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Comments on "Politics Belongs to Everyone"

Various Authors
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

Thanks so much for sharing "Politics Belongs to Everyone" on your website.

I hope the feedback makes for productive discussion. My perspective is not very critical of the piece. Personally, I've seen the global justice movement spin off in so many directions. And to see that original potential realized, we must affirm the accomplishments, bravery and inherent worth of each endeavor as a continuation of our spirited mobilizations.

Our persistence did not strike fear into the WTO, but emboldened our allies among the delegates of the third world to bring it down from the inside. We have not established widespread networks for collectivized health-care that circumvents the big corporations, but now Democrats are all parading their plans for something approximating universal coverage on par with Canada and other industrialized countries.

I won't say that I specifically recommend electoral politics for the anti- capitalist movement, but I will say that we should not demonize our peers who choose this avenue. In fact we should support them. We are acting in solidarity in different realms. We must respect each other and encourage communication and good will. While the negativity of infighting often cripples the Left, the right surges ahead by leaps and bounds. Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, the environment, communities of color, California, our civil liberties, all are under massive threat. This means war; a war fought on many fronts, that many of us are late in joining.

Racism often dictates our choice of tactics and campaigns. For this white male, it feels as though MY house has caught fire under Bush. But it's a recent development. For those without white privilege in this country and around the world, they've been battling these forces in isolation for centuries. Their house has always been on fire. And where have I been?

My friend and ally in the black community is running for City Council to represent Richmond's poorest district that's also 97% African-American. He said to our chapter of Food Not Bombs that not to support the black community's quest for justice through the ballot was to doom them to the bullet (as the white power structure continually and historically denies resources for health, safety and education to his violence and poverty torn district).

Every vote will count in his election. So a bunch of us went to work for his campaign, knocking on doors and hitting the phones. To work for justice and solidarity is a significant blow against the self- interest of capitalism, no matter what the tactic. So choose your weapon.

But be sure to challenge yourself and push your comfort level so that building character, personal growth and social transformation become a part your revolution.

Keep the faith,
Jason Guard
Richmond, VA


Hello Left Turn,

I feel embarrassed for Left Turn for publishing John Nichols’ article "Politics Belongs to Everyone: From Seattle to the Campaign Trail." Honestly, it's more of an insult to the anti-globalization movement than anything else. I’m not making an outright rejection of electoral politics as a whole. I believe there are radical possibilities in that avenue. But the kind of electoral politics advanced in this article is hardly different than all other Party politics. It’s a call to get people with good politics in power so that the candidate can be the agent of change. What does this have to do with "politics belonging to everyone"?

These candidates, in this article, don't break with the traditional Left candidate model. They want to bring Left issues to the political arena and stir things up there. Good. But that's the least that any Left candidate should do. I remember hearing about a bumpersticker that said "N30, A16, etc. = Nader." It was an insult. It was an insult because it doesn't make "politics for everyone" as this article (and that bumpersticker) implies. It retains the central characteristic that makes the State essentially oppressive: it excludes all of us. It maintains the "representative" structure in which the masses of the population are institutionally depoliticized. By "depoliticized," I mean that the population is systematically excluded from discussing, debating, and deciding on the issues that effect our very lives. Policy making remains the work of professional politicians. And the rest of us sit on the sidelines.

This article discusses historical tendencies of social movements to move from the streets to the elections. The need to address political power is vitally important for our movements to be successful, unless we’re simply content with always indirectly effecting power rather than directly holding it. Electoral politics can be part of a strategy to address power. But it’s got to be consistent with the grassroots nature of the movements they’re apart of, or else they’re only co-opting the movements.

Any attempt to transform society in a radical way should address this political power, but also hold onto its principles of "politics for everyone." And to do that, we can’t accept the current structures. We have to change them. Because our movements today are so much in favor of forms of direct democracy, any electoral campaign – to be true to these movements – must seek to develop forms of direct democracy in the governing institutions. The struggle for these forms of political organization are part of the struggle just as much as the content. Municipal institutions allow us the greatest ability to develop these forms, because they are the closest bodies to us, and because they are geographically based. Directly democratic assemblies could be fought for, by transforming these municipal institutions into ones that allow politics to be for everyone.

Until movement candidates put the demand for directly democratic community assemblies on their political agenda, the declaration that these "movement" candidates are really talking about "politics for everyone" will remain an insult to the movement that’s worked so hard to reconstruct politics from the bottom up. And the struggle will remain in the streets.

Rob Augman