MAPA’s board and working groups have been discussing several questions arising from our work. This working paper presents our thinking so far on one of them. It will be discussed at Part 2 of our Annual Meeting on May 3, 2022. We invite members to comment.
We’re up against empire, capitalism, war, and extinction. Our adversaries are powerful and our struggles are serious. To win peace, we have to struggle as part of a progressive movement, which must win political power in this country, hold power, and make change. Peace is an integral part of the progressive agenda, and we work for peace as part of the US political process.
To many Americans, political engagement means getting involved in the election of their representatives, federal, state and local, followed by subsequent involvement in efforts to press those elected to pass legislation, and to set public budgets. Others are cynical and disengaged, alienated from politics. MAPA believes that efforts to educate and influence our elected officials is an absolutely essential component of any effort to change national policies.
On the other hand, major social change comes from the grassroots, not from elections. Who would deny the importance of the 1936 autoworkers’ sit-down strike at General Motors; the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott and 1965 Selma to Montgomery march; the 1982 Nuclear Weapons Freeze Central Park Rally; the Trump-era Women’s marches; and the nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations. These events, along with public education, boycotts, protests, movement building, mutual aid, community events, food & clothing drives, etc, educate and mobilize people, a precondition to effective electoral campaigns.
We recognize the influence of the corporate sector who are not elected, for example weapons contractors, and we therefore support direct economic campaigns such as divestment of investment portfolios, consumer boycotts, and related efforts.
In MAPA we understand that changing federal, state and municipal policy requires actions at all these levels. The issue is not either one or the other, but questions of timing, tactics and strategy.
Changing the views of those elected officials who set policy, depends on influencing the views of the voters who elect them, and organizing people in large numbers. We should not give the impression that lobbying alone is likely to result in big wins, or disrespect social change organizing that does not include electoral/legislative action.
We are nonpartisan, but as a policy, not a principle. To the extent that a progressive political movement develops and takes organizational form, we might at some point change and align with it. For now we see most promise in the progressive wing of the Democratic party represented by leaders like Bernie Sanders, AOC, Ilhan Omar, our own Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal; while we are aware of their shortcomings, we place great importance in making actual political change and they offer a meaningful alternative. We seek to sharpen the struggle between progressives and centrists/neoliberals and to build a powerful progressive wing with its own institutions, which may over time realign to form a new party.
At the same time, we are in solidarity with the many progressives and peace advocates, including many within MAPA, who position themselves to the left of the Democratic progressives and support efforts like the Green, People’s, and various socialist, parties. There are various strategies, including building a viable third party, for breaking the bipartisan consensus and we welcome them all to MAPA.
We often converge tactically with libertarians on intervention and militarism issues, but see no long term strategic unity with them as they exclusively oppose centralized State power yet are silent regarding the tyrannical nature of corporations. Consequently they offer no solutions to the problems of most Americans and hence no prospect of political progress. As to the Trumpists, we regard their gestures towards anti-interventionism as hollow, opportunistic attempts to co-opt our issues and we see no chance of working with them; to the extent they have any real foreign policy it is isolationism, whereas we are internationalists.