- Category: Revolutionary Strategy
- Created on Sunday, 19 September 2010 20:05
- Written by Tellnolies
The following is from a series of comments written by Tellnolies in a number of recent threads.
"I think there is a lot of opportunism in most of the work that leftists do within the Democratic Party and at the same time think the sweeping attacks on any work within the Democratic Party are crude in their understanding of the problems such work seeks to grapple with. I wish the Democratic Party were obsolete. Its not. It commands the uneasy allegiances of the majority of folks we want to win to revolutionary politics. The reasons for this are complex and moralistic finger-wagging doesn’t advance the process."
There seem to be several questions...
1. Should revolutionaries participate in the electoral process at all, or is it all a dead end and therefore to be denounced exclusively from outside of it?
2. Is the purpose of participation by revolutionaries in electoral politics purely propagandistic or should actually winning electoral office be an objective, and if so on the basis of what politics?
3. Given particular objectives (propaganda vs. winning office) what role, if any, is there for work in the Democratic Party.
Here I think, is the rub:
Well that is certainly ONE message that we might be sending. And I’d agree that much of the work leftists do within the Democratic Party does in fact send that message (as well as some others) and that is a serious problem.
But it really depends on how we do it.
One could just as easily make the argument that the whole electoral process in the US is a “tool of imperialism and the capitalist class” and that any participation in it at all (including yours) only sends the message that we can vote capitalism out of existence. Presumably you believe that the explicit content of your own campaign effectively countered any such effect. I see no reason that the same couldn’t be true of an explicitly socialist primary challenge against a sitting Democrat.
I would argue further that there are some reasons to think that primary challenges would often be MORE potent opportunities to get our politics out. One of the very real problems with waging third-party efforts in the first-past-the-post electoral system that we have in the U.S. is that as soon as you begin to poll more that one or two percent you become a potential spoiler and this drives rational voters who may very well be closer to your politics than to the politics of the Democratic Party to vote for the Dem anyway, and even to become quite antagonistic towards your efforts as we saw with the Nader campaigns. Now if your only reason for participating in elections is to do some low-level propaganda work, and you are more or less content with the role of perpetual gadfly, this may not be such a big deal, but if you are really interested in trying to win a large section of the Democratic electorate to socialist politics, a pre-condition I believe for any serious shot at revolution in this country, this is actually a very big problem.
Primary challenges offer an opportunity to give people a real choice between capitalist and socialist politics under conditions where the spoiler effect is not operative (because there usually aren’t any other serious progressive challengers whose efforts your campaign might spoil).
Because they tend to attract only a fraction of the voters who participate in the general elections there is considerably more opportunity for a small but dedicated effort to have a big impact (if not actually winning the primary, at least attracting enough votes to cause a serious freakout). A further advantage is that it has the potential to compel all the progressive union officials, non-profit staffers and other leftists already entangled in the Democratic Party but that posture as socialists to put up or shut up.