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Change we need: An Anarchist Perspective on the 2008 Election

category north america / mexico | miscellaneous | feature author Tuesday December 16, 2008 22:45author by US NEFAC National Secretary - North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists Report this post to the editors

A statement by US NEFAC on the recent US presidential election

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We encourage the support of unions, neighborhood democracy, resistance to police brutality, support for political prisoners, models for mass education, and also a movement with teeth. Above all, we must struggle for what we need, not what the system is willing to give us. In addition, we must all be on the watch for expressions of racist hatred and organized fascist movements in the months and years following the election.

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Change we need: An Anarchist Perspective on the 2008 Election

The election is over. Barack Obama will become the next president of The United States. The news of Obama's victory resulted in spontaneous celebrations across the country. The energy was infectious and everywhere conversations seemed to contain a positive outlook that people in the U.S. have not known for many long years. Words like change and hope are being used, and it seems widely assumed that the election of Obama will herald a new age of social justice, an end to the wars, and significant reduction in the racism the plagues U.S. society. But as the energy and media spectacle dies down, we would like for you to consider the election from a different perspective. It is our belief as Class Struggle Anarchists that elections in a capitalist society in fact can never bring true justice and security to the average working person. We do not believe that such elections can with any degree of permanence prevent wars, or deal effectively with racism, sexism or environmental degradation.

We stand in solidarity with the hopes for profound change of the millions of people who voted for Obama. However, we also recognize that the capitalist system is in a serious crisis which is dragging down all working class and oppressed people and which even the best-intentioned high office-holder is incapable of solving. The aim of this piece is to provide a perspective on the crisis and an outline for solutions.

The presidency of George W. Bush has been by almost any reasonable standard a complete disaster. Lies, wars, a financial crisis and deep recession, and the building up of a police state are just a few of Bush's dubious legacies. Some of these were already obvious two years ago as the electoral season opened and the liberals and reformists began their campaign against these issues. However, glaringly missing from their attacks was why these problems existed in the first place.

It is our belief that economic inequality, war, racism, sexism and environmental destruction are inherent in any capitalist society. Consider for a moment the vast wealth that our society creates,everything from crops to advanced medicines. However, the access to this wealth is unequally divided, determined by supposedly free markets. It is assumed by the politicians and corporate media that these supposedly free markets are a natural part of life. Markets, however, are set up by people; they can also be modified or undone by people. As anarchists, we believe that the production and distribution of society's wealth should be decided democratically, by people, and not by a market mechanism which in fact is controlled by a few.


Anarchists are absolutely for democracy. The concept that people should come together and make decisions is the backbone of our ideology. However, we do not view the U.S. system of democracy as being representative of those ideals. The Republicans and Democrats exist as two rival factions battling over our consent to be ruled. Both promote rhetoric of common interest with ordinary people, but we feel this is an illusion. The politicians in this nation exist to provide a stable platform for the rule and exploitation of the majority of working people in America by the minority of capitalists; that is, the owners of the property on which we produce the wealth. We build, guard,clean and work in the offices and plants , we transport the goods, and we sell them, but the capitalists own them them and pocket the profits. The interests of these two groups are not the same. The boss class wants to get as much from the workers as it can. They want to pay us as little as possible and sell us everything they own as dearly as they can. Unchecked these conditions have led to uprisings. Don't believe it? Look at our own history! The abolition of slavery, 8-hour day, the right to form unions, overtime pay, child labor laws, the end to legal segregation, the right of women to vote and to choose, and the right of gay and transgender people to be themselves was won not at the ballot box, but by people organizing, striking, boycotting and taking to the streets. The liberals in elective office passed the laws in response to the movements and to head off what could become a revolutionary upsurge.

Implications of the Election

Without a doubt this election has been historic. We see two reasons. A Black man has been elected to the highest office in the U.S., a country founded on the mass kidnapping of Africans and the theft of land from the Indigenous people who already lived here. Second, Obama's campaign was marked by some of the most widespread mass organizing in years.

