On Elections-Neftali

Signalfire is pleased to present the following contribution by a comrade from NYC:

The question of elections is put squarely on the table of all
communists within the United States, as a correct orientation and
understanding of the electoral process will enable all comrades to
fight both right opportunist and left opportunist tendencies which
remarkably strive for the same thing in effect, the maintenance of our
forces as weak and unprepared which no matter how clever they are
thought, will eventually strive to be under the wing of the liberal
bourgeoisie. The class nature of this opportunism is not fundamentally
rooted in the advanced section of the proletariat but among the
“advanced” (rearguards) of the more bourgeoisified sections of labor
and/or the lower-petty bourgeoisie. It is at this point easy to make
this claim; however we hope to demonstrate it in the course of this
position paper. Moreover a real revolutionary strategic line must be shown against the various opportunists in regards to elections both in general and with the presidential elections occurring at this moment in time.

 

On the Bourgeois Democratic State
The bourgeois democratic state’s legitimation rests in its ability to
rule without direct coercive force against the masses of people;
however the truth is that this force is indeed exercised by US
imperialism as the head of Empire against the worlds oppressed
majority and internally against the lowest and deepest section of the
proletariat and oppressed nationalities. Barack Obama is the head of
US Imperialism, he is commander and chief, and this can’t be covered
up by any merely pragmatic allure.

These again are facts: The bourgeois democratic state is a democracy of
the bourgeoisie, and a dictatorship of it. In context of US
Imperialism, this state operates not simply internally but
externally against the world’s majority.

With this considered it also quite true that rather than simple
illusion, rather than a simple instramentalization of the state by the
bourgeoisie, much of the masses are brought forward into the electoral
process. That is to say: The process of “democracy” has a real basis and is
actualized in the procedure of the state. This legitimation on the
basis of the mandate from the masses constitutes the real politics of
capitalism.

These facts are however not in contradiction, but are the real
nature and function of the state in the modern bourgeois context. The
state is an instrument of the whole of the class, executive of the
social formation, abstracted from economic intercourse to
provide the condition for this very intercourse. The modern bourgeois
state is a historical development that is rooted in the development of
class societies, social formations which have become more complex and
integrated more of the productive forces into coherent units of
production. Finally it is the bourgeoisie which has brought the most
remote of regions into its world system. It has done this through the
most primitive means one can be certain, but simultaneously must
assure the basis of commodity exchange and production, that is the
whole of the class must have a guarantee of the safety of
each individual’s economic activity.

Hence it is common for the bourgeoisie to trumpet the rule of law and
democracy as the cornerstone for each of its respective social
formations (which of course are themselves founded upon competing
national blocs of capital). Whatever can be said up about the falsity
of these claims, the real examples of cronyism amongst them or the
disenfranchisement in the particular of its citizens from
participation within its democracy, this does not at all at once throw
the entirety of the reality that such a foundational basis, such
ideological claims are important for their legitimation among the
whole of the people and to an extent among themselves.

The democratic bourgeois state’s long march to its modern
incarnation(s) is an affair which begins prior to the state itself in
the struggle of the bourgeois class in the protection against the
feudal state of their own private property, such a struggle which can
be chronicled for hundreds of years before the bourgeois revolutions
themselves, revolutions made possible by the advancement of productive
forces bringing forward the basis of commodity production led by the
bourgeois class. The basis of the first bourgeois states is found in
representative democracy which some revolutions opened to a
broad base and others retained to a propertied elite.

It is only through the development of bourgeois society into an
imperialist world system, that the class struggle at the cores of
capital was able to win political rights for the proletarian and
oppressed excluded masses. It was struggle that while paid
in blood became possible with the deepening of capital at a world scale.
Democracy’s legitimation now depended ultimately in a much larger
body, but one which is still explicitly of the national interest, one
which ultimately brings labor and whatever auxiliary forces for
revolution under the wing of the bourgeoisie in the nation state
confines of bourgeois right.

