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"It will always be seductive to imagine that we, who know what is right and wrong, can wield power like enlightened dictators, crushing our opposition in the spirit of the common good until the perfectly fair system can be built, at which time we will gracefully step back and grant power to the people, with a humble smile. This has been tried many times in many places. It rarely seems to progress past the dictatorship stage."

I love everything about this passage. The perfect distillation of why political power can't replace labor and social power to accomplish the aims of the Left. Bernie and AOC are great and all, but they're not the endgame.

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Jul 6, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Some observations about the Seattle BLM protests, specifically the CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone):

1/ When BLM burning platform presented itself, the organizers appeared instantly out of the woodwork; basically on day one in downtown Seattle where an overreaction by the police fomented an opposite and equal reaction by protesters including the burning of multiple law enforcement vehicles.

2/ while there were plenty of Black organizers, the engine of the protest was primarily young white anarchists who seemed to have innate operational abilities. The one thing inherently lacking from their operational method was any unified internal and external communication plan leaving the larger Seattle area wondering "what's this really all about?"

3/ when the police abandoned the Capitol Hill precinct and a self-governed (sort of) zone was estsblished by "the movement," the focus on BLM was diluted and tons of other lefty issues piled on.

4/ i was surprised how quickly firearms entered the scene, both by the lefties and of course when the facists showed up.

5/ organizers seemed not to want any sort of incremental change at all, just a full on revolution. A list of five goals/demands including:

*defund police by 50%

*reinvest in communities of color

*no new kid jail

*(mayor) Jenny Durkin must go

Seemed to come about at best organically, but probably mostly by accident. My impression was that locking in concrete gains while we had the world's fickle attention was not a leading concern.

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founding

Hamilton, thank you so much for this excellent explanation of the difference between "zero sum" power (whatever you get I don't get) and "positive sum" power (if we share it we can all have more of what we want - though some of us will obviously not get as much as we could have the other way). Positive sum power should be the guiding light for all who claim to advocate equality, equity and justice. But sadly, as you point out, too many on our side of the left/right continuum are still stuck in vanguardism and think they should think for the rest of us.

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These days my litmus test for someone's trustworthiness is whether they advocate for unity/union among the left and people who vote Democrat and Republican. It's the only way!

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That's why Labor Unions are the best route to a more fully democratized fair society on ALL levels...And since it seems to be the best and possibly ONLY valid means to that end, I'd suggest SIMPLY focusing on THAT...Creating a shared space that ALL divergent groups can occupy...A space where the ONLY conversation is accumulating power for labor...Whatever else you care deeply about, keep it on the DL when you are fighting for labor...All of these things SHOULD be part of the same fight, but only LABOR can connect them

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founding

Right on.

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This is all well and good to say in general - "We can't expect to have our way 100% of the time if we want to form an effective political coalition!" - but like everyone else who says it, you have your own political commitments that you wouldn't abandon and for insisting on which someone else would call you a "purist" trying to "take all the power for themselves." All this ever comes down to is a case-by-case discussion of how strictly to hold which people to what commitments, during which everyone preens by calling everyone else a purist trying to take all the power for themselves. Here's an easy example: Are police unions part of this labor movement? Or another: Would a segregated union be part of this labor movement?

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