Originally published September 27, 2017
This piece is part of an ongoing debate within this collective, as well the mass organizations we’re involved in, about whether we can electorally transform society in ways that the oppressed need. It is a call for the nonnegotiable necessity of an independent revolutionary movement able to take initiative in long term strategic ways, a movement that has a separate apparatus, identity, program, and agenda than those that are part of the legal left. This means a movement whose defining unity is a profound radical change in society — toward a socialism that is not conceived as “welfare state writ large” or a bit of nationalization, but as a movement with a unified understanding of the need for the deep structural and uncompromising uprooting of empire, national oppression, the inequality of women and non-men, police and prisons, and the exploitation of one human by another. This piece will show what we strive for in the organizing projects, propaganda projects, and theoretical projects our members are involved in as it relates to elections. We encourage communists and non-communists alike to study this and criticize us as part of a living dialogue against strategies that urge us to abandon revolution for the system’s politic of the “real.”
A black hole occurs when millions of star’s worth of gas gets compressed into a supermassive space that sucks in matter for lightyears around it, depriving the local area of star making material. Eventually, as the star-building material gets locked up in black holes, white dwarfs and other star relics, the galaxy becomes fainter as the massive, short-lived stars wink out and only the long-lived red dwarfs remain. Eventually, these too will fade away, leaving a dead, dark and desolate galaxy filled with nothing but black holes, black dwarfs (White dwarfs that have cooled down) and the occasional cold, dead planet that survived its star’s death.
1. THE EVENT-HORIZON
The system and its ruling class generally push people, especially the proletariat, out of political life. Then, once every few years, it drops vast sums of money and energy to indoctrinate people in its politics which is the management of the state of affairs. And it mobilizes people temporarily in this ritualized process of electioneering and voting. This arena, and even these local elections here in the working class neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, are not an opportunity for revolutionaries, but one of the least advantageous times for conducting our politics – it is the place and time where revolutionary voices are blown away, and a relentless (and very reactionary!) logic grips. Some “socialists” don’t even feel the need to hide their opportunism, they don’t even feel the need to even imply that they see these sham elections that mean nothing to our class as somehow illegitimate, they explicitly invest money and support in running people for senate or city council, upholding this system, its offices, the constitution, “American democracy,” the due process of this racist lynching court system, the “will of the people,” and so on. Who are those that wish to push us into this black star – which has historically and will today swallow us, if we choose to steer our ship into it?
This goofball bunch of pig apologists, collaborators, NGO poverty pimps, and water carriers for the ruling class have gained momentum since the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle to City Council and Bernie Sanders’ nearly successful securing of the Democratic presidential candidacy. While us, poor people, alienated youth, black people, immigrants (especially the undocumented) become tense when cops arrive into a situation because we know that the police are the enemy. But these “socialists” see a potential Sheriff they can help elect. While we have mothers who warn us that confrontation with the police can lead to death, to swallow pride in front of magistrates and put on passive, non-hostile poker faces to not go to the jail, the Democratic Socialists of America see an excellent opportunity helping one run for office! In Brooklyn there was a DSA candidate for District Attorney in the Democratic primary and there is now a DSA city council candidate who works as a clergy liaison with the NYPD, the “stop and frisk” and mass surveillance police agency. In Pittsburgh we have the endorsement of Mik Pappas by the DSA to be the Magistrate of Garfield, East Liberty, Stanton Heights, Morningside, Upper Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Friendship, and Highland Park.
These neighborhoods are ground zero for urban displacement (what people call “gentrification”) in Pittsburgh, it’s where the smashed ruins of Penn Plaza are at, a housing complex which was sold to LG Realty to be turned into a Whole Foods for the new residents. Pappas’ office is actually located on Penn Avenue, a street in Garfield and Upper Lawrenceville that was once mostly Black, but that now caters to yoga studios, dog wash stores, art galleries, tech incubators, and other gentrifying businesses that aren’t there to suit the needs of the people in the neighborhood. In Pappas’ Magisterial district there was 650 landlord-tenant cases last year alone, data revealing deep economic trauma and abuse by politicians, city planners, developers, bankers, and landlords against the working class.
