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Forum Post: When are parties useful? Part III

Posted 9 years ago on Jan. 11, 2012, 12:10 a.m. EST by zymergy (236)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Part I of this thread is found at http://occupywallst.org/forum/when-are-parties-useful-part-i/

Part II of this thread is found at http://occupywallst.org/forum/when-are-parties-useful-part-ii/

Several FORUM posts and comments have called for the creation of a new political party to correct the conditions that threaten representative democracy in the United States.

Links to some of these posts and comments are: http://occupywallst.org/forum/not-voting-democrat-or-republican-sends-the-strong/ http://occupywallst.org/forum/why-not-form-a-new-party/ http://occupywallst.org/forum/open-letter-to-the-1-from-the-99/#comment-577858

There are other posts and comments for sure, but I neglected to note their URLs in passing. If you have these, please resubmit them in the comments here.

Several questions or concerns are being addressed in the above Posts, without actually stating the questions, so I will attempt some questions here:

1) what are the fundamental principles upon which a new party should be founded? 2) how large a political base should we expect for these principles? That is, how many people would join or sign petitions for this party and remain involved? 3) from where would the new party recruit candidates for public office, and how would these candidates be vetted or examined? 4) from where would the funds (capital) come to support the campaigns of this new party? 5) how much capital would be needed to win sufficient state and federal elections to have an effect? 6) how could the party be assured that party candidates would not be corrupted subsequently by accepting additional contributions from outside of the party or otherwise coming under the influence of big money? 7) how could the party protect its principles and practices from subversion by outside interests? 8) how could the party inspire the votes of independents and other non-partisan voters? 9) under what conditions would the party know it is time to disband?

Certainly other questions should be introduced and considered. My list is quite theoretical.



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[-] 2 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 9 years ago

Multiple parties are essential in a genuine democracy. Essentially there is no functional difference between a one party state and a nonparty state. They both preclude the right of the people to organize themselves in any way they would deem appropriate and necessary.

On the other hand, in practical terms, I think it is way, way too premature for OWS to think in terms of party formation. OWS is really a tiny movement so far. The US is already rife with tiny groupescules and sectlets that insist on characterizing themselves as parties, which only confuses the idea of what a party really is.

To be at all meaningful a party must have a mass base. I don't think there is any hard and fast rule as to how big a mass base is, though I personally think it would be expodentially larger than what OWS is right now. One of the few examples of what I would consider a genuine party of the left in the US today would be the Vermont Progressive Party, which has an active club system and several people elected to public office at both the local and state level. By those standards I would not consider formations like the Green Party, the Libertarians or the Socialist Party to be genuine parties in most localities.

That said, while I do believe that at some point a formation like OWS or its heirs would have to consider organizing itself into a party, I think in terms of the development of OWS to this point such a project is way too premature and our primary focus should be on developing more occupations and more GAs.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Everything that you have written above is reasonable. Yet, consider 54,000,000 voters in the 2008 election who were not members of either the Republican party or Democratic party. Apparently they would not need to be members of a New Party either in 2016 in order to vote for candidates with well-defined (progressive?) principles and proposals for their implementation. To create ballot options for the 54,000,000 non-partisan voters could be a daunting task. Could this task be accomplished without an organized party? By accomplishing the task, is a new party in fact created? What methods are available to a micro-party (~1000) to complete the task? On-line petitions? FAX machines? Social Media?

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 9 years ago

In a sense OWS is already a party. In fact it is more of a party than the Republicans or Democrats, There is entirely too much focus in the United States on getting votes, which is a major reason why third parties never get off the ground. They are too busy chasing votes to build an appropriate infrastructure and as a consequence they get neither votes nor infrastructure.

The most successful oppositionist party movements in the United States are outside of living memory, but they are well worth careful study. That was the Populists and later the Socialist Party in the first two decades of the 20th century. To some degree the Nonpartisan League of the Dakotas was also an example of an oppositionist party movement.

All of these movement actually got people to public office, but they organized and mobilized large masses of people and most importantly they created a whole culture of opposition of which voting was only a small part. By no means do I mean to dismiss the importance of getting votes, but at this point OWS does not have the numbers or the infrastructure to do even that. I firmly believe that if OWS or its heirs continue to grow, at some point (perhaps when 20 or 30 million people are occupying) it will have to enter the electoral arena. But right now OWS will have the greatest effect on elected officials by keeping on keeping on, buy organizing more and more occupations and GAs.

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 9 years ago

When I saw the title I thought this was just another dumb pot stirring dump. But now I see you are serious and are asking thoughtful questions. First, I must say we have a better reason and broader interests than the Bull moose, Green or Whig parties. Almost every party is built around a charismatic leader. This normally dooms it to failure in the long run.

