Political struggle and protest tactics


The comments by Katrina Plotz regarding my criticism of the anarchists’ actions and the failure of the March organizers to focus on the political activism of the many instead on the antics of the few are clearly illustrative of the need for serious consideration and thinking about how to achieve change in our society.

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First, I want to say that I have a 20 year record of working with the Latino and immigrant communities in rural Minnesota opposing racism and discrimination. I have also worked in Minnesota , Arizona , Puerto Rico and in Spain against colonialism, imperialism and unrestrained globalization. I am proud of my record not only of words but of real accomplishments on behalf of the poor, the powerless and the disenfranchised.

The point that I was making on my earlier criticism is that, if you are engaged in a POLITICAL struggle, then ANY actions taken MUST be calculated to assist in achieving the POLITICAL AIMS of the struggle. Ms. Plotz indicates that “many of us believe that elements of civil disobedience and direct action are acceptable and necessary for any movement desiring to mount a serious challenge to the violent, imperialist forces that are exploiting and destroying the lives of millions”, but fails to explain HOW would such direct action HELP in changing the system.

The answer clearly is that such actions do not help and rather hinder the POLITICAL struggle. On September 1st, the media focused on the police and the anarchists instead of on the massive and peaceful protest against Bush and the fascists at the Xcel center. The POLITICAL message was diluted, and this should not surprise anyone since the media would of course focus its coverage on the clashes as opposed to the march. This was totally foreseeable and totally preventable. Unless Ms. Plotz is advocating that we all take arms and launch a revolution, then the ONLY way to achieve our goals is through the political process, and we must play by the rules of this process, which includes knowing how to use the media and also be cognizant of the unfortunate truth that image and perception are everything.

Direct action definitively has appeal, and may indeed have a place in a movement’s struggle for social justice IF and WHEN it supports the POLITICAL goals of the movement. But in the present cultural, historical and political context of 21st century America , there is absolutely no doubt that such actions would at best be counterproductive.

I understand perfectly the frustration and the desire to strike at the oppressive forces arrayed against us. As a Latino male I personally do not need lessons on resistance to oppression from Ms. Plotz or from any White middle class anarchist. But what any SUCCESSFUL social justice movement needs is clarity of message, unity of purpose and consistency in tactics and strategy.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. understood this. Dr. King did not rail against the police after the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers were assaulted; he was not sidetracked from his main message of demanding change to the system. The enemy is not the police, the enemy is the system itself, and ONLY thru smart political action we would be able to prevail.

En la lucha,

Francisco J. Gonzalez
Cottage Grove, MN