08
Jun
12

Why I Vote

ImageElections in the US may be months away, but already political ads are saturating television, radio, and the papers. But for all the bumper stickers, slogans, t-shirts, and signs stuck in front lawns across the country, many Communists are taking up the cry of “Don’t Vote!“.

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This isn’t exactly a new attitude. People have been decrying elections ever since we first had them. And of course, this isn’t without good reason. When you’re asked once every four years to pick between two corrupt aristocrats maintaining virtually the same platform (platforms they’ll abandon the second they’re sworn in), voting seems like a pointless exercise that insults your intelligence and your values. This general disgust applies just as much- if not more- to the members of the far left, who recognize the current system masquerading as democracy as being, at its most competent, the “executive arm of Capitalism” and at its most corrupted, simply a parasitic organization.

ImageNow every once in a while, you will find Communists who ascribe to the whole concept of “Lesser-Evilism”, in other words, the idea that, despite being opposed to them on every key issue, we should vote for mainstream parties to keep other mainstream parties from winning. It’s the old threat offered to the working class election after election- “Vote Democrat or else the Republicans will win!”, “Vote Labor or else the Conservatives will win!”, you get the idea. And I’m guessing you know who I’m talking about, too.

ImageOf course, giving into this mentality entirely defeats the purpose of having a different opinion in the first place. You can assert all you want that the working class shall one day rise up and establish a truly free and equal society, but if you keep on voting Democrat, that’s what you are. And to those of you who might claim “Hey! We’re trying to bring them over to our side!“, I’ll believe that when they start voting for you, and not the other way around.

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Seriously comrades, let’s get things straight here…

So why, with all of this in mind, would I still choose to vote?
Because it works.

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Bear with me here…

Now am I saying voting is the solution? I am not. Like most Marxists, I disagree with Marx on this idea that Socialism will ever be simply voted in. Besides, even if each and every politician, elected official, and appointed civic servant in the nation was a Communist, we still wouldn’t have Communism. Communism is, after all, a change in the people, not a change in the government.

And I’m further not trying to advocate what some Communists have dubbed “Class Collaboration”- that is, the workers joining forces with the ruling class to meet some mutually beneficial end (or rather, what the workers have been told will be mutually beneficial). The needs of the poor and the oppressed don’t exactly match up with the needs of the wealthy and powerful, and to try to cooperate will almost certainly result in the abandonment of the needs of the proletariat.

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“You want food, I want food- you cook for me and I’ll give you the scraps. We’re a team!”

What I’m talking about is simple: the attempt by Communists to defend the working class from exploitation, and to improve their condition, through any and all means available to us- including elections. Is that collaboration? Of course not, and to the few who might actually try to argue that it is, then I need only point out that by the same criteria, you buying food from a store that isn’t a co-op is class collaboration, as is buying food, watching anything on television, listening to music, and so on.

Granted, to progress anywhere in major elections (now more than ever), resources are needed that will probably be only available through actual collaboration. That said, local elections tend to be more free (the key word there being “more“) than elections on a federal level, and as such, certainly should be considered tools for Marxists. Allow me to offer the example of my brief time as a student representative at my college. I managed to push through some resolutions in solidarity with workers in South and Central America and South-East Asia, as well as prevent a committee I sat on from collaborating with an organization that gave exploitative corporations a free pass. I have to ask- how is a county election any different than this? Cannot a Communist run for office, and use his or her position to make similar decisions in favor of the poor and the working class? Indeed, there have been radical leftists elected to such local positions in the US. Again, I am not advocating elections as the solution, but rather as a tool available to the working class.

ImageEven now, I’m guessing there will be readers who are unconvinced- who are adamant that any attempt to use elections by Communists is at best a waste of time and resources and at worst a betrayal of the movement. I am of course willing to hear your side of things, but I just have to ask- is the whole “Don’t Vote” argument really just a facade for apathy? Is all the cynicism really just in place to give us all an excuse for hiding behind academia and whittling our time away in pointless analysis and retrospection?

