[lbo-talk] Wisconsin recall results

Joshua Morey amvojo at gmail.com
Mon Aug 15 15:50:14 PDT 2011

Wojtek - thank you for the thoughtful response. There is certainly much to criticize re: the strategies and tactics we used in WI. I continue to struggle to digest everything that has happened (and continues to happen), but I'll deposit my cud anyway for those who wish to dissect.

The way I posed my questions had everything to do with a tangible, immediate assault - thus a defensive posture was necessary; furthermore, the assault drew myriad people who wouldn't normally consider themselves allies, much less radicals, into something we might call *open struggle*. Perhaps I have an outdated, archaic frame of mind, but with Cairo in the immediate past and 100k people from an array of unions, immigrant organizations, community organizations, radical organizations, etc marching around the capitol, raising their fists, talking seriously about what solidarity and their unions/organizations mean, and showing hints of thinking about things in terms of (anti)capitalism - in that specific situation, I do not think organizing for electoral reform would have been a meaningful approach and I certainly do not think descending upon madison in masses was a strategic/tactical mistake; however, it alone was clearly not enough. The tragedy (and this is the kernel of truth in your argument) was that there was no organized (proactive?) "next step", no organized nucleus (although for moments it seemed like the capitol might have been capable of serving such a purpose). It seems to me that the will for militancy (whether you think it would have been productive or not) was present but, without better organization (within unions [e.g. WEAC screwed their teachers], between unions and other organizations, and drawing in others unaffiliated with organizations, developing cogent demands, plans, etc), we hesitated, blinked, stalled. While I agree with you to some degree as you criticize 'activism' (would you apply your criticism to Verizon workers?), what was happening in Madison was not ritualized for many of us - for many, it was an introduction - and despite it all calamity befell us still. In other words, it was not a feel good exercise to avert calamity as you describe - people were *serious* and sacrificing a lot to do what they were doing and it was *not* fun.

I might rather characterize it as, at its best, a movement in its infancy, and like a baby, it needs to become aware of itself before it can move and recognize its limitations and possibilities ... well, that's what I might say when i'm feeling optimistic, anyway ... and let us hope we have learned object permanence. In this sense, I think Carrol's analysis of Wisconsin is fundamentally important - this is best understood as a developmental step, not as a singular event (I believe I wrote one or two rather frantic posts - or maybe they were on FB - about how those next in line need to watch WI and learn from our mistakes, weaknesses).

But then we have the democrats...

It was clear to me (Bryan? others?) that the DP had an immediate and large presence, and they were determined to do two things - gather members/money, and pacify. From the DP representatives in the legislature to the DP activists in the crowds, their activities, contrary to "ours", were well organized, well orchestrated, well executed, and they got what they wanted and we got nothing for it. My apologies to the DP apologists - the DP, whether or not we are their roadkill (see wojtek's post) effectively exploited this movement and, at least to some degree, neutralized it (our own weaknesses as a disorganized movement are also to blame) - and I find it hard to believe that such is merely an accidental consequence, collateral damage on the way to some other purpose. I'm not suggesting that I expected the DP to do anything else - I think I have been consistent in my concerns regarding the DP and I think my concerns have largely come to pass, and I still don't understand how they can be understood as anything but beholden to the interests of capitalists. That said, I know several people far more thoughtful than I who contributed a lot to DP campaigns and I can't revile them for it - under circumstances so desperate, I think it is easy to perceive some degree of possibility in a party that promises fewer cuts, particular when your job, Badgercare, reproductive self-determination, or retirement are on the line. Until we have a better, more organized movement, what better can we promise?

Anyway, it seems that people are organizing in smaller scales - in their towns, allied with unions and other larger organizations - in my own (very small) town we have an incredibly active group that wrestles earnestly with the tensions between "proactive" and "reactive" that you describe. I don't know what the long-term impact of our organization will be - perhaps you're right and we only do this as a sort of exercise in self-gratification, but I don't think so, if for no other reason than because I grew up catholic and my self-gratification-guilt-o-meter is not buzzing...

Sorry so long...

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list