As the quadrennial exercise in support of a "progressive" candidate within the Democratic Party comes to a close, Street offers his take on the meaning of it all. Street concludes his essay with the following hopeful statement:
“If voting made any difference,” the great American left anarchist Emma Goldman once said, “they’d make it illegal.” Elections, candidates, and parties come and go, though now the electoral extravaganza seems to last forever. Their outcomes are largely beyond our control. What is not outside our sphere of influence is the ability to build radical and durable people’s and workers’ power organizations that are ready, willing, and able to undertake what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called near the end of his life “the real issue to be faced: the radical reconstruction of society itself.”I am not optimistic about any serious, long-term effort at organizing a movement whose main objective is "the radical reconstruction of society". I was left with this feeling yesterday after watching the coverage provided by a local TV station of the annual parade of workers celebrating May Day in Seattle. The TV reports were frequently reinforced with reports from police sources. Thus the cops were the good guys protecting us from the violence of anarchists even though many in the march did not wear black which denoted anarchist affiliation. There were no interviews with the marchers which were only presented as a threat to society. Indeed, the masks and other facial coverings they wore were highlighted to show them as a criminal threat instead of measures to protect themselves from being identified by the police and from further police harassment. A few windows were broken (who knows by whom) and the TV camera poured over this as an indication of the violent tendencies of the marchers.
Despite the organizers' attempts to not cooperate with authorities to prevent the latter from controlling the march, in the end the massive police force demonstrated that they had complete control of the march by herding the crowd where the police wanted them to go. I stopped watching the coverage when it became apparent that the marchers were being corralled and cornered by the police.
After watching this coverage, I was left with the feeling that the ruling class had the May Day march entirely under their control. Because there was no alternative media that people could turn to, most people watching this event were likely influenced by the TV-police themes that these May Day marchers were violent people who posed a threat to society. Thus, not only were the marchers under police control but the meaning of the march was completely controlled by the local authorities of the ruling class.
What was direly needed was an independent media source like an alternative radio station that people could turn to offer a real meaning to the march, and also to present a sharply different perspective that listeners/viewers could contrast with the one-sided police narrative and perspective provided by the corporate TV station. If there was any serious effort to promote a "radical reconstruction" of society, such alternative media would already be functioning and this workers day celebration would have served a truly revolutionary consciousness-raising purpose.