Monday, March 2, 2020

Community centred politics

Every now and then, we hear about the need of a new political party to provide a much needed opposition from the left. I have myself often entertained this thought.
Still there is a living legacy which is often overlooked; that of community based struggles in which people from movements like Graffitti have inserted themselves to support, sustain and sometimes lead such struggles without imposing themselves as a vanguard. To succeed any such strategy depends on how local communities perceive activists. Building trust in such circumstances is far from an easy task and also depends on personal charisma.
One reason why people trust these activists is that unlike politicians these are not after their vote. Neither are they perceived as a threat to their entrenched political and cultural identities. Not being tied to any of the dominant political parties is also an asset.
Sure one may ask whether this goes far enough in addressing the structural roots of social and environmental problems. But probably such a strategy is far more rewarding than celebrating a 2% score in an election.
In environmental struggles these community based alliances have yielded big results.
Moreover such movements are also communities in their own right, offering sense of belonging and a common safe space for activists. They also provide an important cultural space where people can also have fun and experience togetherness. One should never underestimate this aspect of tranformative politics. It is vital in nurturing an ecosystem where plural identities can thrive.
Rather than re-proposing the small party paradigm by summing up the pieces, we should be thinking more about building on these experiences. We may be thinking too much in terms of a tried and tested paradigm, which has largely failed in the context of the two party system. Sure such a perspective does not exclude a more direct political commitment, on a similar model to that which pushed socialist candidates like Ocasio Cortez in the US congress.
So my humble suggestion is to think more on building communities than parties, communities which can grow beside, within and against political parties and relying on creativity, revolutionary passion, commitment and joyful expression.

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