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(en) US, San Jose, CA. Anarchists and the 2004 election - A Statement by the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 2 Nov 2004 12:17:34 +0100 (CET)


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IN THE TIME OF KINGS, THE PEASANTS SHARPEN THEIR KNIVES:
"What this country needs is more unemployed politicians." Angela Davis
The 2004 presidential elections have stirred quite a commotion in
the American left, from ballot-fetishist liberals all the way to the
traditionally anti-voting anarchists. It is indeed a sad state of
affairs when the largest debate in the anarchist milieu is our
choice of oppressors - and the debate has escalated to such a point
in which we see ourselves forced to enter it. Yet we shall take this
as an opportunity to analyze some deeper questions about the
anarchist movement and some of the problems that plague us.

Those that defend the involvement in this election argue that this
is a pragmatist approach, that it is about time anarchists
reevaluate their positions and tactics, and face the realities of the
21st Century. They criticize the traditional anarchist stance as a
moralist one, that cannot hold to the perils of another four years of
the Bush administration.

As revolutionaries, we should not be taking moral stands against
this or that situation, but we should analyze those situations
critically and understand how they promote or hinder the
revolutionary process. Our business is the business of revolution.
If we claim the title of revolutionaries then we owe it to make
revolution. And it is as revolutionaries that we see electing John
Kerry for president as part of a counterrevolutionary process, not a
revolutionary one.

Some argue that the small difference between candidates might
represent a huge impact on the lives of the poor, working-class,
people of color, queer and other oppressed groups in our society.
They claim that this difference is enough for us to suck it up and
cast the reluctant vote for John Kerry.

It is exactly pragmatism and strategic thinking that leads us to
reject advocacy for Kerry. We do not oppose electoral politics out
of principle, neither do we think that voting is always bad. Yet we
need to analyze this situation critically beyond the assumptions,
looking at the historical example of when similar situations
happened and what the results of people?s actions were. Through
such a critical analysis, we do not see voting as a part of an overall
strategy leading to revolution.
First of all, most of the people defending the Kerry vote like to
throw all types of voting in the same bag - like voting against a
Ward Connelly initiative and the Anyone But Bush vote could
possibly be put in the same category. For example, Proposition 66
(which would reform the three strikes law in California) will
represent a concrete gain for communities of color - the
three-strikes law is a strong attack to our communities and we feel
that its end is a positive development. John Kerry is not a bill,
however. John Kerry represents a right-wing form of politics, and
one that will only have a negative impact in our communities.
Therefore, we see no reason to support him.

To dispel the myths around the Presidential election is necessary
because, first of all, Bush is an easy target. He is not bright, not
efficient and left a huge mess in his wake, a mess that can be
easily traced back to his own right thinking. It is really easy to hate
the devil because he is ugly - but to expose the lying face of the
angel is the hardest part, especially if you are constantly looking at
how terrifying the devil is. While Kerry is hardly an angel, the
more we concentrate on how we dislike Bush, the more we are
willing to swallow the Kerry pill.

"They are barbarians, and I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt
down, capture and kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it
takes. Period." (Reuters Oct. 29 2004) This kind of crusader
rhetoric would make liberals and ABBer's cringe and denounce
the war-mongerism embedded in it, if it had come from the
mouth of George W. Bush. Since it came from John Kerry, the
liberal horde is silent. If we are to oppose imperialism, we should
do it consistently - not denounce when it comes from one side,
and be tolerant when it comes from another.

Bill Clinton, who the liberals seem to love with a blind passion,
was able to implement the worst parts of the conservative agenda
of George H. W. Bush, without much of a fuss being raised about
it, except maybe during the Battle of Seattle. Three wars
(Somalia, Kosovo and bombing and sanctions of Iraq), NAFTA,
welfare reform, reduced access to abortion and increased access to
prisons and the death penalty - Clinton was the most successful
Republican president of the recent years. The Democrats as a
party traditionally use a more liberal rhetoric, but as soon as they
take office, they shift increasingly more to the right. Kerry himself
is not even using a more liberal rhetoric - he is parodying the
right-wing agenda to the T.
"Four thousand people a day are coming across the border. The
fact is that we now have people from the Middle East, allegedly,
coming across the border... The fact is our borders are not as
secure as they ought to be, and I'll make them secure" (John
Kerry, Presidential Debate, Oct. 13 2004). Kerry is following the
great tradition of racism and xenophobia of the Democratic Party,
which, in the Clinton administration, implemented the Operation
Gatekeeper, militarizing the U.S./Mexico border at the expense of
billions of tax dollars. In an interview to Telemundo (July 1,
2004), John Kerry explicitly opposed allowing undocumented
immigrants to get drivers licenses in California - going against the
immigrant rights movement in this state.

