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Conditions underlying successful political movements
The government of the United States is held captive to Big Money which exerts its influence through lobbyists and campaign contributions. Although many people are angry, it seems hard to imagine how a mass movement would develop that might be strong enough to change this regime. Such a movement would need to motivate a sufficient number of people to take drastic action against the political ruling class. Americans are politically so divided that this possibility seems slim.
Gold Party presents a scheme to unite people within the structure of a political party. Basically, this scheme envisions that its point system - a kind of political money - would motivate people to contribute time, effort, and money to build up the party to the point that it could win elections. When it won elections, this party could then use the mechanisms of government to carry out its bold agenda. However, the Gold Party technique has not yet been tried. At this point, it is just an idea.
examples of past movements
To judge what may or may not work, it may be useful to analyze past political movements. What were the conditions that allowed them to succeed? Let’s take several examples.
Restoration of white rule in the southern states following the Civil War: The Confederacy lost the war. White southerners were humiliated by the election of uneducated blacks to high office and corruption in government. Small para-military groups intimidated blacks and their sympathizers. This movement succeeded because: (1) There was broad disgust and anger directed against the government during the Reconstruction period. (2) Personal ties remained among those who had fought for the Confederacy. (3) The deadlocked election of 1876 between Hayes and Tilden gave embittered white southerners an opportunity to make a deal with the Republicans, electing Hayes but letting whites regain power in the south.
The Bolshevik revolution in Russia: The Bolsheviks were part of an international socialist movement that had a core of members, a developed ideology, and support in labor unions. World War I fatally weakened the Czarist government. The democratic government of Kerensky gained control of the state. The Bolsheviks overthrew the Kerensky government. It succeeded because the intelligent and determined men around Lenin, enjoying some support in the armed forces, took advantage of a newly formed, weak government.
Hitler’s rise to power in Germany: World War I also devastated German society. The German people were humiliated by their defeat in the war and were angered by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. As in the post-Civil War South, remnants of the defeated German army gave Hitler a structure of support. Hitler’s oratorical abilities helped the Nazi movement grow rapidly. He first addressed supporters in beer halls and stadiums and then much larger audiences on the radio.
Communist takeover in China: The Chinese communist movement allowed a small but well-organized and ideologically motivated group to take advantage of political weakness during a war. In this case, the event which traumatized the Chinese people was the Japanese invasion and occupation of China. Persecuted by the Kuomintang government, the communists retreated to the hinterland and regrouped. Japan was defeated by an international coalition. Chiang Kai-shek’s weakness and assistance given the communist armies by the Soviet Union gave the People’s Liberation Army the advantage in the ensuing civil war.
The Civil Rights movement in the United States: The NAACP and other black people’s organizations created a structure for political and legal agitation. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference brought together a number of black Christian churches in the south. They were supported by their northern counterparts. Jews were sympathetic to the black struggle for equality because they had also been victims of discrimination in a WASP-dominated society. The Civil Rights movement therefore enjoyed strong support on college campuses and in the media. Even small protest events carried out by southern blacks would receive national press coverage. Ultimately, this movement triumphed in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination when its leaders became associated with the Democratic party and the Johnson administration passed important legislation.
The Solidarity movement in Poland: Solidarity was a trade union in the Gdansk ship yard. The Polish people were occupied by a foreign power - the Soviet Union - with an ideology that was becoming increasingly unpopular. An important factor in Solidarity’s success was the election of a Polish Pope who was sympathetic to its aims. The Catholic church had an extensive communications network in Poland and John Paul II enjoyed great moral authority. Meanwhile, western governments were exerting political pressure on the Soviet bloc.
The Tea Party in the United States: This is a conservative movement that arose after Barack Obama’s election as President. Its traumatic events were the bail-out of Wall Street banks and insurance companies, the billions of dollars spent in Obama’s stimulus package allegedly to create jobs, and dissatisfaction with his lobbyist-written health-care proposals. This created a general sense that the administration had sold out to moneyed interests and America was a declining power. Obama’s race may also have motivated some of the protesters. However, the Tea Party could not have taken off without the help of talk radio, especially Glenn Beck’s show, and the organizing potential of the Internet.
In general, there seem to be two elements that are common to these movements: (1) a negative event or condition which makes large numbers of people want fundamental political change, and (2) a communications network that is able to mobilize large numbers of people to take particular action.
Negative events: devastating wars, especially when lost; occupation by a foreign power; social discrimination; assassinations of political leaders; sense of national decline
Communications network: groups of war veterans, political ideologies, religious organizations, news organizations, national radio or television programs, web sites
about Gold Party
Gold Party has only a single web site to support its program. It currently attracts between 350 and 500 visitors (from all six language groups) each day - a respectable number of people though hardly enough for an organization that aspires to take over the U.S. government. Few persons who have visited this website have sent an email acknowledging their interest.
Therefore, Gold Party is not currently in a position to carry out its mission. The problem is that its program rests upon an untested idea. It becomes difficult to convince even a small number of people to join such an organization and start the process of growth. People seem to require prior examples of success before they will take ambitious ideas seriously.
It may be that the economic and political situation will have to become much worse before Gold Party will become viable. If Americans continue to experience mass unemployment and home foreclosures, if the Chinese refuse to buy further U.S. government debt, if high taxes or inflation drive many more people into poverty, or if the 911 truth movement succeeds in proving its “conspiracy theories”, the U.S. government will become thoroughly discredited along with groups that benefit from the present situation.
The problem then will be the communications network. The mainstream corporate media will not support any challenge to its profitable position. The right-wing talk-radio programs, fanatically wedded to the idea of keeping government out of the economy, will be of no help either. Government does need to take a leading role in actions to address our economic crisis. People will also need to be convinced that the proposed solutions will actually work. All this will be quite difficult and I cannot suggest a clear path to victory. It will be a particular challenge to get the message out to a large number of people.
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