America’s uniquely long election season is now swinging into gear – with the Iowa caucuses only a month away, the contest to determine who will be the next CEO of world imperialism will be officially underway. And despite the vapid, narrow, thoroughly cash-fueled nature of the process, despite hostility communists have to the office of the monarchical presidency, the general election presents an opportunity for the left. As we wrote last year1:
“Elections under capitalism are an arena of struggle which revolutionaries would be ill-advised to ignore. For millions – despite a growing apolitical resignation over the current situation – they are the only time, barring conditions of mass struggle, at which the masses are engaging with political questions… Even in the most reactionary institutions we will find proletarian militants deceived [by] reaction. Our duty is to win the vast majority to the fight for radical democracy as the first step in establishing communism. Running candidates for office on a communist platform not only presents our ideas to a wider audience than is typically possible but can also expose the contradictions and limitations of bourgeois democracy… Ruling out electoral intervention a priori in the name of “building the movement” (as though they are two mutually exclusive concepts) is an abstentionist viewpoint, a retreat into spontaneity fetishism.”
The objectives for a communist election campaign, then, are not to ‘chase votes’ and entertain illusions of growing into a mass force overnight; they are to popularize socialist ideas and build the confidence and organization of the working class. Concretely this means taking steps toward the formation of a Communist Party – one based on principled unity of the existing radical left around a Marxist program with the organizing principle of “freedom in discussion and debate, unity in action.”
This rules out supporting Hillary Clinton as a “lesser evil” or Bernie Sanders’ campaign inside the Democratic Party. It also means withholding electoral support for the Green Party’s presumptive nominee Jill Stein. Stein’s campaign is organizationally separate from the Democrats and does contain genuine reform demands, but the Green Party neither seeks to organize the working class as a class nor provide an opposition voice to capitalism and the U.S. capitalist state. While the Greens are the main beneficiary of left-wing protest votes in a country without a mass workers’ party of any kind, our task is not to resign ourselves to this historic failure of the U.S. left but to overcome it.
Instead, we should encourage others to use their ballots as a tool in the class struggle by voting for socialist candidates. Unfortunately, 2016 will be another election cycle where we must deal with the irrationality and waste of having multiple competing socialist candidates for President. From among them, Mimi Soltysik / Angela Walker (Socialist Party USA) is the best choice, followed by Gloria LaRiva / Eugene Puryear (Party for Socialism and Liberation) and Monica Moorehead / Lamont Lilly (Workers World Party.) The PSL and WWP campaigns are in substance limited to economistic bread-and-butter slogans. The PSL’s ten point electoral program2, while it does contain laudable demands on issues like labor and abortion rights, is characteristically silent on the sweeping, radical extension of democracy the working class will need if it is to take power. (The only mention of the U.S. Constitution is the call for an amendment to guarantee a job and a living wage – it seems that in PSL world, political democracy is an afterthought on a good day.)
Contrast this with Soltysik, who has put the alternative vision of society – socialism – at the center of the campaign. The most important factor is that the campaign is organized along much less bureaucratic lines than the others, encouraging an atmosphere of political openness. Despite the SPUSA’s own internal regime of bureaucratism exercised against the specter of “Leninism,” comrade Soltysik himself has shown an encouraging anti-sectarian spirit – a favorable attitude for those of us who wish not to accept the state of the left as it is today but to push toward the kind of principled unity we need. There is simply much more political space to engage people around that perspective in the Socialist Party’s presidential campaign, as opposed to the hyper-bureaucratic PSL or Workers World. A strong Soltysik / Walker campaign also serves as a pole around which we can engage with workers and youth who support Bernie Sanders; when the Senator inevitably directs the popular enthusiasm around him toward Hillary Clinton, there will be an opening to win over elements of his supporters to class politics around Soltysik.
We call on revolutionaries and class-conscious workers to organize to get Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker on the ballot in their states. Where this is not an option, support Gloria LaRiva or Monica Moorehead instead. As a last resort, seek write-in recognition for the Soltysik / Walker ticket in the states that allow it.3
- Some states require conditions for accepting write-in votes. Seven states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota) don’t count write-ins under any circumstances. http://www.anamericanvision.com/info/state_certifications.php