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IN THE TIME OF KINGS, THE PEASANTS SHARPEN THEIR KNIVES: Anarchists and the 2004 Election

by Furious Five Thursday, Nov. 04, 2004 at 10:09 AM
raven1015@yahoo.com

A statement on the 2004 elections by a Anarchist-Communist point of view that analyzes the reasons to reject the reformist pro-Kerry stance and puts forward an alternative vision of building popular and revolutionary movements.

IN THE TIME OF KINGS, THE PEASANTS SHARPEN THEIR KNIVES: Anarchists and the 2004 Elections

A Statement by the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective in San Jose, CA

raven1015@yahoo.colm

"What this country needs is more unemployed politicians."

Angela Davis

The 2004 presidential elections have stirred quite a commotion in the American left, from ballot-fetishist liberals all the way to the traditionally anti-voting anarchists. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when the largest debate in the anarchist milieu is our choice of oppressors - and the debate has escalated to such a point in which we see ourselves forced to enter it. Yet we shall take this as an opportunity to analyze some deeper questions about the anarchist movement and some of the problems that plague us.

Those that defend the involvement in this election argue that this is a pragmatist approach, that it is about time anarchists reevaluate their positions and tactics, and face the realities of the 21st Century. They criticize the traditional anarchist stance as a moralist one, that cannot hold to the perils of another four years of the Bush administration.

As revolutionaries, we should not be taking moral stands against this or that situation, but we should analyze those situations critically and understand how they promote or hinder the revolutionary process. Our business is the business of revolution. If we claim the title of revolutionaries then we owe it to make revolution. And it is as revolutionaries that we see electing John Kerry for president as part of a counterrevolutionary process, not a revolutionary one.

Some argue that the small difference between candidates might represent a huge impact on the lives of the poor, working-class, people of color, queer and other oppressed groups in our society. They claim that this difference is enough for us to suck it up and cast the reluctant vote for John Kerry.

It is exactly pragmatism and strategic thinking that leads us to reject advocacy for Kerry. We do not oppose electoral politics out of principle, neither do we think that voting is always bad. Yet we need to analyze this situation critically beyond the assumptions, looking at the historical example of when similar situations happened and what the results of people?s actions were. Through such a critical analysis, we do not see voting as a part of an overall strategy leading to revolution. First of all, most of the people defending the Kerry vote like to throw all types of voting in the same bag - like voting against a Ward Connelly initiative and the Anyone But Bush vote could possibly be put in the same category. For example, Proposition 66 (which would reform the three strikes law in California) will represent a concrete gain for communities of color - the three-strikes law is a strong attack to our communities and we feel that its end is a positive development. John Kerry is not a bill, however. John Kerry represents a right-wing form of politics, and one that will only have a negative impact in our communities. Therefore, we see no reason to support him.

To dispel the myths around the Presidential election is necessary because, first of all, Bush is an easy target. He is not bright, not efficient and left a huge mess in his wake, a mess that can be easily traced back to his own right thinking. It is really easy to hate the devil because he is ugly - but to expose the lying face of the angel is the hardest part, especially if you are constantly looking at how terrifying the devil is. While Kerry is hardly an angel, the more we concentrate on how we dislike Bush, the more we are willing to swallow the Kerry pill.

"They are barbarians, and I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture and kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes. Period." (Reuters Oct. 29 2004) This kind of crusader rhetoric would make liberals and ABBer's cringe and denounce the war-mongerism embedded in it, if it had come from the mouth of George W. Bush. Since it came from John Kerry, the liberal horde is silent. If we are to oppose imperialism, we should do it consistently - not denounce when it comes from one side, and be tolerant when it comes from another.

Bill Clinton, who the liberals seem to love with a blind passion, was able to implement the worst parts of the conservative agenda of George H. W. Bush, without much of a fuss being raised about it, except maybe during the Battle of Seattle. Three wars (Somalia, Kosovo and bombing and sanctions of Iraq), NAFTA, welfare reform, reduced access to abortion and increased access to prisons and the death penalty - Clinton was the most successful Republican president of the recent years. The Democrats as a party traditionally use a more liberal rhetoric, but as soon as they take office, they shift increasingly more to the right. Kerry himself is not even using a more liberal rhetoric - he is parodying the right-wing agenda to the T. "Four thousand people a day are coming across the border. The fact is that we now have people from the Middle East, allegedly, coming across the border... The fact is our borders are not as secure as they ought to be, and I'll make them secure" (John Kerry, Presidential Debate, Oct. 13 2004). Kerry is following the great tradition of racism and xenophobia of the Democratic Party, which, in the Clinton administration, implemented the Operation Gatekeeper, militarizing the U.S./Mexico border at the expense of billions of tax dollars. In an interview to Telemundo (July 1, 2004), John Kerry explicitly opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses in California - going against the immigrant rights movement in this state.

