The people alone are the motive force of history, and “Why not both voting and organizing?” is self-contradictory liberalism


The concept that voting changes anything gets it completely backward. What happens is, the masses move and threaten the system’s profitability, and the ruling class calculatedly grants concessions.

No candidate will risk upsetting their super-rich backers by granting concessions if the masses have not made it clear that inaction will be more costly than granting them.

If we want both concessions and revolution, we can build a party, a people’s headquarters, that can unite and coordinate all the various liberation struggles so they can overlap and empower each other, growing bigger, more disruptive, more coordinated, and more rebellious over time.

If we want nothing, we can waste our energy getting out the vote and trying to convince people that voting is what changes things, instead of mass action.

These two conceptions of how politics work are mutually exclusive—winning someone to “voting changes things” is precisely to win them away from understanding the genuinely empowering truth: the people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.

We need more Fergusons, Baltimores, and Standing Rocks. And even more than that, we need a party—we need a people’s headquarters to help people struggling everywhere link their struggles up and support each other as strategically as possible.

And we need a people’s army, to keep the pigs out of our shit as we build and grow a new world where the authorities are just people themselves, chosen by the community and wholly accountable to them.

Edit to elaborate, September 23, 2016:

Q: Shouldn’t revolutionaries advocate voting for someone who can create a more viable situation in which to make revolution?

A: Two-part answer:

First, at the higher levels, the will of the politician never gets any meaningful “life of its own.” They never cause meaningful change in themselves, they aren’t a motive force–the election results are only ever one filter through which the capitalist class tries to read the will of one subsection of the masses. It is the capitalist class that determines government policy, not the whim of whichever politician got elected, and what the capitalists end up doing is determined by the state of class struggle at any given time, not the voting turnout. Thus, voting at this level literally cannot “create” these situations–only the masses in uprising can do that.

In short, it is an illusion that the vote has power. If a vote passes a piece of legislature that hurts the capitalist class and the people are not then prepared to cause unprofitable disruption if the spirit of the new law is not enacted, the capitalist class will enshrine the law but gut it of its substance using bureaucratic measures. If no law is on the ballot regarding a specific policy but there is a viable threat of unprofitable disruption if the policy that is actually being enacted doesn’t change, the policy that is being enacted will change with or without a vote, with or without a change in law. The constant is that, so long as the capitalist class still desires to maintain the illusion of democracy, what the people demand through threat to continuously disrupt profit is what they get–including nothing.

Second, at the lower levels, the politician has some room to maneuver and make their own decisions, but still only within the confines of what is acceptable to the capitalist class, who have a thousand ways to ensure the politician doesn’t leave those bounds. It must be understood that politicians at this level are even more vulnerable to the capitalist class as a whole, because their supporter base, media access, and budget are tiny in comparison to what can be brought in from the outside and mustered against them. Faced with such obstacles, there is nothing such a politician could accomplish that would be so helpful to the communist movement that it could pay for the “cost” of having alleged revolutionaries encouraging people to vote. That’s the key factor that this question refuses to consider: advocating a vote is not a “cost-free” act for the revolutionary movement.

What makes revolution is when the broad masses themselves become revolutionary. An irreplaceable part of the process of the masses becoming revolutionary is the correct leadership of communists. This involves those communists orienting around the most class-conscious sections of the proletariat and helping them bring the rest of the proletariat forward. The fact is, the most class-conscious sections of the proletariat are already those with the lowest voting turnout and most cynical attitude toward the entire process. They are the front-most “train car,” which must be linked to the communist movement to bring the entire consciousness of the proletariat forward, because only through the mass support and assistance of the advanced masses can the even broader masses of the less class-conscious middle sections be reached and communicated with and won to revolution. Meanwhile, if you try to link up the communist movement directly to the middle sections, who are kind of cynical but kind of think we might get some progress out of the electoral system, you abandon the advanced sections, and the middle sections aren’t able to lead anyone toward revolution–only back into the electoral system. Meanwhile, the advanced section would then (rightly) think the “communist” movement is full of shit and would go on to formulate its own theories about how to make revolution, which would invariably be lacking in the historical lessons the communist movement could have offered, and would resort to individual acts of violence and riots, neither of which can overthrow capitalism.

I wrote this in 2011 while I was trying to quit cigarettes and wanted to post it, because I think it’s really captures well a certain feeling. I think I know now the answer to the question about what the nonaddict does.

Song of Cursing Written before a Carillon Tower in Mid-July

A thunderstorm hot in hot clouds,
the wet gray of no relief, matte on the sky.

“Oh no.”—the world contrary to plans.
[ed: almost like, “o no”—noticing negation itself, invoking it.]

Mutilation is hell, but a little at a time
is fine.

And what I want is the ruination of utter change,
the dice falling like burning stones
on every atom.

The river running under my skin
asking for good wounds clean hits,
sharp cuts. A shot, a hit, a smoke,

the heat on all my body, my every cell a wideeyed
martyr eternally being run through with a spear.

What does the nonaddict do with all their hard-won freedom?*
What is love if you cannot speak and cannot hear?

* That scene in IJ where the guy distracts himself exactly zero to avoid any possible addiction and turns into dust on a chair (or something like that).

What is a world that can’t withstand a dragon’s breath?
The (Century) Tower from the 4th floor [ed: of Library West].

The Tower: return to atoms.

The sum of your parts is greater
than the whole.

See, your defensiveness and your hesitation, your neuroses, none are you. So what’s a sword of rust punching through your breastplate?

I, too, am nothing,
but you will have to
kill me to prove it.

It is counterrevolutionary to demand that organizers withhold criticism from other organizers who face different types or degrees of oppression

counterrevolutionaryIn the united states, the white working class can’t get free without the success of black, brown, and indigenous liberation, and by that same token, each of these liberation struggles alone can’t win unless the struggle is generalized to include all nationalities of working people, including sections of white workers. We are comrades, our struggles are connected, and they are against the same enemy.

More broadly, the success of the oppressed and exploited people of the world anywhere is a victory for the oppressed and exploited people of the world everywhere. The oppressed and exploited people of the world all have a common struggle.

In light of that, it must be said that criticism that is intended to increase clarity and reduce errors is a gift. Our stake in the success or failure of this common task gives us all the right to offer constructive criticism to anyone in this struggle, even if we do not share their specific oppression—as long as we have undertaken a thorough and careful investigation that leads us to believe that what we have to say will be genuinely useful, and then offer it respectfully.

Our respect for others fighting in other wings of this joint liberation struggle means we owe it to our comrades to make these criticisms, as long as we make them in a principled way and not for petty point-scoring or individualistic advance.

All told, it is patronizing not to offer valid criticism, when we feel we have it to offer, for fear that the recipient will refuse it because of our social position. Someone who is sincerely dedicated to liberation listens to criticism and accepts what is true in it regardless of the source. To decline to give criticism for such hand-wringing reasons is the opposite of respectful and comradely behavior.

And finally it should be said that the idea that someone who doesn’t suffer from a particular oppression cannot offer anything of value to someone who does suffer from it is contradicted by hundreds of years of liberation struggles that have overlapped and influenced each other: Baltimore to Palestine, Vietnam and the Black Panther Party, revolutionary feminism being inspired by black liberation, Leninism being adopted by anti-colonial movements, Marxism being used in the Chinese struggle against feudalism, imperialism, and capitalism, and Maoism being used to forward indigenous liberation struggles across the planet—and so on. We can help each other, and we should.

While each liberation struggle must without a doubt be led by those who endure that oppression, none of us will win if we believe that each struggle must only use ideas arising from people who share a sufficiently similar type or degree of oppression.