Now a few knowledgeable anarchists say that we should vote this
racist in the White House, because he would help people of color.
How? Some hold an almost alchemistic belief that the Kerry
administration will behave itself different from the Bush
administration, without any material proof or logical pattern
behind it.

Americans, who some anarchists view as reactionary, ignorant
masses, seem to understand what is going on and to remember
the age-old popular knowledge - politicians lie. People polled by
the New York Times (NYT, Oct. 19, 2004) are dissatisfied with
the Bush administration, yet they see Kerry as a politician, that is
only saying the right things to get elected. Understanding this
principle, not even if John Kerry was the reincarnation of
Kropotkin himself, with a master plan to bring about communism
in four years, he would not get our vote.

There is a lack of strategy within the anarchist movement, and a
deep-seated sense of hopelessness in the emergence of popular
power within the U.S. left more generally. This is reflected both
in the tone of exasperation in which some anarchists refer to this
election, and in the baseless assertion that the election can be
used build popular power.

The means of revolutionary change should be coherent with the
end goals of revolutionaries. As Anarchist-Communists, our end
goal is the empowerment of the people - collective power as
opposed to the individual power of a few. We want to see a world
without war, racism and imperialism. Our means of achieving
these goals cannot promote the capitalist structure that creates the
systems of oppression that we are fighting.

On building a revolutionary movement, you can't fake the funk.
We cannot support the repressive politics of John Kerry while
trying to fight repression in general. Anarchists cannot go to the
people and organize them to support the structure that anarchists
want to abolish. This inconsistency of position is strategically
dangerous and will destroy the little credibility that anarchist
organizers might enjoy.

More than that, organizing should be a platform for empowering
people so they realize their ability to change the world. Organizing
is the space in which a new vision of the world is built. This vision
needs to be present in the everyday actions of the people. When
workers come together and strategize on how to confront the
boss, when communities plan how to improve their lot or how to
defend themselves against attacks, they create the idea of a
parallel power, one that can counteract the idea of people?s
impotence.

Organizing people to vote for a presidential candidate is not
revolutionary politics. It undermines the idea of people?s
self-reliance and shifts the power dynamics by creating the belief
that change needs to come from above. To reinforce the
hegemony of the ruling-class, the oppressed classes need to
believe that the position of the ruling-class is justified. If we are to
break away from such a pattern, people need to develop a
conscious sense of the uselessness of the bourgeois structure.
We should not get trapped in the swamp of the reactionary
opportunism that leads us into reformism, like the anti-Bush hype
created by the liberals. While we fight Bush, and we target Bush,
we need to always keep in mind that the enemy is a ruling class as
a whole, Republicans or Democrats.
The danger of falling into this trap stems from a lack of any clear
program to move towards revolution. This lack of strategy leads
those that want to create change to be ready to oppose anything
that looks bad and support anything that looks good, without a
clear analysis of how this fits into the revolutionary process. Even
if John Kerry was better than Bush, to promote the election of the
candidate for the Democratic Party does not fit the purpose of the
empowerment of the people and therefore is not part of a
revolutionary process.

This lack of strategy, coupled with the distance that most
anarchists have from everyday people, is the source of the
desperate thinking, which lead into reformism. Getting in contact
with people and organizing with them in their issues and in what
they think is important, that is the role that anarchists should be
taking.

This point needs some clarification though. Organizing with
people does not mean to uncritically accept anything that people
say. If we are to be sincere, when organizing we will find all kinds
of people - from those that don?t vote, can?t vote, vote
conservative, vote liberal, etc... It is the role of the organizer to
bring out the difficult questions and give people new parameters of
possibility, of what can be accomplished by their own hands, not
to confine them in the structure of the party system.

An alternative vision is needed. As social revolutionaries, we
oppose both the tendency for reformism and the one from those
like Anarchy Magazine and its editorial, which stands in the
sidelines, heckling at others but never proposing a program or an
alternative. These armchair activists, lacking of any social base or
connection to everyday people, are worse then the pro-Kerry
anarchists, who, despite having a bad program, at least are trying
to develop some kind of concrete strategy to challenge the
capitalist structure - while these pseudo-theoreticians sit in their
high horse and whine about the world but never work to change it.

We propose that serious anarchists should work to build popular
power. While all this fuss is being raised about the elections,
social movements are springing up everywhere in the midst of the
people, and it is our responsibility to be in the front lines. Not
fighting for the people, as activists, but fighting with the people, as
organizers.

In the long run, it makes no difference who people vote for. A
worker that votes for Bush on the 2nd might go on strike against
the boss on the 3rd. It is not about who people vote for, but the
actions in which they engage that define the revolutionary value of
it.


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