Man! Do we ever need grassroots
authentic media in order
to know the truth!

December 9, 2004

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-12-09.htm
and on the NarcoSphere at http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/2004/12/10/03440/993

      The corporate media is burying the news about the possibly-stolen U.S. election. Some folks wrote me after my last posting, the one titled, “Blessed be the killers, Part III: A strategy for removing the Bush administration”,1 saying in effect that I was wrong, in either or both judgment and strategy. I think the letters I got are indicative of the success of corporate media in shaping people’s consciousness, even those of us who try to be very critical and independent. In this note I share some of the comments and exchanges.

      Subsequently I’ll detail how the hearing yesterday (Wed, Dec 8) of the Democratic members of the House Committee on the Judiciary (the Conyers Committee) on electoral fraud in Ohio has until now been unreported by so-called mainstream media. The meeting is reported in detail on the truthout website by William Rivers Pitt at http://www.truthout.org/cblog.shtml. I believe it ought to be as newsworthy as events in the Ukraine.

      One friend (Kevin Murray <kcmurray23@msn.com>) concluded, after a spirited exchange, “I will keep reading . . . things like yours that won't give up the ghost . . . but it will take a lot to convince me that Bush didn't win.”

      One correspondent (Aaron S. Hawley <aaron.hawley@uvm.edu>) wrote, “You want to commit non-violent direct action to put Kerry in power? He wanted to be a military emperor, too (He campaigned on more troops in Iraq. Bush was wise enough not to mention troops, but let the quagmire deepen until Washington called for more troops.) If Zinn can't convince you, who can. Keep the ideas and discussion coming.” He sent me the Howard Zinn article, “Harness That Anger”, at http://www.progressive.org/jan05/zinn0105.html, in which Zinn wrote, “Yes, Bush was reelected President.”

      Another (Martin Austermuhle <maustermuhle@yahoo.com>) wrote, “I do not . . . believe that the amount of fraud that may have happened will reach the level that it would allow Bush to win decisively with a margin of over 3 million votes . . . David Corn of The Nation--hardly a Bush supporter working for the corporate media--has studied the most prominent cases of voter fraud and found them to be without merit.”

      A really dear, freewheeling and ever enthusiastic comrade (Behrooz Ghassemi <illarirooz@yahoo.com>) took me to task on strategic grounds as follows:

Subject: Get over it George,do you REALLY think Kerry is NOT for the EMPIRER !!?? Hello beloved George !!! I can NOT beleive that YOU,of all the people,still has this ILLUSION that DEMOCRAT,and in this case the billionar kerry,is ANY DIFFERENT than Republican,and in this case BUSH,in the foreign policy matter.I must add that the democrat are MORE pro ISRAEL,more Zionist,than Republicans!! And this recent war,by the way,has ONLY benefited the fascist Israeli regime(read the James Petras & Robin Eastman-Abaya's article on Covert Action,fall 2004 titled:Excess of Evil:Israel-U.S.connections Against Irag).Finally,i must add,as long as people like YOU,who is well aware,well educated,and very progressive,have this ILLUSION we in the LEFT are in deep shit(No tengo pello en mi lengua-digo lo que pienso compadre!!) [I don’t guard my tongue (or watch my words) - I say what I think, comrade]...As an Anarchist(better again Anarco-Communist)I DO NOT BELEIVE voting is the right way to go about social change.As the sayig goes:"If voting made any diference they would have made it illegal".We should stick to our ONLY viable option:Building the NEW society(As James Herod says....)from within this corrupt capitalist hell.Everthing else is NOTHING but illusion....And,we supposedly the most advanced intellectual in the left,should,ONCE and FOR ALL,get down with the REAL work of creating THE ALTERNATIVE....lOVE:BehRooZ-

      And a close comrade (Saurabh Asthana <rednblack@alum.mit.edu>) criticized me on both counts, judgment and strategy. He said, “The hard truth is that 58 million people voted for Bush. Even if you do believe that there was electoral fraud, electoral fraud on the scale of 3 million votes would have been very hard indeed to cover up in an election like this one.” The exchange with Saurabh seems to me worth sharing. It follows:

From Saurabh. I've been rather perplexed over the reaction to the election by many leftists. A great deal of attention has been paid to electoral fraud, and a lot of people seem absolutely convinced that Bush won through deceit. Meanwhile, liberals, who refuse to entertain such notions, mutter to themselves about how stupid those people in the "red states" are, and how they should all be left to suffer for their mistakes.

