Do Marxists Oppose Strategic or Lesser-Evil Voting?

Sanders1917

Howie Hawkins’s bizarre diatribe “Bernie Sanders Is No Eugene Debs” buttressed the Green Party’s principled pro-spoiler stance with the following lines  from Marx:

“Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.”

The problem for Hawkins is that:

1. The full quote shows how inappropriate it is to mechanically copy what Marx said was right to do in a time of revolution, civil war, and dual power in a situation like today that is utterly un-revolutionary. The parts in bold below are what Hawkins deliberately left out:
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One Divides into Three? A Report on the U.S. Left Unity Conference

By Ethan Young

Dan La Botz’s description of the Future of the Left/Independent Politics Conference makes another introduction redundant. Instead, I’ll add my own observations. I come from the other side of this discussion: I hold with the ‘inside/outside’ approach to electoral politics, as pushed by the late Arthur Kinoy, a radical lawyer who led the National Committee for Independent Political Action in the 1970s and 1980s. Putting it simply, I supported left independent Barry Commoner for president in 1980, and Democrat Harold Washington for mayor of Chicago in 1983. This year, I support Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders.

I see no contradiction – in fact I think it’s the only approach that makes sense. Continue reading

How Fringe and Spoiler Campaigns Hurt Rather than Help Independent and Left Politics

A nasty debate is brewing on the American left over what to do about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and most of the nastiness is on the anti-Sanders side. Now that Sanders is trending upwards in polls (tripling in Iowa from 5% to 15% and reaching 18% in New Hampshire, two key early primary states) liberals are starting to get hysterical. Articles like “Bernie Sanders Is Already Making It More Likely Republicans Win The White House In 2016” will soon become the norm from this crowd as the primary contest heats up and the Establishment front-runner Hillary Clinton has to defend her Iraq war vote and pro-free trade stance against Sanders’ anti-war, anti-free trade record in six live television debates. Continue reading

Socialist Worker and Hillary Clinton Agree: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Doomed

“Doomed.”

“No chance of winning.”

These are the words Hillary Clinton’s camp Socialist Worker, newspaper of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), uses to describe Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the nomination of the Democratic Party in response to a (rather lackluster) endorsement of Sanders by Jacobin which is published by members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The delicious irony of the ISO’s arguments is that they actually want Sanders to run a doomed, no-chance-of-winning presidential campaign, as they readily admit in the same editorial: Continue reading

How to Solve the Spoiler Problem

By Terry Bouricius

The issue before us is often referred to as the “spoiler problem.” When more than just two candidates are in an election, the majority can split such that a candidate that the majority believe is the worst choice can win with a plurality of less than 50%.

The notion that prompted this meeting is that it might be possible to persuade two particular political parties (the Democratic and Progressive) to cooperate or even merge to avoid this problem.

This is ultimately futile, as I will explain. Continue reading

‘Left’ Objections to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential Campaign

Bernie Sanders won’t announce until April 30 whether he’ll run for president or not but he’s already been roundly condemned by people who are closest to him ideologically. In so doing, they reveal their own political failings. These condemnations fall into one of three categories:

  1. Sanders isn’t a socialist.
  2. Sanders shouldn’t run against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary.
  3. Sanders supports [insert your favorite unforgivable sin here]. Continue reading

How Upton Sinclair Upended California’s Democratic Party and the Lessons for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Run

Never in American history has a socialist been elected governor of a state, but in 1934 Upton Sinclair came close. He almost became governor on a program known as EPIC — End Poverty in California.

American socialists typically think of Eugene V. Debs’ 1912 presidential campaign as the high point of their movement since Debs won 6% of the vote, or just over 900,000 votes. Sinclair nearly matched that in 1934 by winning 879,000 votes, some 37% of the electorate. With two dozen EPIC candidates elected to the California legislature in 1934, Sinclair’s 37% was a far more politically meaningful result than Debs’ one-in-a-lifetime single-digit showing.

Despite nearly matching Debs’ power at his peak, the EPIC Sinclair campaign of 1934 has all but disappeared from the historical memory of American socialism. Almost a century later, it is the greatest story never told. These days, EPIC warrants but a single misleading mention by one Leninist journal and seems forgotten by the Democratic Socialist of America, a group that advocates the very strategy Sinclair and his followers pursued in 1934 — capturing the Democratic Party for socialism.

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