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

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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

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  • "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."
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    Joe Pecinovsky pretty much has me positively engaged for most of this article. but on his absolute last sentence, i must nit-pick.............

    The people who raise those "other" questions do not necessarily ignore the balance of power. They may see that balance differently and draw other conclusions about the efficacy of elections. or even their relevance.

    after all, it's been estimated that a majority of people don't register to vote who are eligible. this is before we get to those of us who are kept off of the rolls because of prior court convictions, tampering with the rolls, the lack of genuine third party alternatives, etc.......

    and then of those registered to vote, how many actually voted? even in the historic election of two years back?

    i state these facts because there are some forces on our side of the barricades who gloat over this fact. a marxist would agree with frederick engels who when writing about u.s. elections in the 1880s noted that elections were a gauge of the maturity of the working class. now a critical mass of the u.s. working class votes. that they continue to vote year after year for the political leadership that will least pick their pockets, and then to glorify this behavior as an understanding and sophistication about political power, is not my idea of maturity. it is more in league with the famous definition of madness: trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

    i'm going to vote, and urge others to vote. after all i don't want the u.s. senate to go republican because we in california couldn't reelect barbara boxer. and i will vote for jerry brown over meg whitman as governor of california. but i will do so wearing a gigantic clothespin over my nose. i will carry a barf bag into the polling booth because i don't want to throw up in disgust and thereby prevent someone else from exercising their democratic right that's been paid for in blood by members of my class.

    but let's not accuse those who raise "other" questions as doing a "disservice". they may be raising important questions that maybe should guide our work....or at least be taken into consideration. we are a small left. we do not have the luxury, let alone the right, to make ourselves smaller.

    Posted by gary hicks, 10/11/2010 5:56pm (4 years ago)

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