On the US type of State and its Historical Development in Particular

The United States of America is the independent form and continuation
of the network of settler-colonial projects of Europe. It’s bourgeois
democratic form of state governance, perhaps the first true bourgeois
form, was also in its very character conditioned upon its concrete
basis of existence which combined settler expansionism and slave
economy. That is despite what is commonly thought by the ideologists
of liberalism and American exceptionalism in this country (which
includes the revisionist Communist Party and some other stale dying
continuations of the Neo-Browderites), the classic US form
of governance which is very much a model of the most moderate
bourgeoisie of its era contained in itself already all the barbaric
stems of primitive accumulation (the genocide of indigenous people
and the emptying of the land for settlers, the slave economy and it’s
role in the Atlantic system, the militarist conquest of Mexican land)
and led right to the imperialist empire in its current form. In
fact, it must be argued, that throughout much of the history of the
the United States of America it was the industrial bourgeois class and
it’s work to weaken the “people’s democracy” (in its party
form as Federalists, Whigs, and eventually Republicans) that was the
most progressive and in the basic interests of the real exploited and
oppressed people in the country. That most of the country was a
country of petty-bourgeois reactionary small farmers and settlers,
that consistently labor was weakened and continually overturned by the
westward expansion, and ultimately the whole of the country was
dependent upon slave economy is a basic fact until the Civil War
itself where the industrial bourgeoisie was able to muster the
strength to extinguish and smash the heart of the Jeffersonian
Democrats in the rebelling southern states and ultimately alter the
relationship of power between states and the federal government.

However the fundamental basis of power in the petty-bourgeoisie, the
need for legitimation among this class of mostly white euro-American
settlers, had never fundamentally changed. The most radical and
revolutionary attempts of the bourgeoisie themselves in conjunction
with social forces of labor and the masses of black people to uplift
this basic reactionary grouping towards the sentiment of popular democracy
has ultimately failed in many instances (Reconstruction, Civil Rights,
etc) with the bourgeoisie ultimately betraying the black masses in
their most essential struggles for real integration and the promotion
of a few individuals of its national bourgeoisie into compradors and
executors in general of the imperialist program of the white
supremacist state (with of course nominal objection).

We are now entering a moment in this election cycle where the sediment
of the reactionary regime of US imperialist power, harbored in the
white petty bourgeoisie, ultimately finds itself in great jeopardy
politically (and with all reason will suffer another debilitating
defeat in these elections). These bring up for our forces much
consideration in terms of tactics and strategies around this basic
question, as more and more of the electorate has transformed
demographically in its representation. As more and more the white
petty-bourgeoisie within the US struggle against their impending
suffocation in the world capitalist system and desperately try to
retain their edge in such a system. Moreover it’s ideological frame of
reference to politics and it’s understanding becomes more and more
jeopardized as sections of white labor, especially the labor
aristocratic sections, and it’s dangerous lumpen element rebel for the
heart of America that corresponds to their notion of what is the
promise of America (power of white men); however one would like to
parse of course the material basis of such ideological coordinates and
whether it constitutes a false consciousness or the return of the
repressed of a section of the masses finding itself more and more
precarious and fighting its essential proletarianization, the
material effect is quite clear historically and that is the creation
of new avenues of Fascism.

There is of course a consistent role for such proto-fascist forces in
the body politic of the United States, and what is more, as a real
force they are armed, organized, and have a much deeper relationship
with the very thuggish nature of the state. Not merely are such clowns
parading themselves and making themselves felt within the Republican
Party (which combines such essential reactionary forces with capital),
but they are also in many places the armed thugs of the state, or they
build paramilitary forces and attempt to rival the state (of course
never as effectively) in force.

It is also clear that those remnants of law and organization of the
state structure under those principles that were enshrined by our
slave-owning genocidal forefathers gives enough room for maneuver of
those reactionary forces as to play a corrosive role against the whole
of the state body. And we must understand this in its particularity,
for as where the basic function of bourgeois democracy is to always
allow a certain freedom of politics of those in the organized
opposition, the checks and balances of the US state is such that
it will always unevenly decenter power to the advantage of the
reactionary classes (especially the white petty-bourgeois). I.e. the
historical struggle in the US between states rights against federal
government has had a consistent streak of being a struggle between
white supremacist petty-bourgeois reaction and that section of capital
which attempts to win its legitimation with the oppressed masses of
people.

In this election between Obama and Romney, this is very much all at
play in a heightened way as it was four years prior. Yet there are
important differences between these elections and such distinctions make the demarcations stand much more drastically between the road of historical liquidationism and building a revolutionary proletarian party.

On Revisionism and it’s “Strategy”
It is almost consistent that we hear from the forces like Bill
Fletcher, Carl Davidson, and Bob Wing that we need a strategic
orientation of our forces to the elections. So consistent they are
that is has become almost embarrassing in the manner they ape what has
been almost the same driven mantra of the dying organizations of
yesteryear (CPUSA, CCDS) that it’s “striking” how they begin to merge
as one social force. The former grizzled veterans of the New Communist
Movement, perhaps have learned so much from those years past that we
are not fundamentally equipped to understand such nuance or to have
their same patience in work (as Fletcher has decisively stated in a
recent document in his “Marxist” politics for 21st century) but it
seems to us immature and young Leninists that what they are
celebrating in their history is liquidation and defeat, and their
desire is in e very last analysis to lead revolutionary forces down
such a road one more time.