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Do we rail against one action to make us feel better about our inaction?

It’s just something to consider. As for me, I will continue to advocate elections as a means of helping the workers in their struggle for freedom and equality. If nothing else- if nothing at all else is accomplished by doing so, we may perhaps take comfort in this:

ImageWe still get some cool pins out of it.

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9 Responses to “Why I Vote”


  1. 1 Sam Hampton
    June 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    As Cleaver said, “Six months away from the U.S. and I started missing the LAPD and the last time I saw then we were shooting at each other.”

    This wild ass philosopher’s video sums up why I don’t vote

  2. 2 andrewraygorman
    July 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Good blog! Here are Marx’s thoughts:
    “Even when there is no prospect whatsoever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces, and to bring before the public their revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection they must not allow themselves to be seduced by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the democratic party and making it possible for the reactionaries to win. The ultimate intention of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The advance which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is indefinitely more important than the disadvantage that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.”

    – Marx, “Address to the Central Committee,” p. 117.

  3. 3 drew
    August 20, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Great blog! In reference to your experience with different socialist political parties in the USA, what would you say are the main _ideological_ differences between the ISO and SA? I myself have been investigating such parties with an interest in joining, and have narrowed my options to these two. However, I have found little _ideological_ difference between the two. Please advise!

    • 4 trotskyite
      August 20, 2012 at 7:01 am

      At this point, I’d say he ISO. Their membership fees are steeper, but they appear to be more radical than the SPUSA.

  4. October 1, 2012 at 12:35 am

    “What I’m talking about is simple: the attempt by Communists to defend the working class from exploitation, and to improve their condition, through any and all means available to us- including elections” I think this is a really good point. To me, the problem is that in almost every election there is no option to stop exploitation of the workers. However should the option be available (even minimal), taking advantage of it is good. Also, I think many of the ‘Don’t Vote!’ commies are not as avid as they say. Find me one communist who would criticize someone for equal marriage rights, and I’ll find you a neo-Nazi who supports it (shows the somewhat hypocritical aspect of not voting). Not all elections involve candidates.

  5. October 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    “Russian Social-Democracy is passing through a period of vacillation and doubt bordering on self-negation. On the one hand, the working-class movement is being sundered from socialism, the workers are being helped to carry on the economic struggle, but nothing, or next to nothing, is done to explain to them the socialist aims and the political tasks of the movement as a whole. On the other hand, s
    ocialism is being sundered from the labour movement; Russian socialists are again beginning to talk more and more about the struggle against the government having to be carried out entirely by the intelligentsia because the workers confine themselves to the economic struggle.”

    — Lenin, ‘The Urgent Tasks of Our Movement (1900)’

  6. 7 rebelde1917
    November 9, 2012 at 2:08 am

    In pertinence voting for a bourgeois party, I must respectfully disagree. All focus must be directed at the construction of the revolutionary socialist party…a legitimate representative, OPPOSITIONAL party to bourgeois democracy. That being said, I am pleased with the work you are doing here. Comradely. http://zoev9.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/our-directive/

  7. March 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Is this blog dead, or is the author still around? Is he still looking for other groups to look at? Two that were conspicuously absent was the IWW (industrial workers of the world) and DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). At ~6000, the DSA is the biggest, and the IWW is the oldest, formed in 1905. The IWW is a bit different than the others too, rejecting Leninism and embracing syndicalism. Also, the IWW is a union, not a party, and Noam Chomsky is or at least was a member of IWW. The DSA has a lot of good writers at Jacobin magazine, and I think their discussions are very lively and thought-provoking. The DSA certainly isn’t sitting in 1917 or 1991 or whatever.

    • 9 trotskyite
      March 12, 2013 at 7:06 am

      I assure you, I’m still around- I simply have been working on a separate blog and have neglected this one for some time. It was my understanding that the IWW was more of a union/labor-rights organization, rather than a political party- I didn’t cover it for that reason. The Democratic Socialists I didn’t cover because of some issues I take with the general philosophy of that entire group.


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