The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Voting for Socialism...or Anything August 6, 2003 by RedStar2000

The next U.S. presidential election is more than a year away, and my mailbox is already stuffed with crap from the Democratic Party.

And the same sort of thing is beginning to show up at left message boards as too many people get suckered once again by the fabulous spectacle of capitalist elections.

All those lights and cameras and smoke and mirrors...surely it means something, doesn't it?




Only a mass party of labor, based on the trade unions and armed with a program of socialist demands can fight back in the interests of the hundreds of millions of workers in the US. Only with such a party can the process of falling wages, dropping living standards, and shrinking rights be halted. The Democrats will never be capable of this. We must start now in our work to break the labor movement from the Democrats, and to break millions of workers' illusions in the Democrats (who they support for lack of an alternative). Given a genuine alterative, millions would rejoin the ranks of voting Americans. This will not be an easy task - but there is no other alternative. The Democrats are our real enemies at this point in time; they have had their chance to work in the interests of working people and have betrayed us time and time again. They have always been, and always will be, a party of big business. We, the working class, the vast majority of American society, must build a party that will fight in our interests - a working class party of and for working class. Armed with a socialist program, such a party would play an important role in the revolutionary transformation of society.

The condemnation of the corporate Democratic Party is quite correct.

The call for a new "mass labor party"--even with a "socialist program"--is a call to recreate the German Social Democracy of the pre-World War I era.

It didn't work then; it won't work now.

The flaw is in the underlying assumption that capitalist elections are meaningful in terms of political power. They are not.

From the standpoint of the working class, bourgeois elections have never been and will never be "democratic" will never have a chance to really "vote for socialism". You may vote here and there for people who will say they are for socialism and even be sincere about that; what you will never get is an elected socialist party that will actually introduce socialism. (You may, if you are lucky, get "capitalism with a human face" as in Scandinavia...and that's really all a lot of "socialists" actually want.)

The only real alternative to voting in bourgeois elections is active resistance to capitalist hegemony in the streets and in the workplaces. An example that should be especially appreciated is the recent wildcat strike at Heathrow Airport...that's how you fight the bastards...not by voting.

Leave reformism to the reformists.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 22, 2003


Until workers don't have an alternative institution to the bourgeois parliament, they must participate it.



But we communists can not ignore the needs of the workers - and one of the tools of fighting for workers rights is the parliament.



There are many ways a communist party can help workers' struggles through its parliament faction.

I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation.


A communist parliament faction can use the stage of the parliament to voice support for the strike and even invite the strike leaders to speak.

This is silly...but revealing. To refer to bourgeois parliaments as a "stage" is actually pretty close to the is for show, not for real.


If the goverments propose anti-worker decisions, the communist MPs can disturb the capitalist hegemony of the parliament and expose to the millions of workers how the ruling class harms them.

That's something that can be done from outside parliament and with far more credibility. How do you look to people when you denounce bourgeois "democracy" while you are actually drawing a salary from participating in it? You look like a faker, that's what.


And finally, there are social laws which can improve the conditions of workers which can be passed in a capitalist parliament. For example here in Israel the HADASH (the democratic front for peace & equality) MPs passed alot of social laws: free education from the age of 3 (instead of 5), protection on the founders of a workers' committee, equality of women in extra expenses to wage (I'm not sure I said it correctly) etc.

As I noted in my original post in this thread, you can get (temporary) reforms in a bourgeois parliament...if that's all you want. Do you want to tell people essentially that communism really means making capitalism somewhat more humane?

And, of course, most reforms in capitalism over the last century (reforms that are now being eliminated one by one) were not passed by communist or socialist majorities in parliament; they were approved by capitalist parties in order to remove the "heat" generated by an active working class outside of parliament altogether.

Insofar as "reforms" take place in capitalism, they happen not because of who happens to be in parliament at the time but because the working class is "in the streets"...that has such a sobering effect on the ruling class that they hasten to try to bring the workers "back into the system" through reforms.

If you want a particular "reform" under capitalism, forget about parliament. Get enough people into the streets and parliament will take care of itself.


Parliamentary involvement gives the radical left a great soapbox to speak from.

