By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
This is an opinion piece. Analysis and viewpoints belongs to the author.
Originally published on February 7, 2020.
The great farce of the election circus is in full swing in the USA. Concretely, we see many things that point to decay and a state of crisis in the political system of the country. The conflicts and cloudiness in the Democratic Party, the harsh tone between the leadership of the Democrats and President Trump, and particularly the trial against him show these tendencies.
Belief and Hope
On the other side, the election is a repeat of so many prior elections. And since the US is the world’s greatest imperialist, the circus has received a lot of attention in many countries. What recurs is the belief and hope among many that the election is important for the masses.
Bernie Sanders is again the hope and dream that reformists clamour around, and that has also mobilised millions of supporters. His expressed goal for healthcare reform in particular has garnered him support. There are three big problems with this.
An Impossible Bluff
First, it is a bluff. A great healthcare reform to the benefit of the masses in the US is impossible. It is politically impossible, because Sanders will not have the majority in the House of Representatives and and the Senate for an enormous and fundamental change of the US healthcare system. He would in any event be opposed and undermined by both parties’ leadership and by the powerful lobbyist organisations of the healthcare and insurance industries.
Secondly, it is economically impossible in today’s capitalism. The crisis in the 1970s warned of a new phase of capitalism’s general crisis. It meant the end of the relative upswing after WWII. And thereby, the end of all great welfare reforms. From the 1970s, all the great reforms have been “deforms”, that have offered nothing but cuts in welfare rather than an expansion of it. There has been put in place a “new public management” and the privatization of the public sector.
Capitalism’s Economy Decides
This development does not spring first and foremost out of the heads of politicians. Their ideology does not fall from the sky. This development arises out of the material economic realities. The rate of profit grows slower and slower. To increase capital, exploitation must increase and “unproductive” expenses must be minimised.
Sanders cannot reverse this. On the contrary, it is more likely that if he were to win his (impossible) victory for reforms, the result would have been the opposite of its goal. It would increase crisis tendencies and increase problems for American imperialism, and thereby the masses’ welfare would not grow, but rather shrink! Improving the minimum standard of healthcare services somewhat is a poor consolation if it also means losing your job and housing.
The Myth of a Step In the Right Direction
Third, it is a myth that a “step to the left” leads to future steps towards the left. It is a myth that if more people vote for more “socialist” policies that they will vote for even more socialism next time. Or that, as a number of revolutionaries believe, the way to a revolutionary standpoint goes first through voting for reformism, then having their dreams crushed by the reformists.
In the past 100 years in Europe and North America, we have seen that the reformists have been elected many times. There has been no lack of social democratic presidents and governments. This has never automatically led to people moving further to the left. More often than not, these governments have served as bottlenecks for discontent and struggle. They have often arrived at the top of a leftist wave and fostered defeatism and discouragement for not delivering what the people have hoped for. The “normal” pendulum has swung from right to left and then back to right again. From the Labour Party to the Conservative Party and then back to Labour and then to Conservative again.
People like Sanders and Corbyn do not break the pendulum’s rhythm. And they do not lead the leftist wave forward. They surf along the wave, and they exploit it to advance themselves and their candidates. And when they have safely installed themselves in some office, they become a breakwater that the wave crashes against.
A Strategic Enemy
Social democracy is the bourgeoisie’s ideology in a form that is mean to appeal to the working class. It is an ideology for class collaboration and “capitalism with a human face”. It is a disarming rather than an arming of the most battle-readied among the masses. Strategically, it would therefore be directly counterproductive to strengthen this tendency among the working class with “tactical voting” or other similar approaches. For starters, it will not work for the reasons mentioned earlier. Secondly, it builds up yet another enemy of the people that will need to be combatted when creating socialism.
A number of comrades misunderstand this to mean that communists are dogmatic because we boycott elections. On the contrary, our boycott is based on an evaluation of today’s world and the reality we see before us. Some believe that it has to do with ideological “purity” and that we are not in a position to think tactically or make compromises. This could not be further from the truth; our boycott is a tactic that serves our strategy. We are for compromises that serve the people and world revolution, but “compromises” of the type that pull the wool over the masses’ eyes or give people false hopes lead to stagnation and defeat instead of tactical victories and future advances.
Sanders and the others from the Democratic Party’s leftwing are dead ends. Just as it was in the 1970s, just as it was with Obama, and just as it is today.
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