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You say you want a revolution

In my previous post I went a li’l bit more explicit in expressing my disdain for our elected officials than I intended, but the officials are what they are and the electorate is what it is and we can try to make the best of it and also try to improve both.

I wanna clarify that although I think elections have issues, I don’t have any high hopes that other forms of government (at least any available in the short term) will be better.

In the syndicalist tradition I’m from and still participate in, the original idea was that the goverment should grow out of trade unions (not sure what the plan was for those unable to work) and to be layered so that decisions were kept as local as possible. Only things that were relevant to larger areas would be escalated to those levels. For example, something that matters to a neighborhood is decided in that neighborhood, while something that matters to a city as a whole is decided in that city, and so on. Not sure I agree with that setup, since I am getting more and more hip to the universality of issues like basic human rights and global warming. Yes, I know how neoliberals wanna use “human rights” or “amendment rights” for things like copyright and sexism and actually-shooting-other-people-in-the-head, and that’s bull. But that doesn’t mean I’m OK with someone getting trampled just because it’s one neighborhood over. Your basic jus cogens philosophical debate. And also the information age makes everything feel local, kind of.

That’s just one example.

We can argue until the proverbial cows come home about things like:

And maybe we’d even agree on those.

Ultimately all those questions are questions about meta-policy (“deciding how to decide things”). I’m not saying they’re inconsequential. For example, we need to get money out of politics. We do need to worry about deciding-how-to-decide-things, but we can’t procrastinate about policy itself, about the actual things we are deciding on. We have a system with two huge bugs, externalities and exploitation (probably better known as the Earth is burning and workers are suffering) and we need to fix ‘em.

In the left, there’s this age-old debate on reform vs revo. Well, if a solution makes things worse, it’s not a solution. If a solution is good but is gonna be a roadblock for a perfect solution down the line, it’s not great either. But if a solution makes things better and still leaves the door open to a perfect solution in the future, that’s when I’m onboard.

Goldman and Kropotkin were writing in the Tsarist autocracy era. They didn’t have votes. A lot of leftist and revolutionary thought come from the era of kings and tyrants, and I’m not saying the world is good now, it’s not. It sucks. But the enemy is different. It’s not The Tsar or Vader or Sauron or Louis XVI. It’s in the air, all around us. Market capitalism is a protocol, a system, a set of game rules, and it’s leading to twisted outcomes. That system is the problem, and our democratic systems of elected government regulations is one of our best (not only!) tools of fixing things. Let’s try to use it well.

“Culture war” issues like racism and sexism are similarly “system”-like in nature (it’s not one bad egg on the throne), and are also something we can try to use our existing policy-making structures to address (alongside using all our other tools).

The people asked for the keys to the kingdom, and we got it. We got the ballot. Now there’s still two naggling issues remaining: the whispering wormtongue of greed and us-vs-them and corruption that’s a constant fixture next to the ever-shifting pilot’s seat, and the slightly bigger problem of: each other. I wanna be super clear that I’m not blaming the 99% for the boot of the 1%, nor am I claiming that the system is never rigged or corrupt. We wanna fix that. Please let’s keep trying to make things better.