Saturday, March 4, 2017
The Life of a Political Animal
My Political Biography
For various reasons, dear reader, I need to post my political biography before further political activities, This is not intended as a monument to my ego, but for the edification of others I will be working with politically, and my other readers as they can benefit from it. The latter part of my post will deliberately read like a resume, the beginning more literary.
Aristotle says that man is a political animal and I have been very much a political animal in my life, starting from a childhood infatuation with JFK, my burst of tears on his assassination, an early addiction to newspaper reading, and my rapt attention to the 1964 party conventions. My first practical political activity in the conventional sense was to canvass for a school bond at age 15 to better fund my public school. But I learned I could use leverage at age 14 when I told an unfriendly parish priest that I could resolve the matter at hand by calling a priest I knew at the diocese. I got that idea from reading books on politics. Later, as a high school, when my joint activities with SDSer's to plan disruption of a speech by the Marine Corp recruiters landed me in the Vice Principals office, instead of admitting anything, I told him that this was political persecution for my anti-war activities and I would call a student strike if they did anything about it. It's for things like this that I earned a "You are my favorite radical" salutation in my high school year book.
Although I have an enduring love justice and greater economic equality, my approach to it has not remained consistent. I have been in my life a liberal, a democratic socialist radical, a hippie anarchist, a communist and finally a communitarian. As to the winds of political change in my life I refer to the political biography of the French writer Andre Malraux. Malraux was the author of many novels that are read to this day, including , most notably "Man's Fate". Man's Fate was a "journalistic novel", a literary form that requires one to have been there and done that. It draws on his experience as a French Communist working in China with the early Chinese Communist Party, in the days when they were still in political alliance with the Nationalists and were simply refereed to there as the Internationals. It remains an insightful guide on the nature of politics and revolution. Malraux eventually returned to France before World War II and after the German invasion of France he made the life changing decision to join the pro-de Gaulle "Marque" resistance rather than his parties resistance. He joined the Marque primarily because he felt that as it was larger, it would be more effective. In consequence he broke with the party. Years later, when he was serving as the Minister of Culture under de Gaulle, he lectured in California and was confronted by a zealous young revolutionary. Dr,, Bruce Franklin of the revolutionary Venceramos Organization tossed a balloon filled with red paint on his as he spoke. Asked later by the press what this was about Malraux magnanimously said merely that "The young man and I have a political disagreement."
I find myself in somewhat the situation of Malraux. I left behind my seventeen years of activities as a full time cadre and communist working within the National Labor Federation (which was founded by former Venceramos members) over twenty years ago, without a formal resignation. Since then, while busying myself with working for a living, participation in the Catholic church, and my cultural and social life, I have engaged in relatively little political activity. I have been involved some in the pro-life movement, including Democrats for Life and some rosary vigils, etc. I helped with the Jim Cline for City Attorney campaign. I avoided deep political involvement. When Jim asked me to join the American Solidarity Party I came to a crossroads, like Malraux had done.
The American Solidarity Party is a unique political organization in the American political landscape. (See it's official website at : http://www.solidarity-party.org/). It is molded after the Christian Democratic parties of Europe and Latin America. It should be considered part of the "new pro-life movement" or "consistent life movement" in that it is pro-life and pro-social justice, and it's understanding of pro-life is not merely anti-abortion. It runs through the center of the American political landscape without being merely a compromise between liberals and conservatives. Composed primarily of distrbutists and communitarians, is is largely conservative on social issues and largely progressive on economic and foreign policy questions. While I joined partially out of loyalty to Jim, I had long sought activity that expressed my socially conservative progressivism.
I am currently preparing to submit my self nomination to run for the board of the Washington State branch of the American Solidarity Party. This post will serve as my long form political biography to supplement the short form I will submit.
I passionately believe that we cannot abandon the question for justice for the poor, protection for the worker or the search for peace because we want to end the killing of infants in the womb. does it matter whether will kill people on battlefields, death rows, in economic dead ends, in nationalistic mass deportations or in Planned Parenthood clinics? In the end all this is a rejection of the dignity and worth of human life. All this violates in some form "Thou shall not kill." It does not matter if we kill by commission or omission. What matters is, are we just men and peaceful men.
To return to my political resume I start in the middle of the Vietnam War. In my Freshman and Sophomore high school years of speech and debate classes, tournaments, and high school radio I and shocked conservative listeners with advocacy of socialism. By 16 I was already a full blown radical when the opportunity presented itself to help staff the front desk of out local peace center. For the next few years I made a whirlwind tour of anti-war activities, pro-civil rights activity, the Eugene McCarthy campaign, Peace and Freedom Party, the local Free University and nascent Santa Cruz Switchboard, congressional, presidential and city council campaigns in Santa Cruz, and a Democratic Precinct Captain post.
I desired a more active leadership role in politics, so I founded the Santa Cruz Tenants Union. this immersed me in the roles of press spokesperson, organizer of a tenants rights hotline, legal researcher, representative to City Council meetings, etc. I participated in a political coalition with revolutionary Vietnam War Veterans and former weather people. I had a reputation skill as an agitator and acumen on political tactics and strategy.
The political landscape in the world was shifting, with Southeast Asia having already gone communist, quasi-Marxist governments emerging in newly independent African countries and Latin American communists becoming more militant. It looked for a while as if Regis Debray's "Revolution Within the Revolution" was a work of prophecy.
An affiliate of the small National Labor Federation was operating in Santa Cruz, the California Homemakers Association. They were organizing home care attendants and domestic workers, along with the entire lower economic strata. They were picking Upjohn Homemakers on the grounds that there contract to provide home care service for the county program meant cuts in service and lower wages. It would succeed in ousting Upjohn and raising wages. Some of my Tenants Union organizers gravitated to them, as a struggle on a larger scale. I followed suit and eventually found myself convinced of a communist world outlook, working 17 years as a dedicated full time revolutionary.
Sincerity and dedication are not a guarantee of correctness, but I cannot countenance a complete political reversal either. I could not become a bitter right wing "anti, anti anti" after spending years coping with the life and death problems of poor laborers, undocumented immigrants, the elderly and disabled poor, etc.
I spend years doing everything from field organizing, providing benefits to our membership, political action mobilizations and picketing, work with aligned or allied groups, organizational planning, editing and writing newspapers and leaflets, work in a movement print shop and a movement law firm (as a investigator and legal researcher) , security work, and regional administrative work. More than half my "political skill set" came from this, so I will not blanket condemn the experience, although it cost me dearly to dedicate years of my life to it.
My political skill set includes a great deal of writing and research experience, a very high level of planning and administrative experience, experience with special events of many kinds, running phone banks and information tables, training canvass crews, doing speaking engagements, staffing offices, supervising newer organizers in their work, doing street level fundraising, running food distributions and doing welfare advocacy for members etc. This combines with a lifetime of reading on political and military history, political science and political economy and other related topics. of more recent origin I have acquired a social media skill set running this blog and five Facebook community pages. I have taken classes on writing, journalism, mass media, political science and history. All this I bring to the work I am called to through the American Solidarity Party.