By Ed Dalton
Unlike the Avakianites we examined in Part 1 of this series, the ‘Party for Socialism and Liberation’ (PSL) still plays lip service to the working class and lacks the transparent revisionism of “all of humanity” expressed by the RCP-USA. This is not a compliment, the fact that they still talk of working class revolution makes them more deceptive, more popular, and more counter-revolutionary.
In the PSL statement on the 2020 elections, they proclaim, “We know that revolutions are made in the streets, in the factories and other workplaces, and in the military units when workers—in and out of uniform—become conscious that the power of the capitalist bosses and the generals must be replaced with the power of the people. This is the message that the PSL will continue to promote in the 2020 election cycle.” Such a proclamation is tempting to believe for those newly acquainted with Marxism and so it deserves some examination.
Revolutions are made with a Communist Party, a red army under its strict command, and a united front surrounding them. “Workers in uniform” is no stand in for the Red Army or a People’s Army (in semi-feudal countries oppressed by imperialism). But this statement does expose the PSL’s faulty ‘military strategy,’ which they derive from a dogmatic following of the revisionist Leon Trotsky. It is heavily reliant on military entryism in place of the organic construction of an army tasked with carrying out the revolutionary program of the party with arms. PSL neatly skirts the question of armed struggle, while defending their participation in the electoral farce. At least they are not yet telling us to vote for Joe Biden.
PSL admits that their campaigning, which amounts to fielding ‘socialist’ protest candidates like Gloria La Riva on the ‘Peace and Freedom Party’ ticket, is hopeless and that bourgeois democracy is a sham while still legitimizing it with their participation. They state that, “Without a doubt, the capitalist electoral system is a sham. It is a rigged system to ensure the domination of the tiny ruling class of Wall Street bankers, corporations and big-business owners over the vast majority of people in the United States—the working class.”
Maoists on the other hand confront the electoral farce with a boycott, refusing to participate in the very system that we all know exists to oppress the working class. PSL remains under the illusion, in spite of their total failure with respect to their involvement in elections, that this somehow grants them ‘exposure’ to the proletariat. Voting statistics in the US should be enough to dispel these illusions, but PSL does not intend to grapple with a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Instead they operate on a lifeless dogma; failing in the way they always have is preferable to them when it comes to a choice between that or trying something actually revolutionary.
The lower the income, the less white, and the younger the demographic, the lower the percentage of voters. More so, of those registered to vote, only slightly more than half actually do vote. The question is logically, to whom does the PSL intent to ‘expose’ themselves to with their election strategies? Certainly not those who have nothing to lose but their chains. The answer is clear: they orient toward college students, young professionals, and the highest paid, most comfortable strata of the working class. The latter are those referred to by Engels and Lenin as “labor aristocrats,” by which they meant “the lieutenants of the bourgeoisie in the workers movement.”
In such a party, orienting to this milieu is closer to classical fascism than it is to Marxism. PSL’s insistence that the attention of workers will be drawn to the elections is derived from their imagination, and completely ignores the fact that the majority of workers (those that are forced to sell their surplus labor power or starve) do not actually vote. We then discover a strange contradiction: they claim to engage in the electoral farce as a site of struggle to gain the attention of those who already do not vote, and following this backward thinking, they actually register their meager supporters to vote for their candidates which they openly admit have no interest in or chance at actually winning. What is more, they spend a great deal of money on these campaigns. Like a blind cat without a tail whose memory compels it to chase what does not exist, the PSL demonstrate remarkably poor analysis and practice.
Such a song and dance serves the ruling class in two ways, the first is that it legitimizes something totally illegitimate—capitalist elections in the US. The second is that it drags the workers they do reach backwards, closer to the ruling class and away from their already-advanced understanding that voting is nonsense and will not better their lives. This is a form of channeling rebellion into dead-end politics which prop up the carcass of bourgeois parties like the PSL. Their level of active recruiting preys upon young and well-meaning individuals who have a genuine desire for transformation through the destruction of the old society and the construction of a new one. To reach these recruits, whom they will suffocate with their poor political lines, they hop like vagrants from protest to protest and make no efforts at the construction of stable organizations with which the class actually makes revolution.
