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The New Poor People’s Campaign: Seeds of a Non-Party Opposition?


#1

The New Poor People’s Campaign: Seeds of a Non-Party Opposition?

Jeremy Brecher

This Mother’s Day a convergence of unlikely bedfellows launched a Poor People’s Campaign -- echoing the Poor People’s Campaign Martin Luther King, Jr. initiated half a century ago aiming to “transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.” Is there a strategy that can make that aim more than a vain hope?


#2

Heck with just making it a campaign, let’s form the “Poor People’s Party.” A new political party committed to the representation of the 99%.

No politicians allowed to be representatives of the people, only working class folks who have spent their lives serving the public without corporate money.


#3

Evolution is accelerating. A political force without a party is an actual modern sign of accelerating social evolution. It indicates that humanity is recognizing political parties as a place where hierarchies grow and then foster their usual backroom deals.

Now we are discussing a leaderless technique for focus of distributed intelligence. This is necessary to avoid personality cult politics and is consciously used so as to avoid assassinations by bad governments intent on power for capitalist pirates who own the bad governments.

Soon we will be discussing democracy itself and recognizing that representative democracy is actually a handy population management tool used by the capitalist form of government.


#4

Love the article, have shared it. Good history lesson. Please correct spelling… Barack…one r and McCrory with two.


#5

The only times that the ave person has ever gotten anything is through mass protest. It is the only times that the 1% give up some of their power.
The problem is in getting people to realize that the only real power they have is to join together and make their voices heard.
OWS, BLM, and others have tried, but they have not gotten enough support for a movement to gain enough momentum. Want to shake up washington and state governments, then join together and shout. Otherwise, what we are getting will continue.
I have tried one man protests and they don’t get very far. As a nurses’ aide, I tried to support the nurses’ union when they wanted to protest. For 2 hours I carried a sign and protested, no one else showed up, no nurses. Needless to say, people think I am wacky. Protested other times by myself.
Too much apathy though, too much I am busy at home.


#6

It’s not representative democracy that is bad, it is who is selected as a representative that matters. It’s difficult to run a modern country on direct democracy on every issue. The biggest problem is money electing our representatives. That cuts out the ave citizen from the process. Thus the representative doesn’t really represent anyone but the people with money.
That is the biggest obstacle to a representative democracy. If they were elected by the people and had to really answer to the people, they would be voting the people’s interest and not the rich’s.
The US has always had money in politics and that was by design from the founders. To them only the rich and educated, the elites of their days deserved to vote and hold office. So they created a system where the rich would have control, not one that would allow the poor to have a voice. Which is why citizen’s united was judged as free speech, it is exactly what the founders envisioned.
Therein lies the difficulty, one would need to amend the constitution so that money was taken out of the equation. And that probably won’t happen, not without a massive uprising at least.


#7

Although you seem comfortable knowing representative democracy was designed as a tool to manage the masses for a capitalist government supporting free lunch piracy of Earth. How do you know it is difficult to run a modern country with direct democracy on every issue?

I am pointing out that representative democracies world-wide are governing toward human extinction and not advocating direct democracy for micromanagement of minor issues.

What would a modern country not committed to ending life with capitalist growth look like? Perhaps it would be easier to run than capitalist piracy and eternal war against humanity and Earth.


#8

Actually a really good name and idea PonyBoy.


#9

That is why the elites work so hard to divide the people by race, gender, religion etc…it is their number one defense against rebellion. It works damn well too…


#10

The Women’s March, March for Science and other national mass actions were pretty much autonomous events. I don’t know if The New Poor People’s Campaign decentralizes its decision making, but there’s a vast difference between a mass event and a mass campaign.


#11

What a refreshing departure from the never-ending, tedious (and largely pointless) debates on CD about whether to support the Democratic (or Green, or whomever) Party.

“These limitations exist primarily because, given the current structure of the American political and economic system, any political party is likely to be dependent on the 1% and to hew to its interests. Simply electing more Democrats, or even more progressive Democrats, provides inadequate leverage to challenge this reality.”

Independent, mass social movements. Building popular power in protracted campaigns instead of hoping elected officials will be kindly and true.
What a concept.


