Tuesday, November 28, 2006 

New FRSO/OSCL Statement: Reflections on the November Elections

by National Executive Committee
Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Though many activists on the Left, including those who want nothing to do with the Democratic Party, were thrilled that the Republicans were trounced on November 7th, it is critical that we think through the implications of what unfolded.

The election results clearly demonstrate fury with the Bush administration's policies on Iraq, but they also reflect (at least according to the polls) disgust with Republican corruption. According to a CNN exit poll on Election Day, 57% of voters disapprove of the war in Iraq and a Newsweek poll showed that 53% of Americans want impeachment to be on the agenda.

Both of these tendencies are something upon which progressive and Left forces can build. It is also interesting to note that more than 1/3 of the electorate saw themselves as explicitly voting against President Bush.

Clearly there is an indication of some cracks in the strong hold of the right wing. An interesting development is the growing divide between the Christian Right and the Republicans. Top Republican strategists are now calling their grassroots religious base “nuts”, and as a result much of the grassroots Right simply didn’t show up at the polls. Following the losses in Congress, many Christian Right leaders are moving away from the Republican Party and are looking at a base-building non-partisan approach. This could indicate a rupture in the right wing of the ruling class in the future.

While the Republicans largely lost, the Democrats, to a great extent, won by default. In other words, they did not win because they had a coherent, alternative program particularly but not limited to the Iraq War. Yet the growing anti-war/anti-corruption sentiment among the people was channeled through the Democrats. The 'mandate' of the Democrats can come undone, fairly easily as a matter of fact.

We do not wish to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak, but there are immense dangers and possibilities in the current moment. The greatest danger is that of demobilization. One need only think back to the Clinton years and the manner in which his presidency effectively demobilized social movements, as well as liberal and progressive forces generally. The fear of criticizing Clinton because it might fuel the Republicans (at least that is the way that the rhetoric went) led to nearly complete silence while welfare was repealed, the anti-terrorism act was passed, more people were incarcerated in the U.S. than under any president, Yugoslavia was bombed, Iraq was being strangled...and the list could go on and on.

It is fairly clear, that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a strategy for pullout from Iraq. This—plus the fact that the Democrats represent ruling-class interests, simply different bourgeois interests—will cause them to drag the war out. Most likely the Democrats will not pursue the goal of pullout and a call for the impeachment of Bush, but rather maintain a “safe” position and a bi-partisan relationship with the Republicans in Congress if left to their own devices. As always, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Given the popular support and the “mandate” to end the war, the Left can play a strategic role in advancing the role of organizers beyond elections, escalating tactics and ultimately forcing the issue to an immediate end to the war.

At this moment we would suggest three basic points:

1. The need for strong social movement mobilization: Including but not limited to the anti-war movement, social movements need to advance challenges and put forward demands. United For Peace & Justice, as we understand, is planning on a major mobilization for January 2007 and this is precisely what must be done. In addition, we must consider upping the ante and escalating tactics focused on Congress and the Bush administration. The Left should propose its own demands for pullout including reparations, front ending what both the Democrats and Republicans refuse to talk about in concrete terms.

In addition, ecological consciousness, largely as a result of environmental and environmental justice movements is compelling millions to recognize the dangers to the great planet Earth that are unfolding. Katrina should remain our watch-word for the near genocidal treatment of the survivors and evacuees, as well as the domestic display of neo-liberalism at its swinest. We must keep the pressure on the politicians of both parties and not accept rhetoric and fine words in the place of deeds.

2. We need an organized force in the electoral arena that can challenge the Republicans and conservative Democrats: We do not believe that the material conditions exist at present to form a 3rd electoral party, but we do believe that at the local and national level there is a need for an electoral force(s) to advance a progressive agenda; an electoral force grounded among working people, oppressed nationalities, queers, and women and prepared to run candidates for office on the basis of its ties to progressive social movements. Noting that, initiatives against abortion and gay marriage continue to be used to mobilize right wing bases. These initiatives not only fuel homophobia and sexism, but they are a tool used to divide the working class, and therefore must be countered. Such a force needs to think in terms of promoting a progressive alternative at the level of program and action.

3. The Left needs greater coherence: Particularly at times like these when people are looking for answers, the moment is here to put on the table the major structural reforms that are necessary to meet the immediate and long-term material needs of the mass of people. Putting these proposals forward means, in fact, that we have to also be willing to speak to the need to move beyond capitalism. Both the global and domestic mess of capitalism demonstrates that it has no answers for the bulk of humanity. The Democrats and Republicans, as they fumble through one crisis after another, offer little in the political realm. We on the Left must seize the moment and build on the excitement that is present and the deep desire for substantive change. In order to position ourselves for the future, we should work together to strengthen Left theory, program, strategy and revolutionary organization. No time to hope for change; time to bring about change through struggle and organization!


