By the time you see this, you’ll experience what I have not: A Clinton or Trump White House. But on this end of time, we’re still in the horse race of capitalist elections.
However the election turns, the day after the election is when we rededicate ourselves to the seemingly impossible: lifting the veil of socioeconomic corruption and reproduction. The very tools of human rights, that is education, health and deliberation, are major vehicles by which class reproduces itself and maintains its hierarchy. Our task is to challenge this. It’s all a tall order. Whether we’re democratic socialists or anarchists, we’re working for radical democracy and true socialism. These two imperatives we’ve never seen in history, but we insist will be our future.
During this election cycle, the unfolding debate’s foibles and polls fill us with dread of who will win. Clinton, an archetypal social liberal and militarist, is a Wall Street machine politician who seems reasonable, at least when compared to conservatives. By contrast, a Trump presidency would shoot capitalism in the foot. It would be destabilize markets, be a victory for xenophobia and misogyny, and, as with everything, it would be the working and poor who would suffer.
With all of our ideals of socialism and anarchism, we face the perennial question: “How do we bring our ideals into reality? How do we go from here to there?”
Here are some thoughts, from an anarchist and radical nonviolence viewpoint, addressed especially to my cousins, the democratic socialists. As with all of us, I have no simple answers, only suggestions, seeking to learn from our history. Of course we know the devil is in the details, but these are the racing passions I feel when watching this horrid election.
After Election Day, the first step: We must recognize what a tiny fraction of the public we represent. (This is not to discourage us at all, but to start out clear about where we are.) Bourgeois democracy has a relatively stable political culture; the politically active public is divided between liberals and conservatives.
We feel the majority of working people would naturally want an economic system that doesn’t use them as fodder for profits. Yet, we observe that even at the heights of Occupy the “Bernie Moment,” what resonated with the public was not anti-capitalism, but reform and social democracy, band aids for business as usual. We remained marginalized from the conversation about the actual economic or infrastructure of democracy.
I propose after Election Day new movement cultures for organizers and theorists. We’ve made some progress in addressing social oppressions, but this needs to be in the very roots of our radical movement. We need to develop an intersectional understanding of power as inseparable from the class struggle. We need to recognize both the Caucasian and gender bubbles. We need to understand how quickly activists organize in their own given networks, then reproduce in coalitions the social oppressions they claim to be against.
Organizers and theorists need new ways to communicate with everyday people, with fellow workers. Anarchists like me will be working for the stateless and classless future. In these opening steps, what is needed is not isolation from the wider socialist movement, but coalition; and constructive internal debate to clarify our understandings and to prepare us, above all, to debate with liberals and conservatives — present ourselves in spaces of public discourse, wherever they open, and not only to self-selecting radical subculture.
We need a continuum of the left. Left social democrats, democratic socialists, anarchists, anti-authoritarian Marxists — all of us — can debate, as cousins, in a left culture that’s process oriented, non-sectarian, welcoming to newcomers. Our culture needs to be transparent, and earn the trust of the community. Even if they feel we’re too idealistic, we want our work to win respect.
Organizers and theorists should be two sides of a whole. As organizers, articulating positive alternatives, we have to resist closed radical subculture, with its internally trending jargon and recognizable lifestyles. Again, we should be able to explain our vision to co-workers, blue collar and pink collar, and to our families. If we can’t do this, we’re doomed to be irrelevant to the blue- and pink-collar general public.
In our first steps at a movement culture, for economic democracy and civil freedoms, I can’t say strongly enough: Leninism must go. Any ideology that would exclude workers from their own movement, or justify party dictatorship, or the making of unions into puppets of the state-employing class, we must part ways with, irrevocably.
Correspondingly, those of us who are theorists, working class intellectuals and formally schooled, can leave the rabbit holes of academic left subcultures, where hyper-intellectual texts end up being platforms for cultural capital. We can form research collectives and teach ourselves quantitative/qualitative research skills. Our analysis must translate to actual working people, geographically in a space and place, not vague outdated abstractions with post modern overlays — we need as theorists to be able to hold our own with conservatives and liberals in friendly debate, even as we take idealist positions, and not be esoteric or self referential. Accessibility is part and parcel of our theory culture.
As a new culture of theorists, in addition to an intersectional understanding of class politics, we need to double our efforts to bring the current mode of production into our vocabulary. We are anti-capitalists after the rise of the modern welfare state (which 19th-century socialists could not have imagined) and the race to financial and political globalization.
Our work should be to clarify the rise of the service sector, the offshoring of manufacturing, and niche mass marketing to our identities. We need to articulate the rise of big data, the “Age of Google” with all its labor implications, and the massive changes in advanced capitalism unfolding before us. It should be our primary work with organizers to make these industrial changes understandable, how they affect changes in class composition, and how this reverberates in global politics. Amazingly, the anti-democratic basis of class hierarchy from the first industrial revolution to the network society, remain fundamentally unchallenged. This is the work before us, to challenge and undo it.
And for all of us on the continuum of the democratic and anarchist left, we need to re-create, to re-envision, the International while learning from past mistakes. We should form a global counter-UN governed by workers’ self-management and guided by an egalitarian culture. In each of our countries, we can revitalize and reform the labor movement as the nucleus of a future order in our various industries. We can reform our unions into universities of workers’ self-management in production, and thus deliver the future global requisitioning of our industries into our hands. We can work for this recreation, using our work for human rights and needs to make our very unions the organs of future democracy.
All of this done, the future global transformation will be at the point of production, and then will surge to other facets of society in every country. Each section will transform our nations from within; in one all-encompassing general strike, into the International of civil and economic freedom. Call it anarchism. Call it socialism. Call it democracy. These are our goals, from this point to the future.