It’s Coming Through A Crack In The Wall
April 23, 2018 7:55 AM   Subscribe

“Rather than shy away from being called a socialist, a word conservatives have long wielded as a slur, candidates like Mr. Bynum are embracing the label. He is among dozens of D.S.A. members running in this fall’s midterms for offices across the country at nearly every level. In Hawaii, Kaniela Ing, a state representative, is running for Congress. Gayle McLaughlin, a former mayor of Richmond, Calif., is running to be the state’s lieutenant governor. In Tennessee, Dennis Prater, an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University, is running to be a county commissioner.“ Yes, I’m running as a Socialist, why candidates are embracing the label (NYT) Congress is wealthy, the people are not - How to get more working-class candidates like Kerri Harris to run for office (The New Republic). One out of every five Americans has taken part in a rally, speech, or protest in the last two years. (The Nib)
posted by The Whelk (87 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man, that statistic. That last one. That's giving me some fucking hope and a hell of a lot of joy.

(Hands up, MeFi: who's part of that one in five? I love all of you, every single one.)

You know, I remember my freshman-year debate teacher giving us all a lecture on why "liberal" wasn't a dirty word, why it was a reasonable position to take under some circumstances, why liberals were real people, dammit. That would have been in 2005. Liberal.

It's only twelve years later and now we're joyfully identifying ourselves as socialists. The world's gone wild.

There's a glorious undercurrent, and it will only keep building if we tell ourselves that we can, in the aggregate, go on to save the world.
posted by sciatrix at 8:01 AM on April 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


"Wherever capitalism appears, in pursuit of its mission of exploitation, there will Socialism, fertilized by misery, watered by tears, and vitalized by agitation be also found, unfurling its class-struggle banner and proclaiming its mission of emancipation." –Eugene V. Debs
posted by entropicamericana at 8:07 AM on April 23, 2018 [37 favorites]


So glad to see lefties actually coming out and running for all levels of government. For years, it's been the Green Party coming out once every 4 years to make symbolic gestures and engage in general wankery. They were never serious because they never ran for anything beyond President. They never ran for local/state elections, never tried to build a national movement.

The Green Party in America has never been more than masturbation; Feels good, some people like to watch, but in the end it's really just about self-gratification. And this is real-world politics.

Lots of power that affects Americans daily lives happens at the state and local level. DSA running candidates at that level shows they're serious. The fact that the DSA's stated goal is to move the Democratic Party to the left from within is another plus. People love to moan and cry about how there are no real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, we should start afresh with something pure, untainted by the distasteful compromises and corporatism of...

*YAWN*

Yeah. Whatever. Third parties do not work. The system is designed so that they dont work. Like it or not, that is the reality of power and law in America. So if you support a third party, you're essentially a counterproductive fool.

Cynthia Nixon has demonstrated the power of primarying Democratic politicians from the left. If she were running as a Green, nothing would happen. But running from within the party as an avowed leftist and announcing "Who's with me?" Has gotten results.

Give us bread, but gives us roses too.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:34 AM on April 23, 2018 [53 favorites]


A third-party won't be viable until there's a change from a Winner Take All/First-Past-The-Post voting system.

A change from FPTP voting to ranked voting won't happen unless people who support that change get voted into office.

People who support changing the voting system won't be voted into office unless they run on a major party ticket.

So, by pushing one of the major parties to the left, and getting more progressive candidates into office on that party ticket, we can eventually make changes to the voting system that will undo the two-party hegemony in the United States.

But you have to start by getting people in office first.
posted by SansPoint at 8:46 AM on April 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


"Wherever capitalism appears, in pursuit of its mission of exploitation, there will Socialism, fertilized by misery, watered by tears, and vitalized by agitation be also found, unfurling its class-struggle banner and proclaiming its mission of emancipation." –Eugene V. Debs

Udo Keppler's 1908 illustration "The Seeds of Socialism" also picks up the agricultural metaphor.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:58 AM on April 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


So, by pushing one of the major parties to the left, and getting more progressive candidates into office on that party ticket, we can eventually make changes to the voting system that will undo the two-party hegemony in the United States.

Because turkeys will vote for Christmas.
posted by chavenet at 9:05 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


One out of every five Americans has taken part in a rally, speech, or protest in the last two years.

I went to see Blockers this weekend after hearing it was a feminist teen sex comedy (which it mostly is! I rejoiced!) and one of my favorite bits was when one of the parents of the teenagers is defending her feminist mom cred and says "we go to all the marches! Even the tax day march!" And man, it's a throwaway joke but it just hit me like a ton of bricks because I've been going to marches and rallies and organizing for my entire adult life, but it's never really felt like activism was part of the mainstream culture. And I sort of assumed that would always be the case. But seeing a joke about going to marches in a mainstream teen comedy? Where it's not to make a joke about uncool activists or annoying feminists? That blew me away.

