Posts Tagged ‘black panther party

08
Jun
12

Why I Vote

ImageElections in the US may be months away, but already political ads are saturating television, radio, and the papers. But for all the bumper stickers, slogans, t-shirts, and signs stuck in front lawns across the country, many Communists are taking up the cry of “Don’t Vote!“.

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This isn’t exactly a new attitude. People have been decrying elections ever since we first had them. And of course, this isn’t without good reason. When you’re asked once every four years to pick between two corrupt aristocrats maintaining virtually the same platform (platforms they’ll abandon the second they’re sworn in), voting seems like a pointless exercise that insults your intelligence and your values. This general disgust applies just as much- if not more- to the members of the far left, who recognize the current system masquerading as democracy as being, at its most competent, the “executive arm of Capitalism” and at its most corrupted, simply a parasitic organization.

ImageNow every once in a while, you will find Communists who ascribe to the whole concept of “Lesser-Evilism”, in other words, the idea that, despite being opposed to them on every key issue, we should vote for mainstream parties to keep other mainstream parties from winning. It’s the old threat offered to the working class election after election- “Vote Democrat or else the Republicans will win!”, “Vote Labor or else the Conservatives will win!”, you get the idea. And I’m guessing you know who I’m talking about, too.

ImageOf course, giving into this mentality entirely defeats the purpose of having a different opinion in the first place. You can assert all you want that the working class shall one day rise up and establish a truly free and equal society, but if you keep on voting Democrat, that’s what you are. And to those of you who might claim “Hey! We’re trying to bring them over to our side!“, I’ll believe that when they start voting for you, and not the other way around.

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Seriously comrades, let’s get things straight here…

So why, with all of this in mind, would I still choose to vote?
Because it works.

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Bear with me here…

Now am I saying voting is the solution? I am not. Like most Marxists, I disagree with Marx on this idea that Socialism will ever be simply voted in. Besides, even if each and every politician, elected official, and appointed civic servant in the nation was a Communist, we still wouldn’t have Communism. Communism is, after all, a change in the people, not a change in the government.

And I’m further not trying to advocate what some Communists have dubbed “Class Collaboration”- that is, the workers joining forces with the ruling class to meet some mutually beneficial end (or rather, what the workers have been told will be mutually beneficial). The needs of the poor and the oppressed don’t exactly match up with the needs of the wealthy and powerful, and to try to cooperate will almost certainly result in the abandonment of the needs of the proletariat.

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“You want food, I want food- you cook for me and I’ll give you the scraps. We’re a team!”

What I’m talking about is simple: the attempt by Communists to defend the working class from exploitation, and to improve their condition, through any and all means available to us- including elections. Is that collaboration? Of course not, and to the few who might actually try to argue that it is, then I need only point out that by the same criteria, you buying food from a store that isn’t a co-op is class collaboration, as is buying food, watching anything on television, listening to music, and so on.

Granted, to progress anywhere in major elections (now more than ever), resources are needed that will probably be only available through actual collaboration. That said, local elections tend to be more free (the key word there being “more“) than elections on a federal level, and as such, certainly should be considered tools for Marxists. Allow me to offer the example of my brief time as a student representative at my college. I managed to push through some resolutions in solidarity with workers in South and Central America and South-East Asia, as well as prevent a committee I sat on from collaborating with an organization that gave exploitative corporations a free pass. I have to ask- how is a county election any different than this? Cannot a Communist run for office, and use his or her position to make similar decisions in favor of the poor and the working class? Indeed, there have been radical leftists elected to such local positions in the US. Again, I am not advocating elections as the solution, but rather as a tool available to the working class.

ImageEven now, I’m guessing there will be readers who are unconvinced- who are adamant that any attempt to use elections by Communists is at best a waste of time and resources and at worst a betrayal of the movement. I am of course willing to hear your side of things, but I just have to ask- is the whole “Don’t Vote” argument really just a facade for apathy? Is all the cynicism really just in place to give us all an excuse for hiding behind academia and whittling our time away in pointless analysis and retrospection?

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Do we rail against one action to make us feel better about our inaction?

