Albuquerque, N.M.—The global democratic insurrections to topple the kings and queens of our age, whether military dictators in North Africa or corporate bloodsuckers in western Europe and North America, arose because the historical-material conditions exist for them to succeed. That doesn’t automatically guarantee any of these disparate movements will triumph, only that victory is possible.
The transition to political systems with greater democracy and more equality will not occur in any land in a single fell swoop, as the departure of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and the election of Barack Obama have convincingly shown. Both events, however, point to the real agents of social and political transformation: masses of activists forcing ossified political regimes to respond in an exercise of power that moves from the bottom up. No event in recent U.S. history has demonstrated the utter folly of the belief that significant change occurs from the top down than Obama’s election almost four years ago. What brought him to power was a groundswell of popular support for a new way of conducting politics; what assured Obama’s failure, even more than his cynical lies and staggering cowardice, was the belief among his backers that their job was done, that changing the man at the top was enough.
The politicians, media pundits and liberal reformists who would have us believe that the 2012 presidential elections will produce significant structural change are as wrong today as there were four, eight and 12 years ago. Federal electoral campaigns, for whatever democratic aspirations they may have been capable of responding to in the past, have become bloated spectacles carefully re-engineered and manipulated to prevent the possibility of change. The rich and powerful pour millions of dollars into electoral campaigns to guarantee that their self-interests will triumph. That unfortunate corollary is that anyone who sends $5 or $25 or $50 to any federal candidate is investing in a political process that at this moment in time no longer has the capacity to care for average Americans.
So it is with great sadness that River City activists have had to witness a public pissing match between a handful of supporters of the Occupy Albuquerque and (un)Occupy Albuquerque camps in recent days. I have followed the exchanges, the name-calling and the taunting, most notably on Facebook, closely enough to know that these groups have far more in common than they have serious differences. For whatever value Facebook has as an organizing tool, it is not a medium for intelligent and thoughtful discussion. What it does accommodate quite well is the kind of sledge hammer invective that builds and hardens walls. In the meantime, there are thousands of residents of Albuquerque and elsewhere who have had to endure a movement cannibalizing itself and threatening its greatest asset: its solidarity.
Of course, this is precisely what the right wing, the politicians of both parties, the financial overlords and most of the mainstream media want: a movement fighting amongst itself. What the enemies of democracy and equality fear more than anything else is a united mass movement. They can vilify, marginalize, imprison and if necessary eradicate a handful, even a large group, of activists, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to demonize a mass movement that numbers in the thousands or the millions, and any cop or soldier is more likely to think twice before he wields a club against a sea of heads that may include a neighbor, a friend or a family member.
This historic moment, pregnant with possibilities for a better world, is too precious to squander.