Some brief thoughts on the most general of levels regarding one of the big issues coming out of the struggle around the new reactionary legislation sweeping the country and the mobilizations against it. While I’m not sure this would fit on a sign, or is appropriate for one, at some point the ‘democracy umbrella’ that we are all meant to adhere to and are demanded to live under, to be sheltered by, needs to be realized to be the cage it truly is if our class is to be capable of waging its side of the class war.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans are demanding recourse to the law, some of it more legal than others. Much of the movement is seeking redress in the courts, including the union leaderships. Politics is to be about democracy and about law. Politics at the level of the struggle between classes is nothing but determining where and how force is applied however, though the law is a good barometer of the class struggle since the law seeks to codify force in society. Force can, of course, be applied without recourse to the law, but law allows for the pretense, and in a certain sense the reality, of democracy since it is ‘agreed upon’ and democracy is, in theory, the negation of force in politics.
However, it is the force available to the state (and the State) that makes these laws real, never mind what the will or interests of the people are. Force is a pink slip, a sheriff blocking a door, a budget cut, a school closing; coercions all. It is all of those things as much as it is the threat of a fine, a jail cell or a water cannon. It is a ban on collective bargaining and if you don’t like it, tough; it’s the law. Oh, and those sheriffs? They don’t call them Law Enforcement for nothing. It is the state that holds the monopoly on force. They call it the rule of law. Force can also be a sit-in, a boycott, an occupation, a strike. But to exercise this force it is often necessary…to break the law.
‘Democracy’ exists now through the medium of ‘rights’ and those rights are not at all eternal or everlasting, they are products of society, and this society is a capitalist one. Even where rights are genuinely won by workers and others the passing of the Bill only proves that rights granted can be rights revoked. Place all of the laws of your society protecting rights of property in one pile and those protecting wage earners in another. And how could it possibly be any different? No, democracy for workers and democracy for capitalists are competing democracies, not complimentary ones.
One defends a tyranny of parasitical interests pursued by an increasingly concentrated private wealth of, both in relative and absolute numbers, an infinitesimal class. It lionizes individual rights, personal ‘liberties’ and private property. The draconian bills in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin are the logical conclusion to a society based on such ‘rights’. The fusion between the corporate and the state, though as bad before is worse now…as the saying goes and the consequences of that are everywhere; from the Health Care Bill to the extension of tax cuts for the rich to the bailout of banks and business and the austerity on everyone else. Obama or Bush, the rich still rule; literally in the case of the federal level where millionaires (duly elected, of course) populate the vaunted halls and chambers of the ‘Republic’. Their democracy looks an awful lot like The Patriot Act to me.
The one we propose, we seek to practice, is infinitely more expansive than theirs. It recognizes, above all, collective rights and collective control of those rights. It introduces democratic control over the economy, that most defining social relationship we are a part of. It embraces the interests of the great mass of the world, its producers, going beyond the social divisions we see as so central, so natural to our current predicament and political landscape; class, gender, race, nation, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ‘ability’- all the past as present, the present as past. A society mediated by those rights, those collective rights, is the only chance at survival for our society and possibly our species in an increasingly global world facing increasingly global challenges; no, catastrophes the consequences of which are collective, even if unevenly distributed.
On the steps of Wisconsin’s State House last week I saw elements of both those competing democracies; well, one more than the other. And these things are naturally confused and intertwined and manipulated; they were all jumbled together but they were distinct. The elements of capitalist democracy I saw in Madison disgusted me; maneuvering, demobilizing, subservient, limited. That elements of collective, of workers, democracy I saw exhibited there was joyous; creative, open, energizing, versatile. It was ‘common’ in the very best sense of the term.
In this class war let us wage that war, in part, on the grounds of ‘democracy’. By all means, but let us wage it by utilizing, developing and deepening ours, throwing off the yoke of theirs in the process.