No it doesn't. In fact, the idea that any half-way sensible worker would even listen to a congressman, much less take him seriously, is a joke. Even a-political people in the United States have nothing but contempt for the Washington DC circus. You want to be a part of that? You think that will help?


We must continue direct actions against capitalism, but it is possible to do this while getting leftists elected to our parliaments and congresses.

Sure we could, but why bother? The resources utilized for such electoral efforts would be far better utilized in promoting direct resistance to the daily practices of capitalism.

Beyond this, participation in bourgeois elections "sends a message" to people whether we intend it or not...and that message is that the bourgeois electoral process is "legitimate".

We "know" that it's not, of course...and we can even tell people that; but deeds speak louder than words, and our acts of participation speak louder than our theory.

We can say that bourgeois "democracy" is a sham all we want; but if we take it seriously enough to participate in it, we are showing people by example that we think it's "real" and "meaningful". The result, after a while, is that people will conclude that we are just like the rest of the corrupt bastards--long on promises, short on delivery.


...look how in Russia there was the RSDLP which then became a mass organisation, from which the cadres were trained as marxists and from which we had the bolsheviks and the mensheviks, from which point we had the Russian revolution.

That's a muddle; but if you're suggesting that Bolshevik participation in the Czarist Duma "led" to the revolution, that's just wrong. The real strength of the Bolsheviks (and the Mensheviks) came from industrial struggles in Petrograd and Moscow (and a couple of other places)...aside from a few historians, does anyone even remember what the Bolshevik deputies to the Duma did? Or care?

But whether you appeal to Lenin or Martov or Kautsky, it really doesn't matter. Back before World War I, there was considerable optimism in all socialist currents about the use of bourgeois parliaments to "advance the struggle" in one way or another.

That was then, this is now. We've seen nearly a century of attempts to "use" the bourgeois state machinery to our advantage...and it's never amounted to a puddle of warm spit.

By all means try some more, if that's your wish. But you are just wasting your time and energy.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 22, 2003


I realized that the invasion and occupation of Iraq were purely a far-right Bush-camp idea...and guess what? They have more in store for the third world, guys!

But, hey, if you want to not vote or throw your vote away on some Stalinist like Monica Moorehead, fine but the blood of hundreds of thousands will be on your hands.

This is called guilt-tripping. If you don't vote Democrat, then the blood of U.S. imperialism is on your hands. By the same logic, you have to campaign for the Democrats and give them money. If the Democrats win and start another imperialist war, you can comfort yourself with the illusion that you "tried".


Democrats have historically created many more jobs.

This is called rubbish. Jobs are "created" by the capitalist class; it has nothing to do with the current occupant of the oval office.


But hey, the more people that die or are unemployed, the sooner the revolution comes, right...

This is called mis-direction. It assumes that communists try to make things "worse" or callously refuse to help "improve" things because things getting worse "speeds" up the revolution.

Things get "worse" because that's the way capitalism operates.


However, it is preferable to be ruled by a ruling class representative who won't invade another country and will try to reintegrate the United States into international diplomacy. Hell, at least we'll be able to have *talk* about universal health-care for once!

Forget it! A democrat will invade just as readily as a Republican...that's historical fact.

And forget about universal health care...not only will that never happen in the United States, other major capitalist countries are trying to gradually get rid of it. Workers should bust their asses until they become seriously ill and then they should die...that's the capitalist philosophy for the 21st century.


I'm saying that this particular time, there is enough of a difference (far-right vs. fascist right) to be important!

So thought the German Social Democrats in the 1932 Presidential elections (Paul von Hindenberg vs. Adolph Hitler)...and, they dutifully re-elected the aging east Prussian aristocrat to the presidency.

It didn't help...they got Hitler anyway.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 22, 2003


What he fails to understand is that mass movements change politics by 1)influencing the political discourse in a society and 2)mobilizing voter blocs which elect progressive (or regressive) candidates. You don't stop a war by burning things. You stop a war by burning things AND voting for anti-war candidates!

