Part 6: Where politics really happens
In 1920, anti-capitalist groups from all around the world met in the still-newborn Soviet Union for a congress that grappled with a number of political questions, including how revolutionaries should deal with parliaments. They made some observations that are helpful still today. They found that groups that prioritized getting elected above their political principles “resulted in the reign of Social Democracy’s so-called minimum program and the transformation of the maximum program into a debating formula for an exceedingly distant ‘ultimate goal’.” These parliamentary groups stopped building toward revolution; instead, they turned revolutionary slogans into empty rhetoric. And immediate reforms, which had been a tool for introducing revolutionary political ideas to the masses, became the end goal.
The congress resolution read, “parliament today can under no circumstances be the arena of the struggle for reforms, for improvement in the conditions of the working class [because] the centre of gravity of political life today has shifted irrevocably beyond the limits of parliament.” The parliament and the city hall is the space where different factions of the capitalist class – in our case, this includes the professional-managerial class – haggle over which technique is best to manage the contradictions and periodic crises that have emerged in society.
City hall chases the politics that are being made elsewhere, in the streets, apartment buildings, tent cities, mountains, rivers, and workplaces where the people themselves challenge the existing order and create a different one with our own hands. These political spaces are certainly contested. In Surrey, for every person demanding the abolition of the police there are 10 calling for more cops. In Nanaimo, where homeless people fight against the sanctity and rule of property as a threat to their very lives, far right mobs rally in the hundreds and threaten to assault homeless people and women organizers.
These are the spaces of politics that will remake our world. We cannot afford to ignore them because, if unchallenged, these will be the spaces from which a far right menace will rise. The self-activity of the displaced and dispossessed, the evicted and homeless, reveal the true workings of capitalist and colonial politics. These are not fringe, declassed people; they develop the cutting edge of a critique that we need in order to make a new social order. The revolution is not in changing the guard at city hall, it is not simply formally “political,” it is a social revolution, and it is happening in the streets.