can only come from
empowering and organizing and invigorating the workers, and by "empowering"
I don't mean new age crap, I mean winning strikes and fighting police
brutality and having successful mass actions.  Whereas an approach to
"busting up the two-party system" which concentrates purely on building a
third party that can do well at the polls is not going to be successful.
But I would very much like to see a party of the workers and oppressed have
so much support and recognition and respect among the masses, as a result of
its history of struggle and the relevance and reliability of its analysis
and leadership, that this is -reflected- in large vote totals.

> This ultraleft stance then leads him to counterpose various things, like
> relating to the Greens to organizing against the war. This
> counterposition is totally arbitrary. Why not, for example, counterpose
> selling newspapers to organizing against the war? The argument is purely
> random, and not too cleverly presented at that.

Well, when I sell my party's newspapers, I am also organizing against the
war, because the newspapers headline the struggle against the war, and
contain information about upcoming demonstrations against the war, and
contain articles which expose the basis of the war.  So there is no
counterposition.

If indeed José assures us that the Green candidacy in the California recall
ALSO headlines the struggle against the war, and organizes people to attend
demonstrations against the war, and exposes the basis of the war, then I
will agree that there is no counterposition in that either.

As for cleverness, hell, we can't all be clever.

In any case, this whole round of dialogue began not with any desire on my
part to take issue with the California Greens, but with José's charge that
we are endorsing Weber and not Camejo in the recall election because we are
"rabid sectarians".  I think I have said enough that people can use their
own decision procedures to decide whether we are rabid sectarians or not, so
I will let José have the last word if he wants it.

Lou Paulsen
member, WWP
Chicago



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