By Michael Albert.
On August 24th over 2,500 house parties simultaneously viewed a presentation publicly introducing the new organization, “Our Revolution.” I eagerly watched the talks along with an estimated 40,000 other viewers.
“Our Revolution” explicitly aligned itself with a long history of feminist, civil rights, labor, and ecological activism and committed itself to continue that heritage.
“Our Revolution” also offered a summary of the Sanders campaign’s accomplishments in shaping national awareness and aspirations, recognized that change only comes from grass roots activism, and noted that champions of change in public office can help grass roots efforts.
“Our Revolution” also pledged to devote major energies to grass roots outreach, marches, rallies, civil disobedience, and all manner of efforts to pressure desirable outcomes from otherwise unyielding elites – including, of course, Democratic Party elites. Alongside that, it also pledged to support electoral campaigns to raise policy awareness and to win local, state, and national office to have those offices aid popular activism.
I am convinced if it develops positively “Our Revolution” can in those ways continue the momentum of the Sanders campaign fulfilling a very worthy aim.
However, during the introduction, three correctable but serious problems arose and these merit widespread attention lest “Our Revolution” succumb to avoidable flaws. Two of these problems seemed obvious, one less so.
First, and most immediately evident, during the hour and a half presentation of “Our Revolution” there was literally no mention of anti war activism or of U.S. military policy, interventionism, drones, or even the Pentagon budget. Hopefully this was either a strange but temporary oversight due to tactical avoidance of such issues during the campaign, or a result of a few speechwriters being careless and no one noticing. It is morally essential to address such matters. It is also strategically hard to imagine a highly engaged multi issue, multi tactic radical project that addresses everything but militarism sustaining itself.
Second, and only a bit less obvious, was the absence of any discussion of the organization’s structure, and especially its decision making. Democracy, much less self management, was never mentioned as a value or aim. There was, however, an indication that as of August 24 the organization was run by a board and some key officers, so that at the moment “Our Revolution” has a corporate structure of the sort many in “Our Revolution” rightly consider anti democratic and anti participatory. Hopefully this situation is an artifact of having to quickly jumpstart the project from the top for fear that taking longer would lose momentum. Hopefully, also, it will be corrected in short order as members make known their desires to not just follow instructions, but to determine policy in the manner Sanders extolled in his campaign.
Third, and considerably less obvious, there was a possible problem with the list of candidates who were mentioned and listed on the web site as ones who “Our Revolution” will support. The possible problem wasn’t who was listed, it was who wasn’t – or, who I think wasn’t listed.
I am in no position to be certain about this, but it seemed to me there were no Green Party candidates, and perhaps no non Democratic Party candidates. This would make no sense as a policy. Rather, if the reason for “Our Revolution” to support a candidate is that the candidate’s campaign can educate and reach out, and the candidate’s victory would provide support for movements seeking radical gains, then surely Green Party candidates should qualify, including Stein in safe states. Hopefully this possible problem is also merely an artifact of such a fast start up. Of course, Sanders and all those involved in the campaign know progressive democrats better than they know other potential candidates, and so, before long, I hope we can anticipate that the list will grow and diversify.
I should say that these three possible problems of “Our Revolution” are not minor but critical, precisely because the potential promise of “Our Revolution” is so enormous. To urge attention to these issues is not nitpicking but an effort to help, because if these problems are not addressed “Our Revolution’s” potential promise will not be met. For unlike errors of tactical choice, mistimed campaigns, errors of analysis, or picking a not so worthy candidate to support, each of these three possible problems, if uncorrected, will disastrously diminish the ability of “Our Revolution” to attain its goals regardless of how much each member wants it to do so.