Fletcher, Davidson, and Wing all argue strategy and being strategic,
but when they argue politics, our Marxists demonstrate they are no
longer quite Marxists at all but have regrouped themselves as
revisionists for the 21st century. Their strategy in the end becomes
nothing more than a series of tactical maneuvers for little power of
stooges under the bourgeoisie. It’s the same power of course that all
opportunists have already had in their grasp to facilitate and help
the bourgeoisie in exercising the dictatorship of said bourgeoisie. It
is in fact nothing more than those same politics, consistent as a
trend of those forces in our ranks who achieving some position as
labor captains or bureaucrats (and today NGO staff) to begin to strive
under the bourgeoisie and mistake their own utilization as instruments
of the bourgeoisie as becoming agents not of our class, not tribunes
of the people, but of bourgeois power within the movement.

This may sound all too abrasive, but we can no long hide what has
become painfully obvious and that is the real slide of revisionism and
it’s real tendency to harness and pull movements for the effective
utility of the bourgeoisie.

However we must construct an argument which indicts the veterans of
the NCM and their strategy for what it is. But where to begin?

It must begin with the very history that led to their positions, a
history rooted in their own organizations, within the New Communist
Movement, which held so much promise but ended into whole sale
liquidation of three democratic centralist formations into the
Democratic Party itself – League of Revolutionary Struggle, Line of
March, and the Communist Workers’ Party. The only organizational
remnants of the NCM can be found in the two existing FRSO(s) and
the RCP, USA. How did it happen that the young revolutionary movement
of the NCM was exhausted? The NCM at first began in the
height of contradiction on a world scale between the revolutionary
social forces and imperialism, it rejected those politics of the
Communist Party which appeared to many as simply for what they were –
reformist, endlessly tailing the liberal bourgeoisie, and unreservedly
apologist for Soviet social-imperialism. The set out the task of
developing a new communist party based on the scientific
principles of Marxism-Leninism, anti-revisionism, and influenced
mostly by Mao Tse Tung Thought. While there is much particularity
to the dissolution of each sect, the pull of social democratic
politics and revisionism created crisis at the core of many
organizations from their inception. Particularly there emerged a
tendency towards pragmatism in the mass work and practice of many orgs so that
when a social forces of the national bourgeoisie appeared around the
campaign of Jesse Jackson, those orgs which decided to unite with this
campaign ultimately felt the pull of the Democratic Party
into its machine. There are from the remnants of LRS, LoM, CWP, and
many other similar orgs individuals in the democratic party
establishment who are the worse politicians and poverty pimps.

It is however understandable why such forces worked closely with the
Jackson Rainbow Coalition and it’s campaign work in the Democratic
primaries, it’s understandable how liquidationism emerged in those
political organizations and because of the immaturity and dysfunction
of the internal life of those organizations that they indeed imploded. It is
however not understandable why Fletcher, Davidson, and Bob Wing ask us
to repeat this experience.

It is only understandable if one understands the politics of Fletcher,
Davidson, and Wing. While all three have emerged from the NCM and have
certainly their own particular differences (for instance on the
national question), these figures while not embracing the whole of
liquidationism as it appeared in their midst in their younger years
embrace it a half-hearted way and adopt such dire pragmatist visions
as to have no correspondence any longer with communism.

But still where is the kernel of this revisionism? What has turned
these men into social-democrats at best and overall consistent
rearguard elements of the Democratic Party machine? Things must be
viewed here analytically in regards to their lines. Like all
revisionists, these folks have rejected the possibility of smashing
the state and replacing it with a new one. Davidson has gone so far as
to reject even the possibility of communism and only fights for
“market socialism.” Following of course this rejection, they see
ultimately their work as one which must transform the system through a
war of position within the state structure. This follows of
course much of the other refoundationist and eurocommunist tendencies
of the left worldwide. The instrumentality of the state as a bourgeois
dictatorship is lost on our right opportunists, revisionists, and
modern social democrats who after the fashion of the politics of
“crisis of socialism” have dropped this position for the Eurocommunist
or “Gramscian” solutions which imagine the state as a robust territory
in which a popular insurgency through democratic struggle can
ultimately win socialism.

