Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Socialists and elections
Over the few years I’ve been involved in politics on the left I have come to notice those who choose to stand in elections on the left more often than not the Marxists that are Trotskyists and so on tend to disguise their true ideas in elections. For example many align themselves with reformist programmes and cozy up to left wing bureaucrats in order to curry favor and support. Many will not reveal their true intentions beyond a few catchy slogans in fact. It is almost like the word socialism cannot be used it would scare off those sympathetic to our cause if we mention the S word the line goes. Personally I find this very disingenuous and downright insulting in many ways to think that workers are too stupid to vote for socialism is a bit patronizing if we're honest. Its not ultra left to talk about socialism or what you really stand for. If you explain how you intend to get there people will trust you far more I’d suggest. People are not stupid and will see through you in the end. It is this vanguardist idea again though that socialism needs to be brought into the workers minds without a revolutionary party they will never gain any higher level of thinking than "trade union" consciousness. For me this is one of the reasons I felt awkward at times during elections in a trotskyist party I felt I was having to speak down to workers all the time when really they wanted to know what we were really for and what is our end goal. When I stood in a election for TUSC this year I stood on a "no cuts platform" as they call it and looked to oppose the cuts but there was no room for socialism in the programme I stood under apparently I was told TUSC have a basic programme which is basic for a reason this reason I could not work out why are we hiding the fact we are socialists and want to change society from people? Yes Socialist is in the name TUSC, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition but it was not prominent much in our literature I felt. For workers they are straight forward people they simply to know what you stand for and how you will help them if they back you. If you feel that electoral politics is your thing and I am no longer sure it is for me but if it is for you then good luck but hiding your true ideas is dishonest in my opinion. Calling yourself a socialist is one thing but it’s not a dirty word to use like it maybe once was. I am not sure real change can come through the ballot box anymore many of the gains we as a class have made have come through mass struggle from below but not through a vote. Even the 1945 Labour government who are as popular on the left still sadly as really they didn’t go that far at all and had other downsides of course were forced to do much of what they did through struggle and pressure from below. The old phrase if we don’t give them reform they will give us revolution has been very key over the years with those at the top in positions of political power having to bend to the demands from below to r remain in power if they did not they would have been removed. One interesting election campaign I’d like to draw people’s attention to is Kshama Sawant Of the CWI in the USA in Seatle which has been seen over the years as a more progressive city but her fantastic campaign has gained a fair bit of momentum and congratulations from this blog must go to her. If she does go on and get elected we will be watching with close scrutiny as we have seen how workers in positions of power change and get sucked in by the system in time if they are not careful. Kshama Sawant's $15 a hour as a minimum wage really caught a mood out there it would seem but yet this in itself is a reformist demand and while these sorts of demands are fine in the short term and will gain popular support in times of austerity and cuts to pay and jobs this should only be seen as a start of a programme which looks to one day abolish wages all together in place of a system which meets people’s needs and produces for everyone’s needs. In Seattle, Sawant’s campaign helped put the “Fight for 15” - strikes and protests of low-wage workers for a $15/hour minimum wage - at the centre of political debate. Socialist Alternative energetically built this movement, aiding victimized striking workers and countering arguments against raising the minimum wage. When labour organisations placed an initiative on the ballot to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the suburb of SeaTac, the Kshama Sawant campaign energetically supported this movement, contributing to the ballot initiative’s historic success. While a new workers party is not even close in the US this campaign highlighted above does show how an idea can catch on. Even though this timid and reformist idea got a echo it cannot be ignored but we must also warn of the dangers of putting faith solely in elections and our elected leaders as a historic president. We must continue to build resistance and direct action on the ground. Organising ourselves independent of a leadership is important. As it is also important to keep all our struggles rooted in the rank-and-file democratic committees while trying to prevent them to be co opted for someone’s gain.