[Marxism] Re: Getting Out Every Vote

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 21 07:44:40 MDT 2004


Lou Palsen assumes and presumes so much about my thoughts and motivations in 
his reply that I'll break my promise not to pursue this thread.  Lou wrote:

>Well, it's said to see this happen to Julio.

I could say that it's sad to see Lou using this manipulative tone with me: 
"Oh, how sad, how disappointed I am.  I used to have this guy in such high 
regard but see how low he's fallen, etc."  This is exactly what I mean when 
I suggest that respectful, effective communication between human beings is 
enhanced when we keep certain feelings to ourselves.  The tone doesn't 
offend me.  But it is a distraction.  In relation to the things we're 
discussing, whether Lou feels sad about me is irrelevant.

>We all want to be on the side of the workers.  We all want the workers to 
>love us.  But we can't just lie whenever and however we please in order to 
>achieve this.

If what I said wasn't clear enough, I'll try again: I'm not telling anybody 
to be hypocritical or to lie.  Lying is saying something that we *know* or 
*believe* it is untrue in order to deceive.  Where in my posting do I say or 
imply that we should lie?  In fact, I stated the exact opposite.  And if 
we're not sophisticated enough to understand that being honest and truthful 
*and* abiding by the rules of sensible human communication are not 
antithetical, then we're in trouble.

As a metaphor to make this basic point, I used a marriage.  Lou thinks I'm 
referring to a dysfunctional marriage, where apparently one spouse is 
intentionally deceitful.  Well, that's not what I mean.  In fact, I'm 
referring to ANY functional, loving marriage.  As a rule, in ANY meaningful 
honest relationship between humans, the convolutions of one's inner feelings 
and thoughts are only to be communicated to others with due regard to 
context, timing, and purpose.  Some of our feelings and thoughts are just 
inside chatter -- the form in which we communicate with our inner selves and 
are not meant to be exposed.  This holds whether we talk about a marriage, a 
neighborhood, a workplace, an extended family, a larger community -- you 
name it, it works.  Again, the implicit premise of these relationships is 
honesty, not duplicity.

>It comes down to this: although Julio claims that this family he knows has 
>'progressive instincts', he actually has so little faith in those instincts 
>that he thinks there is just no possible way to bring up in conversation 
>with them the fact that Kerry is an imperialist murderer.

Here Lou conflates two different things.  Truthfulness about past and 
current history and truthfulness about a future that is unknown in its 
concrete trajectory.  The interpretation of historical facts is something 
that evolves as our stance towards the past changes because we ourselves 
evolve and face different challenges.  But admittedly there are things about 
past and present that are rock-solid facts.  That is fine.

But as far as the future is concerned, all we know is based not on facts but 
on analysis in the face of uncertainty.  If our analysis is well founded (a 
big if), then it helps us distinguish what's necessary from what's only 
contingent in the present and past, so that we're better able to anticipate 
and shape up the future.  That's what Marxism is for, to orient our concrete 
analysis of the present and past history so that our actions are more 
effective.  Pretending that the truth about the future is readily given us 
by the present, by the past, by introspection, or by revelation  is 
mysticism -- not Marxism.  So Lou's syllogism that, since Kerry "is" an 
"imperialist murderer," therefore a Kerry administration will not be 
materially different from Bush's (or whatever Lou's argument is, because it 
is not clear to me) is bunk.

It is the ABC in Marxism that *compromises* are indispensable to advance 
politically.  And compromises are always constrained decisions made in the 
face of uncertainty.  Perhaps the classical treatment of this can be found 
in Lenin's book on left-wing communism.  So even under the assumption that 
Kerry "is" an "imperialist murderer," that does NOT rule out the possibility 
of a compromise with Kerry or -- as Lenin put it -- with the devil itself.