It won't always be like this. These things wax and wane. But all these people who are now in their teens or early twenties, for whom going to a rally or calling yourself a socialist are just totally normal things that people do? This is going to shape a whole generation, and the thought of that makes me giddy.
posted by lunasol at 9:12 AM on April 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


Also, with regards to rallys, et. al., I'm reminded of something that drove me nuts during Occupy. It's one thing to mobilize a bunch of people and march and protest, but that alone doesn't accomplish anything. You need to have direct political action in the system: organized voting campaigns, lobbying elected officials, running for office (even state and local offices—especially state and local offices), and so forth. If Occupy had ran or endorsed candidates, I'd have voted for them in half a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, Occupy not only didn't do that, but in some discussions I've had with Occupy supports, they were outright opposed to it, citing some nonsense or another about how they shouldn't have to work within the system to dismantle it. Which is nonsense. You can't change or dismantle the system from outside. You have to get ahold of the levers of power to control them, and there's only two ways to do that: the ballot box, or armed insurrection.
posted by SansPoint at 9:18 AM on April 23, 2018 [15 favorites]


SansPoint, you're totally right about Occupy. However, there was a really interesting study released last year about how protests and rallies in and of themselves don't usually result in policy change (though they can be a catalyst), but what they do is make the attendees more likely to take other forms of political action in the future. And this wasn't covered in the study, but anecdotally, I've seen that protest movements like Occupy end up building networks of activists and organizers who continue to work together over the years. And I've seen both things happen in the years since Occupy: 1. I have seen lots of people who had a formative experience with their local Occupy group*, and are now democratic socialists or involved in minimum wage fights or are even professional organizers. 2. I have seen how a lot of the relationships that were built through Occupy have resulted in networks of people continuing to work together for economic/social change.

So I totally agree with you that protests/rallies need to be in the context of larger organizing/advocacy, and let's be real: they usually are. But I think they also provide a really important entry point for lots of folks, and a chance for people to actually be together in real life, which is really important for building long-term movements.

*This is why it's so extra super-duper important to make sure that protests and such are inclusive, welcoming spaces, where everyone feels safe and like they belong there. Occupy in many cities sadly did not really fit this bill.
posted by lunasol at 9:43 AM on April 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


*This is why it's so extra super-duper important to make sure that protests and such are inclusive, welcoming spaces, where everyone feels safe and like they belong there. Occupy in many cities sadly did not really fit this bill.

This was broader than I meant it to be. Not everyone is going to feel totally comfortable in every protest space and that's ok (for instance, Black Lives Matter marches should not have to bend over backwards to make white people comfortable in every moment). But you know, young women shouldn't have to deal with predators, trans people should be welcome at women's marches, etc.

posted by lunasol at 9:47 AM on April 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


(Occupy created Occupy Sandy, which mucked out a lot of far rockaway homes and laid the groundwork for this more robust activist and mutual aid network we now enjoy and can rally under a big tent)
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on April 23, 2018 [17 favorites]


SansPoint, you're totally right about Occupy. However, there was a really interesting study released last year about how protests and rallies in and of themselves don't usually result in policy change (though they can be a catalyst), but what they do is make the attendees more likely to take other forms of political action in the future.

We'll have to wait and see as to whether words translate to action, but in the recent March for Our Lives -- one of probably a half dozen protests I've attended since the first Women's March, where I had not done a single one before -- my daughter had a group of friends from her high school saying they could not wait to vote, for the first time ever, in the upcoming midterms (midterms!). These young people look at our society and don't like what they see -- but more importantly, they believe they can change it. And if that belief leads to action, especially voting, maybe they can at that.
posted by Gelatin at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


Vanguard Tailism
posted by symbioid at 10:08 AM on April 23, 2018


The Dig Podcast ( 1:36:00) DSA on the ballot
posted by The Whelk at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


The "RED MENACE" has fizzled into a subchapter buried in history books, but it was real. The perception at least was very real. Whether a false flag conspiracy by the military industrial complex or more actual threat elements (watch the well researched The Americans) folks across the board of every political stripe had real concerns about movements in large parts of the world, Lenin, Stalin & Mao were legitimately scary, as was the police infrastructure of the "west" that were more scared and would stomp on expressions of socialism.

Hand up, not generally a crowd person I attended the amazingly giant march in Boston last summer, not exactly political it was amazing and clearly has affected perception and activism in many communities.

Very cool that socialism is vastly less a code word for "that's a crazy person". Even at the height of the USSR I know folks would sigh in discussions and point out that much of the utilities were essentially structured as socialism, the response was generally various types of harrumph.
posted by sammyo at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


One day last month I looked up and realized that it was ok to admit that I'm a socialist.

This is a big deal. All my life socialists have been equated with Communists and reviled as vaguely threatening 'pinkos'. I had to take a loyalty oath when I worked for the University of California in the 21st century.

I'm thirty-fucking-three, people. The Soviet Union was not a viable threat for the majority of my lifetime. And yet the US has had such an all-consuming fear of the Left for so long that it's really distorted how people understand politics and possibilities in this country.

I am for universal (socialized!) healthcare, retirement, child care, parental leave, disability and worker's leave, taxation at least of the wealthy and corporations, higher minimum wage and guaranteed income, lower military spending, and etc.

So, too, is an overwhelming majority of the US (even those who identify as Republican). Why, then, is it still newsworthy to identify with these views?
posted by librarylis at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2018 [25 favorites]


They were never serious because they never ran for anything beyond President.

While I'm done with the Green Party, particularly if they run Stein again... this is just not true. In Missouri in 2016, there were Green candidates for:
- Governor
- Lt. Governor
- Treasurer
- US Senate
- US House (in 2 out of 8 districts)

There were also attempts to primary Democrats from the left. Few of them succeeded at the time.
posted by Foosnark at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've met Gayle McLaughlin along with another founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and what gives her way more cred in my eyes than the more recent crowd of candidates running as socialists is that she and the RPA fought Chevron in what was basically a company town through hard work at the grassroots level. I don't know whether that will scale easily to a statewide race, but she's been putting in the groundwork early. They came out to help our local progressives launch the same kind of fight.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm ok with calling oneself a socialist, but not in the way that Bernie calls himself one and that I worry a lot of these folks consider themselves as.

