Part 5: Being an offensive opposition
The inoffensive reformers are preferable to the free market fundamentalists, even though neither are taking steps towards resolving the housing crisis in favour of working class and Indigenous communities who are experiencing it as violence against their bodies and communities. There are three good reasons to step past the narrowness of the electoral field and embrace politics that offend our enemies in government, business, and the professional-managerial class:
First, because we have decades of political retreat to overcome and a tremendous amount to learn together. We cannot afford to handcuff our imaginations, our critical minds, and our desires to what electoral strategists decide are winnable, pragmatic, inoffensive reforms in an electoral contest. We must discover and tell the truth.
Second, because the inoffensive reforms and blocs of progressive electorates are inadequate to the immediate material needs of our most vulnerable communities. A character of these inoffensive reforms is that politicians (even the ones that emerged from our community organizing) lie about how much they can do. For example, COPE presents a “rent freeze” as a solution when more than half of us are already paying well over 30% of our incomes to rent; they propose a ban on renovictions, but the reality is that the majority of evictions are for failure to pay rents we cannot afford. If we limit ourselves to organizing around elections on these inoffensive and inadequate reforms then we will not build the organizations we need to act outside the law, and we will not understand what we really need to do.
Third, because within the current post-social democracy context, even the most “inoffensive” reforms cannot be realized by politicians in the absence of strong social movements. For example, in Seattle this summer, City Council passed a corporate tax to fund programs for the city’s homeless, then repealed it a few months later under pressure from Amazon and Starbucks. Progressive civic politicians tend to say that they want to work with social movements, but also tend to demand that social movement groups subordinate their politics to their inoffensive electoral policy reforms and distance themselves from groups that they consider to be too radical.
When the BC NDP attacked the tent city in Saanich with naked police force, harassing and denouncing homeless residents and radical organizers in our group, not a single progressive politician in Vancouver or Victoria spoke out against them. When the police attacked and arrested us as criminals in the Nanaimo Schoolhouse Squat, the silence from progressive quarters was deafening, and some people working on electoral campaigns even used the opportunity to differentiate themselves from our action to show that they respect property. It appeared that their election, and their coziness with the NDP government, was more important to them than defending and identifying with the offensively oppositional social movements they will need in order to actually carry out their inoffensive reforms should they be elected.