Casting any ballot in the United States, a white supremacist, settler, imperialist regime, is counterrevolutionary at the present moment.
Meaning it is directly against the political interests of a revolutionary project.
It is directly against the interests of the workers and masses.
Mind you, only at the present moment. The situation changes all the time. When revolutionary communism becomes a living politics as it was 50 years ago, when a genuine revolutionary vanguard party exists in this country, electoral strategies and bloc voting will be conceivable, as was done by historical communist parties.
We cannot support ruling class politicians, no matter how young, hip, non-white, non-male, and apparently woke they are.
The state is ruling class by its nature: it is merely the special mechanism of the repression of the masses. It is up to the exploiters to enjoy democracy while we vote in new beneficiaries to represent and repress us.
Political power must come before elections. Elections cannot cultivate this political power. Bullets before ballots. Before we can have any reasonable hope for class enemy politicians to represent the oppressed masses, there must be a core of advanced proletarian communists, around which is built a vanguard party, with a consolidated line, program, and armed wing; an independent mechanism to actually hold them accountable.
How will we hold Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez accountable if and when she votes in favor of the next criminal, genocidal war on terror? We know she is an imperialist regarding Palestine; she would not have a bourgeois political career off the ground if she didn’t. The same goes to rest of the beloved challengers, at least one of whom formerly worked in the CIA (I’m aware of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar; only time will tell).
It is an appealing thought that organizing around voting is a safe way to cultivate discipline for armed struggle, but it’s wrong.
Rebecca Solnit says somewhere that voting is a making a move in a game of chess, not writing a love letter. But even chess and love letters have a class character.
“At least elections present some opportunity, some avenue to express your concerns. Is it not our responsibility to take it if we can?”
But what is this political channel if not a ruling class one, a channel that mediates, reflects, and cultivates ruling class ideas and perspectives?
So many dedicated people pounded the pavement to get Ocasio-Cortez through the primary, and she cast off her most left-leaning promises and supported Israel within weeks, and exploited the anti-intellectualism that is prevalent in the Left today as a cover for her right opportunism. This is the fruit of so much energy and organizing on the ground.
Elections are a steam valve. The energy and power that could go into the revolutionary project, still at the bottom of the hill, is siphoned off into bourgeois elections whose corrupt nature is not lost on any of its participants. But American political ideology insists that we can turn a blind eye, not only to the obvious corruption, but to the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the US government through the world. Imperialism is a joint project between the parties, while the contest for the balance of power is blown up as an apparent contradiction.
To see the essence of the situation is to leave the mainland and go to Vietnam, Cambodia, the various fascist regimes in Latin America designed by Obama and Clinton. Here you see that the United States spreads capitalist influence with mere brute force. The US is in an antagonistic contradiction with the masses of the world. Not even the most ideal election in terms of turnout and infrastructure would change this situation.
The subjective experience of voting will have you internalizing the idea that this sick, ruthless, criminal government of racist domination is redeemable, worth your participation, and that ultimately America has the right to commit these atrocities, has the right to exist, to starve and blow Yemeni children to bits, to make entire nations subject to corporate interests, all the rest of it.
The Democrats, their ideological mouthpieces, their NGO groups, their big unions, are thirsting for war, either directly or indirectly against rival imperialist ruling classes, hence the antagonism and childish conspiracy theories regarding Russia and nations in its camp.
I made the mistake of reviewing the American imperialist invasion of Vietnam, the details of its naked violence, its sexual torture, the generational devastation of Agent Orange, the domestic support it had in the name of anti-communism. And in this churlish mood I hear about voters sticking it out in ridiculous long lines in appalling physical discomfort, yet full of joy, hope and camaraderie. I hear about this, and, painfully, can only see a celebration of genocides forgotten.
Can’t we vote now and make revolution later? After all, revolution is not even on the horizon, while these resources and tools to effect change of some kind are here. But they are only apparently here. Again, any electoralism that happens today actively staves off revolutionary action in the future. Participation eats away at class consciousness like acid. Erasing class consciousness is how one can overcome the cognitive dissonance of awareness of the situation and the purely ideological pressures of civic duty, having one’s voice heard, etc.
Voting now and making revolution later is an intuitive, comforting idea of the structure of historical change. Sadly, it is not correct. And it is not just liberals who are afraid of the ugly reality of revolutionary struggle. Evading and obscuring the necessity of revolution against capitalism is the motor for revisionism, for new forms of ruling class ideas that are draped in Marxist or socialist sounding language.
