[Marxism] Moderator's note

Jose G. Perez elgusanorojo at bellsouth.net
Sat Jul 17 18:56:29 MDT 2004


>>The basis for keeping it civil, I believe, is agreement that what we
are faced with is a difference of empirical judgment, not of
principle.<<

I don't know about "principle" but a lot more than empirical judgment in
involved here. It is fundamentally about strategic approach, and an
understanding of the U.S. political system.

One side in this debate says it is of overriding importance to recognize
*the two-party system,* and NOT the individual bourgeois democritan and
republicrat parties, as the fundamental instrument through which the
bourgeoisie maintains political and ideological hegemony at this level
("politics" in the bourgeois press view of the world).

Moreover, this system has undergone a certain evolution with the rise of
a class of many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of professional
politicians. They have gamed and shaped the system so as to establish
quasi-permanent sinecures.

The United States has, I read somewhere, something like half a million
elected government positions. About 98 or 99 percent of those are not
contested *between* the parties, not really, and the huge majority are
not contested *at all*: whatever political machine controls a given area
simply puts their people in there, the other candidates --if any-- are
purely decorative. 

In the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps a couple of dozen seats
are really up for grabs, something on the order of 5% of the 435 Reps
elected every two years. In the U.S. Senate, only a handful of the 33 or
34 seats voted on in each election. At the state and local level, even
fewer real choices are afforded the voter. 

The presidency is, of course, always apparently contested, but between
two candidate who go out of their way to talk out of both sides of their
mouth. Thus Kerry right now is making critical-sounding noises about the
Iraq war; but at the same he is giving interviews to the Wall Street
Journal saying he expects to keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq
throughout his first term. That's five more years of war.

The *majority* of working people, confronted with THIS situation, go
fishing on election day, as Fidel famously said. And the deeper down you
dig among the more oppressed and exploited layers of the working class,
the bigger the fishing faction gets. 

In the November presidential elections, about half the people will vote.
But among those with family incomes of, say, $50,000 or more, the BIG
MAJORITY will vote, among those earning less than $50,000, the big
majority will NOT vote.

Go to *any* workplace and listen to the conversations around the water
cooler. "Don't vote -- it only encourages them." "IF God had meant us to
vote, she would have given us candidates." "We have the best politicians
money can buy." 

And actually my favorite, a co-worker of mine who is so determinedly
lesser evil that he joked that the next time he's on an airplane, he's
going to steal the barf bag to use when he goes to vote. I *think* he's
backing Kerry, but that's just an educated guess, he didn't actually
say. Then again he had "happiness is a warm gun" playing on his
ultra-expensive video editing system (actually a glorified Mac with two
video monitors and a studio-quality sound system) so perhaps he's
thinking about bullet balloting.

[NOTE to Homeland Security. That was an inside joke for former members
of the SWP. Nobody plays such songs where I work. That part of the story
was made up. We all listen to John Ashcroft singing God Bless America
and duly-licensed content from Sen. Orrin Hatch and the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir.]

All of which is to say, the working people of the United States are ripe
if not somewhat rotten-ready for a REAL alternative in the political
arena. And in *this* election, we just happen to have Nader, someone
with sufficient recognition and standing as to be treated as a
"significant third party" candidate by the pig press, running on what is
*clearly* an anti-corporate, antiwar, pro- worker and social justice
platform, and explaining to anyone who will listen that the problem is
that BOTH the Democrats and Republicans are controlled by the rich.

According to a recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll, which included an
"oversample" of 800 Blacks and 500 Latinos, Nader has about 7% support
among the adult population. But much more significantly, he has about
10% among Blacks, 9% among Latinos, and 6% among Anglos.

Other polls indicate he has disproportionately higher support also among
young people; among Arab-Americans; among those with a high school
education or less; among people with lower income.

There is simply no parallel to THIS in living memory. Nader in 2000 does
not compare. THEN only 1% of Blacks who voted did so for Nader, Latinos
a touch more. Nader's support was disproportionately Anglo. He did get
*a little* more backing from lower-income people but only a smidgen (4%
as opposed to 3% generally). 

THEN Nader had three times as much support among college graduates as
among those with a high school diploma or less. TODAY those ratios are
REVERSED. 

Undoubtedly by the time the VOTING takes place Nader's support at the
polls will be less. For one thing people in many states won't even have
the chance to vote for him. And many will think that if there's even a
slight chance that Kerry might be a little better, they'll gamble on
that, and give him their vote.

Actually, even from the most immediate, narrow "reformist" point of view
there is no better way to pressure the ruling class for concessions in
this election than by voting Nader. A Nader vote of many millions, a
real mass breakaway from the Democrats and Republicans, would send
shockwaves throughout the U.S. political system. All of a sudden
"liberalism" would come back in vogue, "cruel conservatism" would be
castigated from the bully pulpit. 

The dynamics are fairly easy to understand. By running away from *them*,
you force the bourgeois politicians and those they represent to come
chasing after you. And, of course, this takes place largely *outside*
the electoral arena, this is one reason why large protest movements are
often quite effective.

I do not think such an electoral outcome --many millions of independent
votes--  is *likely* but I do believe it isn't outside the realm of the
possible, if not this time, then in two or four years. 

The plain fact is the ruling class is going deeper and deeper in the
"big muddy" of another Vietnam, and the big fools atop the democrat and
republican parties can only say "push on." And meanwhile at home good
jobs become scarcer; schools deteriorate; bus lines get cut; health care
becomes more ridiculously expensive and inaccessible. People aren't
stupid. They know the bombs that fall on Fallujah also hit Memphis. 

But even with absolutely no illusions about getting millions of votes in
November, the Nader campaign presents an unprecedented opportunity to
the Left. MILLIONS of people --some 15 million adults if the 7% figure
is right-- identify so much with what they understand of Nader's program
that they're willing to say they would vote for him. That includes
around two million Blacks and perhaps 1.5 million Latinos (the total
Latino population is larger than the Black population but the adult
population is smaller). 

I think outreach to these layers of the population is the single biggest
opportunity and challenge facing the left. Unfortunately most of the
organized Left is either ABB or unwilling to take four more years of
spoiler-bashing and has ducked. 

That makes the role of those who are sticking by the fundamental Marxist
proposition that working people need to organize themselves politically
even more important. We must reach out, come in contact with this layer
of Nader supporters, involve them in the campaign and social movements,
but most of all LEARN from them. 

I know some people think that class is "bullshit," but I do not. Those
of us who are from the intelligentsia have theorized and strategized
time and again how to link up with the actual proletarian political
movement. The evidence suggests the beginnings of that is what we will
find among the NEW layer of Nader supporters this year -- if only we are
resourceful enough to link up with this layer, and humble enough to
listen and learn.

José



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