The fact that Kerry was in Vietnam and killed Vietnamese people by his own 
admission can't and shouldn't be denied.  The fact that, as we speak, Kerry 
favors "staying the course," bringing more troops, and involving the UN to 
fix the mess in Iraq, that he supports Israel's killing of Hamas leaders, 
the theft of Palestinian territory, the blockade of Cuba, etc. can't and 
shouldn't be denied either.  That is to be exposed.  That is to be 
*relentlessly* criticized.  But, again, the "truth" is concrete.  So, if we 
pick and choose convenient facts and shun others, is that the "truth"?  No.  
That's fraud.  There are many other things that complement the picture, that 
put it in context.  How about the past trajectory of Bush's cabal (Cheney, 
Rumsfeld, Negroponte, Noriega, etc.), the current situation in Iraq, the 
U.S., and the world, etc.?  Aren't these tiny elements part of the truth?

Now let me step back...

I used the "typical family in my neighborhood with progressive leanings" as 
an illustration.  My "cartoon-Spartacist" speech was not meant as an 
imputation about the political practice of Lou or his organization.  Based 
on the little I know about them, I respect Lou Palsen and his party.  They 
seem to be the little engine inside ANSWER and more power to them.  I also 
readily admit that Lou's response to the hypothetical family I alluded to is 
tactful and sensible.  But let me examine his argument to deal with 
hypothetical people inviting him to a party to raise funds and bring votes 
to the Kerry campaign.  Sometimes hypotheticals help clarify arguments.

>"I'm sorry - I just can't stop thinking about that damned war.  I think 
>about those hundreds of people who are getting murdered over there by this 
>war.  I think about how much it costs and how racist it is and how 
>impossible it is for us to get anything good done while this war goes on. 
>And Kerry is all for this war.  This is a man who was in Viet Nam and 
>should know better, but now he wants this killing to just grind on and on.  
>And I can't overlook that.  I can't support that kind of war program."

I know I'm not a genius and I know I'm ignorant about crucial facts of U.S. 
history, but by following the news, observing life around me, and reading 
the posts on these lists I feel I'm somewhat informed politically.  Still, 
I'm always surprised about how politically savvy "regular" people are.  
Using my little Latino face, I make eye contact, smile at, and talk with a 
lot of people around here -- at work, everywhere I have a chance.  I 
frequently embarrass my daughters because -- they say -- I'm always 
conducting a survey.  In any case, I know I am not far off the mark by 
imagining an answer like this to Lou's remarks:

"Lou, we are as concerned about the war as you are.  We just draw different 
practical conclusions.  We're taking action.  The action that makes most 
sense to us under the circumstances.  We don't think Kerry is our savior.  
We are critical of Kerry and the DP too, and we'll maintain a critical 
stance towards them throughout.  We are going to make our total opposition 
to the war known in all our communications with the Kerry campaign, the 
media, and the public.  We know this between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place 
position is not ideal.  And we won't pretend it is.  Things like this are 
not changed overnight.  Still, we believe that a second Bush administration 
would be much worse.  We also know that if we get more organized and more 
active, we have a better chance -- never an assurance -- of having our voice 
heard in a Kerry administration.  This campaign is providing us with an 
opportunity to build networks of like-minded people and we won't be giving 
them up regardless of the outcome of the election.  Bottom line, we have no 
illusions about Kerry.  But neither do we have any about Bush.  The Bush 
administration has been absolutely unresponsive to our demands and even to 
common sense.  Their interests, policies, actions, etc. -- and they 
themselves -- represent the worst in U.S. society.  Their electoral defeat 
is not the end of history, but it is a pretty good first step to advance.  
Often times life pushes us to an uncertain choice between the bad and the 
worse.  And we believe this is one of those times.  We've heard the 
arguments of those who are against voting for the Dems or against voting.  
We've heard them many times.  However reasonable the premises, we just don't 
think those attitudes help to change things.  We've seen that they actually 
hurt.  We know the best course of action that you'd prescribe for us is to 
join your organization, but if your organization has a stance like this, 
frankly we don't think we'd be inclined to even think about it.  So please 
reconsider your position about the current election and come around.  Don't 
help Bush by omission.  And whatever your ultimate decision, please keep in 
touch.  We'll send you some cookies (and flyers) anyway."

Lou ends citing the Bible:

>"Ye are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its savour, how is it 
>salt any more?"  More or less.

... which I translate as: "Yours is the immutable truth.  If things are not 
working out, the world be damned, stay the course!"

I'll cite Marx:

"By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time 
changes his own nature." (Marx)

Julio

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