Now a few knowledgeable anarchists say that we should vote this racist in the White House, because he would help people of color. How? Some hold an almost alchemistic belief that the Kerry administration will behave itself different from the Bush administration, without any material proof or logical pattern behind it.

Americans, who some anarchists view as reactionary, ignorant masses, seem to understand what is going on and to remember the age-old popular knowledge - politicians lie. People polled by the New York Times (NYT, Oct. 19, 2004) are dissatisfied with the Bush administration, yet they see Kerry as a politician, that is only saying the right things to get elected. Understanding this principle, not even if John Kerry was the reincarnation of Kropotkin himself, with a master plan to bring about communism in four years, he would not get our vote.

There is a lack of strategy within the anarchist movement, and a deep-seated sense of hopelessness in the emergence of popular power within the U.S. left more generally. This is reflected both in the tone of exasperation in which some anarchists refer to this election, and in the baseless assertion that the election can be used build popular power.

The means of revolutionary change should be coherent with the end goals of revolutionaries. As Anarchist-Communists, our end goal is the empowerment of the people - collective power as opposed to the individual power of a few. We want to see a world without war, racism and imperialism. Our means of achieving these goals cannot promote the capitalist structure that creates the systems of oppression that we are fighting.

On building a revolutionary movement, you can't fake the funk. We cannot support the repressive politics of John Kerry while trying to fight repression in general. Anarchists cannot go to the people and organize them to support the structure that anarchists want to abolish. This inconsistency of position is strategically dangerous and will destroy the little credibility that anarchist organizers might enjoy.

More than that, organizing should be a platform for empowering people so they realize their ability to change the world. Organizing is the space in which a new vision of the world is built. This vision needs to be present in the everyday actions of the people. When workers come together and strategize on how to confront the boss, when communities plan how to improve their lot or how to defend themselves against attacks, they create the idea of a parallel power, one that can counteract the idea of people?s impotence.

Organizing people to vote for a presidential candidate is not revolutionary politics. It undermines the idea of people?s self-reliance and shifts the power dynamics by creating the belief that change needs to come from above. To reinforce the hegemony of the ruling-class, the oppressed classes need to believe that the position of the ruling-class is justified. If we are to break away from such a pattern, people need to develop a conscious sense of the uselessness of the bourgeois structure. We should not get trapped in the swamp of the reactionary opportunism that leads us into reformism, like the anti-Bush hype created by the liberals. While we fight Bush, and we target Bush, we need to always keep in mind that the enemy is a ruling class as a whole, Republicans or Democrats. The danger of falling into this trap stems from a lack of any clear program to move towards revolution. This lack of strategy leads those that want to create change to be ready to oppose anything that looks bad and support anything that looks good, without a clear analysis of how this fits into the revolutionary process. Even if John Kerry was better than Bush, to promote the election of the candidate for the Democratic Party does not fit the purpose of the empowerment of the people and therefore is not part of a revolutionary process.

This lack of strategy, coupled with the distance that most anarchists have from everyday people, is the source of the desperate thinking, which lead into reformism. Getting in contact with people and organizing with them in their issues and in what they think is important, that is the role that anarchists should be taking.

This point needs some clarification though. Organizing with people does not mean to uncritically accept anything that people say. If we are to be sincere, when organizing we will find all kinds of people - from those that don?t vote, can?t vote, vote conservative, vote liberal, etc... It is the role of the organizer to bring out the difficult questions and give people new parameters of possibility, of what can be accomplished by their own hands, not to confine them in the structure of the party system.

An alternative vision is needed. As social revolutionaries, we oppose both the tendency for reformism and the one from those like Anarchy Magazine and its editorial, which stands in the sidelines, heckling at others but never proposing a program or an alternative. These armchair activists, lacking of any social base or connection to everyday people, are worse then the pro-Kerry anarchists, who, despite having a bad program, at least are trying to develop some kind of concrete strategy to challenge the capitalist structure - while these pseudo-theoreticians sit in their high horse and whine about the world but never work to change it.

We propose that serious anarchists should work to build popular power. While all this fuss is being raised about the elections, social movements are springing up everywhere in the midst of the people, and it is our responsibility to be in the front lines. Not fighting for the people, as activists, but fighting with the people, as organizers.

In the long run, it makes no difference who people vote for. A worker that votes for Bush on the 2nd might go on strike against the boss on the 3rd. It is not about who people vote for, but the actions in which they engage that define the revolutionary value of it.

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