The US is a nation deeply scarred by racism, and despite what some pundits might believe, it is clear to any working person that racism is nowhere near dead. Racial oppression is a complicated issue, and we do not mean to simplify it. However, a discussion of why racism and white supremacy have been so intractable in US society would have to consider how race has consistently been used as a wedge by the ruling class in its rhetoric and its policy decisions to keep the working class divided along racial lines, and so prevent the class from realizing its full potential as a force capable of self-organizing and overcoming its oppression. The election of a Black man to the presidency of the US represents a real shift in the attitudes of Americans, and we applaud this. However, racism is not just about attitudes. It is integral to the system of exploitation of working people. This systemic racism is what leverages the advantage of the ruling class, and with the increasingly evident magnitude of the economic collapse we are heading into, the ruling class will be aggressively seeking opportunities to defend its advantages. The way forward is for working-class people to organize in their own interests and to champion the aspirations of those who are oppressed by racism. We see social justice movements, neighborhood associations and cop-watch as examples. These sorts of bottom-up movements stand in complete contrast to what will be the top-down efforts of even an Obama administration to address social problems. Such efforts may alleviate some of the symptoms but they will leave the root causes of the problems untouched.

The other significant element of the election was the unprecedented grassroots mobilization that supported Obama's campaign. Under a banner of change and social justice many thousands of people volunteered,donated money, and did the labor of making the campaign run. We view this trend with great excitement. Imagine what could be gained if that focus on grassroots organizing was taken into the communities we lived in, into direct action on our on behalf instead of appeals to power.

We urge for this energy and creativity to go into movements independent of politicians. We encourage the support of unions, neighborhood democracy, resistance to police brutality, support for political prisoners, models for mass education, and also a movement with teeth. Above all, we must struggle for what we need, not what the system is willing to give us.

In addition, we must all be on the watch for expressions of racist hatred and organized fascist movements in the months and years following the election. The truth is that many white Americans are still openly racist, and there are groups that will exploit this, and real anger of social issues, to create violent movements. The news of a Black church burned in Springfield, MA just hours after the election was not surprising, and we must use all means necessary to stop such movements.

November 2008

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author by Kevin S.publication date Sun Dec 14, 2008 04:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think is a very good statement which addresses the issue properly and hits the main points with clarity and insight. It is also to be applauded for not sinking into traditional dogmatic "perspectives" on elections etc., while remaining critical and emphasizing at every point the centrality of popular struggle independent of, and in contrast to, bourgeois political reforms which admittedly can make real improvements for the working class but always on the basic assumption, in the framework, of the State and capitalism.

As I see it, anarchists should not let their guard down, they should view with suspicion all bourgeois politicians and all bourgeois economic and social reforms; but we should never substitute our critique of bourgeois politics and capitalist "solutions" for firmly-grounded social activity. The class and social struggle must be central to our program and pervade every aspect of activity, always agitating for it to the masses and organizing ourselves the better to fight collectively and bring our concerted influence to bear on radical and popular movements.

author by Meowpublication date Wed Dec 17, 2008 03:15author email mataharieyeofthedawn at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you so much for concisely putting into the written word what I've been struggling to explain to people during this election. Change for the US needs not just a face and a hope but the work of everyone to achieve the goals of the people.

author by MrJaohLeaondon - Nonepublication date Sun Dec 21, 2008 23:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is very crucial for everyone to understand that a revolution has begun in Greece and that our major cities are burning. I suppose that the international media and the media of your country are hidding the maginitude of what is happening in Greece. The anarchists monements in Greece are at the streets burning our major cities in groups 25 to 500 people doing damage to police stations goverment offices and big corporation stores. The desperate immigrant's ,homeless and desperate people of the cities are helping us either by destroying or by looting the fake private property and taking back what is rightgully theirs.But here we also see the common worker destroying and protesting at thousends of students and common people without real knowlendge of Anarchism throw rocks and hit police stations. This started by the death of an innocent 16 year old boy by a cop. As we speak the goverment is weakened and so far the police is holding back their shooters because another innocent death would result in total collaption of the state, they are in defence for the first time and the anarchist movement is getting stronger. This is a message to all the partners anarchists in the world, if you can travel to Greece and help the movement by throwing a cocktail, smashing a bank or killing a pig of the agencies please come. The situation is very mature for overthrowing the goverment and building the spanish model. The revolution can be exported to Paris that is ready to explode, If we start to believe that anarchy is an outopia in our own movement we are doomed. If you don't believe our words of the right time right place scan the net for what really is happening in Greece. Come there is work to be done.
As the person writting has no great knowledge of the political meaning of some words in english don't missunderstand nothing we believe in Anarchism in its true form. We just don't know good english.

author by Viola Wikins - IWWpublication date Mon Dec 22, 2008 13:56author email violawil at bigpond dot net dot auauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Via the internet/media it seems the localised uprisings are region-wide throughout Greece with global solidarity actions: a unique situation ongoing for 2 weeks. While there is not the France 1968 extension of 10 million wage slaves in general strike & workplace far the fighting spirit of the youth and their supporters has much support and may take the direct action in workplaces route. Already occupied Union HQ to protest at their collaboration with repression and airlines have been diusrupted.