That "sounds" almost plausible...but it's not true. Would you like to argue that Richard Nixon was an "anti-war" or "progressive" political figure? Yet, he did end the war in Vietnam...a combination of defeat on the battlefield and rising resistance in the United States left him no choice. To continue the war risked revolution at home.

The greater the resistance to occupation within Iraq and within the United States, the more likely it will be that U.S. forces will have to be withdrawn and the more unlikely the next imperial advanture will become...regardless of who is getting a blow-job in the Oval Office.

To assert that labels like "progressive" or "reactionary" have any meaning in contemporary bourgeois politics is simply naive. They are all reactionary bastards, regardless of their rhetoric. They will do something "progressive" only when faced with massive pressure that is altogether outside of their well-controlled "channels" for "conflict management".


Interestingly enough, when I made the assertion that people like him didn't care about human suffering because the worse things got, the sooner the revolution came, he rebuked me...but here he seems to be saying exactly that!

"Human suffering" is built-in to the capitalist system, no matter which capitalist bastard is in office. Its source is wage-slavery. Things will "get worse" because that's how capitalism works.

If people vote for a "law-and-order" candidate, elect him, and suffer even want to blame that on me? I told them to resist and you want to blame me for the fact that, at this particular point in time, they prefered to submit?

That's just plain horseshit!

And it leads to a strategy of beggary...pleading with the bourgeoisie to "not be so mean" while doing nothing to "scare" them into being even "meaner". There was a 19th century Catholic pope that tried that approach...and people still laugh when they read his "bull".

Of course, some still take it seriously.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 27, 2003


'Scuse me, Redstar, but haven't you said that the working class in the United States is hopeless anyway?

I'll be "nice" and assume that question is based on a misunderstanding.

I have consistently advised young American communists to emigrate to western Europe...because I think that part of the world will be the first to experience a modern proletarian revolution. If you want to be part of a major historical event, that's the best place to be, in my view.

The American working class is the most reactionary working class in the world right now and will remain so as long as the Empire is successful. No one knows how long that will be.

If, for reasons of personal attachment, lack of resources to emigrate, etc., you find yourself "stuck" in the United States, then you seek out those parts of the working class that benefit least from the Empire and have the most grievances against the present system and do your best to "radicalize" them as a nucleus for later work.

And if even that proves too difficult or discouraging, then--given present constraints--you'll probably end up in academia writing radical books that no one reads and perhaps reaching one or two young students every year with your ideas.

All in all, pretty lame...but that's American reality.

And it certainly will not change because some small group of "lefties" decides to "play" at bourgeois politics.


Basically your super-revolutionary-sounding rhetoric is just an excuse for avoiding involvement in anything.

Basically even "talk" of revolution makes you nervous and uncomfortable. That's your problem, not mine.


If there was no 8 anti-zionist MP's (including 3 communists) in the Knesset the facist party Librety would be on the Knesset, and the National Unity and the Likud would have more MP's. This would mean one thing: the transfer of the Arab population, an ethnic cleansing.

I am far from an expert on Israeli politics, but my impression is that Likud intends to implement ethnic cleansing and is only awaiting the right moment to do it. When that happens, the 8 MPs will be able to do nothing to stop it...indeed, they have not been able to prevent some pretty horrible events (Jenin, etc.) as things stand now. They may be useful "window dressing" for Israeli "democracy"...but they don't have and will never be allowed to have any real say in matters. You might just as well have 8 empty desks in the Knesset.


Do you want the workers to simply ignore the elections?

Yes. (A growing number do so anyway, without any advice from me.)


Do you want them not to use even the smallest power the capitalists gave them?

The capitalist class has never "given" the working class any power at all.


Do you want them to simply give the power to the right-wing conservatives and fascists instead of easing their lives by voting a workers' party?

It is the capitalist class that decides if and when right-wing conservatives and fascists shall be trusted with power, not the workers.

And working class lives are never "eased" by voting...only the most heated and vigorous struggles by the working class ever result in any reforms.


That is simply ignoring the needs of the working class.

The need of the working class is to overthrow capitalism. Reforms are just "charity".


Redstar says that any existance of capitalism always makes things worse for workers...but this perception only stands up if one looks at history as something only existing in the last 30 years!