Social Democracy is not Socialism. Democratic Socialism is, but i worry too many conflate the two.

I worry that this like when Dems decided well Liberal's a smear word, let's change ourselves to "Progressive" and soon people like Hillary is calling herself "Progressive". Co-option.
posted by symbioid at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Electoral activity is sometimes appropriate tactically, but worthwhile electoral campaigns are always the result of on the ground movements and organizing that create the conditions and openings for potential success.

Trashing Occupy for not running electoral campaigns is pretty naive - sort of wasn't the point of that movement - and fails to acknowledge the historical link between that work, the work of BLM, unorganized populist reaction, and the eventual rise of the Sanders run.

The mythological idea that electoral campaigns are primary vehicles for change is pretty much upside down. Good electoral candidates can have success when they have an engaged base.

Obviously, Cynthia Nixon is not the first Dem to primary from the left - its been happening for just about forever, it just hasn't been particularly successful because the conditions haven't made it possible.
posted by RajahKing at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


RajahKing: But when you have an engaged base that desires change, especially change that requires political capital to enact regulation, policy, and/or programs, then not having a candidate that can tap into that engaged base is a mistake.

Mucking out houses is great, but it doesn't do anything about the bigger problem of climate change. I'm not saying you can't do both, but too often the activist movements of the 2000s up to and including Occupy, seemed to have a myopic view of political action that completely ignored the role of getting a seat in government, one way or another. I'm heartened that this seems to be changing post-Trump, but I wish it hadn't taken that to do it.
posted by SansPoint at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


including Occupy, seemed to have a myopic view of political action that completely ignored the role of getting a seat in government

Is that something they professed to be working on? It seems unfair to criticize something for not doing something it wasn't trying to do.
posted by rhizome at 12:18 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


rhizome: As I said upthread: if what you want to accomplish "requires political capital to enact regulation, policy, and/or programs," then you need a seat at the table to do it. There's no other way. Either you convince your elected officials to do what you want, or you elect new officials to do what you want. Either way, protest is only part of the process.
posted by SansPoint at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it'd be nice if voting had anywhere near as much impact as mucking out houses, but usually it doesn't. The nice thing is there are a thousand other actions that have much more immediate, long-term impact than voting.

What teachers are doing in AZ, OK, WV, and beyond as we pound away on keyboards is enough evidence.

Its just historically inaccurate to suggest that voting/electoral strategies are drivers of change. They aren't. They are tactical choices that follow movements and are useful in consolidating power. The "there's no other way but voting" ignores most of human political history.
posted by RajahKing at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


> "requires political capital to enact regulation, policy, and/or programs," then you need a seat at the table to do it.

How do we define "a seat at the table?" More to the point, what is the table in the first place? Perhaps political power is less about winning a seat at the table and more winning the power to define which among many tables is the table.

(There could be multiple tables that count as "the" table in different circumstances. Perhaps what we're referring to here as "the table" should instead be understood as "the set of all tables which have real influence over political events, weighted in terms of their relative level of influence.")

Assuming that "the table" full stop is the elected legislature requires ignoring the political influence and power that emerges from other sources. This is dangerous — if you overlook media power, union power, money power (beyond its power to buy representatives), academic power, church power, consumer-group power, and, in dire circumstances, gun power, you're overlooking most of the things that structure our day-to-day life.

A common goal on the left is the dismantlement of bourgeois-electoral democracy — not out of a hatred for democracy, but out of a recognition that bourgeois-electoral democracy is a sham democracy — and a common error on the left is to act as though the necessity for the dismantlement of bourgeois-electoral democracy is therefore a reason not to run for office or vote. Reconfiguring (or eliminating) state power requires gaining some element of control over state power; running for office is one way among many to do that, though of course one must be careful not to fetishize office-holding as the end-all be-all of politics — as you do above when you treat "a seat at the table" as meaning now and forevermore influence over elected representatives.

tl;dr: politics is always bigger than the institutions designed to contain it. ignore that fact at your peril.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:11 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


For most of human political history, there wasn't a representative government you could affect through voting. Or, to put it another way, "You don't vote for kings!"

But now we have a (semi-)functioning democracy in much of the Western world, and the power to replace the people in power with those who will do what we want them to. It's still difficult, and you have to start at the bottom and work up.

Think about it this way, while Occupy and related movements were camping out in public parks and raising awareness, the Tea Party and hardcore right-wingers were running for office. Look who's in charge now, and tell me which approach was more effective in accomplishing their goals.
posted by SansPoint at 1:11 PM on April 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: Office holding is not the be-all and end-all of politics, no question. But there is a need to at least interact with office holders, to be engaged, to demand your policy, and to hold officials accountable on at all levels of politics. Including by voting their asses out. (I'd love to have term limits in Congress, so we can get some fresh blood in the chambers more often.)We're now seeing more people running for state and local office on the left, often without the support of the Democratic Party apparatus, which is great, but it's only a start, because what good is a campaign if nobody knows it's happening.

One of the worst things to happen to politics is the consolidation of media, so that local and state political issues get next to no coverage, while the national horse-race gets all the news. Not only does the lack of local media coverage of local political issues have the effect of suppressing interest in local politics, it enables corruption because corrupt local politicians know they won't be held accountable by the media. Let alone coverage for candidates running against them.
posted by SansPoint at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's a good thing we're so busy policing whether or not the people who want Medicare for All, UBI, free college, etc. are doing it out of sufficiently pure desire for socialism or not. We might actually get things done if we were willing to band together with people who share 80-90% of our ideology.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


"Think about it this way, while Occupy and related movements were camping out in public parks and raising awareness, the Tea Party and hardcore right-wingers were running for office. Look who's in charge now, and tell me which approach was more effective in accomplishing their goals."


