By Jack D
A group of school children are on their way back from a field trip. The day has been a comforting escape from their increasingly tense homelife. Every night the kitchen table seems to have less and less food on their plates. But at least today the children can laugh and smile with their friends. Until a 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb wiped their creative potential off the face of the earth.
On August 9th of this past year, the Royal Saudi Air Force targeted a school bus and killed 51 Yemeni while wounding dozens more. Saudi Arabia could not do this alone. To wage their war against the most vulnerable people in the poorest country in the Middle East the Saudis require assistance from the most powerful empire in the world and their vast military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin, one of the top defense contractors in the United States, produced the weapon that erased those children’s future. Just one and half months later Chuck Schumer proudly announced that he had secured $324.6 million for an Army radar system developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
“This vital and significant federal investment enables the world-class workforce at Lockheed Martin to produce cutting-edge radar that protects our troops in the battlefield and also drives the Central New York economy. The inclusion of this funding in the just-passed bipartisan defense appropriations bill will give Lockheed’s Salina plant the resources to continue moving these high-tech counterfire radars down the assembly line,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud of the role I played in securing this critical federal funding, and will always fight for investments that both keep good-paying jobs in Central New York and keep our military service members around the world safe.”
When someone kills children in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Chuck Schumer?
I’m afraid of all the ghosts we collectively create when we believe the upper-echelons of the American political class can be swayed by moral arguments. Whenever another murderous policy is on the precipice of being passed by Congress, calling politicians is promoted as the best possible response. If only we let them know about how the awful cost of human life, they’ll change their minds. Such a framework reinforces the false notion that politics is constructed around a marketplace of reasoned debate, where the best ideas win out, rather than the raw contestation for power that is its actually existing reality. As we cry out to our “leaders” for help, the machinery of their domination grinds out bodies all the same.
Organizing campaigns around influencing elected officials through constituent outreach reaffirms their role as ruler. Simultaneously prioritizing that action individualizes the relationship between the people and their elected representative. Rather than fighting alongside our comrades in the streets in enduring struggles that build bonds of social solidarity, we hang up the phone thinking that the job is done. It further indoctrinates potential political actors into believing that politicians act on behalf of ordinary people, not just the capitalist class They only act on our behalf when we collectively struggle so that they’re forced to bend the knee to all of us. Socialists should never make life easy for those who think they are our superiors. Calling an office might cause a slight nuisance, occupying it throws a wrench into the system.
One direct action unleashes an avalanche of organizing. A taste of collective struggle awakens previously atomized individuals into seeing the world and their fellow organizers in a whole different light. Disrupting the structures of entrenched power leads to building working class institutions of a wholly different character. Labor strikes not only help create unions, but further democratize them. Antiracist street occupations shutdown the local economy, while developing a network of activists who trust each other. Directly reaching out to politicians is not a tactic socialist should completely abandon, but it cannot act as the centerpiece of any of our campaigns if we want to build lasting power. They want us to beg for a better world. It further entrenches their role in a hierarchy of class domination. A phone call to a politicians office will never build an alternative society. We must organize a truly democratic society by and for ourselves, together.