[Marxism] Japan and Energy

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 11 21:35:13 MDT 2006

(The Socialist Workers Party had a long and venerable tradition
of running for public office. The goals we had were multiple.
I was a member of the party and its youth group from 1962-1983.
We used the vehicle of socialist election campaigns as a way to
reach people who wouldn't pay attention otherwise, and we did it
during times when television news services might give us a bit 
of free publicity in ways we otherwise wouldn't have received.

Protecting the party's legal status was also a valuable part of
what we tried to achieve through election campaigns. It's hard
for those who don't remember the period - I personally was too
young, but have read about it, that the Communist Party was
literally driven underground, and in at least some areas, one
was Detroit, the SWP was force to go underground for a period
of time. 

In 1973 I was one of a group of SWP candidates who ran for the
Los Angeles school board. In those days, we had what are called
"at-large" elections, so you voted for several open positions on
the board. I lost, but got 29,000 votes. Later on the authorities
changed it so there were single-member districts, and we got far
fewer votes. 

When I first started coming around in the early sixties, the 
SWP had only about 500 members in the entire United States of
America. I think our biggest weaknesses in the local election
campaigns was not taking the local issues as such seriously,
not being particularly well-informed on them, and putting out
only abstract platforms which weren't much more than the ones
the national office had prepared, with simple local adaptations.

For a small organization which declared itself to be THE party
of the coming American Revolution, SWP election campaigns bit
off quite a bit. It's hard to know now, looking back it it, how
much differently we might have done it. Most far left groups at
the time hardly bothered with election campaigns. It's possible
some improvement in political life might have taken place had
more done so, but it's only speculative to ask.

Peter Camejo, who was on a national speaking tour for the SWP's
youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance, in 1962, recruited
me to the YSA. Since then he's become far more knowledgeable on
issues of importance within the electoral framework, and when
he ran for governor of California, he made mincmeat out of
Arnold Schwartzenegger and the others in debate because unlike
us in the old days, he acually knew what he was talking about.

He did such a good job that I took all of his comments from
the gubernatorial debates and put them on a single web page.
You could see from that how much a knowledgeable socialist
could do if given a decent opportunity. The California media
have studiously avoided any mention of Peter this time out.
If there actually are debates, I'm sure he'll do a fabulous
job against both Arnold and the colorless Democratic hacks.

Walter Lippmann
A "a small marxist group isn't presumably contesting elections 
with any realistic expectation of taking over the state anyway, 
but rather to raise consciousness. So to use elections to 
highlight/disseminate  ideas about alternatives to capitalist 
institutions (as a consciousness-building tool even if the 
altternatives are not viable in the absence of control over 
state power) seems to be as good a strategy as any other, 
it would seem to me...

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