[Marxism] Scratches, Gangrene and the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Apr 23 13:48:41 MDT 2006

Louis writes, "And, just to repeat a point to Joaquin that I've made before,
I would strongly advise him not to leap immediately into the 'scratch to
gangrene' mode that he has exhibited here over the past 6 months."


	The issue isn't scratches and gangrene, but something else. It is a
question of looking at the intersection of political line with patterns of

	This isn't some fad I've latched onto but comes from what is now
close to a lifetime of experience in social movements, and the reality that
the left one would expect to find in the United States -- one pretty much
dominated by the oppressed nationalities -- and the really existing
ideological left are extremely different, and they clash, they are not
compatible or at least not easily reconciled. 

	This contradiction between the social left and the ideological left
needs to be examined, and this divide needs to be closed.

	Part of this is ideological, the things that Louis would gave us
focus on. But part of it is sociological.

	Just because James P. Cannon and his followers in the Trotskyist
tradition abused the examination of how the political intersects with the
sociological does not mean that this is an area that can be placed
permanently off limits. I believe there are problems endemic on the left,
very fundamental problems, that cannot be addressed without examining this
thoroughly. I believe people who have been in/around the revolutionary left
for decades cannot honestly deny that there is an issue around social
composition and the reproduction of patterns of power and privilege from
broader society in our organizations and in the milieus of the revolutionary
left. No small amount of self-flagellation, self-deception and
self-promotion has gone on around this over the years, but the problem
persists, and despite the sincerity and good intentions of attempts to deal
with them, very often these wind up being, at most, tokenism.

*  *  * 

	If I'd told you two months ago that there was going to be a mass
upsurge the likes of which we haven’t seen in three decades or more, that in
a whole series of cities and towns across the country there would be the
biggest demonstrations ever held in those places, that all told MILLIONS
would march, and that it would be overwhelmingly proletarians, and all in
the space of a month or so, and that the attitude of the CP would be what it
is, and UfPJ would be what it is, to basically ignore and turn their backs
on the next big days of protests projected by this movement, you would not
have believed it. Hell, I would not have believed it.

	But this is EXACTLY what is happening. The left is, as a rule, so
completely distant and detached from the communities, lives, concerns,
issues, publications, TV shows, discussions, problems and movements of
Latino people that it's as if nothing has happened. But U.S. politics
CHANGED between March 10 and April 10, right now the MAIN independent
political force that is in motion, that is in some sort of coherent motion,
is this overwhelmingly working class in composition, Latino nationalist in
sentiment, movement for immigrant rights. There hasn't been anything like
THIS in a long, long, long time.

	I don't always agree with Carlos Petroni, but he posted a very
perceptive thing this morning, raising the question -- what happens if a
revolutionary process in Mexico breaks out and links up with the bourgeoning
immigrant rights movement among Latinos and others here? 

	Or one of my own: what happens if some straw breaks the camel's
back, and the Black nation in the U.S. explodes in protests like the Latinos
have done, despite the crisis of leadership in that community, with the
movement spreading spontaneously from one city to another? And the two
movements, Black and Brown, start linking up?

	Because I think what we have seen is just a taste of what is
underneath the heavy lid of bourgeois political and ideological domination
and repression that the ruling class is usually able to keep on things.
What's happened among Latinos could perfectly well happen among Blacks, the
same anger at injustice and oppression is there, except that Blacks folks
are 100 times better organized, more coherent, tighter as a people than we
are and have a glorious tradition of heroism, sacrifice and struggle that
few nations at any time in history can match.

	Those that would be part of a revolutionary left in this country
need to do a profound and self-critical evaluation in light of these events
and the tendencies and possibilities they reveal.

*  *  *

	The CP's problem of course is quite different, they're just
concerned about the "center-left" alliance in the electoral arena, i.e., the
Democrats, because this movement has completely overflowed the levees of
capitalist politics.

	Rosalío Muñoz writes in the April 20 edition, "With Congress
reconvening April 24 after a two-week recess, the dramatic struggle for
immigrant rights will once again focus on Capitol Hill. At the same time,
pro-immigrant-rights forces are reaching out, coalescing and organizing to
give life to the slogan, 'Today we march, tomorrow we vote!'"

