Marxists and Elections

Genuine socialists and Marxists oppose all corporate and right-wing political parties. Both Democrats and Republicans are political parties created by and controlled by big business. Much confusion has been built up on the left about the Democratic Party. However, the use of left-wing phrases by the Democratic Party reflects its desire to win working-class votes, not its politics. In the last 70 years, the Democrats have adopted the role of deceiving working-class and progressive voters in order to entrap them in the corporate two-party political system. The Democratic Party entraps social movements and then defangs them, turning them into appendages of the party and its candidates. In this way, it prevents social movements from building a working-class party as an alternative to the two-party system.

Socialist Alternative stands for the creation of a mass working-class political party. Marxists see a working-class party as completely different from a big business party. The working class needs a political party that can organize its struggles against big business and capitalism. This means uniting different sections of workers into struggle, clarifying the program of the party, spreading that program widely to the working class, exposing the corporate agenda, and building working-class power in the workplaces, labor unions, schools, local communities, and the streets. As part of this work, they should contest elections to expose the corporate agenda in the electoral arena. The election of candidates into office should be used to promote working-class struggles, to build up confidence, and to win concessions where possible. Ultimately, electoral campaigns are tied into an overall strategy of organizing the working class to take power and build a new socialist society.

A working-class party is essential to build the cohesion and strength necessary for the working class to contest big business for power. Because different sections of workers and young people come into a working-class and socialist consciousness at different times, the political party is an important vehicle to educate and train workers and youth into becoming effective working-class and socialist activists. A working-class party would need to have nothing in common with the cynical election campaigning undertaken by the two corporate parties.

Historically, Marxists in the U.S. and most advanced capitalist English-speaking countries (like Britain, Ireland, Australia and Canada) have seen the development of a powerful working-class party as linked to the participation of important sections of the trade unions. However, the weakening of the trade unions, the decline in their social weight, the increased obstacle of the conservative union bureaucracy due to their further political shift to the right, and the increased stranglehold over the internal workings of the union by this conservative leadership means unions will not be playing that role in the immediate future. There is not one national union today that calls for a break from the Democratic Party and the formation of a party of the working class.

If there were a powerful activist current in the labor movement, this would offer the possibility for an early transformation of major sections of the unions in the direction of breaking from the Democrats and building an independent working-class political party. However, at present the activist forces in the unions are very weak.

That being said, events are preparing the conditions for a revival of radicalism in the labor movement. Decades of concessions have created anger in the ranks of labor and among unorganized workers. The emergence of Occupy activists has also inspired and emboldened the majority of union activists. Under the continual hammer blows of the economic crisis in the coming years, the transformation of unions will speed up. At a local level, especially, sections of labor will be moving in the direction of militancy, looking to build fighting unions and to take this fight into the political arena to square off against corporate attacks. But the process of transformation will pass through a number of phases before really powerful forces emerge for a workers’ party in the unions. We need to participate in this process, taking initiatives where possible to speed it up.