#12

All too well. When the labor unions were 1st being formed in the 19th century around 1860-70 roughly, they had problems getting support. For decades they struggled. They refused to allow black laborers join, then the communists and socialists were refused. It wasn’t until they finally broke down and agreed to allow other groups to join them. That was when they finally made headway.
Combined they finally had victories, bloody ones to be sure, but they managed to gain the right to organize, for better working conditions, child labor laws, etc.
As long as we are kept divided, the rich will continue to rule and take what they want. The rich will continue to use identity politics with the republican base because it works to keep them from uniting with the rest of us.
They keep say that democrats and liberals used identity politics to divide us. But in reality, it is the republicans who have been using them to keep their base from uniting with the rest of the poor to go against the rich. And they have been successful.


#13

It actually is a different out of the box concept. The whole concept of our politics is that the representative is suppose to vote in our interests. Which was a novel idea at the time. So yes, they are suppose to be kind and true. The fact is that ideals are not usually lived up to. Thus we don’t have them being kind and true.
The american people have rarely ever tried to have ideals lived up to. We wouldn’t need a mass social movement if they made politicians act in their best interest. They allowed money to buy politicians during the life of our government. We have always had money dictating how the government should be run.
It was actually how the founders envisioned it. They thought only the elites with money should run the country or even vote. We subverted the government by allowing the ‘uneducated, unwashed masses’ as the founders called the majority of americans.


#14

Skip, your comments appear to reflect a philosophical tug of war you’re having with yourself. Such as:

_“The only times that the average person has ever gotten anything is through mass protest.”
_“It’s not representative democracy that is bad, it is who is selected as a representative that matters.”

You looked right past what other commentators have seen as the absolute core principle of the article. Activism by the public. That’s everything. Representative democracy would ‘work’ if the public actively participated. Representative democracy exists with a list of ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’. All the ‘Cons’ can be attributed to a lack of public involvement. 'Backrooms politics, the corrupting effects of money, etc, etc is BECAUSE of the lack of public intervention . A participating public guarantees an informed public. Notice that the type of participation the article addresses exists only with ‘Pros’. It literally can not exist with any ‘Cons’. Which implies that if it exists at all, it is fail-safe. It can’t be corrupted. What is so amazing is we often don’t allow ourselves to ponder outside the box that we’ve been embedded in our whole lives, thus reinforcing the status quo. (“It’s difficult to run a modern country on direct democracy on every issue”…someone once said. Ahem).

A key consideration is that the US, due to it’s constitutional framework, probably has more political freedom (if not social freedom) than anywhere else on the planet. It’s a different situation, say, for the Palestinians. Yet few realities exist in a vacuum. The Palestinian situation would be different if the public participation existed in the US beyond voting for someone from column A or column B.


#15

“The whole concept of our politics is that the representative is suppose to vote in our interests… We have always had money dictating how the government should be run.
It was actually how the founders envisioned it. They thought only the elites with money should run the country or even vote.”

I agree with Eyewitness - I think you’re presenting two conflicting ideas here.

Consider:

Generally, elected representatives in a system like ours vote in the interests of the powerful - not in the interests of those who elected them. A candidate has to raise lots of money just to win an election. Then they get in office and on a daily basis are solicited by the sort of interests that can hire full-time lobbyists and write legislation. And they have to negotiate with colleagues who face the same pressures if they want to get anything passed. And it isn’t like they will be instantly recalled if they vote against the interests of the electorate. For the most part the electorate will forget specific votes or not be able to pay attention. Capitalists have an enormous amount of power in our political system, and elected representatives tend to represent that power if they want to win office, get legislation passed, and stay in office.

If there are strong labor unions, tenant unions, student organizations, consumer groups, social justice groups, etc. engaging in issue campaigns, they can somewhat balance that power. Organized groups can better hold officials accountable and push them to do the right thing. But in the U.S., as much as anywhere, those groups have been under attack for decades. Worse, many people on the left in the U.S. see one-off protests and marches, or individual acts like voting and calling legislators before a vote as the highest form of activism. They don’t understand or remember how to engage in social movement building, even though movements like that have been the engine of practically every transformative social change in this country’s history.