But will this end, or at least meaningfully mitigate, that trauma? No, we all know it will not. One sees that this politics that advocates a gamble in trauma mitigation is (in essence) liberal and social democratic, not communist and revolutionary. What is harmful though, is the pitch they are making to the revolution-inclined in the neighborhoods, those people who are ready to fight for their lives and for a new society. Its point is, inherently and rather consciously, the liquidation of independent communist work as “ultra left” and the promotion of an illusion that a stage of social democratic activism will create more favorable conditions for radical social change.
Pushing for elections, then, represents the liquidation of any militant anti-gentrification movement. It represents flying into the blackhole, running a campaign as nothing more than part of a immediate social movement protest around immediate demands, with “socialism” as a passing reference. It means never creating a revolutionary situation. What are some examples of elections liquidating militancy? And it’s also easy to talk about the liquidators, but what are the methods of initiating revolutionary struggle and gathering revolutionary forces?
2. LIQUIDATIONISM: THE BLACK HOLE OF STRUGGLE
History has showed that when phony “communists” in the USA entered into elections, it’s been both disastrous and a predictable joke—immediately upon entering the process of supporting ‘progressive’ candidates you enter into a process in which you find yourself supporting the empire, its enforcers, and its illusions. You find yourself arguing that domestic concessions are more important than opposing worldwide murder… and you’ll find yourself exaggerating the differences between different shades of imperialist and pro-police politics. Most important: You spend your time training anyone you meet, influence or lead in bourgeois politics (cut of the pie, budgetary approach to policy, inner-imperialist compromise, imperialist foreign policy, focus on reform at the margins, etc) rather than in proletarian politics. This is, in short, liquidationism—the reformist theory, strategy, and tactics of a capitalist reformist movement infiltrating and overcoming the revolutionary theory, strategy and tactics of a revolutionary communist movement through the latter entering into alignment with the former and thus losing its ability to fight. There are many examples of this in 20th century USA to help us guide our thinking on the question of liquidationism.
The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) supported the Democratic Party—from the inside and outside—since the 1936 Presidential election. It dumped the Trade Union Unity League and other mass worker organizations and marched them into the AFL-CIO. CPUSA became a junior partner within Roosevelt’s New Deal and World War coalition, which allowed it to rise to its greatest size in history – with hundreds of thousands of members – but as the left wing of the Democratic war coalition. It enforced “no strike” pledges in the industries it organized, dropped all pretenses of support for Puerto Rican independence as the “blood tax” (what they called the WW2 draft there) marched them as colonial subjects off to fight, and angrily attacked Communists in Alabama who chose to organize black sharecroppers, as this upset the Klan-affiliated Dixiecrats who were part of Roosevelt’s electoral coalition. For all this pandering and reactionary work, the CPUSA was then discarded and shattered when their good graces no longer served U.S. imperialism in its temporal and opportunistic alliance with the Soviet Union.
From there the CPUSA still supported Democratic candidates, with the exception of their third party attempt with Henry Wallace after WW2. They would also “run” their own Communist candidates, but mainly as a gimmick, so that their favored “progressive” Democrat could disavow Communist support (“how can you accuse me of association with the Communist Party, they are running someone against me!”)
In the Democratic primaries of 1968, thousands of antiwar college students went “Clean for Gene,” cutting their hair and straightening it. These efforts at first demobilized many people, while conversely, for all things are in contradiction, the 1968 Democratic National Convention showed who the gatekeepers of the Party were – and the riots that followed taught a harsh lesson against trusting in bourgeois elections and politicking.
But still afterwards quite a few sheepdoggers (i.e. those who gather up the people who drift away from their “rightful” bourgeois leaders”) continued their liquidationist work – for instance Carl Davidson, the Aliquippa DSA water-carrier for the Democrats. Davidson saw the George McGovern campaign in 1972 as an arena for finally pressing through the antiwar victory everyone had been fighting for. Not just liberals, but supposed leftist forces joined into the sheep dogging;, including, for example, Jane Fonda who had famously gone to North Vietnam and made a series of historically important defeatist statements, including in broadcasts to American GIs. More, the Vietnamese Workers Party urged revolutionaries to actively support McGovern. Curiously influenced by that, the Revolutionary Communist Party’s close collaborators in party-building at that time, the Black Workers Congress, was urging McGovern support. The word was put out (deceitfully) that “The Vietnamese are losing the war” — and that if we didn’t support McGovern, they might suffer a military collapse. This, again, caused considerable disorientation and confusion.
