The Avocado Declaration. Peter Camejo

Peter Camejo wrote The Avocado Declaration in 2004. It details how a prime function of the Democratic Party is to siphon real protest into itself, where it then renders it inert. This has been going on for quite some time. After all, the Democratic Party backstabbed the Populist Party in the 1890’s.

I quote from the Avocado Declaration often, so have now posted it in its entirety as a page. Click here or on the menu tab at the top to read it.

He wrote it from a Green Party perspective as a vice presidential candidate on the Nader ticket. However, his analysis of how the Democratic Party pretends to be the friend of social movements before attempting to co-opt or neutralize them, remains on target and cogent. Both parties are corporatist and do not serve the people. That’s his primary point.

Camejo was a major organizer of antiwar protests in the 1960’s and was called one of the ten most dangerous citizens by then California governor Reagan. He ran for president on Socialist Worker’s Party in 1976 and was purged a few years later after refusing to follow their line. He was hugely active in the California Green Party, where I knew him a bit, as well as at the national level. He was born wealthy but never stopped fighting for justice.

Here’s one excerpt

The Republican Party has historically acted as the open advocate for a platform which benefits the rule of wealth and corporate domination. They argue ideologically for policies benefiting the corporate rulers. The Republicans seek to convince the middle classes and labor to support the rule of the wealthy with the argument that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” that what benefits corporations is also going to benefit regular people.

The Democratic Party is different. They act as a “broker” negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party’s core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for “business as usual.” It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing.

Role of the Democratic Party in co-opting dissent. (Part 4 of 4)

From The Avocado Declaration, by Peter Camejo, written in Spring 2004 as he was running for vice president on the Green Party ticket, with Nader as presidential candidate. Camejo explains how real change in the US invariably originates from third parties and independent movements, and how the historic role of the Democratic Party has been to co-opt such change and render it harmless.

Short term versus long term

The idea there is a conflict between the short term and the long term is a cover for capitulation. It has been the endless argument of the Democrats against challenges to their policies. When independent movements appear they call on people to enter the Democratic Party and work from within. There is no time to go outside the two-party framework, they argue. This argument was made 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 25 years ago and, of course remains with us today. Millions have agreed there’s no time to do the right thing. Very powerful groups, like the AFL-CIO, have followed this advice. As a result, the number of workers in unions has dropped from 37% of the work force to 12% as they politically subordinated themselves to the pro-corporate Democratic Party.

Rather than success, these movements have found the Democratic Party to be the burial ground for mass movements, and of third-party efforts that sought to defend the interests of the people throughout American history.

What goes around comes around. From Missouri State Populist Party cartoon collection

Role of the Democratic Party in co-opting dissent. (Part 3 of 4)

From The Avocado Declaration, by Peter Camejo, written in Spring 2004 as he was running for vice president on the Green Party ticket, with Nader as presidential candidate. Camejo explains how real change in the US invariably originates from third parties and independent movements, and how the historic role of the Democratic Party has been to co-opt such change and render it harmless.

Success of Democratic Party

The Democratic Party should be seen historically as the most successful political party in the history of the world in terms of maintaining stability for rule by the privileged few. There is no other example that comes near what the Democratic Party has achieved in maintaining the domination of money over people.

Through trickery, the Democratic Party co-opted the powerful and massive rise of the Populist movement at the end of the 19th century using precisely the same lesser evil arguments now presented against the Green Party.

They sure did. The Democratic Party quite deliberately sabotaged, co-oped, then effectively neutralized the Populist Party, which for a time had real political power. But some Populists thought they could form a useful alliance with the Democrats. Big mistake. Instead they got knifed in the back.

They blocked the formation of a mass Labor Party when the union movement rose in the 1930s. They derailed, co-opted and dismantled the powerful civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam war movement and women’s liberation movement. They have even succeeded in establishing popular myths that they were once for labor, for civil rights and for peace. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One quite popular myth is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was pro labor. Continuing the policies of Woodrow Wilson who oversaw a reign of anti-union terror, including black listing and deporting immigrant labor organizers, FDR’s administration sabotaged union drives every step of the way. When workers overcame their bosses’ resistance and began winning strikes, FDR turned on them and gave the green light for repression after police killed ten striking steel workers in 1937. As FDR said himself, “I’m the best friend the profit system ever had.” After WWII Truman used the new Taft Hartley Anti-Labor Act to break national strikes more than a dozen times.

The Democrats have not abandoned “progressive” positions they once held, as some Democrats repeatedly claim but have simply shifted further to the right as world globalization has advanced leading to the lowering of democratic rights and the growth of wealth polarization within the United States.

