cannot be built on a foundation of illusions
in "saviors from above" like Ralph Nader
(an open letter to a supporter of
the Socialist Alternative organization)
I don't know you very well, but we have talked a bit at various actions. I have told you that the organization you support, Socialist Alternative, has severe weaknesses: mainly that it is essentially married to a social strata that is in orbit around the left wing of the Democracy Party.
I have told you that I would take a look at the literature of your organization and see if I could find a few articles which support my assertion.
The Sept-Oct issue of Justice (the SA newspaper) contains articles which I believe illustrate my point--and help to prove it.
There is an article titled "Democrats--a Party of Big Business" (pg 4) which concludes with the subheading "Build an Independent Political Movement". This article, of course, contains much that is true about the role of the Democrats. But what is the _purpose_ of this exposure of the Democrats?
The purpose of this article is explained by Mary Poppins (a movie character popular with pre-school children around the time I was your age) who sang a song with the catch phrase "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down".
The exposure of the Democrats (and the call for an independent movement) is the sugar. The promotion of illusions in the Nader campaign is the medicine.
The conclusion of the article says:"How can we stop the ruling class's offensive? The only practical solution is to build a mass movement from below. There is no denying this is a difficult task that will require enormous struggle by millions of people. [...] Workers and young people need to begin now to organize our own political party, to fight for our interests and organize a mass movement."
That is the sugar.
The last sentence of the article says (in parentheses):
"See page 6 for info on building an independent political alternative to the Democrats"
And page 6 is devoted to an article titled: "Why Nader should run in 2004"
That is the medicine.
The Nader article also contains much that is true (I won't bore you by repeating it all here). But what is significant is what the Nader article leaves out:
Ralph Nader (his campaign and his actions in general) is not independent of bourgeois influence and control. Rather than being independent of bourgeois control--it would be more accurate (and honest) to say that Nader is on a bourgeois leash. This leash is not always a short leash--and Nader has some freedom of movement (in the same way that a dog on a leash has freedom of movement--up until the time he reaches the limits of his leash).
With the assistance of a thousand levers, the bourgeoisie can reward or punish Nader with favorable or unfavorable publicity and many other actions which influence public opinion and the money which Nader's campaigns (and various institutions) receive.
But I don't need to explain this to you. The article on Nader itself lists a number of things that Nader _could_ have done (ie: speaking out against the corrupt 2000 election, taking part in the antiwar movement, etc) to deepen the recognition of the need for an alternative to bourgeois rule. Nader didn't do these things, of course, because he is on a leash.
And you know this. You understand, based on our previous conversations, that Nader is on a bourgeois leash.
But the Nader article in the SA paper does not say this anywhere--and repeatedly leads readers to believe that Nader has simply made a series of "mistakes".
This is corrupt.
Readers of the article will have many illusions in Nader because capitalist society promotes widespread illusions in everything Nader represents: the idea that some savior from above with name recognition will emerge to "do the right thing" and help us build a mass movement that is independent of bourgeois influence and control.
It is nothing but a fairy tale.
Nader is nothing but a Kucinich standing outside (in a formal sense) the Democratic Party. When the movement against bourgeois rule becomes large and powerful and radical--then liberals like Nader will be positions to _tame_ the movement--and shepherd the movement back into the "kill zone" where activists are passive; where activists are convinced of the need to abandon their militancy and their independent politics--and instead work within safe channels to elect sell-outs (like Nader) who will promise anything and deliver nothing--until the end of time--because they are on a bourgeois leash.
A third party will not be brought into existence--until the bourgoisie gives permission for such a party--in order to head off the motion of the masses in the direction of a movement that is independent from bourgeois influence. Such a third party will, fundamentally, be a third version of the two existing
parties--except that, in order to pacify the masses (and fool activists) it will promise the sun, the moon and the stars--as long as we give up real struggle.
Nader occupies a slightly different position in the political ecosystem than Kucinich. But Nader is like Kucinich in this fundamental way: he lives on a bourgeois leash and he will _never_ go further than the limits of his leash.
This is the fundamental truth that _every_ progressive activist needs to know about Nader. This is the fundamental truth that the SA article about Nader covers up. Rather, the SA article shows a photo of Nader holding a picket sign with one hand and giving a clenched fist salute with the other hand--as if he were "one of us" -- as if he were fundamentally on our side--and not
on a bourgeois leash.
* * * * * *
Now, I have to ask, _why_ the "Socialist Alternative" organization is incapable of telling the truth about Nader?
Is it simply a mistake on the part of SA--or something more fundamental?
I have expressed my opinion on this already: the SA is at the end of a very long tail. The SA is married to a strata of society that is deeply corrupt--a strata of society that is incapable of being independent of bourgeois influence. If the SA were to tell the truth about Nader (that he is on a bourgeois leash, etc) this would alienate many of the SA's supporters and hurt the organization ... and so on ... and so on ... and so on.
Now--if you think I am mistaken about any of my assessment above--then my challenge is for you to reply to me. If you believe that the SA is capable of telling the masses the truth about Nader (or is currently telling the truth, etc)--then let me hear from you. I have posted this open letter to two of the
elists that I run (theorist and pof-200, see below). I will also post your reply (should you reply) to those same elists.
I believe that differences between revolutionary activists must not be hidden--but rather must be discussed in public--in the light of day: calmly and sincerely and in a principled way. I assert that this process of calm and principled discussion will be essential to the process of building a movement that is genuinely independent of bourgeois influence--and which is deserving of the respect and attention of the working class.
Sincerely and with revolutionary regards,
http://struggle.net/Ben (my elists / theory / infrastructure)