Howard Zinn on anarchism and organizing

If you work through the existing structures you are going to be corrupted. By working through political system that poisons the atmosphere, even the progressive organizations, you can see it even now in the US, where people on the “Left” are all caught in the electoral campaign and get into fierce arguments about should we support this third party candidate or that third party candidate. This is a sort of little piece of evidence that suggests that when you get into working through electoral politics you begin to corrupt your ideals. So I think a way to behave is to think not in terms of representative government, not in terms of voting, not in terms of electoral politics, but thinking in terms of organizing social movements, organizing in the work place, organizing in the neighborhood, organizing collectives that can become strong enough to eventually take over – first to become strong enough to resist what has been done to them by authority, and second, later, to become strong enough to actually take over the institutions.

This seems to be the crux of the problem for the Left. How can you work outside of the system, presumably not co-opted, yet build enough of a mass organization that you can resist on a mass basis, then eventually take over that same system?

Given that theoretical framework, I don’t think you can. By staying outside the system you effectively limit your reach and influence to the relative few already on the Left who are willing to listen to you. But you can’t build a mass organization that way.

The question remains the same, whether Anarchist or Marxist, how do you influence the system if you are resolutely determined to stand outside of it?

Tip: American Leftist