Part 2 of a two-part dialogue. For part 1, see here.
I think John Rummel has touched on what could usefully be on every political/community/workplace agenda – from the left to the center: how to kick it up a notch. (John has clearly been on the Food Channel with Emeril Legasse!).
I agree with John – a transformational era, including a transformational presidency, is made from many streams and directions. The great labor, populist and political mobilizations and conflicts of the great depression and World War II, alongside a personal struggle with polio, are said to have been pillars upon which Roosevelt founded his supreme confidence in his own judgment, a feature of his character that permitted him to weather heavy opposition and even let loose the NLRA upon his adversaries – who were from his own class in society. Favorable and unfavorable biographers are united on this record. One cannot waver, tack, retreat if necessary to advance, but never stand still or be moved backwards from progress. On the other hand, presidents must contend directly with the forces and interests at hand NOW. If the forces behind your position are not sufficiently in motion, they won’t be seen, and a well-intentioned presidents could not invite them to the table even if he wanted to.
Kicking it up a notch means an order of magnitude increase in activity. If you brought only yourself to the last meeting, bring one more. If you brought two before, bring four. If you brought four, then 16 this time.
It turns out that talking to friends explicitly about political activity works better at “kicking it up a notch” if the activity can be concentrated, that is, focused, however small the starting group may be. Getting it right is many times a trial and error process, a process that does not work unless groups are sharing experiences toward a common objective.
So selecting focus is first. If you do not already have focus, its clear that jobs is first. But moving the country in a progressive direction is a multi-sided process. We can’t get there on jobs, or anything else, if health care is left behind and a year’s sweat on that results in NO BILL. That is a prescription for disaster in the mid-term November elections.
Other than political junkies and professionals, most folks get in motion around local issues. Of course more and more local issues are directly connected to broader questions in the economic crisis, so fully developing their potential naturally leads to convergence. Despite ACORN’s recent difficulties, or because of them, the right-wing focus on neutralizing Obama’s most grassroots voter-turnout-oriented base tells a tale in itself on how important this level of participatory democracy is becoming in determining the fate of the Obama coalition.
The right has responded to the their electoral defeat in 2008 with at first a guerrilla, and now frontal, counterattack. The consequences of their actions on the current economic crisis are not really considered at all, beyond a few hat tips. They are keeping the gasoline pouring on the coals they know are heating up in working class communities across this land. If folks become enraged someone sure enough will fly an airplane into an IRS building; and many more are likely barely able to keep their hats on from frustration much of this time.
The focus on China, Toyota, the attentions lavished on the Blue Dogs, the coordinated attack on Greece by stock speculators, are indications the political fallout from the wreckage still ongoing from the financial crisis may be just beginning. Stiff conflicts between different business sectors reflects the global and national restructuring processes under way, and that are hardly complete.
Extensions to unemployment may soon run out – at which point unemployment will start to become the leading not lagging indicator of our economic future.
It’s easy to be distracted – you have to be willing to test yourself: is there a neighbor-to-neighbor aspect to political activity you engage in? Is there money at stake in what you are doing? You have to answer yes to both.
Having said this, and liking John’s focus, I do not agree that the slogans should focus primarily on “defeat of the ultra-right,” any more than I think Gus Hall was correct in a main slogan like “the all people’s front against Reaganism”. Why? Because both are defensive slogans. Gus’s was then, too. Obviously I am not saying there is not a defensive aspect to mobilizations – people get into motion usually EXACTLY to defend themselves, not primarily to attack. And such slogans are appropriate for getting people into the street – but it’s not the basis for sustainable organizations or coalitions, nor honest and truthful election campaigns. There, the forward vision – from where we are now to where we all (mostly) want to be, and our skill at navigating it – is what counts!
Key to that is a positive – and realistic – spelling out of specifically what a sustainable, significantly more democratic society can practically achieve in terms of an improved standard of living, and greater peace, for our people.
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