That all this runs contrary to the facts in the first decade or so of
our 21st century socialism – that the South African Communist Party
endorses the murder of miners, that the Refoundationist Communist
Party of Italy has virtually disappeared, that SYRIZA can not mobilize
itself against the European Union programmatically, that the Communist
Party of India (Marxist) facilitates the liquidation of peasants and
their land holdings for Neo-liberal special economic zones, or that
the impressive national bourgeois states in Latin America simply
realign themselves for another bloc of capital with capitalist social
relations dominating entirely it’s hemisphere (however progressive
this realignment is) – they should perhaps find striking but say
relatively little about.

So our revisionists strategy is in its simple generality this – work
through the state system to employ the left to transform the state for
ourselves. Even while they acknowledge that this is one of the most
undemocratic Democracies (Davidson and Fletcher refer to it as a
duopoly), and while the Left is incredibly weak they tell us, and
while their own parties fell into the abyss of the liberal bourgeoisie
and the Democratic Party we are told by these gentlemen who have seen
so many battles what the realities are.

Could it be comrades that something more is at stake here for them
with all their bluster of “main danger of the right” and visionary
accounts of inside-outside strategies? Could it be that in the
liquidation of their respective orgs and the existing social basis for
these men whose voice is so heralded throughout the movement (a
movement so insignificant and weak for them), that their program has
already been a failure for some time and the actual presidency of
Barack Obama is very much the proof of this failure in their
leadership? Maybe this election isn’t about Barack Obama for them, but
shouldn’t it be? Considering how long they have talked about
“Neo-Rainbows,” have talked about inside-outside strategies, how the
Van Jones and Jean Quans are in a quandary about what to do with militant
anti-capitalist youth in the street? Isn’t this precisely a crisis in
their strategy, in their movement?

Elections: Traps for fools…not Communists
A communist position on elections in general must be rooted in the
historical position of our class, not simply nationally but
internationally. That is to say a communist position must be a
consistent communist position, one which correctly puts itself in
relation to the struggle of our entire class for revolution and not
simply immediate pragmatic aims in the local, regional, or national
sphere. A communist position on elections in the United States
therefore can not simply be swooned over by arguments and fear of
“main dangers” and ideas of “lesser evils.” It can not surrender its
historical duty in a politics of fear which in every instance has us
beholden to capital, and it is the truth that those forces arguing
about main dangers, inside-outside strategies, are tightly under the
wing of capital itself through foundation grants, through necessary
complicity with labor bureaucracy, with rapprochement ultimately
with the liberal bourgeoisie.

Let us quickly turn to the experience (and perhaps to the groans of
revisionists that we do so dogmatically) of the Bolsheviks in the Duma
of Tsarist Russia. Because here is still, for all intents and purposes
is an experience of communists who would move to make revolution
utilizing the platform that was provided to them through elections and
participation in the parliament of a semi-feudal police dictatorship
under the Tsar.

Here Bolsheviks combined their force for most of the time with
Mensheviks in a social-democratic fraction to work in the Duma
(Russian Parliament), and while there was great distinction and
ultimately a rupture in that fraction between Bolsheviks and
Mensheviks on programmatic lines (the Mensheviks insisted on their
position to support the liberal bourgeoisie, whereas the Bolsheviks at
every moment used their position to scorn and expose the Tsarist
state, the necessity for proletarian revolution, and fought only for
the interests of workers and the whole people for these aims), the
Bolsheviks at each point insisted on putting themselves forward in
such a process against Otzovist left opportunism and the
semi-Menshevik right opportunism inside the Bolshevik’s camp itself.
Lenin in particular fought against both tendencies, and was especially
stringent against the Otzovist trend.

While of course we live in different conditions and times, and work
itself in the Tsarist Duma was only done with full attention given to
the details and development of clandestine organization, the
experience of the Bolsheviks should serve us well to understand the
attitude and work of revolutionaries in this matter. It provides us
lessons in this matter against both left and right opportunism.

With of course right opportunism, as we have already devoted attention
to, we can see the work if taken forward must ultimately be under the
discipline of a party of the new type. That is it must be under the
discipline of a revolutionary party, those who participate in such
work must resolve to carry their work forward not as a pragmatic
workhorse of the bourgeoisie but as a tribune of the people, their
work must fully be in correspondence with the revolutionary program of
the vanguard party. That at each moment the people involved in such
work must expose the character of the bourgeois state and even the
very futility of the democratic process of the bourgeois dictatorship
as a whole.