	You know, "focus on capitol hill" is the LAST thing folks in the
movement want to do, at least the ones I know who understand the first thing
about U.S. politics. Sure, we recognize that any legalization ultimately is
going to involve some sort of congressional action and compromise, but we're
completely DEAD SET AGAINST having this Congress do it. Because the House
has already passed the Sensenbrenner Bill. Even the most absolutely
righteous bill to come out of the Senate is going to go into a Republican
leadership-dominated conference committee which will gut even the mildest
token concession in exchange for the fascist faction agreeing to reduce the
Great Wall from 700 to, say, 699.9 miles. And everyone past political
kindergarten knows this.

	So why is Rosalío Muñoz orienting people to focus on Congress? I
mean, he's not an inexperienced comrade, I remember first hearing of Rosalío
around the Chicano Moratorium in 1970. He knows what the score is.

	The other, and even more troubling part of the CP line Rosalío
projects is the bit about "pro-immigrant rights forces" giving life to the
slogan "Today we march, tomorrow we vote!"

	You know, that wasn't a slogan at our big demonstration here in
Atlanta. WE chanted, "Hoy marchamos, en Mayo no compramos." Today we march,
in May we won't buy, publicizing the May 1 Great American Boycott. It would
not have occurred to the leaders of our march to introduce such a slogan as
the one Rosalío Muñoz puts forward because it excludes not just our
undocumented brothers and sisters, but millions of other immigrants, too. A
huge number in our communities nationwide, perhaps the majority of the adult
population, doesn't have the right to vote, and that is certainly true of
the OVERWHELMING majority of the Latinos in Georgia.

	And one of the main lessons and messages of this movement is that
people have rights, including the right to equal treatment and to control
their own destiny, the right to speak and to protest, that they don't have
to "earn" those rights. And the effect of this slogan is to once again
marginalize and make invisible the immigrants, and send them a message that
they don't count, that their voice is unimportant because they can't vote. 

	Whereas something leaders of the Coordinadora stress, especially
because we're here in the South, that Blacks won the right to vote WITHOUT
the right to vote, by struggle.

	Rosalío's wording even makes clear the position that he puts
immigrants in as *objects* of the movement rather than its central
*protagonists.* He speaks of "pro-immigrant rights forces" rather than the
Latino immigrant movement that's swept the country these past few weeks.

	Unfortunately, this isn't the episodic, perhaps even accidental
weakness of one article. The previous week's PWW (website edition) featured
the "tomorrow we vote" slogan (in reality it is the encapsulation of the
pro-Democrat, electoralist line reduced to a few pithy words) as its main
banner headline covering the April 10th protests, with all the coverage
centered on the New York action  and the goings-on in Congress.

	I know Louis doesn't like, this, he thinks it is "white baiting" but
at some point it is necessary to *accurately* describe in social and
political terms the character of a line and approach that relegates
immigrants to the status of unpersons in their own movement. And, while it
is a "mistake," that isn't the only word I had in mind.

*  *  *

	I chose the CP as an example, but there are many others that could
be given, including closer to home. Looking yesterday at the home page of a
left-wing labor publication that some people from my group (Solidarity) are
involved with, I noticed the words "Latino" and "immigrant" (as well as
variants like "immigration", etc.) do not appear anywhere on it. Now, I know
there may well be all sorts of "good" reasons why there's nothing on the
immigrant rights movement on the home page of this labor paper. They've got
a small staff, a big conference coming up, all sorts of issues to cover.
But I don't believe that is this has been a movement of auto workers or
Teamsters even 1/100th of the Latino movement's side, it would have been

The problem here isn't that this publication is oriented to the Democrats
but --from my point of view-- what you might call tunnel vision. But even
though in a very different way and from different immediate causes, the huge
explosive entrance of the Latino immigrant onto the political stage is also
obscured here, it becomes invisible.

	The way the ideological left traditionally analyzes this is to note
the *difference*  between the CP's approach and those who advocate
Solidarity's "rank and file strategy" for union work. I submit this is not
enough, there are other relevant analysis to be made, in particular, in
relation to empowerment of oppressed communities. 

	I do not believe the ideological Left should continue to leave
unexamined its pattern of mistakes that reproduce and reinforce the patters
of power and privilege from bourgeois society. I think these things need to
be examined openly, explicitly, by name. That even on Marxmail this "social"
dimension of political approaches that disempower women, youth, immigrants,
Latinos, Blacks or other layers cannot be fully explored from its social
dimension is testimony to how deep seated this problem is.


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