This is an oddly static understanding of how these movements come to be, really ignoring what actually happens on the ground before (and after) media coverage. Anyway, the sentence makes the point: there's no doubt that the forces that built Occupy and Black Lives Matter have and will have much more staying social and political power than the astroturfed Tea Party, which failed after a cycle and basically doesn't exist anymore.
posted by RajahKing at 2:05 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


RajahKing: Doesn't exist anymore? The ultimate expression of Tea Party politics is sitting in the White House right now.
posted by SansPoint at 2:07 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


rhizome: As I said upthread: if what you want to accomplish "requires political capital to enact regulation, policy, and/or programs," then you need a seat at the table to do it.

This is basically an endwise "but what do they waaaaaant?" critique. You set up the "if what you want" strawman, I'm just asking if that's what they wanted, otherwise known as calling out a begging of the question.

That said, I don't want to relitigate Occupy.
posted by rhizome at 2:14 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Isn’t the House Freedom Caucus full of tea partiers?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:14 PM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


who is advocating socialism, that is the entire takeover of the economy by the government?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:15 PM on April 23, 2018


rhizome: I don’t think it matters what Occupy wants. What matters is that they way they’re going/went about getting it feels like a failure in large part because they didn’t take action within the political system to accomplish it. Meanwhile, the Tea Party did, and we can see much more impact from what the Tea Party did than from what Occupy did.
posted by SansPoint at 2:41 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


We need to be running for office AND in the streets outside protesting. One without the other is just not going to work. FDR went as far left as he did because the socialists and communists and anarchists were out there raising hell. You gotta have both.
posted by technodelic at 2:44 PM on April 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


As Ocalan says, Social change is an orchestra of forces
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


SansPoint: The ultimate expression of Tea Party politics is sitting in the White House right now.

What did it have to do to get there, though? Trump's a one-shot deal. Increasingly hamstrung and unpopular, on the back of Soviet espionage. Tsar Putin won't live forever. On the other side, Trump has lead to massive coalescing around realising what people don't want and to organise against it. The main Tea Party is spent; there's just a shrinking cluster of morons left riding it to push a short-sighted agenda.

I sometimes wonder if Trump, and Brexit, are both leading to greater global equality by causing a couple of self-centred bad national actors to shoot themselves in the foot and rebalance global power a little.

And I never thought in my lifetime I'd hear Americans see socialist politics as anything other than bogeyman communism, and yet here we are. It strikes me as a longer-term positive with a huge assful of painful trapped wind being expelled right now.
posted by davemee at 3:08 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Remember the Endless Election Threads where we were so sure that Trump's primary win all but secured the Glorious Socialist Future because once people got a good look at the unmasked image of the Republican Party's racism they would surely reject it?

That's all I can think about when I hear people pontificate that Trump's actual presidency represents some kind of vanguard moment or whatever.

He's going to serve two terms and make an absolute fucking mess of the country in the process, just like GWB. If a non-Republican succeeds him, they'll do as good a job as they can to clean up the mess but ultimately not clean up enough of it to prevent the next demagogue from having a kernel of discontent to seize on to.

The only way out is to dump that accelerationist bullshit and try to prove to people that a philosophy and politics economic and social inclusion can actually build a better world.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:25 PM on April 23, 2018 [13 favorites]


davemee: Take control of state and local governments, disenfranchise progressive and minority voters through gerrymandering and forcing the overturning of the VRA, shift the Overton Window of acceptable discourse around racism and sexism, appeal to the basest of base emotions in politics, and do so with the support of huge corporations and wealthy donors who want tax cuts.

Don’t kid yourself. Russia did help, but the system had already been fractured, broken, and brutalized before it got involved, in no small part due to a callous lack of action among the progressive left.
posted by SansPoint at 3:29 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


a callous lack of action among the progressive left.

I honestly don't know what this means. People on the progressive left... not running for office enough? I think within organizations like the DSA (as it's evolving right now) there is often a tension between people who want to focus on electoral politics and people who want to focus on some sort of direct action. But I think more than that there's just long been a general sense of futility and not-knowing-what-the-hell-to-do, which finally feels to be diminishing a bit. Also keep in mind that since 2000 any time someone from the "progressive left" wants to run for office they get accused of recklessly threatening to spoil the race for for the mainstream Democrat. So often you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by atoxyl at 4:23 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Social Democracy is not Socialism. Democratic Socialism is, but i worry too many conflate the two.

I think quite a few self-described "democratic socialists" are basically social democrats who are curious about something more radical but not yet confident in it. Which is - sort of okay?
posted by atoxyl at 4:26 PM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


What matters is that they way they’re going/went about getting it feels like a failure in large part because they didn’t take action within the political system to accomplish it.

I can't say your feelings are wrong, but at the base this still sounds like "they didn't succeed at what I think they should have been doing." I don't know if you've noticed, but the US Left sucks ass at organizing for political goals, so my takeaway from Occupy was "baby steps." They certainly set the stage for activist improvements in the years since, and I think they deserve solo credit for that, chronologically followed by Black America surrounding and following Michael Brown/Ferguson. "They weren't as successful as the Tea Party" is an apples to apples comparison only to the degree that they are both about politics in the large, which is to say not very comparable at all.
posted by rhizome at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's a great thing the DSA is running candidates for state and local offices. I think an important thing the left could achieve if we can take the Senate is the abolition of the filibuster. It's an inherently reactionary institution which only serves conservative interests. The main weapon of conservatives is fear whereas ours is actual material progress. We'll need quite a few successful primaries in order to get there, but the love of grand bargains that establishment Democrats still have isn't being reproduced among the up and comers.
posted by bookman117 at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


atoxyl People on the progressive left... not running for office enough?