So a representative government that was designed to serve the interests of the wealthy does just that. And a primary focus on electing candidates with nice-sounding rhetoric into that system is simply not enough. Getting the “right” folks elected may make short term tactical sense, but it doesn’t represent any sort of strategy for making social change and so shouldn’t be where we spend all of our time and energy.


#16

For the last 15 years the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) has been successfully bringing together thousands of NC farm laborers to gain improved working conditions, higher wages, and a voice on the job. FLOC has worked with the Moral Monday coalitions to win improvements for poor people. Currently engaged in a national boycott of VUSE e-cigarettes, FLOC has always worked for political change in the midst of its direct action organizing. Let us continue to galvanize overly cautious politicians to implement justice, end to economic exploitation, and peace.


#17

The point is that we don’t have to have a system of representative government beholden to the rich. Just because it was designed that way, doesn’t means it always has to be that way in any representative government.
Direct democracy still elects someone to represent us. And it doesn’t solve the problem of a Trump being elected. Andrew Jackson was popularly elected and was not someone that I would want in office given his stance on Native americans and other issues. Popular can invite the worse kind of people who appeal to our inner demons. From 130 million votes, Trump lost by only 3 million, that is not a repudiation of him at all. It would have taken only a few more million voters for him to win the popular vote.
Of course electing someone in a primary who sounds great is not the answer. I follow politics, I watch what they do. You vet their record of achievements. The problem is that most voters don’t do that nor are you going to change how they vote.
The founders were right about one thing, you need to be educated for a democracy to work. You have to understand the problems so when solutions are offered, you can make an educated choice. And the way most people vote is why they din’t want most people to vote. They feared ignorance. They were right to fear ignorance. It hasn’t done us any good at all.
The rich are always at war with the rest of us. It’s something we forget after we win some minor victories, that to the rich, it is the long game that is important. Which is why after we organized, they continued to fight and attack our organization. And people have short term memories, so they forgot the struggles that had to be fought to get us to the point where the rich couldn’t have everything.
And thus the rich get everything rolled back in the end.
Humans are a hierarchical species, someone has to be on top and someone on the bottom. Nothing will change that at all. Let me repeat that, Nothing will change the fact that someone will always be on top. Get rid of money and something else will define power. Most likely people like Trump will be the power on top.
Direct democracy won’t stop that from happening, nothing will stop the powerful from ruling us. So the only option we have is to make sure that the person who leads is decent and kind. And there will be all sorts of pressure on them. That is why voters have to stay interested and forceful.
And there is your real problem, keeping voters engaged. Good luck with that.
In order to have a social revolution, you need lots of anger and a strong enough minority to fight against the system. And that anger ebbs usually when perceived victories occur. The anti-war movement died after vietnam ended and we were soon at war again. The civil rights movement, the labor movement, all died once they thought they won.
Consider this, we are no more civilized now then we were two thousand years ago. Oh, we have progressed in technology, great strides there. But we still have a system where the powerful rule, where the poor are kept very poor, where there is no real justice. Where empires still rule and new empires will be built. Where war will be the way we still settle problems. All of our ideals about social justice were thought of back then, advocated, and never implemented, just like we don’t implement them today.
Slavery is awful, still practiced today. In the richest country in the world, the rich rule, just like they have always done.
You have three problems. One, power always rules, no matter how that power is manifested. Two, human nature requires someone in power. Three, knowing that, how do you select the people to rule who will act in a decent manner for all and will not be corrupted? The only one you can affect is the third, how you choose. So who you choose does matter whether short term or long term.
Human nature is diametrically opposed, we can be very altruistic and very mean. It is called yin yang, the good vs evil in all of us. So I don’t dispute the opposing ideas, it’s human nature to have opposing ideas in us. The idea is to work them out so that we appeal to our better nature, rather than the worse.


