Posts Tagged ‘Peace and Freedom Party

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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17
Jul
11

Joining The Party: Peace and Freedom Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Action, Socialist Alternative (Part VII)

I thought I’d close out round one of my search for a political party by examining the last four organizations on my list all in one post. Let’s start with the Peace and Freedom Party, a Socialist party founded in 1967.

Now as the PFP dissolved and reformed numerous times over the past forty-plus years, giving a clear and comprehensive history of the party is going to be a nightmare. I’ll just give the roughest of backgrounds, and say that the Peace and Freedom Party was formed out of the antiwar and countercultural movements of the 60s, during which time it nominated Eldridge Cleaver, a leader of the Black Panther Party, for president. Unfortunately, the PFP did not achieve widespread popularity on a national level, and has been, since the late 60s, relegated to California.

PFP Pros:

  • The PFP Platform lists out a wide variety of clear, radical goals, including calls for honoring treaties made with Native Americans, demanding equal rights for women and gays, expansion of public transportation, and restructuring education, agriculture, etc.
  • The PFP is, as it was in the 60s, extremely active in opposition to war.
  • The PFP is “multi-tendency”, meaning that they accept leftists from all schools of Marxism.

PFP Cons:

  • The PFP, as mentioned above, is quite small, and while extremely active, it is only (or at least, largely) active in California.

So the answer is ‘no’ for the Peace and Freedom Party.

And it’s a real shame too- like I said, the PFP has a really good platform, and if the party were larger it would be getting a thumbs-up for sure. I’ll admit, I knew going into all this that the PFP was too small for me to join, but I thought I should mention it here nevertheless- if nothing else, I can do some off-hand advertising for them.

So that brings us to the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

The PSL is a pretty new organization, and I wasn’t able to find much out about its founding- and to be honest, I’m not sure it matters that much. A party’s age indicates how flexible it is, or how it handles what history throws at it, but it’s not everything. The same roots and ties that some parties take pride in are the very things that keep them from working together with rival organizations. So I’m not going to mention the PSL’s age as a con, though it should be taken into consideration.

PSL Pros:

  • The PSL describes itself as “Marxist-Leninist”, a label that simply means the PSL endorses Marxism as it was implemented under Lenin (the vanguard party, endorsing a more centralized form of government, etc.). There are some things I disagree with when it comes to Leninism, but for the most part, it can be understood to be “classic” Marxism, and in my experience, Marxist-Leninists tend to be fairly tolerant of other schools of Communism.
  • The PSL argues for the liberation of what it deems to be colonies (US territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and other areas)- something we can all get behind.
  • The PSL, in spite of being a minor leftist party, is fairly widespread, with branches in many major US cities.

PSL Cons:

  • The PSL does not condemn Stalinism, and seems to adopt the view that the USSR ceased to be Communist as a result of the policies of Gorbachev. Now that should set off more than a few warning bells. The USSR was not Marxist, for a ‘Communist’ to say otherwise- well, it throws all their politics into question. Now the PSL does appear to endorse basic Communism, however, the PSL’s refusal to condemn the travesty of socialism that was Stalin’s Russia does not sit easy with me.
  • The PSL does not seem to be politically active (that is, attempting to change things using elections and political office). As with other Marxist organizations that fully reject the idea that the current political structures can be used in the interests of the oppressed and working class, I see where they’re coming from, but I disagree. I think that, even if it’s on the most basic level, the current political system can be used for the good of the revolution, though it certainly isn’t the answer to the basic problems of Capitalism and the state. It’s not a major problem, but it’s still not good.

So what’s the verdict on the PSL?

meh...

For the first time in this investigation, I’m truly unable to deliver a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There’s a lot the PSL has going for it, and a lot against it, and I’m not going to be able to decide without further investigation. So here’s what I’ll do- I’ll look around a bit, write a few letters, and if the PSL doesn’t appear in the second round of decision making, you’ll know it didn’t make the cut.

So until then, let’s take a look at Socialist Action.

As with the PSL, I’ve had some difficulty finding out why Socialist Action was founded, or rather, what the major influences were behind its founding. As before, I don’t think it’s terribly important. History’s good, but it doesn’t make or break a party. I’ll just get right into the pros and cons- those should give a pretty good picture of what Socialist Action stands for.

Socialist Action Pros:

  • Socialist Action is a Trotskyist organization. They believe in the vanguard party, that the USSR was not Marxist, that true Communism means the establishment of pure democracy, and the general abolition of the state. All in all, the Trotskyist ideology gives me some assurance that Socialist Action understands what Communism really means.
  • While Socialist Action is a minor Communist party, they realize this and have structured their organization in such a way as to ensure that you can still be an active member, even if you aren’t located near one of their branches. It’s a really nice feature I wish more parties would implement.
  • While Socialist Action recognizes that elections are not the ultimate answer to the issues of Capitalism and nationalism, they do seem to understand that elections can be used to benefit the working class and oppressed.

Socialist Action Cons:

  • While Socialist Action is attempting to work with its small membership, it can’t be denied that there is strength in numbers, and in this respect, Socialist Action leaves something to be desired.
  • I am a little concerned that Socialist Action might not be as ‘multi-tendency’ as it ought to be. A major aspect of the party I join should be its ability to work alongside rival groups for the common goal of Socialism.

So the final verdict?

Again, I need to look into this party further- there’s enough on both side to merit a more detailed investigation. As with the PSL, if Socialist Action doesn’t make it to the next round, you’ll know it’s been cut.

 

That leaves us only with our fourth and final organization: Socialist Alternative.

Socialist Alternative is, similar to Socialist Action, a Trotskyist organization. As with previous organizations, I haven’t been able to find out a lot about the origins of this group, and as always, I doubt it’s all that important. Let’s move straight on to the pros and cons section.

Socialist Alternative Pros:

  • Socialist Alternative was actually recommended to me by a Welsh Trotskyist, a member of SA’s British counterpart, the Socialist Party. While I’ve never actually ‘met’ the comrade in question, from his blog and his internet activity, it would appear he’s active in spreading the revolution. If his experiences are any reflection of the level of activity I’d have in the Socialist Alternative, it’d be certainly an encouragement.
  • Socialist Alternative is, while a minor Communist organization, fairly widespread- always a plus.

Socialist Alternative Cons:

  • In the past four presidential elections, Socialist Alternative has backed Ralph Nader, which, considering that Nader is not a Socialist in any sense of the word, is pretty weird.
  • While Socialist Alternative has a good program, it isn’t quite as detailed as I’d like it to be- but maybe I’m still contrasting it with the platform of the Peace and Freedom Party.
  • As with all minor leftist parties, Socialist Alternative seems pretty small, and size does matter- at least a bit.

So what’s my decision on the Socialist Alternative?

Yep, it’s another one of these. The pros and cons balance each other out, and a more detailed investigation will have to be had.