Yes. They aren't. Or at least weren't. The recent Special and off-year elections and various primaries have shown that there's an appetite, and has been an appetite for progressive challengers and it's starting at the lower level of state and local politics where the Tea Party began their assent.

rhizome: I can't say your feelings are wrong, but at the base this still sounds like "they didn't succeed at what I think they should have been doing."

My approach to political action is simple: if you can't point to something concrete and say "We did this" then you failed. For a group with public goals of (according to Wikipedia) "a reduction in the influence of corporations on politics,[61] more balanced distribution of income,[61] more and better jobs,[61] bank reform[42] (especially to curtail speculative trading by banks), forgiveness of student loan debt[61][62] or other relief for indebted students,[63][64] and alleviation of the foreclosure situation," there is precious little among these that they can take credit for, and what they can has either been undone or is in the process of being undone by those who wield the levers of power to do it. The Tea Party and other ultra-right wing politicians can't point to much they've done either, thankfully, since their whole platform has been "destroy everything," which is great for the ultra-radical base, but not great at winning over anyone else. Problem is, they've had plenty of time to destroy a lot.
posted by SansPoint at 5:38 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


See that's the thing: the rubric you're using positions pretty much every activist event as a failure. Now, I don't necessarily disagree, but I think Occupy was more successful than the innumerable monthly "Free Medical for All (and also Immigration and Eat the Rich)" that preceded it for 10-15 years (in my city). Hindsight is 20/20.
posted by rhizome at 6:05 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just want to say that whenever I update my generally center-left 85 year old Dad who was a Republican prior to 1992 on the latest DSA news, he gets pretty excited. I told him about the brake light clinics work, and my dad literally said the phrase "I'm excited to hear about this kind of direct action, and I hope it works!"

I literally don't think I've ever used the phrase "direct action" around my Dad, so yes, the times they are a-changing.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:15 PM on April 23, 2018 [14 favorites]


See that's the thing: the rubric you're using positions pretty much every activist event as a failure.

Centrist liberals are terrified they're losing control. They should be.
posted by bookman117 at 7:16 PM on April 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


He's going to serve two terms

That's ... a pretty bold claim stated with impressive confidence.
posted by lunasol at 7:19 PM on April 23, 2018


Bookmark it for later. I'd love to be wrong, but I doubt I will be.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:22 PM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


bookman117: Yup. Because as long as the actual progressives sat out of elections, both in terms of running for office and in terms of voting, the centrists have held a monopoly on what passes for left-wing politics in the US. That approach has failed, but admitting it's failed means a bunch of well-connected political insiders lose their well-connected political insider status, so they cover their eyes and plug their ears while the grassroots drags them kicking and screaming towards the real left. It's about time, but we need to make up for a lot of lost time.
posted by SansPoint at 7:35 PM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


The group I'm involved with won't campaign directly for electoral politics. I imagine most of us will vote Greens, and if someone asks we tell them to vote Greens or similarly left. The fact is though, people have elected Labor government after Labor government and half the time what they do when they get in is attack anything further left and directly serve the interests of the ruling class with a thin veneer of progressive activity. The other half of the time they palm us off by removing half of the worst things conservatives installed and demanding they be heralded as champions of progressive politics.

If you prefer a meme, this is an apt one.

At a certain point, I think you need to consider that elected politicans are part of the system, part of the ruling class, and can be better than others, but will never deliver truly socialistic goals.
If they do, the ruling class often finds some way to deligitise, dismantle and disable their politics. Reformism is ok if you don't know any better, but rarely achieves real change. Real change in the economic system comes from the bottom up, from organising and making demands with the power of the people behind you. It means dismantling the government if they don't make the changes we demand. It means revolutionary socialism.

who is advocating socialism, that is the entire takeover of the economy by the government?
posted by Ironmouth at 0:15 on April 24 [+] [!]


I'm a communist, and I'm not just advocating that, I'm working on it. You can too. If you're worried that you'll face extreme opposition and even government action against you for trying, well, then that's just more evidence of the need for such action.
I expect this is too much for a lot of people right now, but the more we do, the more we expose the failures of those in power to ever serve working and/or disadvantaged people, the more palatable that idea becomes. The more people realise it's how you actually achieve structural change.
The biggest changes from within the actual structure of the electoral system get put through when the pollies are terrified that they'll face consequences if they don't acquiesce to some of our demands.

TL:DR, it's not in the interests of the ruling class to change the system, so electoral politics are an extremely limited vessel for change.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:24 AM on April 24, 2018


Socialism is not government control of the economy; that would be state capitalism, the system that is now globally omnipresent. The goal of socialism is the withering away of the state in favour of local autonomy. Think of it as a rational libertarianism.
posted by No Robots at 5:24 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm certainly not in favour of control of the economy by a capitalist government. The path to control of the economy by the people is the creation of a government in the control of the people. You can then begin to go about programs of devolution of the government once the world has been wrested from the grasp of the bourgeoisie.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:46 AM on April 24, 2018


there are a thousand other actions that have much more immediate, long-term impact than voting.