The Democratic Social Fascists of America have appropriated and diluted “socialism” to the extent that some of the most rapacious, pro-war imperialist voices on Twitter can identify with it. And they will not be challenged, because many of these voices belong to black women, and the most oppressed are always the most revolutionary with no exceptions, right?
Liberal capitalist democracy is a corpse. Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, the various parliamentary fascists in Europe, the incels and neofascists who only wish they could be the shock brigade of a rudderless GOP, the aforementioned fascist puppet states — in the decade since the Great Recession, fascism has been able to take power through the ballot box, without any conservative revolution as was done in the past.
A big reason why this is possible is because ruling class ideology prevents any meaningful, visionary change, as neoliberal policies bring more destitution and inequality. The Left offers nothing but paltry reform, and the Right becomes the loudest, most intriguing voice for the masses in their volatile situation.
Reform policies make everything worse later on, like too much credit card debt in one month.
As Stalin once wrote:
Hence, the transition from capitalism to socialism and the liberation of the working class from the yoke of capitalism cannot be effected by slow changes, by reforms, but only by a qualitative change of the capitalist system, by revolution.
Hence, in order not to err in policy, one must be a revolutionary, not a reformist.
Reforms are not the component parts of revolution. Reform and revolution are incommensurate. The former covers up, pastes over, sweeps contradictions under the rug; the latter precisely exposes these contradictions for the masses to see, and even develops them to their climax, if it is necessary to do so.
Further, if development proceeds by way of the disclosure of internal contradictions, by way of collisions between opposite forces on the basis of these contradictions and so as to overcome these contradictions, then it is clear that the class struggle of the proletariat is a quite natural and inevitable phenomenon.
Hence, we must not cover up the contradictions of the capitalist system, but disclose and unravel them; we must not try to check the class struggle but carry it to its conclusion.
A multiracial coalition of Democrats in state and federal legislatures can only be a multiracial coalition of brutal, bloody, imperialist warmongers, ready to give vocal and material support to the endless military adventures; their being multiracial is all the better a shield against criticism from the Left.
The justification for these strategies, that instead of revolutionary struggle or class warfare we must pursue coalitions in the electoral process, is actually an extremely bureaucratic and mechanical vision of how politics is done.
Shuja Hader had an interesting thought that liberals by and large look at elections as a relation of exchange. Voters are informed consumers purchasing the right commodities. The kernel of truth in this liberal fantasy is that your ballot does work like currency. But the voter is not an economic agent here, they are the just the money used by finance capitalists (the actual constituents of the Democrats) to gain power in the state, where the affairs of the ruling class are managed.
Voting at the present moment can only inflate the voting banks of two, yes, two fascist parties. The unified machine of oppression and death is fed with new blood, making all the more difficult to overthrow it and replace it with socialism in the future. Democrats understand this. They insist theirs is less bad than the other. They want me to see nuance that is painfully obvious in their perspective. But as a communist, I am divorced from their perspective, and try to take on the perspective of the oppressed masses who live under imperialism. They see only the same missiles, drones, and foreign soldiers, no matter who is in power.
Many of my friends are committed to this form of politics, and I can see that it is making them miserable. The despair and pessimism of the petty bourgeoisie is a reflection of their extinction as an economic class. This is a counter-intuitive thought, since the petty bourgeoisie (and labor aristocracy) in this country is still quite substantial and has its own internal contradictions. But globally, the small proprietor is disappearing as economic inequality continues to sharpen.
The proletarian ideology is a wellspring of optimism, even in these times, where fascism is in control of the most important rain forest system on earth. It is an alliance with what seems weak but is up and coming, and a force against that which seems dominant, but is on its way out.
From a statement by Maoist Communist Group and The New School Communist Student Group:
We want to transform the whole system. For that we require organizations completely different than those needed to resolve particular and local struggles between workers and bosses, which – no matter what we call them – are always trade unionist in essence. Trade unionism separates the working class from politics – that is, from the question of power and the state – confining workers to their workplace, preventing them from becoming the advanced detachment of their class and the leading core of the whole people. As for politics: to paraphrase Lenin, under bourgeois rule it is reduced to the right of the working masses to choose which representative of the exploiting class will represent and oppress them in parliament.
Against this miserable and narrow conception of politics, we must build organizations that will allow the proletariat to independently practice its own politics, with the aim of reconstituting our forces in the line of social revolution.