Second observation, to form a broad based multi issue you need in essence a platform. That smacks of a list of, dare I say, "demands." Or at least an articulation of principles as you suggest. Note that Americans Elect are trying to do a new party without a "leader." I understand it is a right wing funded group who is trying to keep it from being aligned with the other parties but there is a lot of whining about too many people with liberal points of view e.g. too many complaining about the tax favoritism of the rich etc.

I don't have time to answer you, point by point, as you deserve, right now. Bottom line, I think it can and probably should be tried but it will take money and money always has strings. You can send me a private message if you like.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Appreciate your comments. All I can offer at the moment are questions. Your insights are valuable even if they do not answer my questions. (I can easily generate a question to which you already have an answer.) Please take a look at RedJazz43's comment above, and review Jim Miller's post http://occupywallst.org/forum/open-letter-to-the-1-from-the-99/

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 9 years ago

All of what Miller says is true. I really doubt they will recuse themselves because they are smart enough to know that once the genies is out of the bottle, the 99% is not going to stop until they (believe) that they have cleaned out every cell of the cancerous perks that the 1% has embedded in the system.

They will make Assad look like an easy laydown.

Re the parties. It doesn't easily come to mind in great detail, but, the founders didn't want parties to be formed and either something in the Constitution or something in the statutes rigs the system bias to only two parties. They have some major advantage like incumbent politicians.

Parliamentary systems are criticized for lack of stability and government having to call elections because they are perceived to have handled some issue poorly and people worry that it will happen when stability is needed because WW-III has just been started and we really need to get that off to a good start rather than having a six week campaign and election.

One reason I think it is premature is the confusion of the current election, the lack of organization of the movement, question about the numbers that could be signed up and actually counted on to do serious work and some more minor concerns.

I am committed to this and want it too turn out well, but I have seen a lot and while optimism is great (I was an entrepreneur). over or premature optimism is deadly So, before we bet the house (those who still have one) there and some nasty little details that must be attended to, like identifying and vetting ourselves. We like to preserve the fiction of anonymity, even though the folks we have to worry about, already know. Oh, I just noticed the link. I think it would take me to the same post that I read. If not, I will be back.

I hope this is responsive to your questions. If not, straighten me out.

It was. Tactically with only a little thought. I think building off of Miller, who throws a mean gauntlet, we demonstrate as much support for that as a core position as we can (I know we will lose three anarchists and two Trotskiites, but press on.) Offer support for candidates who will pledge to/demonstrate support our "platform." There isn't time to form a party and be effective this cycle, But plan and execute to form one following the election. There are a number of grass roots issue groups which could coalesce and form a party, when substantial strength, we give the Dems (who obviously will lose the most to us) an ultimatum to merge. If the Dems win, it may be tough (but we will have more time). If they lose it will be easy (but we may all go down the drain before we can fix things.)

That sound radical enough?

[-] 2 points by jart (1186) from New York, NY 9 years ago

Parties are useful when you want to get drunk and have sex.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Very practical advice, Jart. But I must remain fully conscious whenever any opportunity for sex presents itself, otherwise there is no opportunity for me.

[-] 1 points by jart (1186) from New York, NY 9 years ago

Really? I'd never be able to bring myself to have sex without being wasted.

[-] 1 points by jart (1186) from New York, NY 9 years ago

I didn't know Marx was such a party animal.

[-] 2 points by alexrai (851) 9 years ago

Honestly I think they should be abolished altogether, individuals should run on their own merits, and that should be it. Parties at their core are really about how to get funding, and the self-selected groups of candidates are not even close to being representative of their constituents.

They keep people stupid, you don't need to know what is on the menu, because you have a general idea what the logo is telling you.

[-] 2 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Abolished or made irrelevant? There are proposals in this FORUM for a method of public financing of candidates. One interesting proposal calls for the candidate to collect a sufficient number of petition signature to qualify for this funding and to be placed on the ballot. I cannot remember if that proposal stated that if the candidate spent more than the available public funding limit, he or she would be disqualified from the ballot. Parties could still be useful in collecting the required number of petition signatures, and in networking the reputation of any particular candidate, but the influence of money on a candidate might be reduced by this process, and expensive political commercial advertising, that makes consumer idiots of us all, might disappear, oh well, maybe not, there is always the PAC.

[-] 1 points by alexrai (851) 9 years ago

I'd love to see public financing and campaign limits; but still, is the most representative form of government not where the is individual elected because he/she is most in line with local opinion, rather than one size fits all party politics?

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Yes, I would also think that the representative elected should be in line with voters of his district or state. At the present, however, money knows no geographic boundaries. A certain amount of money is necessary in a political campaign to get one's message out to the public. It also helps when one needs to counter negative advertising by one's opponent. This becomes an arms race of campaign financing. The one with the most money usually (but not always) wins. More interesting though is that the one with the most money is usually the incumbent. Because of this, several of us are advocating ballot-enforced term limits of incumbents to one term until this money influence problem is solved. But others don't like this shotgun solution because there are a few representatives who are actually trying to run their campaigns and their jobs without big money influences.

