[Marxism] RE: Voting by the U.S. Left--and the main stategic goal of 2004

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 24 11:08:51 MST 2004

A few comments about Marv's position on the elctions and how socialists 
should opt towards supporting the DP.   Here he writes..

<<But Carrol writes as if this is where it ends. So  long as they “hang in
there” and “resist the ABB onlaught”, he writes, “then indeed -- for the
present – our efforts will have worked”. Carrol has the same focus on
mass action as Tony Abdo in his reply to my post. Mass action is
necessary, but not if it becomes a substitute and escape from
“electoralism”. This seems to be the case even though Carrol endorses
the futile electoralism of the Greens and Tony gives the nod to the
futile electoralism of the small Marxist groups. The real thrust of
their interventions is to warn social activists not to get caught up in
the “ABB onslaught” – which is code for the Democratic party. In this,
they reflect the majority sentiment on this list.>>

Actually, Marv, my focus has for socialists not to get caught up in the 
electioneering of any of the capitalist parties, and I have included the 
Green Party in this category along with the DP and RP.    Your worrying 
about mass action becoming a substitute and escape from "electorialism" is 
truly a case of putting the cart before the horse!    But I think you raise 
some pretty important issues further along in your comments....

But first, let me assure you that I am not giving any 'nod' to the futile 
electorialism of small Marxist groups.    I've seen too many of these 
sectarian and sterile campaigns while an SWPer in the '70s to think that 
that form of relating to elections in the US is some great accomplishment.   
  And the CP had an exceptional sterility with this sort of sectarian 
campaign style, too.

<<It quickly becomes apparent in surveying this list that the only way
these movements have of realizing their goals is to have their demands
codified in legislation and regulation, and this understanding
necessarily leads them to involvement in the political arena. Would
Carrol and Tony disagree? Demonstrations and other forms of
extraparliamentary activity is where it starts, but the activists will
also tell you that demonstrations, meetings, and petitions alone will
not give them what they need. Nor, for certain, will the courts, which
rarely venture beyond what the legislatures decree, and when they do,
their rulings, as in case of same sex marriage, can be subject to
reversal by new laws or constitutional amendments.>>

No, I do not disagree.    But what you are trying to sneak in here, is that 
legislation that can help realize the goals of the mass movements is going 
to only be accomplished if the DP has a dominance of legislative seats over 
the RP.     That, I disagree with.    And you really don't have much to 
support your case that the DP in leads to better legislation.

In both case, DP or RP dominant in the government, the mass movement has to 
pound them to get positive results for their goals, and this can often 
actually be better done when the RP is the dominant party.    US capitalism 
is now in crisis precisely because the RP has been running the show 
recently.    And the ruling class is seriously thinking about switching back 
to the DP to provide some camoflage to the naked brutality of US capitalism 
once again.    This is stuf that you seem to be oblivious to.

The RP winning the upcoming elections may actually be much better for the 
people and their struggles, since it is definitely getting them to think 
about how awful  capitalist rule is around the planet.   The RP is getting 
people really mad at the system, whereas a Slick Kerry in office would be a 
total break in the organizing, as people would sit back and wait for the 
'good guy' to go to work, as tehy did for the 8 years of Clinton's reign.

<<The limits of electoral politics, especially in periods like the present
when there is no class polarization, have always been understood by the
left. But it seems passing strange to have to note here that the
socialist movement  -- both its revolutionary and social democratic
wings – has never counterposed movement-building to participation in
electoral politics in the way that Carrol and Tony and others do.>>

Actually, Trotsky and Trotskyism counterposed movement-building to 
concentrating on gaining political office by campaigning and purely 
electoral politics.    And other revolutionary currents have done the same 
around the globe.     Where were you when this was all happening?

<<As a practical matter, it’s very difficult to march with these these
movements up to the gates of the legislature or convention hall, and
then abandon them when they carry their fight inside.>>

Actually, Marv, what generally always occurs, is that when the reformists 
begin their lobbying, THEY ABANDON the mass movements and start proposing 
deals with other politicos instead of continuing mass actions as strategy.

<<On the theoretical level, there’s a rich literature, as we know, on how 
socialists can help
these movements advance and, beyond that, within the Marxist left, on
how such assistance can contribute to the development of a greater
understanding, and the separation of the membership from programs and
leaders who are found wanting. The only objection to this kind of
activity has come from the anarchist movement.>>

Here, we have a tired repeat of Trotskyism (or any revolutionary current) 
being like anarchism.     And even if it were true, you are slandering hte 
real positions of the US anarchists today, who are more like a Left 
Socialist Democracy than anything else!