Wow this really upsets me. Perhaps just wrong phrasing but if folks just showed up and voted we'd have a different president right now. Sure there are a zillion activities *in addition* to voting but just don't say in any forum or voice that voting is not central and key. This midterm more than any in historical memory.
posted by sammyo at 6:20 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


That's the thing about a representative democracy: you can change who is in the ruling class. You can vote the fuckers out, and vote in new fuckers who you can vote out if they don't do what you want them to.

And, as the one who's been banging the drum of "vote and possibly run for office," I will emphasize that there's way more that can and should be done beyond voting/running for office, that has an impact. But you can't do those things and not vote/run for office. In no small part because all the things we do outside of the halls of political power can be easily undone by those within it.
posted by SansPoint at 6:40 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm not interested in shuffling around which members of the bourgeoisie are in parliament/congress. You're still aiming for a nation with a ruling class. That's the problem.
Yes you can vote them out again later, but they'll still have served the interests of the wealthy and good luck building an electoral party that won't in the future.
Also, there will always be reformists in spades. I'm really not concerned that a slightly more left option will not be there for the voting in because that just won't happen. Like I said, vote, just don't count on real change coming out of it.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:05 AM on April 24, 2018


I'm sure all the people Trump's ICE has deported will be delighted to find out that electoral politics has no consequences.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:13 AM on April 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


AnhydrousLove: I'm not interested in shuffling around which members of the bourgeoisie are in parliament/congress. You're still aiming for a nation with a ruling class. That's the problem.

You can put the proletariat into office too. Maybe not national office, but certainly for your local and state offices, which are just as important.

I'm sorry, but there's always going to be some sort of leadership structure in any society. You can either have one where they're picked by the people they lead, or you can have one where they lead by force. Anarchy does not work outside of small groups.
posted by SansPoint at 7:18 AM on April 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm glad that you're able to handwave all the people Democrats deport. How about we work towards a world with no borders to speak of? Sure, if we've got two options and one will deport slightly less people, let's look into that. But let's not consider less to be our goal when none is an option.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:32 AM on April 24, 2018




I'm going to stop replying after this to avoid filling the thread up with me, but ruling class =/= leadership structure. Your conflation of anarchism and communism is rather disheartening.
You're right though, right now the rich rule by force of arms and wealth and I'd love a system where we the people selected our temporary representatives in a leadership structure.
If proletarians can't take office on a national level, you're admitting the rich rule us all. I reject the idea that we have to pick from the ranks of a political class.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:41 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's some serious tu quoque bullshit. Yes, the deportations under Obama were bad. The deportations under Trump are worse. Bad is better than worse. Better would be better, but making things worse by definition precludes making things better.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:50 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


AnhydrousLove: You start by putting the proletariat in the lower offices and work your way up to the proletariat in national offices. That's, again, how the Tea Party got their lunatic fringe in charge. And if the Democrats are deporting more people then you have those opposed to deportation run against them.

It's incredible how we view representative democracy and political parties as these monolithic structures that are separate from us, and unaccountable to us, when it's voters and party members who have the power, ability, and moral imperative to make them accountable. The government of a nation belongs to its citizens. A political party belongs to its members. Just showing up every four years to tick a box for a Presidential election isn't enough. We need to be showing up, running for offices especially against incumbents, lobbying those in power for our demands, and kicking their asses out when they fail to respond. The problem isn't just that politicians aren't responsive to voters. The problem is also that voters and citizens have abdicated their responsibility to be engaged in democracy, and one symptom of that is the abject bullshit argument that politics and politicians are removed from the mundane affairs of ordinary people like us, when it is ordinary people like us who bear the responsibility for putting these people in charge and kicking their asses out when they fail us.
posted by SansPoint at 7:53 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


The right got where it is by building coalitions between Christian Talibanis, fedora-tipping AnCap online atheists, angry normally apolitical racist Drunkles, and regular capitalist ghouls. No one group is getting everything they want, but together they're enacting policies that serve their stated interests. Meanwhile, the left is still fighting itself. DSA is working through the political system, which is why we're seeing results there. Where I live, the Green party has done jack shit my whole lifetime, despite mounting evidence that voters are concerned about the environment. If we don't work together across multiple fronts (including electoral politics, activism, labor organizing, education, and policy promotion) we're going to waste our efforts.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:09 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Kitty Stardust: See also the "People's Front of Judea" bit from Life of Brian.
posted by SansPoint at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I guess I lied about stopping commenting. Where on earth are y'all getting the idea that I'm in any way happy with Trump, ICE or deportations. Of course making things worse by definition precludes making things better. What do you think I'm arguing for? Am I saying don't vote? What strawman are you attacking here? It just feels like you're kneejerk assuming that because I don't think any of the left options on offer will actually stop hurting people rather than just hurting people a little less I'm somehow horseshoed around to being a bad person? I find it really offensive that it's being implied I'm in any way ok with deportations or the like.
Over here, we have engagement with politics, we have voters showing up (mandatory) and we still have two major parties who think its ok to torture refugees.
It's not bullshit to claim that they're removed from the mundane affairs when they quite obviously are. Obviously anyone who takes that to mean disengage from politics is a fool sticking their head in the sand. It means engage with politics, do whatever it takes for change. I believe that if we all did that, we'd find that whatever it takes would be an awful lot more than voting in the left opposition.
We can't tea party our way up in the same way at all because it's in the interests of the rich to pour money into tea party campaigns, to work with the crazy fascists and libertarians even if they are more moderate personally. Metafilter showed me that. We can try, we can organise, we can get people in here and there to make a little change happen but I'm arguing that it won't fix the big problems overall. The rich will still control the means of production, and if you can vote in enough socialists to expropriate them, they'll use outside forces and/or military coups to prevent it happening because international capitalism is the enemy, not just the few individuals in power at any one time. As I said, if a lot of people are thinking my way, there will be still be more than enough who aren't convinced and stay working within the electoral system, they'll still be challenging from the left. If we work for the hard left solutions, then the centrist solutions will either come along to pacify people or they won't and everyone will see the necessity of further action.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2018


And with regards to the Green Party, I've voted Green once in my lifetime. I voted for Cheri Honkala for her 2011 campaign Sheriff in Philadelphia, as she was running on a no-foreclosure platform. She lost, unfortunately.