So where was the DSA during this? Its leader Michael Harrington was at first to the right of even Carl Davidson. As author of “The Other America,” the forces that grouped around Harrington were greatly encouraged by the rise of Lyndon Johnson to the U.S. presidency, especially with his attempt to formulate a “Great Society” of new social programs (wedded to the voting rights act), as a response to the struggles of black people for liberation.
The excitement over the liberal “domestic agenda” made the democratic socialists scared of the new antiwar movement, which had started during Kennedy’s opening of intervention in Vietnam. They used the rebating excuse of “communists” in the antiwar movement to take a distance. Today, funny enough, DSA members are still barred from being “a member of a Leninist organization,” just as back then they were wedded to an old and very reactionary 1950s policy of refusing to work in any coalition that included “the Stalinist totalitarians,” since (they argued) such a movement would not have any credibility in the USA. This was opportunism, considering that what they cared more about was seeking sympathy and possible allies in ruling class circles than the construction of an independent proletarian politics.
Michael Harrington’s intuitive sympathy for Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Humphrey meant that the democratic socialists were MIA in the creation of the greatest anti-imperialist movement in U.S. history (and it meant that, as a trend, they were not able to build themselves a new political current out of the 1960s revolutionaries even though the ground was as fertile for their trend as it was for others).
Later the DSA was instrumental in backing Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. Using a lot of self-deception and ignoring the dangers of again tailing liberal electoral campaigns, the DSA again never learned and walked into the wolfs den. Jackson then worked ruthlessly to dismantle (shatter!) those forces that had grouped around him, precisely so they could not operate as an independent force. How could he broker his career as a fixture within the Democratic Party if he allowed anything “independent” to operate? The aftermath of Sanders’ defeat, of which the DSA has done little summation or analysis, also showed a similar process of dismantlement, with an emphasis on a “political revolution” around supporting Hillary that came after.
These all should be raised as the cautionary tales they are. Analogies are difficult, and Bernie Sanders (for many reasons) will never simply be “today’s Lyndon Johnson” — even as he now emulates him in some ways by voting to escalate Trump’s Afghan war and aggression towards Korea. While this history should underscore the importance of opposing the U.S. government (whoever sits in the seats of power), and developing a revolutionary communist movement with real and proletarian independence from bourgeois machinations, initiative, and a public radical critique of the capitalist system itself, the DSA will continue smashing its head on the pavement, continuing Harrington’s tradition of being fascinated with the “domestic agenda” of liberals-in-power, and an ambivalent or paralyzed and paralyzing stand toward their attacks against the people.
When the social democrats, in this ambivalence, do not take a stand with the masses, it will prove forever unforgivable. The masses are watching. History is watching. These false socialists and their so-called progressive candidates will inevitably commit crime after crime against the people and their revolutionary initiative, and it will be necessary to resist their influence if we do not wish to capitulate totally to liquidation.
3. REFORM OR REVOLUTION?
|Freidrich Ebert, The Bern, and Mik Pappas
What then, is the path forward? Must we reinvent the wheel again, trying and failing to push progressive change through bourgeois politics? No, we say instead that we must make revolution, which is necessarily an illegal act. And moreover, we know that regardless of how kind-hearted or progressive an individual member of the ruling class may be (including a judge we helped elect, hoping for mutual back-scratching on that account), they will ultimately use both sugar-coated bullets (pandering, redirection of militant energy, and more) and real bullets to stop the masses from making revolution.
But because the revolutionary road may be difficult to grasp, because it is hard to imagine now in this environment of defeatism, dispassion, and disconnection from the masses, the legal left endlessly defers the question of revolution until such a time as our forces are “strong enough” or even sees revolution as part of a process of accumulating reforms within the system until some vague “socialism” is reached. It’s telling that such a deferral of revolutionary action never takes the form of actually building up fighting capacity, but instead engages in tailing trade unions, electioneering, organizing vigils and toothless demonstrations.
