The Left and the elections


From Lenin’s Tomb, on UFJP’s now more apparent than usual tactic of wanting to influence the left flank of the Democratic Party, and thus get directly involved in electoral politics in the coming election.

The devilish problem, like God, is in the details. The UFPJ steering committee says: “We will use many different tactics, including activities and projects specifically related to the election-year cycle” (emphasis added). Uh-oh. Will political activism be once again taken hostage by electoral politics, support for the Democratic Party in particular?

From the comments to the post.

It’s my understanding that many of UFPJ’s leaders are Communist Party members or activists in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a group of Communist Party defectors.

True. As is also true of the ANSWER Coalition, where many leaders are in the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Ditto for Stop the War in the UK, where SWP plays a major role. Socialists have always been involved in mass actions like this, it’s what they do. They are the tireless ones who, day in and day out, do much of the endless nuts and bolts work that builds a mass organization – long after everyone else has gone home or given up. It’s a good thing they are there.

These folks [UFJP] tend to see more potential in strategically supporting some Democrats (and I think they’re absolutely right to do so).

As I see it, the American left has three serious options with respect to electoral politics: (1) abstain from the rigged electoral process entirely and focus on direct action and other extra-governmental activities, (2) concentrate its efforts on reforming the electoral system and giving “third” parties a real shot, (3) supporting the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

Well, I could be snarky and say, what left-wing of the Democratic Party? But I won’t. (Grin.) For those of you not directly involved in left politics, the question of whether to continue with activism (protests, demonstrations, getting in the street) or work into electoral politics is, ah, contentious. This question has fractured the Green Party and many other left organizations too.

I don’t have an answer. Abstain from electoral politics and you remain forever outside, pressing your nose against the window looking in. Supporting third party candidates means working in woefully underfunded conditions against unremitting hostility from the Democratic party apparatus. Support a Democrat and well, how many of their candidates are genuinely against the war? Just two. Kucinich and Richardson. And neither has a chance of getting the nomination.

From Counterpunch, Is there a Left here left?

The antiwar movement is in a weird position: it’s job is not to sway public opinion, since a majority of Americans agree with it; but nothing changes, so people are demoralized. They’re not illogical in their demoralization. And there is neither the wild courage nor the organization to throw a spanner in the works, to disrupt the war machine — not from labor (though some unionists on the West Coast and internationally are trying to see what they might put together toward this end), not from the campuses, and only so far among the soldiers. The latter are the most promising, but are nowhere close to the situation of mass mutiny of drafted armies past. At this point it looks as if the war will end when the Iraqis punish the US beyond endurance or the generals mutiny or both, but I don’t think we should have illusions that that will be a glorious day for the Left.

The weird thing is, opposition the war continues to grow and is mainstream now, yet the size of antiwar protests is mostly declining. So, there’s a disconnect somewhere. How does that opposition get translated into a political force that ends the war(s)?

  • DJ

    People no longer believe that protests change anything. They (quite rightly) think that the shots are called by those with money and power, regardless of what the voters say. The post-1960s, as the establishment re-established itself, has disillusioned many.

    To break the lock on power is simple– but not easy. It would take a person of integrity, courage, and vision: three things we seem to be short on among politicians of any stripe. We need (1) a vision that puts people first– and one accessible to the voters, (2) dedication to that vision beyond personal advancement, (3) mass organization AND (4) electoral politics.

    The problem seems to be that no one can put all four of these together. Great organizing skills won’t help if you’re trumpeting Marx. A great doctrine won’t do it if all you really want is to get your name in the paper. And organizing without a candidate to vote for is like foreplay with no satisfaction.

    The Right has been doing this for years– with reasonable success. IMO, the Left got lazy– except for the hard Left that the mainstream wouldn’t vote for anyway. Now I hear people say this kind of work takes too long. But the longer we wait, the longer it’ll take.

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