#18

Actually no, I don’t look past it. It just isn’t happening and most likely won’t just happen. And yes to the first sentence, humans have yin yang within them that are opposed to each other.
I study history. It is very difficult to start any kind of revolution. And it has always been difficult to get large numbers of people involved in anything, none the less social movements.
Yes to activism, I have been a protester all my life. but my experience is that only some people get involved. Even in the most significant movements, only a minority of people stepped up to fight. They were just strong and vocal enough to win some battles. And once the battle was seen as won, the movement fell apart. The war continued though. So how do you get a majority to step up when that has never happened? Most people are going to be interested in their own personal life than the larger picture. It’s why the social movements in the recent past have failed. They are not going to get involved. People are not going to get involved to the degree that they should. What they should do and what they actually do are not the same. And it never will be.
Ok have direct democracy and vote on every single issue. How do you get agreement on what to fund? We have trouble getting 535 people to agree, how do you get 200 million plus to agree on anything? How do you make deals when there is no one in power to broker deals? It is an unwieldy beast you are talking about. It could take years just to agree that we should fund green energy for example. And what if the majority won’t accept such funding? How do you stop the religious people from imposing god on the rest of us? All it takes is a majority to do away with separation of church and state.
And while I stated pros on the idea, now I am telling you the cons. Direct democracy allows our worse nature to also be considered, not just our better nature. Yin Yang.
The problem with being someone who wants change is to convince enough people to agree on the idea and then tactics. If enough people get upset enough to form a movement, then it will happen. They will fight a battle and once won, go back to their lives while the war continues. It is what always happens. No movement has ever had the energy to stay in the fight. Sure there will be individuals who will fight. But we are just pissing in the wind for the most part. Been doing that all my life. Been a rebel all my life. I don’t see where any of my ideas have ever mattered to the greater society.
As for 3rd parties, good luck. None have ever done more than to join one of the current (at the time) parties, otherwise they all fail. Other than being a spoiler, they don’t do anything. Esp today when money is needed to get a message out. And then they become just as corrupted by hunting for money.
I’ve fought for a better society for a long time and society has never really improved that much. Activism is great, just don’t expect anyone else to join in. Most people are not going to unless they really get mad and we haven’t reached that level yet.
The best compliment I ever got from work was when I retired. The supervisor who knew me when I started said that I was the most stubborn person she ever knew and that despite over 20 yrs of trying to get me to change using everything they could throw at me, they failed. That I refused to accept their way of doing things. The next compliment was that I was the best advocate of patient rights they had. It was my stubbornness that made the 2nd possible. I don’t give up. But I didn’t change them either, over 20 yrs of fighting the system, I lost. I don’t mind the fight and I accept the loss. Changing humanity is never going to happen. Both history and personal experience shows me that.
I am not telling you to stop fighting. Just that you will lose, what you want is not what the majority are willing to do. They never will. Humanity is meant to be led, it is in our nature. We need a structure of power. There are only some of us who buck that nature.
When people get mad enough, they will revolt and rise up in protest. How far in the future, ? Unknown. But it will only be temporary in nature. And things will go back to the same old.
As for the palestinians, I think the majority of americans would probably want the matter settled peacefully with the palestinians getting a homeland. As for social freedom, we are not at the top, maybe in the top ten. Political freedom, considering the rich control the system, not #1.


#19

If you don’t think society changed for the better with the end of legalized racial discrimination, or the Vietnam War and the draft, or the institution of the 8-hour workday and basic labor protections, or women’s suffrage… then I don’t think we’re ultimately going to agree. I think we’re objectively and morally better off than we were under feudalism and slave-based systems.

I don’t accept that humans are “naturally” hierarchical, or inherently prefer to be ruled. Humans are naturally social, and tend to be whatever they are taught to be. When there were absolute monarchs, people were taught to accept that. Today they don’t accept that a man can rule them just because his father did. Objectively freer society.

I guess if I believed none of these struggles ever achieved anything, I would be ambivalent too.


