Saturday, January 28, 2012


Someone posted this on Facebook. I don't know if the great Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) actually said it but I'm sure it's true, and that the implications, for how we think about activism, the US political system, and party politics, are astounding.

Many people wonder why the Occupy Movement doesn't issue a list of demands and has shown no interest in electoral politics. They know what Lucy knew. Lucy was associated with the IWW, or Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World, which didn't get involved in politics. They knew, too. Change does not come through the ballot box, only by mass actions like protests, street demonstrations, strikes, boycotts.

The political system, as Lucy Parsons well knew, is tightly controlled. Candidates are vetted. In some places, like New Mexico, they must go through one of the two major parties to even get on the ballot. Even change that has come through the political system came only after and because of massive action outside the system, things that frighten the politicians and the moneyed interests who control the political system. Think of the Civil Rights movement, or the anti Vietnam War rallies when a million people demonstrated near the White House and President Nixon ordered that the buses that brought them be lined up around the White House. Only then did the endless "Paris Peace Talks" and Nixon's pronouncements of "peace with honor" end and the withdrawal of troops begin.

As the French Socialists under Francois Mitterand in the 1980s found out, and as Lula de Silva found out more recently in Brazil, and as America has begun to discover since 2008, you can vote in a Progressive government that has a Progressive agenda, but when Capitalism decides to withhold investment dollars or spend them somewhere else, the government soon changes its tune. Those who control Capitalism still control the economy, and as long as we depend on them for our jobs, they control us.

Looking at things from a longer view than from here to the next election, the 20th Century's rise in the standard of living of the working classes of America and Europe, to the point where they started to call us the Middle Class, began at exactly the same time as the Soviet Union and China were offering alternatives to Capitalism, and when, during the latter part of the 1800s and the early 1900s, Socialism was gaining in popularity in the US and Social Democratic governments were being voted in in Europe.  As soon as the Soviet Union broke up and Russia and the former Soviet satellite countries adopted Capitalism, and China's Communist Party converted China's economy to the Capitalist model, the increased standard of living that had been allowed the US and European working class began to be withdrawn.

The process is still underway. Wages are in decline as is our standard of living, according to our government's own statistics, and the process won't end until our standard of living is at what we now condescendingly call a third world level, as it was before the 1920s when, for example, 40 percent of Americans retired into poverty.

Marx talked about seizing the means of production, in other words, the factories, the supply chain, the resources, the transport systems. It's the only way, people.


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