« Bizarro Worlds | Main | Alter egos »

Party! Party!

By Owen Paine on Sunday August 13, 2006 09:03 PM

Why support reform of an old party? Or for that matter, why even bother to build a new party, if it's just to win elections?

After all, the victory at the ballot box, or through the ballot box in the legislature or executive, is really only the result of a fired-up, effective mass movement that won't stop, and won't take anything less. It's hard to argue with the notion "put your efforts where the real push comes from" -- hard to counter the bald command "no more wasting energy on that old war and Wall Street mule."

Some contributors here recently have been making this case loud and clear -- and some have said more: some say flat-out "no party -- no party politics at all" -- not even Green or peace or jobs, or what not.

These folks start where Stop Me ends. Our line here is "Democrat party ... wherever you go, don't go there anymore... it's a diversion... a distraction ... a shock absorber for anything anti-corporate." But they go a further step. They say "forget party politics altogether -- go for direct action movement building only. Make it exclusively a bottom-up gig, kids."

So far as I can see for the moment, this set of marching orders is all well and good, and coincides with our Stop Me minimum program, as far as that goes. Our program is effectively acomplished if folks in flocks simply make it clear they won't vote for Wall Street lite's donkey totem.

So what's my unease here? Well sure all these frustrated, fired-up folks can join "the movements," and in particular, build or re-energize the nation's long list of noble issue orgs. We can never have enough people power, direct action, or rap music. But as a union boy by adoption -- sort of a Pharaoh's-son reverse Moses -- let me say if the majority of job folks, as they claim when asked by outsiders, really would like a nice organization at their job site -- an organization that "worked with them and for them" like job unions' standard blue prints call for them to do -- why don't they have them already?

The answer to that is obvious -- it's de facto impossible. And why? Because by code, law, precedent, and court and administrative actions, it's illegal to use techniques necessary if you want to succeed at organizing most job sites. Like a thousand other venues, job organizing is effectively barred by the system.

It's not enough to have the abstract "right" to organize, to agitate, and to take joint action, if the time, the place, and the type of all these actions are all hedgerowed. No elite ever lost out by holding on to the house odds. Unless the odds are changed, the spontaneous desires of the "people" can be easily thwarted. Such is the source, not only of movement fights but of recourse to a party too. The Job Crow system will not end by spontaneous mass action alone, any more than Jim Crow did.

Sure, there's huge movement-building to do on the job-site front. The mass of jobsters haven't the first clue about what they can do, or what needs to be done. All we know is this -- the job-site revulsion in this country is massive, and I suspect it already exceeds the flash point. But the jobsters are not even in motion yet, let alone the organizations that must arise to articulate goals, and devise ways and means.

But attendez-vous -- at last I reach my point: as soon as that org gets effective, it's bound to bang its collective head against the "state," and as Joe Friday sez so wonderfully, "that's where we come in." Electoral party activity becomes not just part of the problem, as it is now, but one of the necessities of a solution.

Obviously, on big fronts, where many stand to gain some, and a few lose lots, influence wil not be enough -- only seizing, drastically reforming, or building anew will get it done. Either way, a party capable of electoral success in these "blood" fights must emerge -- must and will become crucial.

The necessary second job of all movement fighters is building political power, and unlike the job movement, the anti-Iraq war movement is already at the point where party action is on the agenda -- and the failure to take it is hurting the movement.

Right now the troops need to be pulled out. No time to find a better vehicle. Scare these opportunist careerist scamps into doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, as with civil rights. The peace movement today needs to force this stance on the donkey like a nasty training bridle.

Comments (7)

J. Alva Scruggs:

A fish would have a tough time explaining water with clarity, but you do pretty good job handling similar circumstances, JSP. The Windsurfers and the Ogresses will be with us as long as we have the State. As long as we have that, and as long as its hierophants need to have people coming out for their farcical legitimacy rituals, there's a use and a need for a lever.

Stop Me's program can't be a waste of time because, by definition, it advocates not doing something. I could take a nap and still be contributing. Not making things worse is always viable. If Stop Me has a positive effect, that's gravy.