Bernstein, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) who was an opponent to more revolutionary enemies, said that talk of fighting was old-fashion as reforms would pave the way over time to socialism:
“All the speeches of the [SPD’s] representatives breathe reform…the social democrats [at that time the term meant communist––it wasn’t until after Bernstein and Kautsky that it became a slur for welfare capitalist ideology] formed an alliance with the middle-class democracy for the municipal elections, and their example was followed in other Wurtemberg towns. In the trade union movement one union after another proceeds to establish funds for out-of-work members, which practically means a giving up of the characteristics of a purely fighting coalition… Everywhere there is action for reform, action for social progress, action for the victory of democracy.”
Bernstein imagined that the reforms he passed was the same as revolution, when all it was doing was liquidating the movement there and leading to collaboration with fascism to quell those who stepped out of rank. Similar statements come from those on the legal left today – including the DSA.
Because social democratic politics refuses to break from bourgeois legality, from campaigning for someone who they hope will crush the people slightly less due to his innate kindness and legal understanding of how the criminal justice system works, they set the stage for when this innate kindness becomes trumped by the material conditions, the driving forces of capitalism. Kindness cannot stand up to market forces.
In this context, all these reformist promises that the DSA present will be dashed to pieces when Pappas turns on militant anti-gentrification and tenant struggle committee activists, on Communists, on tenants, and on workers, just as it was dashed to pieces when the Freikorps murdered Luxemburg and Liebknecht when Bernstein’s SPD, embedded as it was in electoral practice, had called upon and permitted these assassinations. Corpses speak the need to break, consciously and decisively, from the black hole of bourgeois legality and politics to build an actual communist movement.
4.“SPEAKING BITTERNESS”: THE ANATOMY OF REVOLUTION
How do we break from this disastrous road and build up our fight capacity, our class’ independent fighting capacity, over and against the insistence from the DSA and other reformist forces that such a break is premature, disastrous, and ultra-left? Such a break involves the development of independent organizations through armed struggle and revolutionary violence primarily, along with “legal” methods secondarily and subordinated to the formation of a fighting, militant Party, all derived from mass participation and the development of militant and communist leadership from among the masses. Such a break also means uniting and struggling with the “left wing” of social democratic parties and organizations, as good people can be in bad political projects, and as social democratic, reformist, and legalist organizations can nevertheless contain some elements of “spontaneous” mass character.
A revolutionary movement must first be unified theoretically and practically, and it needs to step outside of those institutions that are apparatuses of the bourgeois state. This must mean it must break from the very style of organizing that is limited by bourgeois legality. This must mean it has to develop three magic weapons, and it must do so concentrically through working class struggles and from within our neighborhoods themselves—these weapons are the revolutionary Party, the People’s Army, and the United Front. These weapons do not arise spontaneously in the process of working within institutions or projects beholden to capitalism, of being a paid staffer for a union or nonprofit, or of a campaign for a “progressive” candidates. They will only arise through the conscious combination legal and illegal methods, to prepare and strengthen those we live among the masses for confrontation with the enemy.
This means organizing the masses in “speaking bitterness,” which was the process by which the masses in China demanded, through popular committees, that overthrown landlords answer for their crimes. Speaking bitterness was and is about the development of common campaigns and actions which serve to create legitimized and accountable new systems of political command and authority. This a demand for confrontation which is material and real to the oppressed, that shows how our movement “represents” (and communicates) in ways that are beyond words, and that enter the realm of action. While we need a new written program and must tap people into macro questions of how society works, people often think at first about power and change on the micro scale, i.e. in ways that is immediate and material to them.
