A Socialist Labor Party Statement—


Some Thoughts on Politics: Its Myths and Realities, Its Pitfalls and Possibilities.

By the time Election Day rolls around, any conscientious voter who wants to listen to all sides, weigh the merits of the several contenders, and vote with a clear understanding of the issues should be in a state of total confusion.

For how can one evaluate the claims and counterclaims? What credence should be given to political promises, seeing how often they are made cynically with never an intention (nor even the possibility) of making good on them?

Some voters will be so far discouraged by the confusion, or so skeptical of the possibility that voting can have any real influence on the way our lives are run, that they will turn their backs on the whole electoral process. Others will vote with no real expectation of improving things; they will settle for the “lesser evil” in the hope of keeping the worst scoundrels out of public office. And they will feel that they have thereby made a realistic compromise.

Meanwhile, the opinion molders of the nation’s news media will supply appropriate background music in the form of a sanctimonious litany. The “good citizen,” we will be told, should support the party “of his choice.” He must “use” his vote, not waste it. He must strengthen the “two-party system,” presumably to prevent control by a single party.*

Summing up the alternatives, it would appear that the voter has to make a choice from this list:

1. Vote the straight Republican ticket.

2. Vote the straight Democratic ticket.

3. Vote for an independent, reform or fusion party.

4. Cross party lines and pick the “better man.”

These are the respectable alternatives that could well be approved by the League of Women Voters or The New York Times. But a certain number of solid citizens, possessed of an unclouded view of reality, will see another alternative:

5. Stay home, because it makes no difference.

And a sizable and probably earnest minority, suspicious of elections, will

6. Reject the electoral process and try other means, like lobbying, confrontation, trashing, demonstrations, community-level activism or violence.

But there’s still another way to add up the facts.

Granted that politicians are corrupt or corruptible; that the cost of campaigning favors the rich, the well-organized and the influential; that repressive election laws all but silence dissenting groups; that the fateful decisions are made not in legislative halls but in corporation boardrooms—

Granted that the American ideal of democratic, representative government has been largely thwarted by the workings of history and that power has been usurped by the private owners of the nation’s industrial wealth, who now constitute the de facto government—

Who says we must use our votes to ratify this usurpation?

What the opinion molders do not mention is the obvious yet significant fact that both major parties (and their would-be reformers) support the capitalist system. Their candidates differ at most on how to cure the mortal ills of capitalism. But they support it—every one of them.

And they don’t deny it. The deception lies in their claim that legislative tinkering with capitalism can cure the mess we’re in.

But that mess is the direct result of capitalism and cannot be cured by reforms, no matter who applies them.

Let’s be specific.

This country will have continued unemployment, poverty, racial discrimination, urban decay, pollution and rape of the environment not because the people don’t care but because the capitalist owners don’t care—or care about profits more.

This country will continue to experience inflation because it’s the direct result of deficit financing, which capitalism can no longer do without.

This country will continue to find it profitable or expedient to make war, in Southeast Asia or elsewhere, as long as capitalism rules.

This country will continue to support dictatorships abroad as long as capitalist influence and markets are at stake.

This country will continue to whittle away the rights and privacy of its citizens and, by terror and intimidation, to curtail the right of dissent because capitalism is fighting for its very existence and holds nothing else sacred.

We say “this” country and not “our” country because it isn’t our country in an economic sense. We, the working-class majority, don’t own it and we don’t control it. When it does become our country—owned, operated and administered by the majority—we can easily solve all our problems. And not until then.

That is central to how you ought to think about your vote.

Viewed thus the choices boil down to two.

1. Support capitalism and leave things as they are. (Vote for Democrats, Republicans, liberals, etc., or simply don’t vote.)

2. Vote and work for socialism.

How? We’ll get to that shortly. More important is why you should support socialism, and what, in fact, it is.

Socialism is not the “opposite” of democracy. It is the extension of democracy, based on majority control of the most essential area of our existence: the economy.

In the two centuries since the Republic was founded many changes have taken place. In the early days political representation—voting from where we live, from geographic constituencies—made good sense. The young country was largely agricultural. Neighbors shared problems common to their region, and could solve them on the village, county or state level. Also, when land was universally owned or easily acquired, a property-oriented basis of representation operated in a democratic way.

But the vital center of our lives has shifted. The significant groupings of our time are industrial. The problems arising from an industrial society transcend the old political boundaries. From air pollution to unemployment, they pay no attention to state lines. Political (which is to say territorial) government is simply irrelevant to the realities of today’s world. The only kind of government competent to deal with our problems would be an industrial government. And the only kind of democracy which is not illusory would be an industrial democracy.

In other words, socialism. Government based on collective ownership and social administration of the industries and services. Not less democracy, but more. Nothing short of actual day-to-day popular control of the ultimate source of power.

Our votes can be used to demand a socialist industrial democracy...by casting them for the only candidates who make that demand their platform...the Socialist Labor Party candidates.

Could the mandate for socialism delivered by our votes be made to stick? The answer is not via the ballot alone.

No politically conveyed mandate is self-enforcing, least of all one aiming to divest the capitalist class of its vast industrial wealth. Behind that mandate will have to stand a power capable of compelling the outvoted capitalists to bow to the people’s will, capable also of taking social possession of the economy without disrupting it.

Does this requisite power exist? Fortunately, yes. It is embodied in the more than 80 million workers who staff our industries and services. By uniting in a nationwide industrial union that embraces every kind of labor—professional, supervisory, clerical and rank and file—those millions of workers can muster a nonviolent but irresistible force competent to bring—and keep—the whole economy under democratic social control.

Once it’s there, we can make short work of our country’s problems. We can rationally and constructively use America’s immense productive potential—to wipe out poverty and slums entirely; to restore our urban and rural areas; to build the housing, hospitals, schools, libraries and recreational facilities our nation should have; to meet abundantly the needs of every adult and child.

*This “two-party” business is a matter of particular irony. It is such a neat piece of chicanery. For one thing, it is largely a hoax; at different times and places the positions of the Republicans and Democrats are interchangeable. But more to the point, there is no foundation in the Constitution or in the democratic ideal for a “two-party system.” If anything, it should be a multi-party system. The irony is that the Big Two have conspired to make it all but impossible for a minority party to get on the ballot or get full access to the mass media. Anyone who thinks this charge unduly harsh would find the election laws of most states highly instructive.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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