Years later, who do I see leading a "Fart-in" at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia? Cheri Honkala, representing the Green Party. Yeah, that'll accomplish something. Thanks, Cheri.

AnhydrousLove We can't tea party our way up in the same way at all because it's in the interests of the rich to pour money into tea party campaigns, to work with the crazy fascists and libertarians even if they are more moderate personally. Metafilter showed me that. We can try, we can organise, we can get people in here and there to make a little change happen but I'm arguing that it won't fix the big problems overall.

That's exactly the attitude that the right-wing assholes who benefit from the left choosing to in-fight and not show up at their polling place want you to have. You're playing into it, and that's why we keep losing to a coalition of assholes instead of getting our shit together and making a push to kick these rich assholes out and put our people in. It can be done, it has been done, and it will be done again, one way or another. At least in the US, there's enough of a functioning democracy left that it can be done. Just look at the results of recent off-year and special elections. Even against gerrymandering and voter suppression, grassroots politicians have had huge success in a number of formerly "safe" GOP districts. Hell, a county in Virgina elected an avowed Socialist last year. He's not a member of the "political class," he's a former IT tech, and never held office before.

It. Can. Be. Done.

But the right-wing benefits by convincing you it can't.
posted by SansPoint at 8:20 AM on April 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is why Occupy died; middle class voters who were interested in making material gains to theirs and their neighbors lives got fucking turned off by the "NO! NOT REVOLUTIONARY ENOUGH!" cant. Average people weren't willing to get beaten by the cops for no reason.

And "We have no demands, no leaders, we're just unhappy and are expressing it" is essentially "no reason". And week after week attendance wilted away until there was nothing.

Slavoj Zizek was right when he said "I would seel my mother (metaphorically) to see the movie V For Vendetta II. What happens the day after the revolution? What happens if the people actually take power? Who gets the committee assignments? Who is in charge of the power grid and garbage collection?"

Ideological revolutionaries, begone. We have no more time for you. We're got actual real world change to enact while you're off ranting about the glorious utopia we're failing to achieve by tomorrow.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:27 AM on April 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey: *ding* The skill set needed to pull off a successful revolution is not the same skill set needed to run the country the revolutionaries are now in charge of. This is why so many revolutions end up with dictatorships. Partially because it's how you maintain enough power to actually do something, and partially because you need the support of the former government's staff who actually do the day-to-day business of keeping things running.
posted by SansPoint at 8:31 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


SansPoint it would be nice if you acknowledge just once that I keep saying to vote. Instead, you're either just talking past me or demanding that when I organise it be for your parties & politics, I'm not sure which. I completely believe you can elect democrats. I believe with enough organisation you could wipe the republicans off the political map. I just don't believe you'll get the change I'm looking for through elections.
We have no demands no leaders? Sounds really shitty. A real socialist party has demands, we have leaders, we have actual plans for after the revolution. If you believe that we don't, I don't think I'm the one drinking the right-wing propaganda.
My Greens party is not the same as your Green party, I vote for them exactly for the reasons you say, because we need to have some left alternatives, because we need challenges from the left.
The revolutionaries aren't the ones who should run the country. I'm still learning, but I'm a big fan of in large part just expanding unions and having them take over the running of industries in many cases, because they have the skills you're talking about.
If you think you can achieve a significant change in material conditions without proposing an ideology that challenges the dominant neoliberal & fascist ideologies, well, then why do you think I believe that whoever you're putting forward as a left challenger is just going to be a nicer face on the same politics.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2018


Ok, so now we're in the "gaslight everybody I've been arguing against" part of the thread, so it's time to tap out.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:47 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


"I imagine most of us will vote Greens, and if someone asks we tell them to vote Greens or similarly left"
"Yes you can vote them out again later"
" we have voters showing up (mandatory)"
"Am I saying don't vote?"
"We can try, we can organise, we can get people in here and there to make a little change happen..."
"I'm really not concerned that a slightly more left option will not be there for the voting in because that just won't happen. Like I said, vote, just don't count on real change coming out of it."
I really don't feel like I'm gaslighting anyone.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:53 AM on April 24, 2018


Did you miss the part upthread about 3rd parties in America having no chance because the way our electoral system is structured? I'll throw you the link again in case.

The Greens have no chance of winning, no chance of taking power, no chance of affecting things on the ground. That is an established fact. It's not just the Greens, it's any 3rd party in America. They are structurally excluded. Like it or not, that is the system that is in place and continues to function.

And since voting Green is throwing your vote away so that it's not counted, it's essentially voting for the Republicans. That is the reality of the math and the way the system is set up. So however one chooses to vote, do so understanding exactly what one is doing.

