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.