PSL answers the question, ‘what about those who do not vote?’ like this: “Those who do not directly participate are forced to listen closely, because the corporate media focuses on the elections months–and even years–before they take place. This year is no exception.”
This position exposes their tailing of the ruling class. Participation in the elections does not promise you corporate air time, nor does it appeal to spectators of the farce. Election boycotts, however, do. People who do not vote and are bombarded and berated by the incessant nagging of bourgeois politics are far more likely to refuse voting than to notice, and vote for the PSL. The electoral cretins do not notice this. Their propaganda is to convince themselves, like cheerleaders for failure, they have to psyche themselves up to keep walking into the wall, imagining that their stupidity will eventually break the wall down.
The PSL reassures itself, “The PSL’s participation in the elections has given workers, students and oppressed people the opportunity to vote for and work with candidates from a party that is already fighting in their interests.” What is the “opportunity to vote” worth when all are aware that it is a throwaway vote? Hot air is what. If the PSL were fighting for the interests of the workers and not hopping like fleas from cause to cause, they surely would not need such a token gesture of having their own supporters cast useless votes for them. The essence of their maneuver is a person patting themselves on the back for going to a few protests and passing out sings to people who are not part of their irrelevant group.
Revolutionaries see through the hype of the self-congratulatory PSL and insist on boycotting the elections. Not voting is the most popular idea of the masses, and revolutionaries take this idea, politicize it further with the demand for armed revolution, and return it to the people in the form of the election boycott. Instead of ideas coming from a minuscule group to the people, ideas come from the people to the people. This is the revolutionary method of leadership used by Communists called the mass line.
Consistent with a failure to discuss the fact that political power grows from the barrel of a gun, meaning that socialism is conquered and defended through people’s war, the PSL uses the hollow electioneering to avoid the question altogether. “The PSL’s campaign has opened a much-needed avenue for workers to wage political combat against the capitalist establishment and their corrupt representatives.” They even go so far as to claim voting is “political combat” and say that “A vote for PSL is a vote for socialism and liberation, and against capitalist war, racism, bigotry and exploitation.”
Real socialism cannot be voted for, the absolute rule of the workers to suppress the ruling class cannot be brought about through elections. In spite of such miserable performance, PSL is still suggesting it can in an opportunist effort to sell the elections and at the same time admit that they cannot bring about change.
In every case that revisionists have attempted to enact their ‘socialist’ policies without the broad participation of the armed masses, they have either been toppled by people in their own militaries and governments (Tomas Sankara, Salvador Allende, etc.), or they have been bureaucratic functionaries who corporatize the state without changing the overall relations of production (Hugo Chavez/Nicolas Maduro, Fidel Castro, etc.). The PSL has a long history of considering heading-up a bureaucratic capitalist and land-selling states as ‘socialism.’
Their faulty military strategy, which they only hint at, is reliant upon the extremely mistaken idea that they can count on the imperialist military to develop large sections that support socialist revolution. They believe that because this happened in the Russian Revolution that it holds true everywhere, ignoring the fact that the Tsarist army was mainly composed of peasants who were drafted and the US imperialist army does not operate the same way. Predatory recruiting practices do mean that in the event of a revolutionary war, some US soldiers would defect, but this would not and could not reach the scale of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Making it clear that Mao Zedong was totally correct when he insisted that “without a people’s army, the people have nothing.”
The boycott of the electoral farce reaches those disillusioned with the elections, turning their disdain and abstinence into an active boycott insisting upon revolutionary organizing to conquer power. It reaches those still lost in the swamp of voting, offering them a way out: activism which operates outside of the bourgeois system. Anything else just draws people backward into the swamp, or cedes the people to the enemy with its negligence.
Next in this series:
On the Electoral Cretins Part 3: the Social Democrat
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