      Both of these seem to me to be shell-shock responses, a "duck-and-cover" motion. The hard truth is that 58 million people voted for Bush. Even if you do believe that there was electoral fraud, electoral fraud on the scale of 3 million votes would have been very hard indeed to cover up in an election like this one. I do not think a program of civil disobedience like the one in the Ukraine is appropriate. First of all, unlike [Viktor] Yushchenko, Kerry is not interested in contesting the vote, and so it would be difficult to install him on the throne despite his protestation. Second of all, the hard truth is that at least half, if not the majority, of this country voted for Bush, no matter how you slice it.

      Many on the left want to ignore this truth; the liberals want to run from this truth, to pretend it will wither and die under the weight of its own contradictions if left to itself. Maybe; but it might take a good part of the world with it. We absolutely MUST confront the question of why tens of millions of people voted for Bush, and what can be done to alter that equation. If we believe in the power of the people, of grass-roots democracy, then surely our work must involve engaging the people.

      I believe a good deal of the reason for the last election is the failure of the left and the failure of liberals more generally. The left became calcified and failed to respond to the needs of many poor Americans, giving up grass-roots fights against the destruction of the American working class, allowing fascist ideas to come in and replace them. Answering for and correcting our own failures will carry us much further than speculating about the underhandedness of the Bush administration in the past election.

To Saurabh. I'm nearly in agreement with every point you make. The main reservation I have is in accepting, which you apparently do, the 'fact' that Bush actually garnered of the order of three million more votes than Kerry. That may be true, but I don't believe there's credible evidence to put it beyond doubt. Compared to the clearly massive number of people who did vote for Bush, it may seem like I'm quibbling over a mere three or so million votes, but I think it's worth contesting because the fascist takeover is happening so rapidly. Of course I have no illusions about Kerry (whom I detest). But I think it's important for people to try to take control into our own hands, though I know that won't happen simply by voting. I have no more delusions about electoral politics than Behrooz (his letter is below), but as an opportunity to engage people at their current level of consciousness, it seems to me a significant opportunity, provided that in doing so we don't ignore the underlying problems of society, but expose them to view. I think the Zapatistas have been exemplary in this regard, taking people where they're at as a starting point.

      Your criticism of my suggestion that we try to implement a campaign of civil disobedience (going way beyond simple protest demonstrations), firstly that it won't work because Kerry isn't contesting the vote, is probably correct at this time. That's why I described my ideal of preventing the inauguration until we are satisfied that indeed the American people chose Bush as "my fantasy." I do think that in the future such a campaign might be successful in first deligitimizing his regime in the eyes of the majority of Americans and then in getting rid of it. But clearly that's dependent on the social dynamics, both within the U.S. and globally.

      The latter half of your note, starting with "Second of all, the hard truth is that at least half, if not the majority, of this country voted for Bush, no matter how you slice it" is, I agree, the heart of the problem, although Zinn's observation that about 40 percent of the eligible voters didn't take part changes the arithmetic somewhat. Still, that's the big challenge.

      To reach the half or so of the American population that supports, or at least passively accepts the aggressive U.S. policy is, I agree, something we MUST confront. I've been trying in several avenues to do that, to the limited extent that I can. I initiated (with Steve Cavrak) the Science for the People Discussion listserv 2 about five or so years ago. I've supported building the grassroots communications infrastructure (Lucy Parsons Center,3 Independent Media Centers in Boston,4 Philadelphia,5 St. Louis,6 Al Giordano's Narco News website7 and the Fund for Authentic Journalism,8 which also supports his School for Authentic Journalism, the Nuclear Resistor,9 various Jewish and Arab groups,10 the Somerville Divestment Project,11 etc), and tried to build up my own website and e-mail distribution list (now about 1,150) by adding names from the CERJ discussion list,12 the War Tax Resistance group,13 and more recently some names from correspondence of a church group14 trying to speak directly to those fundamentalist Christian churches that support the State of Israel above all else, and thus the Bush policy. Getting to the hard right-wingers is tough. I think it's an enormous task, and I know that what I can accomplich is miniscule as measured against what's needed.