Like the Argentine Piqueteros the too young to vote not in a job youth have occupied their schools but go into the streets and use direct democracy to make decisions. In 19th century Maltesta & crew used to take over Town Halls and burn the land & tax documents to encourage the land to be taken over by those who worked it and not the Landlords and Government.

A different time yet the similarities are striking.
Like the "economic crisis" this situation baffles the economists, experts and the would be Governors who seek to get their own agenda realised ie get themselves into Power like authoritarian socialists.

Here is the Economist magazine response to Greece: freaking a tad at prospect of the example inspiring Europe wide "copy cat" example. This reminds me of the 1980 Bristol, 1981 Brixton then Britian wide 1980s riot which anarchists and Irish & black communities in resistance did not extend to workplaces much as initiative was unemployed who took fight up to Police.

Already, the Greek riots are prompting talk of a new era of networked protest. The volume of online content they have inspired is remarkable. Photos and videos of the chaos, often shot with cellphones, were posted online almost in real time. Twitter, a service for exchanging short messages, has brimmed with live reports from the streets of Athens, most of them in Greek but a few in English. A tribute to the slain teenager—a clip of photos with music from a popular rock band—appeared on YouTube, the video-sharing site, shortly after his death; more than 160,000 people have seen it. A similar tribute group on Facebook has attracted more than 130,000 members, generating thousands of messages and offering links to more than 1,900 related items: images of the protests, cartoons and leaflets. A memorial was erected in Second Life, a popular virtual environment, giving its users a glimpse of real-life material from the riots. Many other online techniques—such as maps detailing police deployments and routes of the demonstrations— came of age in Athens. And as thousands of photos and videos hit non-Greek blogs and forums, small protests were triggered in many European cities, including Istanbul (see picture above) and Madrid. Some 32 people were arrested in Copenhagen.


..during the French riots of 2005, teenagers posted blogs that urged people to “burn the cops”—and made massive use of text messages to co-ordinate the protests.
The youths that trashed Budapest in 2006 relied on blogs to enlist supporters, and distribute an audio recording of the prime minister admitting government corruption.
Hungarian blogs were also used to aggregate visual evidence of police brutality. There were novel online projects such as an “Interactive Riot Walkthrough”, which superimposed photos of the latest events on a map of Budapest, offering “virtual tours” of the city as it burned.

Greece is the Word !

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author by Alicepublication date Sun Feb 22, 2009 17:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What's so impressive (or reflective of anarchist thought) about more than half of half of the voters who still care to participate, uniting behind a man who still stinks war is an acceptable solution to anything...I'm not seeing it....

It's merely typical of how the two parties divide and conquer via the media and buzzwords and how the left is manipulated into thinking they are the "kind" half of the half who care...


author by Bootspublication date Tue Feb 24, 2009 02:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Re: Organizing and acting...

Alice, some thoughts on your post...

"What's so impressive (or reflective of anarchist thought) about more than half of half of the voters who still care to participate, uniting behind a man who still stinks war is an acceptable solution to anything...I'm not seeing it...."

I think this is simply the reality we will have to face until a greater level of internationalism is achieved. It is certainly not the case that the average working class American would celebrate the death of an Iraqi, but rather they believe that there is not another option. However, I think that some hope can be taken from people choosing to vote for Obama. Do not mistake me, I hold no hope for Obama as a President, or the system, but the vote still stands as an indicator of where Americans are politically. It is important that an African American was elected, it is important that the majority of Americans wish to end the Iraq war (if perhaps not the conflict in Afghanistan) and want resources and attention to go to schools, communities, and jobs rather than fill the pockets of the rich. The trick is how to organize so that these causes can truly be forwarded. We must keep reminding people of what they wanted when they voted, and why the system can not offer it.

"It's merely typical of how the two parties divide and conquer via the media and buzzwords and how the left is manipulated into thinking they are the "kind" half of the half who care..."

I agree with the media manipulation. However if by "the half" you mean American voters, of course they care. These are working people with families and hopes just like anyone else. We are manipulated, oppressed and exploited, but of course we care. If we do not believe this than what hope is there for Anarchism?

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