¡Harvey Milk, presente!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 

My first Wikipedia article...

Since I know for a fact that several people who read this blog are either better writers than I am, or are at least more knowledgable about STORM's history, politics and work, consider this a call to friends to help improve a somewhat shitty Wikipedia entry (which is none-the-less superior to non-existant one). Namely, if you know how to index Wikipedia entries please do so.
Nelson H.

Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)

Formed by young activists in September 1994, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement(STORM) was a revolutionary cadre organization based in the Bay Area. During its existence STORM's membership was always more than 60 percent women and 75 percent people of color, and most of STORM's membership had never previously been in revolutionary organizations. STORM officially dissolved in December 2002.

A collective summation entitled Reclaiming Revolution: History, Summation, and Lessons from the Work of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) was written by former STORM cadre, collectively endorsed by a majority of the organization's former membership and published in Spring 2004.

"Sisters at the Center"

Throughout its history, STROM was committed to maintaining itself as a majority women, majority people of color organization. This commitment certainly extended to the areas of mass work in which STORM members collectively worked. Growing out of theoretical frameworks inherited from revolutionary, third wave and Black feminisms members of STORM developed the "Sisters at the Center" slogan early on in their organization's history. Application of this slogan meant a conscious emphasis to keep women of color and working class women at the center of the organizations analysis, program and practice.

External links

Monday, November 20, 2006 

I never thought he was funny anyways.

Disclaimer: Michael Richards said some racist shit, I reprint what he said with real words with one exception. This isn't out of any fear of the word; I just don't see the need for me, as a white person (non-Black person generally, actually) to use it while making the below points.

Comedic hack Michael Richards (best known as Cramer on Seinfeld) resorted to the use of racial hate-speech during a show Friday night at Laugh Factory in Los Angles after being interrupted by an unnamed number of "loud" black people. The former co-star of yet another TV sitcom with an all-white cast set in a fictional all-white New York paradise had choice words for the African Americans in the audience. Some gems from the routine:
"Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass."

"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherfucker. Throw his ass out. He's a n----r!"

"N----r! N----r! N----r!"
As shocking as the statements are, the fact that the above was uttered by a white stand-up comedian is far from surprising. Racism, even the over the top, expletive slinging kind that Richards engaged in is anything but new when it comes to mainstream comedy. It's beyond even being par for the course, it's a fundamental, a constant. Flip on Comedy Central any hour of the day and you will be greeted with bigoted jokes about immigrants, women, gays and oppressed nationality folks. The Laugh Factory certainly wasn't deterred; they had him back on-stage not even 24 hours later.

If anyone knows of a good piece on the role played by hegemonic ideas in comedy, I would love to read it. My general sense is that humor, unlike most other forms of culture, is much more difficult to use in constructing counter-hegemonic thought. Comedy can certainly take aim at power, and at points this is help enough in spurring on an already developing crisis of legitimacy. But I have real doubts of comedy's ability to surpass the point when ridicule and satire must be replaced with the purposeful introduction of new counter-hegemonic ideas. The role of this system's "common-sense" is just too great for the medium to surpass. All that's to say I hope that this incident can be seen for what it is - one note in the overall composition - instead of the "woeful exception" that systems of white-supremacist capitalism and patriarchy love so much.

On a somewhat contradictory note (given my emphasis on systems of oppression as opposed to individualistic interpretations of reality), here's to hoping that Mr. Richards is the oh-so-unfortunate victim of a random act of "kindness."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 

And so it begins

So it's been a month since this blog was updated. It has been a busy time for certain, but I'm feeling some much-needed new found energy. I hope that this will translate into more frequent posts. Right now I'm aiming for a minimum of one per week.

LeftSpot made a request that I provide some analysis of the controversial Tennessee Senate race. I still have some homework to do before I'm really ready to weigh in on the particulars of the elections here in the state.

Despite my lack of preparedness for offering analysis on the elections, be it locally or in the broader national context, the Democrats seem prepared to give anti-war end of their electoral base (which by all accounts appears to be its overwhelming majority) an early "fuck you." Today, Harry Reid and company made it clear that they have no plans of actually slowing down the Bush agenda vis-à-vis Iraq. Using the rhetorical shield of "get[ting] rid of Rumsfeld" they have signed on to confirm the war criminal and Iran-Contra participant Robert Gates.

I am interested in hearing thoughts from other folks about how we on the anti-capitalist left should react to the Senate Dems first volley in what I expect to be an on-going campaign of selling-out last Tuesday's referendum on the country's war against Iraq. Do we hold-off talking about this stuff for now to avoid being labeled shrills and wack-jobs? Or do we press them from the get-go?

My sense is to agitate the hell out of the advanced, but let things slide with the intermediate unless asked directly. Give the Dems a few months, and then work like hell to exploit the mass feelings of betrayal and disillusionment.

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