Progressives who keep waiting for Obama to do the right thing are part of the problem. Like Clinton before him, Obama is a corporatist. That’s where his loyalties are. The Democratic Party has been this way for decades. It hasn’t and won’t change. Instead, those joining it in hopes of triggering genuine change end up getting changed, neutralized, or disillusioned.

From Missouri State Populist Party cartoon collection

Role of the Democratic Party in co-opting dissent. (Part 2 of 4)

From The Avocado Declaration, by Peter Camejo, written in Spring 2004 as he was running for vice president on the Green Party ticket, with Nader as presidential candidate. Camejo explains how real change in the US invariably originates from third parties and independent movements, and how the historic role of the Democratic Party has been to co-opt such change and render it harmless. (Emphasis added)

Struggles for democracy and social justice

In spite of this pro-corporate political monopoly, mass struggles for social progress, struggles to expand democracy and civil rights have periodically exploded throughout United States history.

Every major gain in our history, even pre-Civil War struggles –such as the battles for the Bill of Rights, to end slavery, and to establish free public education– as well as those after the Civil War have been the product of direct action by movements independent of the two major parties and in opposition to them.

Since the Civil War, without exception, the Democratic Party has opposed all mass struggles for democracy and social justice. These include the struggle for ballot reform, for the right of African Americans to vote and against American apartheid (“Jim Crow”), for the right to form unions, for the right of women to vote, against the war in Vietnam, the struggle to make lynching illegal, the fight against the death penalty, the struggle for universal health care, the fight for gay and lesbian rights, and endless others. Many of these struggles were initiated by or helped by the existence of small third parties.

When it looks like the movement is gaining ground though, the Democratic Party always tries to co-opt it and then pretends they’ve been leading all the while.

Division of work

When social justice, peace or civil rights movements become massive in scale, and threaten to become uncontrollable and begin to win over large numbers of people, the Democratic Party begins to shift and presents itself as a supposed ally. Its goal is always to co-opt the movement, demobilize its forces and block its development into an alternative, independent political force.

The Republican Party has historically acted as the open advocate for a platform which benefits the rule of wealth and corporate domination. They argue ideologically for policies benefiting the corporate rulers. The Republicans seek to convince the middle classes and labor to support the rule of the wealthy with the argument that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” that what benefits corporations is also going to benefit regular people.

The Democratic Party is different. They act as a “broker” negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party’s core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for “business as usual.” It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing. Together the two parties offer one of the best frameworks possible with which to rule a people that otherwise would begin to move society towards the rule of the people (i.e. democracy).

Hey Netroots, you don’t need to form third parties or independent movements. Why the Democratic Party is real interested in what you have to say (even if your ideas are a bit, well, extreme) so come on in, and we’ll be happy to lend you support, money, contacts, influence (but you really need to get rid of all those rough edges and radical ideas.) Hey, would you like staff and funding? Maybe we can put you in charge of a foundation (then ignore what you say, once we own you. But by then you won’t be talking crazy any more anyway.)

Role of the Democratic Party in co-opting dissent. (Part 1 of 4)

“Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” — Helen Keller

From The Avocado Declaration, by Peter Camejo, written in Spring 2004 as he was running for vice president on the Green Party ticket, with Nader as presidential candidate. Camejo explains how real change in the US invariably originates from third parties and independent movements, and how the historic role of the Democratic Party has been to co-opt such change and render it harmless. Emphasis added.

Origins of the present two-party system

History shows that the Democrats and Republicans are not two counterpoised forces, but rather complementary halves of a single two-party system: “one animal with two heads that feed from the same trough.”

Since the Civil War a peculiar two-party political system has dominated the United States. Prior to the Civil War a two-party system existed which reflected opposing economic platforms. Since the Civil War a shift occurred. A two-party system remained in place but no longer had differing economic orientation. Since the Civil War the two parties show differences in their image, role, social base and some policies but in the last analysis, they both support essentially similar economic platforms.

For over 130 years the two major parties have been extremely effective in preventing the emergence of any mass political formations that could challenge their political monopoly. Most attempts to build political alternatives have been efforts to represent the interests of the average person, the working people. These efforts have been unable to develop. Both major parties have been dominated by moneyed interests and today reflect the historic period of corporate rule.

In this sense United States history has been different from that of any other advanced industrial nation. In all other countries multi-party systems have appeared and to one degree or another these countries have more democratic electoral laws and better political representation. In most other countries, there exist political parties ostensibly based on or promoting the interest of non-corporate sectors such as working people.

We don’t have a parliamentary system here. Under such systems, small parties can become part of the ruling coalition and thus have real power. But not here. Our system precludes it from happening. Instead, what we really have is “hard cop, soft cop,” with the Democratic Party being the soft cop, pretending to be understanding and wanting to be your pal. Don’t believe it.