Yes, I use the last 30 years because it shows the modern trend of capitalism.

Do you want to seriously argue that all we need is a new FDR and a new "New Deal" with plenty of working class support and that will generate a fresh wave of pro-working class reforms?

When I spoke of achieving "capitalism with a human face", you know very well that I was speaking of reforms achieved 30, 40, 50 years ago...reforms that are now being dismantled and repealed in all of the "first world" countries. (And, no surprise here, it's often the traditional reformist parties that are the ones most willing and eager to dismantle their own much for giving a rat's ass about the workers.)


There can be no denying that democratic movements can make things better for working people.

Not any more!

Why? It's that old Marxist "devil"--the general tendency of the rate of profit to fall as capitalism ages. In simple language, there was a time when capitalism could "afford" to be "generous" with reforms...that time is over. 21st century capitalism is probably going to resemble 19th century capitalism a lot more than 20th century capitalism...and you can go read some history if you want to see what that was like.


When reform happens because of the threat of revolution (such as was the case in the 30s) this is an example of exactly what I am talking about--popular movements changing a society's political discourse...when it shifts left, so must politics.

No argument here, but so what? Why should we care who sits in parliament or what kind of rhetoric they think most appropriate?

Are we communists or are we politician-wannabes? If all you really want is one of those really plush seats on the floor of the U.S. Senate, then play the reformist card for all you think it's worth.

After the revolution, you can go into exile and write your memoirs.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 28, 2003


We have to use every means possible to forward the socialist revolution, every fuckin means possible, we can't say no to anything if it means greater chance of success to the revolution

You did say "if" there, didn't you?


Even if one sentence is printed in the papers from the communists, then it means the worker will thnk to him/herself "shit, yeah, that guy's right, I'm gonna look more into their ideology".

You write this and call me idiot?


Why not follow your own advice, and get out of our way here, in the single country most decisive for the world class struggle?

Lack of resources.

And I'm not in your way...unless you want to wallow in bourgeois politics while trying to pass yourself off as some kind of "Marxist".

I note in passing that you declined to argue the analysis of the American working class that I made.


If you decide not to vote and the far-right wackos you allowed to gain more power institute a program of ethnic cleansing, your hands are far from clean in the matter! The idea that you have no power at all is simple-minded silliness. Change can occur, it is certainly limited by constraints of the capitalist system but you can make a difference and political action can help bring the day of revolution nearer.

You can assert such nonsense as often as you wish...but saying it does not make it so.

If the "far-right wackos" gain control, it's because the capitalist class desired that outcome...not because of a vote!

And that snide attempt at guilt-tripping shows the real emptiness of your blaming the people who voted for Ralph Nader for Bush's "victory".

By your standards, we should always vote...and even campaign for the "not-so-far-right wackos" and "change can occur".

Have you no dignity? No sense of shame? What meaning do your principles really have if you are willing to kiss bourgeois ass and call it "exercising power"?

Of course, I'm sure I won't convince anyone who still believes that bourgeois elections "mean" something...or that getting your name in the Daily Bullshit advances the revolution.

Still, one would think you would have learned by now.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 30, 2003


It is impossible to reply categorically whether it is advisable to participate in the Zemsky Sobor. Everything will depend on the political situation, on the electoral system, and on other specific factors which cannot be estimated in advance. Some say that the Zemsky Sobor is a fraud. That is true. But there are times when we must take part in elections to expose a fraud.

What this quote from Lenin suggests to me is that he didn't want his hands tied by a decision of the party congress.

And, I'm afraid, it has the taint of opportunism about it. Why must "we take part in elections to expose a fraud"? It's already known to be a fraud. It was known then; it's known now.


As regards the actual and sham concessions which the weakened autocracy is now making to the democrats in general and to the working class in particular, the Social Democratic party of the working class should take advantage of them in order, on the one hand, to consolidate for the people every improvement in the economic conditions and every extension of liberties with a view to intensifying the struggle, and, on the other, steadily to expose before the proletariat the reactionary aims of the government, which is trying to disunite and corrupt the working class and draw its attention away from its urgent class needs at the moment of the revolution.

