Christopher Niles and Racism

Alex LoCascio alexlocascio at
Thu Dec 3 01:23:41 PST 1998

On Thu, 3 Dec 1998 09:51:46 EST Apsken at writes:

>He followed this swinish insult with crap that identified activism with
>reform, and that, "Organizers don't talk about capitalism because they
>full well that many of the people will stop listening to them. Or,
>alternatively, organizers, viz. their middle-class comforts, are not
>interested in doing the really hard work required to make serious
>idealogicalstruggle in this country possible."

Hey, Ken, how about toning down the anger? I think there was a lot of truth in what Niles was saying, and I don't think any of it was intended as an "insult." The fact of the matter is that most "activism" in this country IS reformist and NOT ideological. Back when there was a real Left in this country, there really wasn't any such thing as an "activist." There were, however, a lot of people dedicated to the destruction of capitalism. This carried over into taking part in everyday struggles that were seen as part of the broader social change picture: The Civil War in Spain, CIO organizing drives, etc.

Activism occurs today, and much of it is very valuable, but most of it occurs outside of any broader framework. Probably the only exception would be the Central American solidarity groups of the 80s, which I imagine captured the imagination of most Marxists.

A lot of activism is just plain weird. The War Resisters League recently held some kind of demo outside the Pentagon. What the hell did that accomplish? Nothing, other than maybe bringing a few more people's attention to the issue. No policy changes were effected. The Pentagon didn't call it quits. The military-industrial complex will go on as if nothing happened. I really just don't understand what the purpose of this kind of "activism" is. When "activism" isn't rooted in genuinely working class movements, it just degenerates into a lot of idealistic, middle class college kids congratulating themselves on how enlightened their worldviews are.

There's some interesting stuff going on with the fledgling Labor Party, but it's too early to tell how things will turn out with that. I recall Jane Slaughter saying something in Against The Current that a lot of local chapters have been commandeered by Leftists. Definitely not a good sign. Any "working class" movement not dominated by the working classes is a farce.

Hell, I don't have all the answers, but I think it's time for the "Left" to start thinking in terms of long-term, concrete change (sometimes involving reforms, naturally), rather than having another demonstration every few months or so. ___________________________________________________________________ You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail. Get completely free e-mail from Juno at or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]

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