"Beyond Usual Politics"

“Beyond Usual Politics” is the name of a statement reprinted by the National Organization for an American Revolution (NOAR).  This
statement and others on various topics can be ordered from 
  • Literature Available from Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.
  • James & Grace Lee Boggs Center To Nurture Community Leadership (BCNCL) “is a non–profit center founded in 1995 by friends and associates of James Boggs (1919–1993) and Grace Boggs to honor and continue their legacy as movement activists and theoreticians. Our aim is to help grassroots activists develop themselves into visionary leaders and critical thinkers who can devise pro–active strategies for rebuilding and respiriting our cities and rural communities from the ground up, demonstrate the power of ideas in changing ourselves and our reality, demystify leadership. The Center currently sponsors Detroit Summer and the Summer Leadership Institute, both of which seek to help develop a new generation of activists, as well as Artists and Children Creating Community Together and the Power of Ideas Book Club.” Please visit the BCNCL website. Below is an excerpt from the statement, “Beyond Usual Politics” "NEW QUESTIONS REQUIRING NEW ANSWERS WHAT, WHEN AND HOW DO WE NEED TO PRODUCE AND CONSUME – not in order 'to keep the economy going' but to develop our collective self– reliance, our collective pride in our communities and in workmanship, and to satisfy our human need to live more meaningful lives? Should we demand that auto plants stay open just so that auto workers can keep working – or should we close them down, knowing that his will mean a general cutback in our standard of living, until we discover what kind of transportation we need to provide both mobility and meaningful social contact among ourselves, instead of increasing pollution, traffic jams, streets emptied of pedestrians, and 50,000 auto deaths a year? WHAT KIND OF HOMES, SCHOOLS, WORKPLACES, PUBLIC BUILDINGS DO WE NEED to enable us to relate to one another as human beings, to raise children who will be self–reliant as well as eager to help others, and to encourage everyone, women and men, the old and the young, to live more productive and less alienated lives? Should young people be kept in schools, just because there are no jobs for them? Or should we close down the schools – even if millions of teachers are laid off – until we discover the purpose of education in an age of automation? CAN NEW YORK CITY EVER BE MADE LIVABLE WITHOUT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE MOVING OUT? CAN THE BIG CITIES EVER SOLVE THE GARBAGE PROBLEM as long as people throw paper, bottles and rubbish all over the streets – because we now believe that sanitation is the special job of sanitation workers, just as we believe that education is the special job of teachers, health the special job of doctors, and politics the special job of politicians? HOW CAN WE STOP DRUG ADDICTION AS LONG AS TV COMMERCIALS KEEP PUSHING DRUGS AS THE INSTANT SOLUTION TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS? WHY CAN'T WE FIGHT CRIME by pledging with one another not to buy 'hot goods' – thus showing in practice that we value our social ties with our neighbors more than we value material things? SHOULD TV BROADCASTING BE RESTRICTED TO CERTAIN HOURS OF THE DAY – not just to save energy but to save millions of Americans from becoming vegetables, challenging all of us to renew our contacts with our neighbors, with ourselves, and with Nature? We cannot live meaningful lives as long as we evade discussing and deciding such questions – difficult as they are – in terms of what will further the human development of each one of us, of this country, and of the human species. Only through political struggles over issues of this importance can we create communities out of what are today only geographical neighborhoods. We will not always make the correct decisions; and even when we do, new contradictions will arise – because Man/Womankind and this nation are still evolving. But we can't keep delegating this responsibility to those who we know have been elected by special interest groups and then blame them because their decisions lead us into one crisis after another. Up to now, most people have thought of politics as just a clash between special interests for a bigger 'piece of the pie.' Radicals and militants of all kinds have been chiefly concerned with redistribution of goods. Now we must recognize that politics is not chiefly a question of redistribution. It is a question of, first, deciding what kind of society we want to live in and, then, participating in the continuing political struggles necessary to create and develop that kind of society." The Watergate scandals have increased the cynicism of the average American towards politics. Instead of wondering how we can create a new theory and practice of politics which will enable us to struggle together to tackle this country's mounting problems, millions of Americans are using Watergate as an excuse to give up on politics altogether. Others are still going to the polls out of habit, hoping that by replacing Republicans with Democrats or vice versa, we can check inflation, stop crime and corruption, put everybody to work, etc. Why do Americans have such a narrow concept of politics? Why do we go on year after year boasting about the American system of “government by the people, of the people and for the people” while at the same time leaving all the most important decisions to those whom we look down on as “dirty politicians”? Most people use the word “politics” as if they know what it means and as if politics is the same thing at all times for all people when, in fact, politics like everything else is constantly changing. We do not have to be limited by what politics has been. WHERE DO OUR IDEAS OF POLITICS COME FROM? The fundamentals of the American political system were established 200 years ago when the most progressive elements in Western society embraced the philosophy that if everyone goes his/her merry–and–not–so–merry way, pursuing individual self–interest and competing freely with one another, the whole society will automatically benefit. Once it was revolutionary to think this way. Fortified by this philosophy, men and women in Europe developed the courage to break out of the feudal restrictions which kept everyone in his/her “place.” Inspired by their belief in individual freedom, the early settlers and, then, millions of immigrants, risked the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to seek their fortunes in the New World. In accordance with this individualistic philosophy, Americans