February 19, 2013
Eldridge Cleaver famously declared, “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” Although I did not agree with this sentiment in its original context, it has more definite applicability in regard to what one might think of as “solving political problems.”
Notice, first, that politics consists in the struggle to control the power that allows one party (whether an individual or a group) to impose its preferences on other parties who object to this imposition. Some political struggles involve attempts to make new impositions; others involve attempts to throw off existing, unwanted impositions. Because in our time the state is usually the organization that possesses the greatest coercive power, politics often boils down to a contest over who will control the state and how state authorities will wield their power. Politics, in short, ultimately has to do with the question: who will be master?
When we recognize that political problems always involve this question, we see immediately that they can have no solution short of complete capitulation by the political losers. Unless they concede that others will be their masters, they will continue to struggle, either overtly or covertly. Thus, political problems remain perpetually unresolved in any more than a tactical, short-term way. Losers may appear to have given up, but usually if not always they will continue to harbor a desire to throw off their master or some aspect of the master’s regime and continue to work in some way toward the attainment of that objective.
Of course, wherever more than one way of dealing with an issue exists, there is no necessity of resort to politics. If everyone agrees to let each party act as it wishes without coercive interference, a genuine political solution does exist: abandon politics.