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Building Power through Electoral Efforts: Approaches to Independent Political Action

by Mike Parker
May 21, 2015

This article is based on a talk given by the author at the recent Future of Left/Independent Politics Electoral Action conference in Chicago, May 2-4, 2015.

Those of us who want to see progressive social change in America view electoral activity not as end by itself, but as an important tool. Electoral activities serve three purposes:


Mike Parker with posters from Richmond Progressive Alliance.
  1. Effecting change through the government or state. While we understand that government is not truly independent of the strong social forces in our society, it is also possible for a progressive movement to make limited advances by winning government office.

  2. Educationally using campaigns to get ideas across to the public.

  3. Increasing consciousness through struggle. We understand that being involved and taking ownership of a struggle opens people's minds to challenge previously held assumptions and ideas about who are real allies and real enemies, what is needed, and what is possible.

I want to look at the different models that have been discussed at this conference in terms of understanding their strengths and weaknesses with respect to these three uses...

No Justice for Tony Robinson: An Update from Madison

by Allen Ruff
May 15, 2015

On Tuesday, May 12th, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that the state would not prosecute Matt Kenny, the white Madison police officer who shot and killed 19-year old Tony Robinson on March 6th. Speaking at a packed press conference, the prosecutor stated that Kenny had executed “the lawful use of deadly force” and would not face criminal charges for firing seven close-range rounds into the unarmed African-American youth. Narrating the chain of events that led to what climaxed in but a few seconds of deadly fire, the DA stated that Kenny was justified in using deadly force after the teen, under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, assaulted the officer in a narrow apartment stairway on the city’s East Side.

Coming on the heels of a number of police killings of unarmed Black youth--among them that of Michael Brown at Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee--the Madison shooting drew national attention and raised serious concerns regarding whether justice would be served in a city known for its liberal and progressive politics and tolerant “most livable city” environment. Few anticipated a different ruling while many across the city wondered what the popular response might be, especially with the preceding reactions to police killings in Baltimore, Ferguson and elsewhere. The response in the days since Ozone’s announcement have nevertheless remained peaceful.

A History of the Two-Party System: Part 4 (The Present)

by Mark Lause
May 13, 2015

As evidence for its validity or usefulness faded, “progressive” institutions, organizations, and ideologues have clung tenaciously to their one great dogma, rooted in the faith that the two-party system remains an eternal, ultimately unchallengeable reality. As with the most reactionary commentators, self-described “progressives“ projected their own failures on those who declined to make them. This dogma asserts that it is more damaging to progressive interest to challenge the two-party system than to accept the need to stay within it. The more the evidence demonstrates that their own dogmatism has produced only bleak disasters, the more they ascribe those disasters to those who rejected their groundless faith-based strategy of “working within the Democratic Party.”

The realities of electoral politics changed radically in the 20 years since Reagan’s deregulation of the media. The same corporate media transformed itself into what observers called a public affairs entertainment programming. Not only did cable television become endemic, but the growth of the internet has also helped provide new citizen-consumers with the power to choose the most comforting bits and pieces to structure their own sense of reality. This made politics increasingly a conflict of hallucinations. In lieu of a debate over issues or even substantive values—matters of war and peace or global warming—“news” highlights what maximizes viewership (and advertising revenues).

Left and Independent Political Action Conference: Unprecedented Cooperation

by Dan La Botz
May 5, 2015

Some 200 political activists from a variety of independent political organizations, as well as individual activists, carried out rich discussion and amicable debate about how to collaborate in the work of building a large political alternative to the left of the Democratic Party. Participating in the Future of the Left/Independent Politics Conference in an unprecedented spirit of cooperation, national, state, and local candidates and activists, as well as elected officials from the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Socialist Alternative, and the Vermont Progressive Party, discussed the challenges of campaigning and the difficulties of actually holding office while trying to both build movements and push progressive policies. Also at the conference were members of Progressive Democrats of America and the Justice Party.

A number of the leading figures of independent politics in America participated. Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative, a member of the Seattle City Council, spoke to the group via video. Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Rosa Clemente spoke, as did 2014 New York gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins. Other speakers included Gayle McLaughlin of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Richmond City Council member, Susan Sadlowski Garza, who recently was recently elected to the Chicago City Council, and Angela Walker, who ran for sheriff in Milwaukee as an independent socialist.

All Night, All Day, We Will Fight for Freddie Gray! In Solidarity with Baltimore

from the Political Committee of Solidarity
April 29, 2015

Sixteen days after the arrest of Freddie Gray, Baltimore police and government officials have no word for their city on why he died. No statement, no explanation, no insight as to how this young man emerged from police custody with his voice box crushed and 80% of his spinal cord severed. Outrage at this injustice and the pattern of racist violence it represents has sparked ongoing demonstrations, a drive to organize and unite against police brutality, and a politicization unprecedented in the city’s recent history.

The response of Baltimore's and Maryland’s ruling class to this movement for justice has been violent repression. Police stoked tension with fabrications, uncritically reproduced in the media, about a gang plot to kill officers, and acted deliberately to provoke a riot, forcing young people out into the streets and incessantly harassing them. The resulting expressions of rage and hopelessness have been used as a pretext for physical and political war against entire communities. Even more than usual, the police are acting as an occupying army, with reinforcements from state police and the National Guard called in and a citywide 10:00 p.m. curfew declared. Hundreds have been arrested. In spite of this onslaught, protests and organizing continue to grow. Medical, legal, and community support is being self-organized, demonstrations continue with massive ones planned for this weekend, and new coalitions are forming.

Racist violence by police is integral to the U.S. power structure, as is the social violence of joblessness, water shutoffs, and displacement perpetrated daily against black communities. Defeating this violence is central to the victory of all struggles for justice. Politicians and media exploit the riots to criticize the entire movement and call for “peaceful protest” that does not threaten the status quo, but militant struggle is needed to overcome racism and other systemic violence. Baltimore’s uprising, like Ferguson’s before it, points the way forward. We stand with Baltimore’s movement for justice and condemn the violence of police and the National Guard. Solidarity with the #BaltimoreUprising! Justice for #FreddieGray and all victims of police brutality!

May 21, 2015
by Mike Parker
This article is based on a talk given by the author at the recent Future of Left/Independent Politics Electoral Action conference in Chicago, May 2-4, 2015.
Those of us who want to see progressive...
May 15, 2015
by Allen Ruff
On Tuesday, May 12th, Dane County District Attorney
Ismael Ozanne announced that the state would not prosecute Matt Kenny,
the white Madison police officer who shot and killed 19-year old Tony...
May 13, 2015
by Mark Lause
As evidence for its validity or usefulness faded, “progressive” institutions, organizations, and ideologues have clung tenaciously to their one great dogma, rooted in the faith that the two-party...
May 5, 2015
by Dan La Botz
Some 200 political activists from a variety of independent political organizations, as well as individual activists, carried out rich discussion and amicable debate about how to collaborate in the...
April 29, 2015
from the Political Committee of Solidarity
Sixteen days after the arrest of Freddie Gray, Baltimore police and government officials have no word for their city on why he died. No statement, no explanation, no insight as to how this young man...

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