created a new concept of self–government as the free election of individuals to office to represent the self–interest of their constituents. They assumed that the best interests of the nation would be served if representatives of different regional and class interests bargained with one another to get as much as they could for their constituents. Political parties were organized to elect these representatives who came to be regarded as “dirty politicians” because they could only win office by making promises which they couldn't possibly keep. This concept of self–government has enabled Americans to create the most powerful and most technologically advanced society in the world. But the human costs of living by this philosophy have been incalculable. Native Americans were exterminated and their survivors placed in the world's first concentration camps. Blacks were uprooted from their homes in Africa to provide slave labor for the cottonfields of the South. All Americans have been dehumanized by this single–minded pursuit of individual economic advancement. We have not developed the concern for our communities and for people of other regions, classes, races and nations which is as essential to human growth as individual freedom. Our only concept of politics is electing those politicians who help us “get ours” and removing those who don't. “The best government,” we have insisted, “is the least government” except when we had our hands out for a government subsidy. Thus Americans have no idea of the leadership role which a political party should play in challenging all citizens to participate continuously in self–government. We have no idea of the responsibility of government to project concrete goals for the entire nation. We have no appreciation of the need of every people for continuing leadership. In ordinary times we reject all leadership as “tyranny,” while in a crisis we complain bitterly about “lack of leadership.” THE CONTRADICTIONS MOUNT Periodically the contradictions inherent in pursuing rapid economic development, regardless of human cost, have erupted in national crisis. In the middle of the 19th Century, the Civil War became inevitable after runaway slaves and New England Abolitionists forced Americans to face the contradictions of building an advanced industrial society on the backs of slaves. But the blacks and Abolitionists were not able to develop a new concept and practice of politics and self–government. Hence, when the Civil War was over, the various interest groups that had joined together in the Republican Party to defeat the South went back to pursuing their private interests. Northern industrialists were hungry for profits, Northern workers were eager to go West to homestead, and the immigrants, pouring in from Europe, were hungry for jobs. The result was the Compromise of 1877, in which Southern ex–slaveholders were given back the right to exploit blacks while in the North the “robber barons” built industrial empires which empowered them to dictate policy to politicians. The next opportunity for Americans to embark on a new political road came in the 1930s. Their confidence in the capitalists having been shaken by the Great Depression, American workers engaged in nation–wide struggles to establish the dignity of labor. For a brief period it seemed that these struggles might lead the labor movement to a struggle to reorganize the nation on the principle of putting people before profits. But it soon became clear that workers were just another special interest group. As long as wages and fringe benefits continued to go up, workers were ready to leave the responsibility of deciding the direction of our society to somebody else. But blacks were not ready to leave matters there. After World War II blacks challenged Americans to take a new look at the responsibilities of citizenship. Centering their struggles not on economic issues but on how people should relate to one another in a just society, blacks demanded that everyone take sides on the question of what is right and just for this society as a whole a question which most Americans had been evading all these years. Inspired by the black movement and the revolutionary struggles of the Vietnamese to control their own destiny, young whites, women and others also began to search for new, more human ways for us to relate to one another, to our environment, and to people in the rest of the world. However, because the black movement did not develop a new philosophy of life and a new theory and practice of politics to give revolutionary meaning to the cry for “Black Power,” black militants began to travel the same opportunistic road that labor militants had traveled after the rebellions of the 1930s. So today the politics of blacks, like that of whites, is trapped in the bourgeois outlook of “get ours and the hell with everybody else.” Accepting this same philosophy, many black street youth are “getting theirs” by preying on the community. Other blacks have become ultra–nationalists, deluding themselves that blacks can go back to Africa or create an African nation inside the U.S.A. In 1972, with the black movement drifting in all directions and the Vietnam War continuing, many young people, black and white, went back to the Democratic Party. They deluded themselves that they could transform an electoral party into the qualitatively different kind of party and leadership necessary to realize their aspirations for a better society. Meanwhile the overwhelming majority of Americans voted for Nixon as the man to restore “Law and Order” so that they could go back to their private pursuit of happiness. Now Nixon's politics has been exposed as too dirty. But the “clean” politics of Mr. Ford is making even clearer the bankruptcy of the bourgeois philosophy that the good of the whole can be achieved if every special interesting group just struggles to “get ours.” TOWARDS A NEW PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE AND POLITICS As we approach the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, developments on a world scale and inside this country have created a new world, full of new contradictions which can't possibly be resolved by delegating decision–making to politicians while ordinary citizens go their merry way, just thinking about acquiring more goods for themselves. Because the Movements of the 1960s did not go beyond protest and rebellion, hate and suspicion poison relations between the races, sexes, generations, and individuals. Because of runaway individualism and runaway materialism, criminals roam the streets freely while law–abiding citizens sit at home behind barred windows and double–locked doors. Our