<<Of course, what lies at the bottom of this aversion to electoralism is
that it leads to the  related issue which sticks in everyone’s craw: the
Democratic party. The unions and social movements, without exception and
however we may individually feel about it, have selected it as the
vehicle for pursuing their demands, and will not start leaving it until
they have found another one which seems better equipped to do so. In
fact, you might even say they are the Democratic party.>>

No they aren't.    And you saying this is bunk that reinforces the grand lie 
of US politics.

<< Like others, I carry around the legacy of the Trotskyist movement, and 
while there is
much I still find valuable in it, I no longer accept that the
Republicans and Democrats are as indistinguishable as we were taught. I
think they’re quite sharply distinguished by the presence of the unions
and the social movements in the one party and not the other. As a
result, the Democrats represent the more advanced liberal culture of the
cities and the Republicans the conservative, often reactionary, culture
of the rural areas – which has implications for social policy, but this
is a secondary consideration for me.>>

Nobody has ever said that these two capitalist major parties in the US don't 
appeal to different sectors of the US population as you correctly point out. 
     But what you don't and can't argue against, is that both are capitalist 
funded and capitalist controlled.

<<In engaging in political action through the Democratic party, the US
unions and social movements are pursuing the same ends as their
counterparts abroad, except that the labour and social democratic
parties favoured by the organized workers and social activists in Europe
and elsewhere derive from the the old Second International. I’ve
suggested in previous posts that to still attach any great importance to
their origins is to fall victim to a fetish.>>

I think that there is much truth here.     For socailists to call for voting 
for people like Tony Blair because he is Labor Party is ridiculous.   
However, you are using the argument that because so many socialist take this 
lousy position that it must then be OK to go out and vote DP, which doesn't 
even have the historical past that the British Labor Party does, nor the 
long established structure within the unions that iit has!

<<In essence, the DP can be
regarded as an American proxy for these parties. If a labour party could
be magically reproduced in the US along the lines of those overseas, I’d
venture to say it would still look pretty much like the DP does now -
not only in terms of social composition, but also in terms of
leadership, program, dependence on the liberal bourgeoisie, and an
unwillingness and inability to make fundamental changes in property and
power relations. In fact, the existence of the DP is arguably the
foremost reason why a labour party has never gotten off the ground in
the US.>>

Here, you don't differentiate between a Labor Paarty being newly estalished, 
and a Labor Party in name only in total disintegration!    They are two 
entirely different things, Marv.

<<It’s really not my place to counsel Americans how to relate to the DP.
In this period, at any rate, this seems to me mostly a matter of
personal choice. If an active and growing left were to appear in the
DP - the outgrowth of a systemic crisis – I suspect many on the left,
including on this list, would feel the pressure to intervene as a
political responsibility.>>

A Left in the DP would be a split from the majority DP.

<<But I know from my own episodic experience in
the NDP that in a relatively quiescent period like the present, such an
orientation isn’t urgent and isn’t likely to yield great rewards. That’s
what I meant (to reply to Yoshie’s query) that “nothing works” in this
period – including an entry into the Democrats. Nevertheless, if the
Democratic party is the analogue of the NDP, then it’s probably the case
that even in stable times, it’s a better political venue than the
isolated Greens and small Marxist organizations to monitor “where the
class is at”, to test and adjust political assumptions accordingly, to
have a greater opportunity to collaborate politically with the activists
in the unions and the other social movements, and to be well placed if
something should develop.>>

But the NDP is not analogous to the DP USA.    It was an effort to build a 
true Labor movement, that perhaps has cetainly stalled some, but still is 
considerably different from the DP here.

<<This is an unpopular view on the list, I know, but I think it is
important to have a proper analysis of the DP, rather than reflexively
denouncing it, or simply ignoring the big white elephant in the middle
of the room – even if one doesn’t draw any political conclusions from
Marv Gandall>

Keep posting, Marv.     But your 'rethinking' appears to be merely a retreat 
into the same tired defeatism of voting for supposed DP liberals, who then 
turn out to do exactly as the conservatives do in almost all essentials.

Tony Abdo

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