      A major problem of the left is the extent to which we're caught up in the ideology of competition, and so there are all the left's internecene ideological rivalries -- attacks on one another's ideas in efforts to have one's own ideas predominate. We ought to treat ideas like open source software, practicing cooperation instead of competing. Winning arguments is not only not important, it's an impediment to having an open mind, so important for winning the world we want.

From Saurabh. I think we've been so busy talking to ourselves for so long, we've forgotten about everyone else. The hard work isn't being done: the labor organizing, the grassroots political and, yes, electoral groups. These things could have tremendous impacts, especially in rural regions where economic realities are so cold they should be practically turning people into flaming leftists just by themselves. But all these places and people have been left to themselves, or rather they have been left to conservative/fascist forces.

      Maybe we're too late and these forces are already too strong (and the left too weak) to defeat. But I think they must be confronted at the root: that is, strong left-wing movements that address fundamental economic issues need to be created, so they can steal the grass-roots anger that fascistic forces have been harnessing for the past few decades.

      Since 9/11 the left has been consumed by confronting imperialism in Iraq, etc., but where we were going before that had real strength and real potential: confronting the economic devastation of the working class in this country by its ruling class. That reality was never made plain, and was always overshadowed by the much louder argument we made, the exploitation of workers in the global South. Meanwhile, poor people in this country have been ignored. American Leftists need to remember where they live again, and start working on the issues that matter here. And, I hate to sound cliche (and I really think all this old Marxist language needs to die), but that means raising class consciousness and fighting capitalism for the interests of the American working class. In solidarity with workers in the rest of the world, yes, but first and foremost the struggle must be fought at home. That is not as romantic, since it is not fighting for the most impoverished, the most oppressed. But it is absolutely important. And if we in America don't do this, who will?

      Whether the left has the organization and wherewithal to accomplish this, I am not certain. But I think this is the only way (or, the essential ingredient) to stopping fascism in this country.

To Saurabh. I think you're right-on about having to work "at home."

Notes
1 At http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2004-12-06.htm.

2 You can join by going to http://list.uvm.edu/archives/science-for-the-people.html and clicking near the top of the page on "Join or leave the list (or change settings).

3 The Lucy Parsons site is at http://www.lucyparsons.org/.

4 The Boston Independent Media Center is at http://boston.indymedia.org/.

5 The Philadelphia Independent Media Center is at http://www.phillyimc.org/.

6 The St. Louis Independent Media Center is at http://stlouis.indymedia.org/.

7 The NarcoNews site is at http://www.narconews.com/.

8 The Fund for Authentic Journalism is at http://www.authenticjournalism.org/.

9 The Nuclear Resistor site is at http://www.serve.com/nukeresister/.

10 The few contacts listed here are but a tiny sample of the many grassroots groups in Israel, in Palestine and in the U.S. that are committed to gaining peace and justice for all peoples in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    The Jewish Voice for Peace, a U.S. group, site is at
http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/.
    The US/Israel Women to Women group site is at http://usisraelwomen.org/home.html.
    The Palestinian National Initiative group site is at http://www.almubadara.org/en/.
    The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme site is at http://www.gcmhp.net.

11 The Somerville Divestment Project site is at http://www.divestmentproject.org/index.shtml.

12 You can subscribe to the Coalition for Equity-Restorative Justice (CERJ) e-mail list by writing to John Wilmerding <wilmerding@earthlink.net> or to CERJ <cerj@igc.org>, and including your first and last names, your email address, and your state, province or country of residence.

13 The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee website is at http://www.nwtrcc.org/.

14 The group We Hold These Truths is a project of Charles E. Carlson to convince Christian fundamentalists whose churches currently support U.S. war policy and the State of Israel that they should instead follow the teachings of Jesus and work for peace. The website is at http://www.whtt.org/.

― G.S.

All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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Last update of this page: December 9, 2004