Re: [sixties-l] Value of street demos

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: Thu Aug 17 2000 - 17:31:42 CUT

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    Back from vacation and jumping into this one a bit --timely, given LA & Philly.
    I would argue that demonstrations are both inevitable and necessary to the degree
    that the electoral (and legislative/policy-making, and media) system(s) is closed
    to the points of view represented by the demonstrators. And quite clearly,
    recall the 60s, demonstrations have the ability to build momentum and trigger a
    response from the mainstream political system & media --witness, most
    effectively, the civil rights movement. But, the real problem, as I see it, is
    that demonstrations that are trying to articulate a radical critique --a critique
    of the system which encompasses media, legislatures, & elections-- find that the
    media are closed off to that point of view, to a radical critique. Mainstream
    media are no more capable of comprehending truly radical criticism, than they
    are of disassociating from & ignoring market imperatives. That's why we see so
    many articles on the recent LA-Philly demonstrations that, well, just don't 'get
    it,' that are asking 'what DO these people want?' [And of course, that other side
    of the media --very much market driven-- is riveted by the various manifestations
    of the "alien other" represented in the 'bizarre' behaviors, attire, etc. (and,
    yes, age) of protesters.
    So, it's a very tough dilemma. Electoral politics, by itself, is but a shell
    game, even with Ralph on the ballot (note the blanketing of Ralph-the-spoiler
    articles that began to appear as soon as he showed up on the poll/radar of the
    media. Street demonstrations (and other effective visual actions) are a
    necessary part of the puzzle, but that doesn't remove the need for them to be
    very mindful of ways of 'sneaking' their message through to people --something it
    seems to me they are increasingly not doing (since Seattle). And, plain old
    face-to-face (and internet) organizing is also a necessary piece of the puzzle.

    All completely reminiscent of the 60s, I'd suggest..

    Ted Morgan

    Marty Jezer wrote:

    > William is right in part. Street demonstrations were -- and are -- not the
    > road to power.
    > But they were and are a means of building a movement. Where the left has
    > always failed is translating protest energy into a means of vying for power
    > or of shaping public policy. Slogans aren't enough. And the best of
    > political theater is useless if there is no larger strategy to advance
    > specific programs or compete for power. In the sixties, there was little
    > faith in the electoral process. There still isn't and unless we have true
    > campaign finance reform -- i mean full public funding as in the clean money
    > reform -- the electoral process, as a means of gaining political power, is
    > pretty hollow. (But useful and necessary for minor reforms and as a means
    > of stopping bad stuff happening).
    > Marty Jezer

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