Sunday, October 26, 2014

1610. Why the San Francisco Bay Area's Call for "Getting Out the Vote" for Democrats Is a Grave Mistake

By Kamran Nayeri, October 26, 2014
Climate justice march in Oakland, California. 

The San Francisco Bay Area has issued a call to get out the vote for the Democratic party candidates in the mid-term U.S. election, especially in the close Senate races.  

In a dramatically titled October 25 email message “Your phone calls in the next 10 days may determine the fate of the world,” (my emphasis) it declares:

“The stakes for the climate are critical in the Tuesday, Nov 4th elections.  It's best for the climate if the Democrats do well in the midterms. Terrible otherwise.  It is unusually important for grassroots people power to kick in now to Get Out The Vote (GOTV).  That's why 350 Bay Area is sending this rare call to help out in general elections.

“By signing up to call with MoveOn & Progressive Democrats of America, you will just be encouraging democratic voters to actually vote, not trying to change their mind about anything.
Please sign up for a shift -- or more than one -- now … at whatever time is convenient for you!
Sign up to make calls in these close Senate races:
Michigan to help elect Gary Peters.
South Dakota to help elect Rick Weiland.
Colorado to help elect Mark Udall.
North Carolina to help elect Kay Hagan.
Iowa to help elect Bruce Braley.
Kentucky to defeat Mitch McConnell.” (all emphases in the original) 

Democratic party is the graveyard of social movements
There is a long history of social movements being dragged into supporting the Democratic party, the graveyard of progressive movements in the U.S.  Witness the contemporary history of the labor movement, black liberation movement, woman liberation movement, and the environmentalist movement. Every major victory for any of these movements had come when they mobilized mass actions in the streets not when they followed a policy of getting Democrats elected.  When the latter “strategy” dominated, the mass base of these movements were demobilized expect to get them to vote for Democrats on the election day. 

As such, labor and social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s proved ill-prepared when the capitalist offensive by the corporate elite and their government began in the aftermath of the  world recession of 1973-75 that signaled the end of the post-World War II capitalist prosperity.  The leadership of these movements that have relayed on the Democratic party politicians to gain a few concession in exchange for political support for the capitalist policies of this party proved unable to resist the class war that ensued and continues to this day.   Both Republican and Democratic parties participated in this class warfare, although they employed different tactics.  Without any serious mobilization to resist these attacks, the demobilized mass base of the labor and social movements became demoralized. 

This why major environmentalist group today are reduced to Internet “campaigns” that call on their supporters to “take action” on the crisis of the day by clicking a button to send a message to this or that politician or office pleading to save this or that species, habitat, ecosystem, etc.   From a proactive movement, they have become reactive bureaucratic organizations that are not even interested in mass mobilization and street actions.   Clearly, this has been a losing game. 

The reason stands out from the main environmentalist groups is that it has resorted to focused grassroots mass actions that have successfully mobilized hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and inspired others to do the same worldwide.  The People’s Climate March is a shining example of that approach (for my brief discussion of it see here).  What we can learn from that experience is to educate, organize and mobilize more people for larger streets actions, not to ask them to elect Democrats! 

By claiming that the “next 10 days will determine the fate of the world” by electing Democrats the San Francisco Bay Area leaders make the same exact mistake that the leaders of labor and social movements, including the environmentalist movement, have committed to disastrous result.  There is no reason to make the same mistake again!

The need for an alternative to the capitalist order
Instead what is required is forging an alternative leadership to the Democratic and Republican parties that represents the interests of the 99% of the peoples of the planet and a program that ensure social and environmental justice.  We need a series of immediate and transitional demands to stop and reverse climate change and to educate, organize and mobilize in election time and beyond.  Recent reports show that in some local and state elections even Republican candidates are forced to adopt a climate friendly approach.  By resorting to get out the vote for Democrats the activists will miss an opportunity that the election time offers.  The planetary crisis, including global warming and catastrophic climate change, require radical changes to Our Way of Life mediated by the capitalist social relations of production on the global scale.  Thus, to claim that electing a few more Democratic politicians will change the “fate of the world” is ignorant at best and a disservice to the activists of the environmental movement.  

The social and planetary crisis of our day are really one and the same problem.  It is the crisis of the age of Anthropocene that began with the Agricultural Revolution to control and dominate nature on which we are but a tiny part. This alienation from nature prepared for social and individual alienation.  The global capitalist cultural and economy is the modern day manifestation of the Anthropcene.  To overcome it we need to rebuild human society from the grounds up.  To think that electing a few more Democrats to the Senate can substitute for such deep going task is to fool oneself into accepting the status quo with minor modifications. It will not address the root-cause the planetary crisis, including climate change, and social crisis.  We need a radical solution to the world problem—radical in the sense of going to the roots of the problems we face. 

Nothing less will do and humanity cannot afford committing the same errors leaderships of the labor and social movements have done for decades once again. There is precious little time for us to learn quickly, stand on our own feet and act as leaders not flowers of capitalist parties.

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