It’s just something to consider. As for me, I will continue to advocate elections as a means of helping the workers in their struggle for freedom and equality. If nothing else- if nothing at all else is accomplished by doing so, we may perhaps take comfort in this:

ImageWe still get some cool pins out of it.

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29
May
12

A Communist’s Criticism of Communism (Part V): Final Points

In this final post of my criticism of the contemporary Communist movement, I’ll be merely touching on a few observations I’ve made over the past couple years. These points have less to do with fundamental tenets or issues in various Communist parties or tendencies and the like, and deal more with “cultural” or “attitudinal” problems that seem to be prevalent among Marxists and the far left in general.

 

It sounds a bit confusing, so I’ll get right to it.

 

No New Strategy:

I touched on this issue in my first set of criticisms- asserting that Marxism had neglected action in favor of pointless intellectual exercises- but I think I should delve a bit deeper into this.

Perhaps it’s because we’re too busy skirmishing with each other, perhaps it’s because were too busy trying to concoct the perfect “revolutionary theory”, or perhaps we’re just too busy period- regardless of the reason, it’s always struck me that for all the detailed analysis of our past, we really don’t have all that much of a plan for our future.

And no, a description of an all-Communist world doesn’t count as a plan…

Let’s face it- we don’t have a strategy for the here and now. Protests? Marches? Slogans? These aren’t much more than the “solutions” offered by our Anarchist cousins.

“We can establish a stateless, socialist world if we just stomp on enough cars!”

What bugs me is it’s tough to criticize an Anarchist (either real or phony) for their plans when we just don’t have any ourselves. Barring our joint work in Antifa campaigns, there’s really not a whole lot I can cite when someone genuinely asks me what Communism can do for him or her and their family. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying that Communism has never done anything for anyone- In fact, I typically reference the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense as (from my research, anyways) a strong model for both immediate and long-term social change.

We need to put our intellectual side to use. We need to get to a point where our actions speak louder than our words. We need to provide people with a reason to look to us, rather than begrudgingly investing in the two-party scam year after year after year.

 

Broken Records:

Just a few moments ago, I came across a diatribe written about the Captain America movie, the authors decrying it as a propaganda piece and terrible distortion of history.

Wait- you’re saying America DIDN’T create a super-soldier in the 1940s who brought down a super-villain attempting to harness the power of a mythological Norse artifact for world domination?

Needless to say, it was a pretty dumb article, completely over-analyzing a movie based off of comic books. I’d be hard pressed to cite a better example of the problem I’m talking about than that- it’s all just the same stuff. Over and over, publication after publication, it’s all just another three minutes of “Capitalism is evil! Socialism is good!”, pawned off as the “newest and most in-depth analysis of _______!”.

 

Do we really not have any new material? Do we really not have anything to throw out there that isn’t rehashing everything we’ve said already? Has there been nothing new added to Communism since the 1960s? Is this what our conversations have been reduced to- in-depth studies of film where we search for anything we can condemn as further proof of the vile nature of Capitalism?

Which brings me to my final point.

 

The Big Fight:

At the end of the day, the reason for so many of our problems is that we just can’t talk to each other. Why don’t we strategize? Why don’t we unify? Why don’t we question? Because whenever any of us opens our mouth to say something that isn’t some tried and true slogan, we’re terrified of getting called a reactionary or a reformist or a traitor or a host of other insults. No one can say anything contentious- no one can anything period– without people assuming he or she is saying it because he or she is deliberately trying to subvert the entire movement.

There’s no way around it- we’re cynics.

Why? Maybe Communism just appeals to people who sneer at the established order of things. Maybe having our eyes always open to the propaganda and lies we’re fed on a daily basis puts on always on edge. Maybe putting down everyone else is just our defense against having to deal with our own inactivity. Maybe it’s all of these things, or none of them- regardless of the answer, it’s who we are.

And it needs to change.

If we’re ever going to make any progress at all, we need stop making condescension our default reaction whenever anyone says anything. We need to stop putting so much stock in the opinions of people who were the same lot that mocked Che or Huey or Trotsky or Marx. We need to be willing to take risks, and not get smug when they pay off, or afraid to admit when they fail. We need to collectively resurrect dialogue without judgment or old grudges.

I know that, with everything we’ve gone through, it’s tough to accept, but this is what we need:

We need our hope back.