Such a big subject here! First, I recommend Michael Neumann's Counterpunch article around August 3. In it he says the first thing we need to do is realize that we are powerless. Our words, or moral passion, have no affect. We need to figure out who does have power, and speak in terms of their self-interest.

I admit I dont know exactly what this means, but I sense the admission of powerlessness has got a kind of koan-like subversiveness.

I dont know if your rejuvenated labor idea is possible, JS. Most workers are probably too afraid of losing their jobs to try to unionize. And what's happened to SEIU? I dont hear much about it recently.

I still believe in working locally on what I call wedge issues -- living wage, anti-Walmart type stores, publically financed elections, locally aggragated power, sustainable development and economy -- anything that promotes awareness, justice and community.

And yes, these are non-partisan issues, but plenty oppositional and have the ability to raise consciousness, a lot!

The only other course I can see is to wait for the economy to crash, or martial law to be imposed, and then sidel up to your right-wing friends who keep rifles at home.

js paine:

"Most workers are probably too afraid
of losing their jobs to try to unionize."


no "de facto right"
to organize effectively

what if that form of firing were illegal ???

and that's
one part of the present job trap

i hasten to add

illegal acts
and a lot of em
need to explode onto
the job sites of america
b4 laws will have a chance to be changed

but the iraqupation is on the agenda






Building political power takes time, though. It's time that the Democrats, even the blogoisie, have not wanted to really invest -- instead, they're looking for "magic bullets" like "framing" about vague culture-wars crap, rather than getting down in the trenches and building relationships with people over concrete, in-your-face, here-and-now concerns.

I think a big reason why some movements fail is because they grasp too soon for the (necessary) political ring. They call themselves a "party" too soon.

As it stands, we've got two parties completlely owned by the same small clique. Neither of these parties are worth spit and the entire national system is rigged to favor them.

Opposition on the local level, as bobw noted, is still possible. Independent and Green candidates (and even the occasional professional wrestler) can still be elected, FairVote, environmental, and other issues can still be passed. But this must be emphasised - Any progress made is almost always in spite of the democrat party.

More often, as was the case in getting IRV on the ballot in Minneapolis, you have to expect active opposition from the democrats. They are only rarely our allies and their party is rotten from top to bottom and utterly without hope of reform.

The best you can hope for from dems is half measures and bandaids, lip service and empty promises. Murtha Plan "redeployment" bullshit and pie-in-the-sky helath care plans that come to nothing is as good as it gets with the dems.

And even their corrupt-beyond-belief party were somehow gradually reformable (and oh! how the pwogs love that word, 'gradually') there is definitely no time for it. We don't have the luxury of waiting until the Greenland icesheet is gone before the pwoggies get some real clout in their party 'cause we'll all be living our very own episodes of Sea Hunt before that happens.


"getting down in the trenches and building relationships with people over concrete, in-your-face, here-and-now concerns."

Thanks, anonymous, that says it well! Unfortunately, a lot of progressives (in the old sense of the word), even very left progressives, seem to have an aversion to "getting down in the trenches". Speaking only for myself, I think that's because we're relatively well-educated, maybe well-travelled, a lot of us employed in "symbol-manipulation" work, and we feel a little superior to or maybe uncomfortable with the tastes and habits of the manual-laboring class below us.

One of the benefits of working on local issues is that you get to know these people a little better, and find out that the differences are less than you think.

Here's an interesting situation to think about: what happens when gasoline jumps to $10 a gallon? Instantly everyone is interested in commuter pools. Maybe there's an opportunity to form a food collective. Local businesses seem worth supporting, as opposed to the big box ones down the freeway. A gas price hike could provide a great opportunity for community organizing. Get out in front it! It could be the start of political change.

j s paine:

" think a big reason why some movements fail is because they grasp too soon for the (necessary) political ring. They call themselves a "party" too soon..."

very very sound judgement


there are two kinds of dems and they are in profound hegelian contradiction

the kind making the party hacks deliver

(the donors)

the kind hoping the party hacks change

(the voters)

we say there's a way out

stop voting for the donors' tools

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Sunday August 13, 2006 09:03 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Bizarro Worlds.

The next post in this blog is Alter egos.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31