portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

actions & protests | community building | political theory

Bored With Third Party Politics

Where our focus should lie...
Bored With Third Party Politics: Where Our Focus Should Lie

How long will it take until progressives realize that organizing around a third party is a waste of time? The wasted time and resources that people put into this "movement" is immeasurable when we consider the more constructive efforts we could redirect it towards. We do not have to look far to see the reality that exists: the electoral system is rigged to keep out alternatives and if an alternative does emerge to become a mainstream political party, it will indeed become mainstream in every way. The Green Party of Germany is a great example of what happens as the formerly pacifist party has now become a supporter of war and imperialism. Great social movements or the lack thereof determine the direction of our lives, not elections.

I think that it is important for us to focus on real, practical changes in our local communities. We have relied on the state to protect us and aid us for far too long. The fascist regime in the US serves as a wake up call to all of us fighting for a more just world. Even after the defeat of the fascists we will still face a country that has shifted far right. If John Kerry is elected, we will have an opening that we do not have currently have under Bush. We will have the wiggle room we have been missing for the past 4 years. But, the fact still remains that this is just the beginning. The world is at a crossroad and it is doubtful that Kerry will move in the right direction on his own. He will spend much time after the election proving he is just as tough and militaristic as Bush.

So, I believe a positive move for all of us is to refocus and move toward creating a model of what our future will be. How many of us, in our most visionary ideal, see state socialism as our goal? Not many. I think that most of us believe in the power of people to determine their own future. This can only happen through self and collective empowerment. This can only happen with self- organization. And, this is NOT an abstract idea, but can be practically instituted.

If we look at the autonomous movement of indigenous people in Mexico, we see an interesting model to look at. Last year, the Zapatista army officially resigned from its role as the center of political power in the communities of resistance. It was a bold and courageous move because as Subcommandante Marcos said those in the military cannot bring peace and leadership. It must come from civil society. The roots started after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. The ruling party, the PRI, for the first time did not respond in a paternal and authoritarian way. They provided no leadership whatsoever. People banded together to create their own rescue teams, their own aid workers, their own political leadership. And, in many ways, the EZLN grew out of that.

When the political power came back to the communities an amazing thing happened. They set up autonomous courts, schools, and hospitals. The courts or tribunals quickly became a source of fairness for EVERYONE. Indigenous people that were previously opposed to the Zapatista movement, that were aligned with the political parties or even with the paramilitary started to come to the autonomous courts for judgements. The council of judges apparently ruled in favor of who deserved it, rather than who was a supporter of the EZLN or not. What a great step forward through the model leadership of the Zapatistas! Hospitals, although lacking in medicine, provide help for all people, regardless of political view. The schools teach indigneous children that their culture has worth, that their language has worth.

What a great step forward if our communities that are full of neglected schools, run down hospitals, and corrupt courts began to form their own. It's only a first step, but it's an important one. It sure is more empowering than marching once every few months and then going home to watch the war in Iraq on television or hoping that Ralph Nader might pull the country to the left. These are concrete changes that haven't occurred since the free breakfast program and community health clinics provided by the Black Panther Party. These are really radical measures because they truly create a positive change. No doubt it would make those in power very nervous. What was the reaction of the US government following the social programs inacted by the Black Panthers? They started the US school breakfast program and began to put more money in those communities because they understood that the BPP was creating an alternative model to the almighty state.

Real, grassroot change is real democracy. The real impact will be in our rejection of the state and capital as paternalist dictators of our lives. We must create the new world with our hands, or otherwise it will remain an idealistic dream.
Absent total Revolution, third parties are our only hope! 03.Jun.2004 13:42


With all due respect....

It is the cowardly and the lazy who claim that fundamental sweeping change can not become a reality in the United States today.

The reality is this.
If this perverted out of control monster otherwise known as American capitalism can ever be stopped and representative democracy returned to the people void of total bloody revolution, it will have to be as a result of the so-called "progressives" doing the hard work necessary to bring about those reforms.

Furthermore, it is labels like "liberals", "leftists", "progressives", "anarchists", etc. etc. that are the roots of the neverending division on the "left" that has been fed to you by the very same interests who seek to divide us.
I am a little bit of all these things liberal, and an anarchist, and a progressive, a socialist, an anarcho primitive, and a seeker of truth and freedom.
I am not one thing and I will not allow shortsighted ego driven psudeo intellectuals try to put me in a category in an effort to find differences that are outweighed by our commonality.
They want you to give up.
They want you to believe you can not create real change.
The question is will you let them convince you because you are too lazy to try?

The truth is nobody can say for sure what can happen and the direction certain types of grassroots led changes can bring about in a short amount of time. All we can do is make evaluations based on past experiences and current power structures that are on the verge of collapse already.
In other words, there is much to be hopeful about although it is the worst of times and the best of times at the same time.

It should be obvious to even the most jingoistic among us that our current "two wing one party" system is not representing the majority of this country and the interests of the common person.
Even the "comfortable flagwavers in denial" know deep down that we have some major problems that are only getting worse.

"Peak oil" and the coming environmental collapse even has the boys at the Pentagon very concerned that they will be able to maintain their grip on power. Add to that the fact that the American public are slowly and stubbornly awakening from their slumber and sheep-like lives to understand that USA 2004 is not the American dream.
While true reform may not have been possible in the past in this corporate controlled bought and sold democracy, that may not be the case in the future.
There is reason to see opportunity for real change.

If we were to eliminate the current political duopoly and have viable alternative political parties, we could begin the long process of recapturing our democracy. We could bring about real campaign finance reform, we could implement proportional representation, we could bring about instant runoff voting, we could bring about major sweeping electoral reforms that would drastically change the way in which this country operates thus changing the entire global picture.

Bottom line, if that sounds idealistic and unrealistic to you, I say you might be right.
But you might be wrong as well.
Absent viable third parties and real electoral reforms, we are doomed regardless.

For if we only speak of dumpster diving and the revolution to come, while standing on the sidelines scoffing at single issue reformist failures while some multi-national corporation comes into our city and buys our electric company and the assets we already paid for, we are failing ourselves and are no more intelligent than the jingoists in denial or those who seek to label rather than "do".

When Emma Goldman began to question her involvement as an activist when the revolution began to turn into something much different than they had envisioned, John Reed told her that "a revolution is a raging river that knows no path."

Seeking an unknown path may sound romantic and speaking of single issues and reform may sound unrealistic, but at least I will die knowing I tried to something instead of using abstract unrealistic and unworkable notions of post revolution societies as a way to sit on my ass.

We can do more than one thing 03.Jun.2004 15:28

George Bender

I agree with the main thrust of this article. It's a great idea to set up alternative, nongovernment institutions when you can. There are limits. It is very expensive to run a hospital, so how do you get the money if you don't have taxing power? There are a lot of nonprofits around who try to help people, but they are constantly struggling for money. In some cases you can substitute labor, as in food buying coops.

I disagree about ignoring politics. It can make a difference, and there is no reason to do just one tactic. Eugene recently elected a liberal majority of the city council/mayor (mayor votes to break ties), taking power away from the business people.

In politics, power for the left means being a threat. Ralph Nader is a threat to the Democrats -- he can make them lose the election -- and that's why I'm supporting him. We need to force the Democrats, kicking and screaming, to the left.

The problem I have with the Greens is that they're not willing to be a threat. I'm afraid that is going to make them irrelevant, at least in the presidential election. Their approach seems too vague and unfocused, sort of New Age Political Science 101. They need to sharpen their point.