[-] 1 points by alexrai (851) 9 years ago

fair enough. My ideal system in that case would be, your signature idea + public funding if you qualify, and a strict limit on campaign spending. No parties, just representation. I'd pick the one who had ideas closest to my own, and vote for him/her because I agreed with what he/she was saying. If there was nobody I agreed with, then I'd run myself and see if enough people agreed with my ideas to get me funding. :)

That's how it should be, imo.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Good summary and conclusion ! Go with it. Still, I would try to keep you in office for only one term, for the sake of your own self respect.

[-] 1 points by alexrai (851) 9 years ago

haha thanks, well I guess you gotta start somewhere. ;)

[-] 1 points by 903w (24) 9 years ago

I don't think political action is the way to go. Leading by example will convince others that our system is best without forcing our beliefs on others.

We should lead by example by living by our income equality beliefs. You should give to charity as much as you think you should be taxed at. If we do not like the current banking system, we should stop using the banking system. etc.

"You must be the change you want to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

[-] 2 points by ARod1993 (2420) 9 years ago

That sounds like a good idea, and acting as a living example is important if you want to avoid being labeled a hypocrite by people who disagree with you. That said, the fact remains that something like that only really takes off when you have a fairly high critical mass of people doing it, which for a country our size would mean at least a good 50-60 million people all acting and living in unison. The most generous estimates of the number of people involved in OWS directly would put our numbers in the high six to very low seven figures. That's only 0.1 to 0.5% of the population, which simply isn't enough for that mode of action to work on a national scale.

Political action, on the other hand, can work incredibly well for groups at about that size. A sufficiently disciplined and energetic minority doesn't even need its own party to be heard; it can basically co-opt either (and to some extent both) of the existing big ones and then use that machinery to shape the policy landscape on a national level. Even if we don't specifically get complete tangible action on any of our more ambitious goals we'll certainly inject our lexicon and our point of view into the national debate and we'll definitely be able to get something done.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

The co-opt option you describe in your second paragraph is appealing. Can you point to examples where this has worked, and to descriptions of how it was accomplished?

Jim Miller has posts and comments in this FORUM on the subject, and these should be reviewed. Suggest the following:



[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 9 years ago

I was thinking with respect to the Populists of the 1880s and 1890s, the Reaganite conservatives in the 1980 elections, and the modern-day Tea Party. In all three cases, they held positions completely distinct from those of either party as it currently stood, and in all three cases they made themselves heard.

The Populists did a fair amount of protesting, campaigning, and at one point ran as a full third party. They picked one issue at first- silver (and with it William Jennings Bryan, temporarily taking over the Democratic Party) and while it cost them 1900 it gave birth to the Progressive wing of the Republican Party (TR, Taft, and the temporary Republican idea of regulating business for it's own sake) and gave FDR a template to look to in part during the Great Depression when things were bad enough that all people wanted was a solution.

The first of other two came about as a response to the civil rights and women's rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, a reaction to the antiwar movement, and took advantage of existing inefficiencies in the program that composed LBJ's Great Society to go after the government. For the most part, the Reaganite conservatives were most vocal on social issues and foreign policy, but they basically broke up the liberal consensus of 1936-76 and took this country in a new and dangerous direction. The Tea Party is in part a continuation of these things, but the Ron Paul strain seems to mostly be about re-centering the Republican Party where it was in the 1910s; isolationist, anti-regulation, and not particularly caring about the social issues.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Thank you ARod1993. Right on target. I will have to look back through the records for your other posts; will surely learn something.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 9 years ago

Gandhi's advice should not be ignored I agree. However, we have seen in this FORUM another piece of advice that also deserves our attention: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" Edmund Burke (1729-1797). While in the process of reforming ourselves, we must then go on in concert with others to hammer out social processes that support good and reduce opportunity for evil. Going on in concert will moderate our inclination to force our beliefs on others as you wisely caution against, and aid each other by distributing resources as necessary to promote individual achievement (charity and taxes being two of several ways to accomplish this objective), and by not participating in offensive businesses, such as loan sharking and war.


[+] -6 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 9 years ago
  1. I don't advocate a new party, rather, the repelican party, in consequence of its many and various lies, must come to an end, most likely within the next six years.

  2. not applicable

  3. not applicable

  4. interesting question - take out the 'new party' and substitute single party - or no party - perhaps individual donations from the public, totaling no more than $10.oo each, and possibly tax payer funded,

  5. not applicable

  6. By keeping a close eye on them, and mandating openness in contacts with industry leaders, prohibitions on lobbyists, and so on.

  7. see above

  8. substitute candidates for party - by addressing the needs of the public

  9. an absence of parties makes this irrelevant - and it is left to individual candidates to determine when it is time to go - demonstrated by the will of the people.