There are many ways into which the representation of “speaking bitterness” enters into our tactics, which are subordinated to a larger strategy of war, of moving the fight from the housing project to downtown. This may mean organizing struggle committees and tenants committees which confront landlords. This may mean organizing an illegal strike. This may mean targeting a well known and hated oppressor within the neighborhood, not just through art and propaganda, but through leading and announcing an attack on an enemy. In Turkey, for example, the DHKP-C (“the People’s Front”) is a Party with considerable influence in Küçük Armutl, a working class neighborhood near downtown Istanbul, to the point that the police only enter it in armored trucks, which are most often met with paint bombs, rocks, and Molotov cocktails. The gangs that would sell heroin in the neighborhood were often connected with the “land mafia,” a group of developers unafraid of using illegal methods of bulldozing with no notice and forced eviction without due process; these gangs murdered a member of DHKP-C who had demanded one of their dealers quit selling. The neighborhood was mobilized and responded by setting fire to the drug dealer’s home, chasing him out.
In Boyle Heights, a Chicanx and Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles that is also facing mass displacement, revolutionary Maoists organizing in Serve the People-Los Angeles and in Defend Boyle Heights mobilized the neighborhood against gentrifying art galleries. As part of this coalition they organized an un-permitted march, and signed and delivered eviction notices from the neighborhood by the order of the people of Boyle Heights, pasting them on the side of the buildings. Many art gallery owners who were stupid enough to come outside to confront the masses, in other similar actions, faced the wrath of the people. At one point, an unknown rightfully pissed member of the neighborhood graffitied “Stop White Art” on the front of one of the art galleries, which the racist LAPD chose to investigate as a hate crime. Pickets which have faced significant police harassment go on till today outside of a new coffee shop. These tactics have rightfully been named as “guerrilla” in nature, and commercial real estate developers see gentrification been carried out to its full fruition “eventually…but slower in pace” as a result of these tactics of moving the people to speak bitterness.
Those who focus on elections may be afraid to be near those who speak bitterness. Through the development of the class struggle, they’d be forced to acknowledge that armed struggle and revolutionary violence is the primary expression by which our class speaks, that phone-banking and door-knocking for candidates does not turn the masses active communists and rulers of a new society. To acknowledge this – that the masses learn revolution only by being revolutionarily – would be disastrous to their worldview, which sees “revolution” as a series of milquetoast reform struggles, not as militant refusals to abide by bourgeois legality. This pushing for people to vote, or to become members of a union, or any other series of legalist political orientations will not make revolution, for revolution is not made through gradually adding reforms until enough quantity produces a change in quality, as if by the stroke of Hegel’s pen.
4.2 Steps In Speaking Bitterness and the Potential Of Failure
To get to a point of organizing the people to “speak bitterness” we must first be where the people are actually at, physically and ideologically. If we are from alien class backgrounds, we take up proletarian jobs to demolish soft academic thinking and individualist pursuits of gluttonous luxury. We live among them and participate in their struggles, and in doing so, offer them guidance while also learning from them. This is defined by serving the people, as all communists should do. From beginning to participate in their struggles we find the most “advanced,” and it’s important to note the advanced doesn’t mean those with the most political know-how or even necessarily who the most ‘active’ are, but those that know intuitively that capitalism and white supremacy cannot be reformed or voted out. This is the case even if they use problematic language or if they don’t instantly know all the theory that more privileged people can easily grasp –their own ideas around explicit proposals of action and thoughts on relevant questions are the raw material that make speaking bitterness possible, so they should be collected.
There is potential of making an error of confirmation bias in mis-identifying the advanced, as we can’t possibly immediately know everyone in a whole neighborhood instantly. This error can be prevented in many ways. First, it’s important to develop actual links through living and forming relationships with our neighbors, hopefully all of them through time, so that we can become more understanding of all experiences, class backgrounds, and level of class consciousness. In doing this we avoid errors of discovering who the most militant leaders are, as our interactions are just a small part of a total working class neighborhood and the social matrix by which one advanced worker exists. While college ethnographers and social workers are in our neighborhoods within a limited timeframe, the microscope in which they examine working people’s day-to-day lives happens within a short time horizon – we on the other hand understand our agitation as long term, as these neighborhoods will experience oppression (and resistance!) that happens over a long cycle of time.