In other words, it should attempt to achieve two opposing goals at once: (1) gain real reforms and (2) expose the reactionary aims of the government.

Only in the mystical realm of "dialectics" is such a two-faced "achievement" possible. In the material world, things don't work like that. You either co-operate with the government and hope you will be rewarded with "real" concessions or you truly expose the government's reactionary aims and, as a result, refuse any cooperation.

There's no "middle way".
First posted at Che-Lives on July 31, 2003

quote: is it justifiable for an Israeli to not vote for a candidate opposed to ethnic cleansing if his or her abstainment could result in the election of candidates who are supportive of ethnic cleansing?

Because, as I've said over and over again, real political decisions are not made by the electorate under capitalism.

I'm sure there are some (many?) Israeli workers who support ethnic cleansing. Their opinions don't matter. I'm sure there are some Israeli capitalists who would regard ethnic cleansing as an economic catastrophe...their opinions do matter.

So why not vote for a capitalist politician who is opposed to ethnic cleansing?

Brace yourself! They don't have to tell you what they really think!

Yes, I'm afraid it's true...all serious candidates for public office under capitalism are liars. Many are also personally corrupt, but that's beside the point. ALL are liars.

But suppose he's a "leftist"? Liar! But suppose he's a "socialist"? Liar! But, but, suppose he's a..."communist"? Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!

If you would actually acquaint yourself with the real history of "leftists" in bourgeois parliaments, you would immediately understand why I am "hard headed" on this issue.

First posted at Che-Lives on July 31, 2003


If a law on domestic violence is possible, should we as marxists not push it thru? Or in your mind do we not, hope it doesn't go thru, and hope it makes women more angry and therefore become revolutionaries?

The assumption here is that we possess some "power" to "push it through".

What I would recommend on issues like this is that we study the actual text of the law, find the loopholes, and publicize them extensively...showing that the "reform" is indeed a fraud.

If perchance it isn't a fraud (possible but unlikely), then we go after the bastards on the issue of enforcement...and there we have them.

The United States has a huge number of laws "on the books" to protect women, ethnic minorities, etc....and enforcement of those laws is a sick joke!

I mean that phrase quite literally. Somewhere here, right now, a woman is appealing to the legal system for protection from an abusive spouse...and she will be murdered in the next 24 hours!

It's a reasonably good bet that in the same time frame, an unarmed dark-skinned person is going to be murdered by a cop...who will get away with it.

The same thing is seen in occupational health and safety regulations here; America has a massive set of regulations and rules intended to "protect" workers...only the ones that don't cost the bosses anything are actually implemented.

I'll concede things may not be as bad in Europe...a much stronger and more militant working class tradition of struggle there may have actually forced reforms that exist not only on paper but in (partial) reality.

But consider the trend: the capitalist class is waging "class warfare" on the working class with fresh enthusiasm and determination. Is it at all reasonable under these circumstances to actually expect any reforms of significance?

And if it's not reasonable, why should we tell our class otherwise?

Why not say straight out: the bastards are going for your throat & they'll have it unless you stop them...not by voting, but by resistance!
First posted at Che-Lives on August 2, 2002


I'll go tell the tortilla factory workers what you said. I'm sure they'll be excited about killing their bosses!

I didn't say "kill your bosses"--I said resist. There are many forms of resistance short of killing bosses, as I'm sure you know.


...there's no better way to mobilize the working class then by mobilizing them into what they see now as possible. When they see the limits of political action--then you can start working.

It's not "better"'s just easier. It's always easier to appeal to people on the basis of whatever misconceptions they may have right now.

Racists and religious fundamentalists have a "very easy" time of things right now...their prejudices are wide-spread and "easy" to appeal to.

Want to imitate that? Want to pretend that working people can gain real reforms through participation in bourgeois politics? Want to maintain or even reconstruct a "faith" in capitalist "democracy" that is already in considerable decay?

And after they break their heads and their hearts in pursuit of the impossible, want to get up in front of them and admit that you lied to them "for their own good" that they would see through personal experience that bourgeois electoral politics is fucked???

I'm speculating, of course, but somehow I don't think they're going to reward you with a big wet kiss.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 4, 2003
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