Reform, the mid-term elections and the fight for power

There has been a lot of talk recently about the pace of political change. Some say it’s going too slow. Some say it’s going too fast. Some say we haven’t gone far enough. Still others claim we’ve gone too far.

However, there is a problem with this type of linear analysis: It projects static definitions of change. It projects change in a vacuum; absent are the intricate complexities of ongoing struggles for power. Ultimately, whether we are aware of it or not, our country is in the midst of a power struggle. And any honest analysis of the direction of our country has to take into account the balance of political power.

Power is the ability to control, create or prevent change. As such, any talk of change has to also deal with questions of political power. Without an understanding of this power, we are ill equipped to engage fully in the process of change.

In other words, if we don’t objectively understand our – and our enemies’ – strengths and weaknesses, how can we understand which terrain of struggle is most conducive to victory or defeat? Simply put, if we fail to conduct a proper power analysis, how do we know if we should be on the offensive or the defensive; how do we know if we are ready as a movement for more substantive change, or if we are facing a period of prolonged retrenchment?

Additionally, the struggle for reform is key to deciphering power relations. There is no better objective measure of power than the struggle for reform, as reform tests our movement’s ability to control, create or prevent change. Furthermore, the struggle for reform forces us to deal with complex questions of unity, of winning people and money to our side, as we cannot have a struggle for change without people and money.

At this moment, tens of thousands of union members, activists and community leaders are engaged in what could be a decisive moment in our nation’s history – the mid-term elections. Make no mistake about it: this is a question of power, of people and money mobilized.

At the same time, Wall Street CEOs, big banks and the health care industry are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of the November elections, while activating fringe elements in their right-wing base. No question, this is a fight for political power – from the other side.

So let’s be clear about one thing: The mid-term elections are about power – the power to move our country forward or to take us backwards. Anyone who doesn’t see that is missing the forest for the trees.

Furthermore, if we aren’t united, energized, enthusiastic and mobilized, if we lack the power to win the most immediate of struggles that we are confronted with – most importantly the mid-term elections – then all other possibility of more far-reaching reforms are jeopardized, as we will likely see a resurgent extreme right-wing Republican Party use every trick in the book to curtail democratic rights, workers’ rights and continue the failed policies of the Bush Administration, but worse.

So the only question for us (left, progressive and working-class folks) should be: What am I going to do between now and November 2? How many doors am I going to knock? How many people am I going to call? Who am I going to mobilize, energize and activate between now and November? What am I going to do to make sure that we can continue to move forward as a nation?

Any other question at this moment ignores the real, objective balance of political power and does a disservice to the struggle for immediate reforms and long-term systemic change.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / CC  BY-SA 3.0


Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.