Not the Revolution, But an Opening

Fundamental, revolutionary, political and social change is clearly needed in the USA and the world. Corporate domination of the economic and political system and mass culture is a huge threat to the possibilities for a decent and sustainable future for humankind and for all forms of life on the earth.

King Coal and Big Oil continue to use their power and vast wealth to keep us locked into a reliance on earth-heating fossil fuels that, if not quickly reversed, will lead to a steady escalation of catastrophic climate events and a breakdown of an already-stressed ecosystem.

The dominance of the Pentagon and corporate-supporting, militaristic approaches to problems, the immense amounts of money wasted in weapons production, robs the masses of people of badly-needed resources for housing, health care, education and economic development. It also generates armed resistance, including the terrorism of the stateless that, in a nuclear age, is indeed terrifying.

And the widening gulf between the ever-richer, tiny ruling elite of the world and the vast majority of the world’s population, almost half of whom try to get by on no more than $2 a day, is an obscenity justifying rebellion on a wide scale.

What happened on November 7th, election day, was not that rebellion. It was not the revolution. But it could be a start, an opening up of prospects for strengthening independent, issue-oriented movement-building.

It should also lead to a limited number of concrete, national policy victories, as in an increase in the minimum wage, increased funding for renewable energy, a somewhat improved system of health care delivery for some, by no means all, U.S. citizens, and other reforms.

As far as the Iraq war, the major issue of the campaign, the election results should lead to at least some reduction in the amount of money spent and in the number of U.S. troops there, hopefully much more than that. The problem, however, is that the Democratic Party has a long-standing commitment to an imperial foreign policy, albeit less openly warlike than the Republicans. With the exception of a small minority bloc of consistently progressive elected Democrats, the positions of most elected Democrats when it comes to Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and other “hot spots” in the world is essentially based upon how to maintain U.S. and corporate influence and power rather than a commitment to justice and self-determination.

But the fact is that, in the long run, it is the masses of people who make history, and the big story of this election is that the results reflected a definite turning away by a majority of the U.S. electorate from the over-the-top, dangerous right-wing agenda of the neo-cons and the neo-fascists.

The big question for progressives who appreciate the depth of the civilizational crisis we are in is this: how do we build upon this important political development, deepening, broadening and accelerating it? What should we be doing to meet our responsibilities?

-The most important thing we need to do is refuse to let Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer set the agenda for us and what we do. A concrete example of what we need to be doing on a whole range of issues is the recent announcement of a press conference tomorrow, as this is being written, announcing the launch of an impeachment campaign ( We should be openly demanding what justice, peace and survival call for, organizing ourselves to be effective in pressing those demands on elected officials of both corporate parties.

-Greens and others committed to building a political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans should keep at it, running “third party” candidacies or as progressive independents in non-partisan races and building membership-based independent political organization. There are a number of concrete signs that, despite limited success by Green and other third party candidates in this election cycle, conditions may be ripening for a more broadly-based, mass upsurge of support for a populist political alternative, and those of us with genuinely progressive politics need to influence these developments as much as possible.

-Already, the discussion about Presidential politics in 2008 has begun. This will grow and intensify in coming months, including over the question of who the Green Party should run and, for some non-Greens, why activists should get behind one or the other of the more progressive Democrats. There is no way to avoid these debates; what is essential is that conscious efforts be made to keep them as healthy as possible, recognizing that the anachronistic, undemocratic, corporate-dominated, winner-take-all U.S. political system makes our work in the electoral arena tremendously challenging.

-Along these lines, the Democratic victory should quickly bring to the forefront the electoral democracy issues that have been submerged under Republican control of Congress. Passage by the Congress of many of the points of the 10-point Voters Bill of Rights, initially put together at a meeting organized by IPPN following the Florida election debacle in 2000, should become a main focus for all of us who appreciate how seriously flawed our “democracy” is.

-Finally, and certainly not least important, we need to be about the work of alliance-building across lines of culture, nationality, issue, geography and political strategy. The continuing “wall between,” in Anne Braden’s words, people of color and white people, the reality of systemic racism and white supremacy that very much affects the personal relations and interactions among progressive activists, must be understood and worked at so that we can build a truly multi-cultural movement with significant leadership from people of color, youth, women and working-class people.

November 7th was not the revolution, but it was definitely an opening. Let’s move forward together through it with the tens of millions who want not words about a “new direction” but the real thing.