#20

To me capitalism is just a twist on the slave/serf system of feudalism. Technology has given the serfs a better life physically, but the system still keeps most people virtual slaves. Upward mobility is terrible, wages have been stagnant, people have trouble changing jobs and when they do, wages are across the board low, so there is no gain.
Ah yes, we ended legal discrimination, it now works unseen by most unless you are the one who suffers for it.
Poverty, unemployment, housing, health care, etc is all worse for those who had the gall to be born black. Drug laws are set up to punish black people, prisons hold far more blacks than whites, our system is set up to punish black people. They got the right to drink out of the same faucet, yippee! Yet we make sure they live in their neighborhoods with their schools which are underfunded.
I live in a liberal state, the city black schools get 1/3 the money that the white suburban schools get. And when the state gives it 's money to the schools, those suburban schools get the same amount of money that the black schools do. So it keeps that 2/3 disparagement, the black schools have no gain.
They threw sops to us and that was enough to ease the anger. Yes the 8 hr day, except that for most people they tend to work either 2 or 3 jobs or many hours of unpaid overtime.
And women, well, they get paid less for the same jobs many times, rape and being treated like a thing is what many women have to go through. The MeToo movement is already experiencing a backlash against it and sexual harassment is way too common.
And yes we are naturally hierarchical. Biology shows that, history shows it. It is extremely rare to find any group of humans that don’t form structure with someone leading and the others following. And there will be those who the leader chooses to be favorites who will get more than those who are at the bottom and disfavored.
We are social because we were bred that way, it was the best form for us to survive, just like the other primates. The good traits that we exhibit are bred into humans because they aided our survival. Just like tribalism is bred into us. Social mammals tend to have similar traits that humans have. They have the same emotions. They are far more like us than not. And every single one of them is hierarchical.
None of the struggles ever gotten the real problem solved. It’s like throwing a dog a bone. There wouldn’t have to be a BLM if discrimination was not still a problem. None of the movements would have happen if the underlying problems have been solved or even worked on. We wouldn’t need a movement against the system if the system was that much better than feudalism. The rich wouldn’t run the country like they did in the feudal days. The master gives a better slave collar and calls it capitalism. No matter how comfortable you are as a slave, you are still a slave. The system runs our lives.
Which is why I am a rebel and have fought against the system most of my life. I fought against the system in the nursing home where people were money. Money ran the place, we were constantly reminded that certain things that residents needed cost money. Time was money. The man on top hated the place because it didn’t make enough money, wanted the place closed. We were one of the best nursing home in the state when he took over. By the time he was finished, we were one of the worst. And I was glad to retire knowing we could still go further downhill.
In fact when I retired, everyone was surprised that I didn’t punch him out when he gave me my retirement pin. There wasn’t anyone but him that didn’t know how I felt about him. This was a man who said trained monkeys could do a better job (in a place half staffed by blacks), denied us raises because we didn’t deserve them, while he demanded a 15K raise on his 97K salary because he couldn’t make ends meet on his measly salary. I went around the facility with a tin can asking for people to donate their pennies for the man because he was just so broke. He got his raise while we got pissed on. And no one, not even me, donated a penny for the man.
I am 68 yrs old and workers still get pissed on, there is blatant discrimination against minorities and women, the rich control and have more wealth than when I was young. I grew up listening to McCarthy railing against commies and gays and destroying people’s lives. And I am listening to a president who rails against minorities and destroying their lives. I saw a war being started on a lie back then and I see that another war based on lies is on the horizon. And we are still involved in two wars or more based on lies. It’s deva ju all over again as Yogi said.
What was the fight for? When people don’t remember and give back what was hard fought for?
I am a fighter, always have been, I can’t stop what I am. I fought my parents about abuse when I was six, argued with my grandmother about her hate that she wanted me to believe. Fought against the bullies when others told me I was a fool for taking on people twice my size.
I keep hoping that someday we will see, that our eyes will open. Hasn’t happened yet. My family disowned me because I wouldn’t stop fighting the abuse. Keep quiet Skip, don’t make waves.
I wish that the activism really accomplished the goals of ending whatever abuse of the system that we go after. We go after symptoms and fix a few and then walk away while the main problem still remains. The abuse doesn’t end. It just has a better face on it.
Can we really be satisfied with that? I know that I can’t be. I want the problem solved. Not papered over. Not to come back years later to bite us. To me that is not a solution.