By taking these steps of avoiding premature and preemptory analysis, the advanced and their ideas can be consolidated into mass organizations and communist leadership – in other words, their raw material becomes concentrated in order to be given expression. With speaking bitterness being the physical action, the experiment of seeing if the collected ideas of the masses push steps forward in this protracted revolutionary process, the concentration and processing of such ideas, are the planning of this battle, the abstracted hypothesis by which this experiment happens. The two errors that can occur during this stage—no participation from the masses, or only generating a short-term victory without building revolutionary forces—become obvious only after the third stage, as we find only through the product of this popular expression of speaking bitterness if the ideas of the masses were collected sufficiently and if those ideas once synthesized actually push towards revolution.
The aforementioned third and final stage is the advanced mobilizing, winning over the intermediate, and actually moving to articulate their speaking bitterness. Here in Pittsburgh this three-pronged process is engaged in through 33R members’ participation in Serve the People-Pittsburgh (STP-Pgh), a revolutionary community organization that provides direct material aid to the working class in the form of organizing neighborhood BBQs, naxolone trainings, as well as children’s clothing and mattress drives. While initially based on the Northside, 3RR members have developed the most mass contacts in Garfield. In this neighborhood where the costs of rent is rising, many are facing eviction because of the urban displacement spurred by art spaces, bars, and cultural boutiques along Penn Ave and Butler St. This is leading to the initiation of tenant struggles where the people are mobilized against slumlords.
While we’d like to take time to discuss these experiences in detail, we instead urge those who follow 3RR to prepare for a 6 month summation of the work STP-Pgh has done so far, which will show the success that this process provides.
4.3 “A Change in the Sky”: Guerilla Tactics Applied to Mass Organizing
When notorious oppressors are brought to justice when the people speak bitterness, this signals a “change in the sky.” This is a moment when the revolutionary consciousness of the people is broadened and deepened through this confrontation, even if this confrontation does not result in an immediate victory for those involved. Some anarchists, frustrated with the opportunism of the reformists and passioned by their fully justified moral outrage at the state, see the process of building consciousness as an endless series of physical confrontations, regardless of whether an action has a mass character or not. Lenin pointed out correctly, “to accept battle at a time when it is obviously advantageous to the enemy, but not to us, is criminal; political leaders of the revolutionary class are absolutely useless if they are incapable of ‘changing tack, or offering conciliation and compromise’ in order to take evasive action in a patently disadvantageous battle.” On the other hand, Gonzalo says when asked about the orientation of communists towards the spontaneous, and perhaps doomed, uprisings of the masses: “In those circumstances, we would do what Lenin did: tell the masses that this is not the moment, but if the masses launch an insurrection, fight along side them, so that together we can make an orderly retreat… And if we die with them, our blood will be merged with theirs to a greater extent”.
We must apply protracted people’s war to our conditions as so. This reliance on and unity with the masses is the military science of our class that gives us an understanding of how to defeat our enemies.
Simply put, our guerrilla tactics are based on “tactics, ten against one; strategy, one against ten.” The landlords we confront are protected by an effective executive centre which commands various subordinate state apparatuses, but the hegemony of such coercive/military forces are often overstated. This does mean that, even when our work becomes violent or involves the threat of violence, we are unable to (immediately!) hope to have base areas, but that through treating every mass action as a school of war, we are connecting even moments of securing the best possible compromise for the working class to promoting the development of new political structures within which the masses can be drawn into active participation in this war.
While we could continue to go into detail about urban strategy, suffice it to say here this process of navigating the terrain of class struggles and understanding the contradictions which are likely to precipitate the next crisis all stem from a policy of “hasten and wait” (where we both hasten in our work and await changes in the objective situations that allow the seizure of overall power). This is, first and foremost, protracted, meaning it develops over a period of time. There is a right opportunist trend within Maoism and within certain revisionist ML tendencies that does not take this long term perspective, and sees credence only in insurrectionism, which means that rather than building base areas and an underground resistance movement, we engage in a semi-permanent mode of legal and reformist organizing, until a moment in which there is magically a transfer of power due to the defection of the decisive element of the armed forces of the existing state to the side of the revolution, e.g. October 1917 in Russia. Hoping to inherit the great vacuum created by an implosion of the executive organs of the state and consequent lack of coordination between parts of the repressive apparatus is the equivalence of communist astrology or chakra aligning; such a strategy does not even follow from how the Russian revolution went down.
