Revolutions don’t come when they’re called: Marxism and electoral struggle

 
BY:Scott Hiley| November 1, 2018
Revolutions don’t come when they’re called: Marxism and electoral struggle

One of the most frequent questions we get involves our electoral strategy.  Why do we encourage our members to get involved in electoral work?  And why for Democrats?  Election Day is less than a week away, so here are our answers to some of the most common questions. 

Why do you support Democrats?

“Communists,” wrote Marx and Engels, “have no interests apart from those of the whole working class.” CPUSA is an independent revolutionary party of the working class, for the working class. Our entire program is based on advancing workers’ interests, both immediately (by defeating the Trump-GOP regime) and definitively (by building the unity and organization needed for a revolutionary transformation of society).  Both of those goals require getting involved in electoral struggles, including around candidates who don’t share many of our goals.

Why aren’t you calling for revolution?

Revolutions don’t come when they’re called. After the terrifying spectacle of the 2016 Republican Convention, the challenge was clear: stop Trump and the GOP.  But over 40% of the eligible voters in this country didn’t even cast a ballot. It took workers and oppressed people 150 years of struggle to win universal suffrage and make the vote the most basic tool of political struggle.  If we can’t even get people to use that tool to keep fascism at bay, how can we even think about transforming society?

Aren’t you worried that you’ll confuse workers about their real interests?

Working-class people aren’t stupid!  We have to get rid of this idea that Communists are missionaries bringing Marxist enlightenment to the backward masses. The biggest challenge facing the working class isn’t a lack of awareness of exploitation and oppression. It’s the lack of effective organization to combat it.  Electoral campaigns are one of the ways to build that organization. Marxist political education is extremely important, but it has to be linked to other political work as well.

Shouldn’t you be running your own candidates, or at least voting for other socialists?

Sure, when that’s the best way to strengthen working class unity. But the idea that radicals should only vote for ‘radical’ candidates strikes me as short-sighted, individualistic, and… well,  bourgeois. (Imagine someone who wants to “smash the state”–just as soon as their custom-made, artisanal hammer comes in the mail.) Social change comes from collective action of the working class, not from getting a couple of socialists elected and then denouncing them when they when they fail to overthrow capitalism.

Well, if the Democrats want my vote, they have to earn it.  

What about people who depend on Social Security, Medicaid, heating subsidies, and food stamps?  What about women who want equal pay and insurance that covers contraception, or trans people who want civil rights? What about people who face disenfranchisement in Republican-controlled states? Do they have to earn your vote, too? This isn’t a reality show or a talent competition; it isn’t about rewarding or punishing the Democrats. There are two paths forward from November 6: an emboldened Trump regime and a renewed assault on workers and oppressed people, or a weakened Trump regime unable to deliver on its increasingly  terrifying promises.

So what you’re telling me is…

Fascism is not just knocking at the door.  It already has a foot inside the house, and the November 6 midterms are our best chance to stop it. So get out and vote like every step of democratic progress since Reconstruction depends on it, because it does.  The fight for democracy is too important to be left to the bourgeoisie.

Still confused?  Here’s a one-hour class on Lenin’s Two Tactics and the fight for democracy and working class power. Ready to get involved?  Pledge to Get Out The Vote, November 3-5.

Image: Marchers at the 1963 March on Washington: a reminder that the vote is a tool we had to pry from the hands of the ruling class.  Photo by Marion S. Trikosko.

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Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

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