My church youth group has talked a lot about the elections lately. These young adults used to be reluctant to talk about politics, but now there is lots of enthusiasm, especially among the first-time voters. Several waited for hours to see Clinton and reported happily that they had seen CHALLENGE sellers there, too. Many are enthralled by Obama.
This is the savvy “YouTube generation,” but their reasons were incredibly superficial: “I just like him” or “She won the debate.” Nobody seemed to know the candidates’ positions, other than “she’s for health care, he’s for change,” or whether they differ on anything substantial. One older adult was the most enthusiastic, saying that “Obama is inspiring a whole generation of youth to get involved in the electoral process.” About half of the young people just listened, and one said later that she “wasn’t really into the elections.”
Another adult, known as a radical, was pressed to say who she really wanted to be president. She replied, “We’re on an out-of-control runaway train with no brakes, headed toward a cliff, and you are asking who I want to drive it. I think we should all get off the train, as quickly as we can!” Several young CHALLENGE readers said, “yeah, but communism didn’t work.” But they agreed to invite a student comrade to talk with the group later.
One of the sharper exchanges came when someone offered to bet on the return of a military draft within the first term of any Democratic administration. “Why do you think Obama would do that?” someone asked. “Because the main message of his campaign is to get young people to feel that ‘we’re all in this together, part of a liberal multi-racial, anti-sexist America’ and the logical conclusion is ‘everybody should do National Service’ which would turn into a draft” she said. Most looked unhappy with this idea, but nobody argued against it.
In an anti-racism class at the church on election night, almost everyone self-identified as a Democrat and seemed to agree when the minister said whichever Democrat won would be wonderful. But nobody actually claimed that the Democrats would improve things. Instead they talked about how a black or female president would be a “symbol” of change for the better. Several were excited that Internet developments have “democratized American politics.” On the other hand, several people pointed out that the constant media talk about the “black vote” and “Latin vote” and the “female vote” builds even more racism.
I was a little surprised when some CHALLENGE readers shared the general hopefulness about the elections, because these good friends are open to the ideas that capitalism can’t be reformed and that we can’t end racism without ending capitalism. But their idea of having a “long-term perspective” is that incremental “gains” made through electoral politics will lead eventually to revolutionary developments.
Now a long-term perspective depends on understanding that small changes can create conditions for a revolution. But what kind of changes? Not winning small reforms but winning people – by ones and twos and in larger groups – little by little, closer to the communist movement PLP is building.
Most of my friends don’t yet fully agree that it’s meaningless to talk about “democracy” when we live under a capitalist dictatorship. And we need to talk more about what real mass participation will be like under a revolutionary dictatorship of the working class.
These conversations have led to a new regular CHALLENGE reader, with plans to show the paper to four more people. Being deeply involved in this church has created wonderful opportunities for sharp, friendly, long-term political struggle over racism, the bosses’ electoral circus and for communism.