atmosphere, lakes and rivers are polluted. Our schools are little more than custodial institutions. In our inner cities millions of blacks, chicanos, poor whites, and old people eke out a degrading existence on Welfare, while the millions who pay taxes for this Welfare grow increasingly resentful. For the first time in our lives we face the reality of shortages in energy and food because the peoples of the Third World are standing up for their rights. Having become accustomed to ever–expanding wants and ever–bigger appliances, we now find ourselves not only alienated from one another but at the mercy of the multinational corporations who are only interested in expanding profits. We cannot resolve these new contradictions unless we are ready to develop a new philosophy of life and politics based on recognizing that we have reached a new stage in human history. Previously our relations with each other were to a large extent determined by conditions outside of our control. Now we have created the technology which enables us to shape our relations with each other and with our environment for good or for ill. That is why we must now re–conceive politics as the continuing responsibility of every citizen to choose which road should be taken by his/her community, workplace, and the nation as a whole in order to advance the common good. NEW QUESTIONS REQUIRING NEW ANSWERS WHAT, WHEN AND HOW DO WE NEED TO PRODUCE AND CONSUME not in order “to keep the economy going” but to develop our collective self–reliance, our collective pride in our communities and in workmanship, and to satisfy our human need to live more meaningful lives? Should we demand that auto plants stay open just so that auto workers can keep working or should we close them down, knowing that this will mean a general cutback in our standard of living, until we discover what kind of transportation we need to provide both mobility and meaningful social contact among ourselves, instead of increasing pollution, traffic jams, streets emptied of pedestrians, and 50,000 auto deaths a year? WHAT KIND OF HOMES, SCHOOLS, WORKPLACES, PUBLIC BUILDINGS DO WE NEED to enable us to relate to one another as human beings, to raise children who will be self–reliant as well as eager to help others, and to encourage everyone, women and mean, the old and the young, to live more productive and less alienated lives? Should young people be kept in schools, just because there are no jobs for them? Or should we close down the schools even if millions of teachers are laid off until we discover the purpose of education in an age of automation? CAN NEW YORK CITY EVER BE MADE LIVABLE WITHOUT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE MOVING OUT? CAN THE BIG CITIES EVER SOLVE THE GARBAGE PROBLEM as long as people throw paper, bottles and rubbish all over the streets because we now believe that sanitation is the special job of sanitation workers, just as we believe that education is the special job of teachers, health the special job of doctors, and politics the special job of politicians? HOW CAN WE STOP DRUG ADDICTION AS LONG AS TV COMMERCIALS KEEP PUSHING DRUGS AS THE INSTANT SOLUTION TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS? WHY CAN'T WE FIGHT CRIME by pledging with one another not to buy “hot goods” thus showing in practice that we value our social ties with our neighbors more than we value material things? SHOULD TV BROADCASTING BE RESTRICTED TO CERTAIN HOURS OF THE DAY not just to save energy but to save millions of Americans from becoming vegetables, challenging all of us to renew our contacts with our neighbors, with ourselves, and with Nature? We cannot live meaningful lives as long as we evade discussing and deciding such questions difficult as they are in terms of what will further the human development of each one of us, of this country, and of the human species. Only through political struggles over issues of this importance can we create communities out of what are today only geographical neighborhoods. We will not always make the correct decisions; and even when we do, new contradictions will arise because Man/Womankind and this nation are still evolving. But we can't keep delegating this responsibility to those who we know have been elected by special interest groups and then blame them because their decisions lead us into one crisis after another. Up to now, most people have thought of politics as just a clash between special interest for a bigger “piece of the pie.” Radicals and militants of all kinds have been chiefly concerned with redistribution of goods. Now we must recognize that politics is not chiefly a question of redistribution. It is a question of, first, deciding what kind of society we want to live in and, then, participating in the continuing political struggles necessary to create and develop that kind of society. WHO WILL LEAD THE WAY? Like all great changes, the change to this more advanced concept of self–government will not come easily. Nor will it come because al the people wake up one morning and decide to change the system. Change must begin with those few individuals who have the foresight and the courage to break with the obsolete past and who are ready to organize themselves into a new kind of party consciously aiming to give leadership to the American people in the creation of a new social order based on the new philosophy of living responsibly. The members of this new party will have no interest whatsoever in being elected to office. Instead they will root themselves deep within their communities, providing the leadership which is necessary to help all of us understand the opportunity which we now have to advance our human development. As more and more Americans, through principled struggles over concrete questions in their own communities, begin to discover their collective power as human beings to shape their own future, these cadres will make clear to them that these human powers can only be developed through a national political struggle for power against those who still cling to the old individualistic and materialistic values and institutions. Only through this process which must be initiated at the grassroots can we begin to create the kind of national government which will exercise its power and moral authority to pursue those domestic and foreign policies which ennoble us as citizens and earn for this country the respect and admiration of the world. WE WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM ALL THOSE WHO ARE READY TO PIONEER IN THE STRUGGLE TO CREATE THIS NEW CONCEPT AND PRACTICE OF SELF–GOVERNMENT. Advocators Pacesetters





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