Strategy vs. Righteous Intransigence

May 27, 2016


I read a lot of different magazines. National Geographic has a large section dedicated to National Parks, particularly Yellowstone. I came across this statement which to me spoke to all progressives, Marxists or anyone else struggling for change.

“Meanwhile we the owners of Yellowstone National Park, and of Grand Teton, and of the national forests and other federal lands of the ecosystem, face some new challenges of our own. The parks need more funding for the impossible work they do; only a fraction of their operating and improvement funds comes from Congress, whereas crucial initiatives such as the Yellowstone Wolf Project are supported by private money, through “friends” organizations such as the Yellowstone Park Foundation. The parks need political support for hard decisions, such as the one that may come when, because of overcrowding, private automobiles are no longer allowed to enter. Sorry: Get on the shuttle.The most heated wildlife issues, notably grizzly and bison and wolf, need collaborative solutions, not continuing warfare. Passionately dedicated people need to recognize that righteous intransigence is not a strategy; it’s just a satisfying attitude. The various agency members of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee need to add private groups as partners and to make bold decisions that transcend turf politics. Climate change seems to be hurting Yellowstone – by way of temperature ranges, insect cycles, drought, who knows what else – and we all need to do better on fixing that.Ha, easier said than done. But if the Yellowstone grizzly bear is expected to adapt, modify its behavior, and cope with new realities, shouldn’t we be expected to do that too?” National Geographic Vol 229 #5 (5/16) p.145 (Emphasis added)

I decided to include the entire probably too long quotation to capture the flavor of the discussion in the article. I could have said “righteous intransigence is not a strategy; it’s just a satisfying attitude.” But that would not expose the universality of the problem.

I have a paper on my website: Strategy and Tactics foe the Progressive Movement.” While it explores this very question, nothing captures the problem as well as the National Geographic article by Bill Hoppe.

Hopefully, by taking the problem out of the immediately partisan politics, it highlights a basic human problem. We get so captured by our “righteous intransigence”, we lose sight of the bigger goals. Ultimately, the obvious goal is to build a powerful working class movement. In Hoppe’s article, the goal is to protect the entire environmental national park ecosystem, a goal so noble and compelling it is shocking to realize that opposing ideas become barriers to unity, and therefore; jeopardize the goal. Expressed positions become rigid. Unless wisdom prevails, the actual goal becomes impossible. That is why I fight so hard to discuss strategy and tactics and oppose “righteous intransigence.” The quotation from Hoppe is brilliant and applies in almost every political situation.

Historically, every strategical and tactical move is considered by many people as a “compromise”. Every decision is considered individual and measured only against the “righteous analysis” of that individual. Our movement is based upon the protection of the commons and is also based upon the objective fact that we live in a socialized society. There are laws of capitalist development precisely articulated by Karl Marx. In other words, the working class has to unite to fight for economic justice from the ruling class. In fact, the fight for economic justice necessarily includes the fight for racial justice, protection of the rights of women and of sexual choice. Only a united movement can hope to achieve immediate and long term goals, recognizing that no reform under capitalism is permanent. There is always the spectre of counter revolution designed to divide and conquer.

It is more than ironic that our movement socialized as it is, nevertheless, devolves into extreme individualism. Human action generally results in individual “righteous intransigence”. That objective problem, however, creates a fractious left. At this time, I am desperately asking all Bernie supporters and all progressives for that matter to depend upon his leadership for strategical and tactical decisions.

I agree with Bernie that is not simply about him. But, in fact, we need to demand his leadership as a mechanism to insure a united movement. Everyone in the movement must abandon “righteous intransigence” and instead analyze strategic decisions not as a compromise of personal decisions but as necessary to build the movement.


Yours in Struggle,




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