In our hastening we will draw the ire of revisionists and reformists alike, who will paint us in the darkest colors.
4.4 Reformist Conservationism, Or Treating the Masses As an Endangered Species
While the masses have never been afraid of using violence to secure their lives through “unsafe” self-defense, resistance, or attack, the dominant practice of liberal “anti-oppression” politics demands that we relinquish power to political representatives like the ones the legal left has supported. A vast nonprofit industrial complex and a strata of professional “community spokespeople” come to define the parameters of acceptable political action and debate. The politics of “safety” emphasized, for example, in the Homewood March (3RR’s “Fight, Bleed, Win Among the Masses”) and at the counter protest outside of Planned Parenthood, is not new here in Pittsburgh, seeing that NGOs and the legal left must continually project an image of powerlessness and keep communities of color, women, and queers “protected” and confined to speeches and mass rallies rather than speaking their bitterness to their most hated oppressors. “White allyship” is demanded, as if oppressed communities are a single, homogenuous political bloc where there is a single unified anti-racist, feminist, and queer political program which the legal left can become “allies” of. This politics is fundamentally conservative, silencing, and coercive.
In one sense, the people of the communities we organize in are treated by contemporary liberal anti-oppression discourse (“identity politics,” as its pejoratively labeled) as a place akin to a habitat of endangered species which is in need of management by those “political representatives” that are assigned to contain the potential of class conflict at all costs. The legal left understands power as something which is granted or bestowed by the powerful. Appeals to institutional benevolence runs in contradiction to their supposed understanding of capitalism, which is that a Mik Pappas cannot act and take power for himself on behalf of the masses. So while we continue to live very “unsafe” lives, DSA and others continue to advocate for us to dance, to perform an image of legitimate victimhood for white middle class consumption. Rather than engaging in revolutionary violence that works, we are policed and scolded, told that our activities will be barely recognized by this audience unless we eat shit, and play the role of peaceful and quaint undeserving victims rather than survivors who will fight for what they need using any means necessary – and not through voting and patient waiting.
How do we resolve this harmful triplicate of NGOism, electoral politics, and respectability in the coming month, as elections near?
5. BOYCOTT THIS BULLSHIT
These elections and the system it legitimizes were not made for us.
The magistrate court at 1742 Morningside Ave is a body which hosts the horrific farewell parties of the displaced, a kangaroo tribunal of the ruling class against the evicted and the wrongfully arrested. Pappas and the DSA act like David Blaine, promoting an illusion that they can subvert the economics of real estate, that they can suavely soothe the contradictions between the people and the pig, to bring out a ‘better deal’ for the people. We all know that magic and David Blaine, in spite of how astonishing his tricks can appear to be on surface, are fake, and what must follow is that without power outside of the courts, all is an illusion as well!
Most working class people already engage in a mass election boycott—what we call a passive boycott, in that those who do vote do not do so for reasons that are immediately and primarily political. We will, in our revolutionary work today and later, work to turn this passive boycott into an active one. An active boycott is the strategy that turns that boycott into an explicitly political act. This means:
- Disseminating popular propaganda and cultural forms explaining the illegitimacy and ‘revolutionary’ impotence of those candidates running
- Pointing the way forward through connecting the struggle against the exploiters in the neighborhood with those running in the sham elections themselves
- Not allowing volunteers and campaign organizers to safely push reformism where organizing is occurring. Encouraging the masses to act against them, to remove signs, and to confront candidates as an attempt to delegitimatize them. Generally to make where we live uncomfortable for them to enter. If the masses wish to vote, it’s important to note that there is no stopping them and there should be no compulsion or guilting them for doing so. Telling them truths and providing guidance allows them to understand our line as correct when post-election disappointment kicks in
- Continuing to sharpen contradictions on the tenant and anti-gentrification front
Leave the march down the black hole; we have a revolution to build! Smash or sabotage the voting machines, rip Costa and Pappas signs down, and slam the door on the campaign volunteers that have come to harass and mislead the masses!
Without power all is an illusion!