No matter what party is voted in- Democrat, Republican, Green, or whatever- politicians are controlled by whoever controls industry.
Under Capitalism, that is the ruling class.
It’s not about personality or even intention. If I, as a communist, were elected as president- I would be powerless to enact any of my ideas as long as the economic system is capitalist. In order to even think I might get anything passed, I’d have to “play the game”. “The game” is oppression and exploitation.
NONE of the major progressive changes that have come about in the last 100 years have come due to electing the right person into office.
Labor laws, the weekend, and the 8 hour day came as a result of strikes and physical battles between workers and the police.
The New Deal (which brought MediCare, Welfare, and Social Security) happened at a time when the Communist Party, USA, had a million card-carrying members and millions of other sympathizers. People were shutting down factories and having strikes all over the country. Places like Montana, Utah, Michigan, and Alabama were called “hotbeds of Communist Activity” by Hoover. FDR was actually afraid there would be a revolution. That’s how those gains happened.
The Civil Rights Act happened because people were in the streets and in places of business, stopping commerce. Kennedy had made statements previously that were against a bill of that sort. But it was a necessary concession to stop a movement from growing that might demand even more.
Affirmative Action was passed under NIXON! Not because he cared about people- he was a right-wing racist, but because he, too, was scared of revolution. There was a mass, mostly radical movement at the time and there were revolutions happening all over the world. That legislation was passed as a concession to the movement.
The only way we’re going to make substantive change is by making those that control industry lose profit, forcing them to choose between meeting our demands- which would mean they make less profit- and making no profit at all.
Strikes, shutdowns, and militant labor struggles. They used to be the language of an effective left.
Again, politicians are controlled by whoever controls industry. If we want to control the politicians, the people must make a movement in which we control industry through strikes, shut downs, and militant unions.
Once you have this, politicians in office will make legislation that attempts to at least seem like it benefits the people. Until then, it won’t matter who you elect- they’ll be forced to make decisions that hurt the people.
50’s McCarthyism, the New Left of the 60’s focus on students, and the proliferation of foundation-controlled non-profits have moved our tactics away from those effective tools.
There was a huge Anti-War movement in the US, but it got turned into a pro-Kerry movement for the 2004 elections, and that KILLED the Anti-War movement. It was almost non-existent after the elections. The Anti-War movement got built up again and was growing immensely, then it got turned into the pro-Obama campaign of 2008. The Anti-War movement was pretty much gone after that election. Electoral campaigns take massive amounts of time and energy from thousands of people, and there is an “end-game”, a “finish line” that allows people to go home after an election- this is why electoral campaigns kill grassroots movements.
There is no historical evidence to support the idea that we can change the system through elections, yet many on the left keep pushing this.
Because we don’t think we have the ability to create a large enough movement. But we do have that ability.
It’s called the Occupy Wall Street movement. Join the one in your area. It may not look or work exactly the way you want it to right now, but give it some of your time and energy- help shape it, it’s only a few months old.
And please don’t try to turn the OWS movement into an electoral campaign. That is a quick way to kill the movement. Whoever you get into office will then not be effective anyway because there will be no movement that forces politicians to act like they’re on the side of the people.
Boots Riley, Oakland,CA
January 2, 2012