Folding one's arms like Bartley the Scrivener and saving "I would rather not" is an option. But it's an option to sit on the sidelines and pout.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:01 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake I really thought I'd dropped enough clues in here that I'm not an American.
"Over here, we have engagement with politics, we have voters showing up (mandatory) and we still have two major parties who think its ok to torture refugees."
"My Greens party is not the same as your Green party"
"Labor government after Labor government" (and the link)
"which members of the bourgeoisie are in parliament/congress."
I'm speaking generally about electoral politics. If y'all aren't even reading my comments properly, I really shouldn't be that upset that your responses are so ridiculous. Thanks, I actually feel a lot better about this thread now.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:09 AM on April 24, 2018


AnhydrousLove: Australian politics are different than US politics, yes, but the fundamentals of representative democracy are the same, regardless of the parties and structures involved.

You want to expand the role of unions. Great! So do I. But there's laws in place that curb the power of unions. If you want to expand the power of unions, you need to overturn those laws. There's the judicial system, which can overturn laws, but there's also the legislative system. Legislators can pass new laws expanding the power of unions, as well as overturn laws limiting their power.

If the legislators in power do not want to do this, you can vote them out and put in legislators who do. Doing so is a difficult process, but it can be done, and has been done in the past. Why is it that the same democratic process that put legislators in place in Scandinavia who expanded the power of unions worked there, but won't work in Australia or the United States? This question is absurd, because the fundamental operation of representative democracy is the same in Scandinavia, Australia, and the United States, even if the parties and structure of government is not. The parties and structure mean it might be more difficult, but difficult is not impossible. Similar things work similar ways.

But "the rich will still control the means of production, and if you can vote in enough socialists to expropriate them, they'll use outside forces and/or military coups to prevent it happening because international capitalism is the enemy, not just the few individuals in power at any one time."

Which is why I'm going to bring Scandinavia back up. When the Scandinavian Model was established, you can bet there was plenty of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments by the rich who controlled the means of production. They didn't succeed in stopping it. And there was certainly no use of military force or coups to prevent it from happening.

These things do happen in other countries, but they're countries with less robust democracies, or with dictators and military strongmen, with weak judicial processes, and so-forth. It's not impossible that it could happen in the US or Australia, but let me tell you: the rich capitalist types don't benefit from military action in countries where they live or sell in. You can't make money when your customers, your suppliers, your factories, and your executive offices are being shelled. It's not good for the stock price.
posted by SansPoint at 9:10 AM on April 24, 2018


Ummm... the thread is about American politics. I thought that was kinda clear from the links and discussion going on.

So great, you do it differently in other countries. Anything else to contribute?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2018


Actually, the labor governments are in large part to blame for a lot of the constraints on unions here, and never take the opportunities to dismantle those constraints when they have them. The rest of the thread in my one link looked into a little bit of that.
We're about to gear up for a huge Right-To-Strike campaign here in the Aussie union movement and we know we can't count on any of the parties to give us those rights. We'll have to fight for them. If we want to achieve these union improvements, not just the socialists but the regular union delegates and rank & file understand that we're going to need to take action for ourselves and if we're lucky the law will follow us. We don't expect it to, we expect to have union members in jail and cops everywhere before we get anything done. That's how real change occurs. I know very little about modern Scandi history, but I know that here organised labour has given us almost everything and is still the path forward. Parliament didn't give us eight hour days, parliament won't fix the housing market. Unions just might, if not them, then organised people overall. Unions didn't give us same sex marriage, that's true, but parliament certainly didn't hand it to us until they were damn sure there was no way they could get out of it because the people were organised in favour.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2018


AnhydrousLove: If you can vote out the anti-union legislators and replace them with pro-union legislators, you can overturn those laws that constrain your unions. Why is this so hard to grasp? There have to be seats in the Australian Parliament that are up for re-election, and can be won by a union worker or labor advocate, but the only way to know is to actually run a damn campaign.

Unions got us the eight-hour workday not just by striking and protesting, but by legislation as well. Legislators, sympathetic to union demands, wrote legislation, and passed legislation, that established a legal eight-hour work day, overtime pay, and other union demands. It did not just happen because the ownership class acquiesced. Bills were written and laws were passed.
posted by SansPoint at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2018


The supposed pro-union legislators are the ones who refuse to overturn anti-union laws. That's my point. Our votes aren't wasted in quite the same way, true, but as Kitty Stardust said, mostly Greens votes aren't that effective, we can't actually take parliament from the left. Our votes just support the left major party anyway. The labor advocates who make it into Labor and can stand a chance in elections are either ruling class all along or become coopted by the system rather rapidly. Which is rather a moot point when it always works this way. Thus my argument that electoral politics are limited in what they can achieve and at best they give us watered down versions of the couple of points we can campaign endlessly for & build public anger about, rather than actually acting in the interests of working people.
I don't see that things do work differently here to in the US. I think they work in pretty much exactly the same way, that's why I am making arguments for organising outside of electoral politics generally.
Bills being written and laws being passed IS the ownership class acquiescing. That's what it looks like. Because electoral politics is their vehicle and anything that comes out of it is what they've decided to give us. Of course things have to be enshrined in law, but the point is that you can't just elect the leftmost option and expect to get much of anything out of it. You have to force their hand.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2018


The supposed pro-union legislators are the ones who refuse to overturn anti-union laws.

THEN VOTE THEM OUT!
posted by SansPoint at 9:51 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Kitty Stardust: See also the "People's Front of Judea" yt bit from Life of Brian.

Basically. And it pisses me off so much that I keep seeing all the people with the best ideas do this while the right wing drowns the U.S. in war, prisons, and economic disaster.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:51 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I actually think I remember a sound bite of Trump bloviating "If you don't like me, vote for Jill"
posted by sammyo at 9:29 PM on April 24, 2018












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