Against Left opportunism, which we have spoken little of, we must
resolve to fight against such lines of voluntarism, principled
ignorance, and often stereotyped hackery of left-wing phrases that
ultimately manifest themselves in a quite philistine abstentionism.
This is generally the lines of the radical petty bourgeois, the
expression of an unhappy consciousness in its milieu predisposed to
inoculate itself from its very evident isolation with a deeper
contempt for the real politics of the multitude, this was what in
essence was the Otzovist line (which of course was a general trend of
Bolshevik intellectuals who insisted on infantile left positions in
many spheres). While it is of course generally understandable to feel
an instinctual distaste for the sham that are these elections, however
to resolve our position to this simply is as much part of the trap
than illusory participation.

To vote or not to vote, it is all the same, if there is no party for revolution.

It is through the formation only of a communist party that any real
talk in our situation can begin about electoral work and strategies,
about campaigns of boycotts, or inside-outside tricks. This must be
again our fundamental thesis. Only with the development of a party for
revolution, a party of the new type, can we begin to deal in any
substantive way with the electoral traps that haunt our right
opportunists and left opportunists.

This all considered, we must look at and with some praise the work of
the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which with left and right
hackery in discussion about the elections has forged an interesting
grassroots campaign around their presidential candidate. The
experience of this campaign should not be lost among the general
communist milieu, and while deficient in many respects (PSL generally
putting out semi-socialist politics as opposed to a more explicit
revolutionary one, PSL dehabilitating their own campaign with their
West Coast working around the Peace and Freedom Party candidacy of
Roseanne Barr uniting with a left populism) there is a good reason why
the Brezhnevites in Freedom Road Social Organization (Fight Back!)
have saved their own special spit for PSL as they have been challenged
for their “vote against Romney” line.

Finally our last contempt is held for this inside-outside strategy.
Such a line has become irreconcilably revisionist at this point,
hardly worth scrapping anything salvageable in its practice. It is
better for Communists to have inside-outside tactics, as sometimes
days can be months, and clandestine activity appreciates the swift and
stealth among our enemy as opposed to the long visible and
bureaucratic entrenchment of forces.

On Electoral Suppression, the National Question, and the Sunbelt
Within the united states the bourgeois electoral system is
fundamentally different than those of the parliamentary order, the US
system grounds the body politic under a stronger regime of the
leadership of capital and provides for greater stability for capital
in carrying forward the economic intercourse of a free market society.
Moreover this regime unites with white reactionary petty bourgeois
class forces in, historically and into today, in disenfranchising
citizens (particularly African-American and Latino voters). This
occurs in many swing states and particularly through the sunbelt and
rust-belt through gerrymandering or voter suppression. It is of course
long part of the history of white supremacist rule and the
continuation of national oppression and it can’t fundamentally be
ignored.

Communists must fight for the political rights of the oppressed and
expose the character of the state at work, why it must continually
imprison those people in oppressed nationality communities and
internal colonies. However such terrain is of course at issue because
fundamentally the work of the Left here in many respects can be
ultimately rerouted under the liberal bourgeoisie. Ultimately many
left opportunists ignore these political questions precisely because
the very matter draws them from their philistine posturing into the
concrete of one of the many manifestations of national oppression as
it is conducted in the United States.

Where voter suppression does exist, Communists must fight it. It
should even tactically unite with those forces fighting against such
repressive measures by those sections of capital working to bring this
forward, it’s political representatives in the Republican Party, and
the reactionary mass of the white petty bourgeoisie who are ultimately
their auxiliary at work. We must strive to do so however independently
from that work which seeks to simply draw voters quite straight away
into the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie and the Democratic Party and
again at each moment exposé the whole of the state, it’s history, and
the ultimate traitorous nature of the Democrats including Barack
Obama.

These principles of work must inform the general work of communists
throughout the Sunbelt, and generally we must draw that strategy
together which ultimately must figure tactical relations to those in
the Democratic Party (especially the national bourgeoisie) that can
enable us to build proletarian organization with real power to
eventually oppose all sections of the bourgeoisie. Again here
inside-outside as tactics not as strategy, though we must have a
strategic evaluation of winning over sections of the African-American
and national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.

It is however apparent that such a strategy can’t be a tailing of the
national bourgeoisie, even in its most radical of sections. Communists
must insist on being the vanguard of the whole of the proletariat and
programmatically deal in concrete detail with those possible
oscillating class forces that can be won to revolution, that can be
won over if we acknowledge the reality of democratic struggle of these
forces for integration or self-determination. Where those forces exist
and struggle in the terrain of the state for municipal power, to
develop the productive forces of their communities, we lend the
tentative support that’s always conditioned by our Communist program
that sees how one must divide into two, how things turn into their
opposites, and how the masses of people ultimately need liberation.

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