[sixties-l] [Fwd: ZNet Commentaries / Aug 4 / Ted Glick / Leftists and Movements]

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Thu Aug 17 2000 - 17:45:49 CUT

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    Leftists and Popular Movements
    By Ted Glick

    There are a number of reasons why some of those who are left
    of center in the United States have not yet decided to
    support the Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke Green Party
    independent Presidential campaign. Some have the usual
    "lesser of two evils" arguments, with the fear of Attila the
    Hun-like Supreme Court nominations often being at the top of
    the list. Others have problems with Nader because he has a
    poor track record when it comes to speaking out in the past
    on certain issues; e.g., police brutality, affirmative
    action, reproductive rights, lesbian/gay rights and peace
    issues. Although he is now speaking to them during his Green
    Party Presidential campaign, some activists still question
    the depth of his commitment to "doing the right thing" on
    these issues.

    Then there are those who don't support Nader because he's
    not a socialist, or is not radical enough.

    At the risk of offending some friends, I have to take issue
    with those in this latter category. I think that this
    approach is reflective of a larger problem among some
    sections of the political Left.

    Why has the Left in this country been so relatively small
    and ineffective? There are many reasons, among them: the
    strength of individualism and competitive ideology, racism
    and racial divisions, a winner-take-all electoral system, a
    population with a large percentage of middle-income people,
    and repression and/or cooption of union organizing efforts,
    anti-racist activism and leftists. Also significant,
    however, has been a long history of sectarianism and

    Too many leftists have not grasped one of the most
    fundamental, most basic lessons from history when it comes
    to major social transformation: masses of people in motion
    make history. Relatively small groups of organizers, no
    matter how dedicated or skillful, cannot by themselves
    overturn structures of injustice and oppression.

    Our role as organizers, more than anything else, is to play
    a connecting and leavening role, helping broader and broader
    numbers of people become active with others as they learn
    through experience that only by doing so can their
    conditions improve.

    What do I mean by "masses of people?" If we are talking
    about something as big as an actual struggle for power, for
    control of the government, which is ultimately what those of
    us who are serious about change have to see as our objective
    down the road, then we have to be talking millions,
    eventually tens of millions of people involved or
    supportive. Nothing else stands a chance against a ruling
    group as powerful as the tiny minority of ultra-rich
    individuals who stand astride the commanding heights of the
    corporate economy and the corporate-controlled government.

    The United States is not a country with a history of mass
    socialist or communist parties as is true in western Europe,
    Japan and other parts of the world. Movements of opposition
    to the rule of corporate capital in this country have been
    programmatic and issue-based and not ideologically-driven,
    even when there are those within them whose work is
    ideologically-based. There is a relative paucity of
    knowledge within the U.S. population about Marxism,
    socialism, communism, anarchism and other historic Left
    ideological traditions, primarily due to government
    repression and mass media distortions of those ideologies.

    Within this political context, it is unrealistic in the
    extreme to think that the way in which a broadly-based,
    popular movement for fundamental change is going to emerge
    is through an emphasis on socialist education, or the
    building of an ideologically-based political organization.
    It is not that these cannot be of value and even of
    significant value, long-term. But that value, that political
    impact, will only come to pass if a politically less
    radical, more populist, more issue-driven and program-based
    alternative emerges, grows and eventually succeeds in its
    objective of winning political power.

    Those who are ideologically-driven need to swim in that
    people's ocean, interact personally and politically with
    "the masses." They need to learn how to talk to, influence
    and learn from working people from a wide range of
    backgrounds and with a mix of different ideas, some
    progressive, some conservative, some confused and some just
    plain common sense.

    Progressive electoral campaigns, with candidates who are
    articulate and democratic in their approach to the campaign,
    can be one of the most effective ways to put forward a
    comprehensive, alternative vision of change. Such campaigns
    can plant the seeds to help increasing numbers of people
    grow in their understanding of our political/economic
    reality and their commitment to being part of the process of
    altering it.

    They can also be an important arena for ideologically-based
    leftists to test their ideas in practice, gather signatures,
    ask for money, motivate people to come out and vote. In this
    way they can discover the extent to which their ideas match
    with reality. And as a result, the two can become more
    closely aligned.

    Maybe then we'll see the emergence of a 21st century
    organized Left in this country that is unlike any we've seen
    for decades: playing a significant role in a broadly-based,
    popular movement to take back our government from the
    corporate criminals who control it now. Let's speed the day!

     Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent
    Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org). His first book,
    Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society, has just
    been published. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1132,
    Bloomfield, N.J. 07003 or futurehopeTG@aol.com.

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