Elections and the Reform Movement

April 11, 2016


Bernie Sanders campaign has ignited a political movement and fundamentally changed the political discussion in this country. The impact of this movement cannot be overestimated. By focusing on the concentration of wealth caused by capitalism, he identified the true enemy of working people and simultaneously provided a mechanism of change.

As a result of this movement, not only have we prevented the coronation of Hillary Clinton, we have exposed the Democratic elite that has controlled the Democratic Party for the last 40 years. The Clintons, who lead the Democratic elite, have continuously moved the Democratic Party to the right making Hillary the only moderate Republican in the race. Calling themselves centrists, they deftly move to the right never challenging in a meaningful way the Republican Party’s attack on the working class.

In other words, the Clintons have divorced the Democratic Party from its working class base. Their intent was clear telling progressives that they were being ignored and marginalized because they had nowhere else to go. In the past, they argued that only their move to right wing positions could win the presidency. Now, Bernie has the greatest chance to win the election in November as compared to the vulnerability of Hillary. Bernie would crush any Republican candidate, insure control of the Senate, limit the power of the House and build the working class base of the Democratic Party. That is exactly what the Democratic elite oppose; they would rather lose than support victory. Bernie’s campaign has successfully exposed their hypocrisy.

The ruling class long ago closed the door for third party creation. Only Bernie’s strategy of working within the Democratic Party has unleashed the political energy of millions of people. The failure of alternative strategies prompts the necessity of this paper.

Because of the success of Bernie Sanders in building a political movement, the question for Marxists and for that matter progressives is their relation to bourgeois elections. All progressives of whatever stripe rely on Marxism as the base for an analysis of capitalism. Even Keynesian economists owe an enormous, unacknowledged debt to Marx.


The progressive movement also reads and often relies on literature from Lenin and Mao because of the successful revolutionary work of those leaders. I would recommend a book Why Minsky Matters by L. Randall Wray. Just as the right wing uses Fredericl Hyack to justify the bizarre positions of the right wing, the left has substantial, valid analyses to confront the positions on which they rely.


The laws of capitalism always will concentrate the wealth in the hands of the most greedy, dissolute psychopaths. That results in a class war as the ruling class pushes the Robin Hood button upside down. And it never stops. That is why no reform under capitalism is permanent; all reforms are temporary victories to be revisited by the ruling class whenever they see an opening.

The recent book Dark Money by Jane Mayer outlines the way in which the Ruling Class, especially inherited wealth, plans to destroy every reform achieved by the working class. These are reforms that have required enormous effort and sacrifice. I have never been much of a fan of conspiracy theories but one must admit that those with inherited wealth meet and plan out attacks on the working class. Mayer’s book outlines the meetings that were held and the strategies that were developed. By 1971, there was a concerted, monied effort to change the cultural environment in this country. Progressives, participate in reform movements to build working class consciousness. No revolution has occurred by a call for revolution. In fact, there are groups who have called for the revolution the last 40 years with the obvious result. The Revolutionary Communist Party actually rented a billboard across from the MGM casino here in Detroit calling for Revolution. It only lasted one month probably because of costs. I am willing to bet more people went in to the casino in the first 5 minutes than responded to the billboard or for that matter any call since the billboard went up.

We must support the union movement, including strikes but that does not necessarily lead to a discussion of socialism or for that matter any political analysis except that of the particular company. In addition, the Ruling Class’s counter revolution passed Taft-Hartly making it illegal to have communists or socialists in leadership positions in Unions.

And that happens in every reform movement. We support and organize demonstrations, we developed legal battles and mobilize against police brutality, we demand safe water, we move for the elimination of discrimination based on sex, nation origins, or sexual choice. We have fought battles supporting identity politics.

In all of these struggles, the class question is slowly neutralized. That does not change the necessity to participate in these struggles. In fact, we always face delicate tactical decisions not to impose a particular analysis in order to build the movement. We compromise as we must and most often the class questions and particularly the questions of socialism are the first compromises.

All of these activities are nevertheless absolutely necessary. These struggles expose injustices extant under capitalism. And the ruling class is able to respond as long as the class issue is modulated, providing access to minorities, women as long as class questions are washed out of the discussion.

To return to the question of bourgeois elections and the more complicated reasons why progressives and Marxists must participate in these elections. Since, we must adopt methods of struggle that provide the working class movement avenues to fight for political power, we must address the necessity to find avenues to grow the working class movement and working class consciousness within the electoral arena.

As I have said many times, the ruling class learns from each working class uprising. In the case of bourgeois elections, the ruling class developed a sophisticated, I say layered, methodology to provide choices that do not jeopardize their control. In particular, they have eliminated the option of third parties. While not going into detail, the only third party movements with any success are funded by people such as Ross Perot. If we unite with a billionaire to build a third party movement, we are headed for failure. As a result, the only option is to increase the contradictions within the Democratic Party. That is exactly what Bernie Sanders has accomplished exposing dramatically the rigged system set up by the ruling elite epitomized by the actions of the Clintons.

Electoral politics provides the most fertile opportunity for building a united working class around a particular political program. It provides a political analysis which directs itself to the enemy of the working class – the 1%. Once we have identified the enemy, we have a tremendous opportunity to unite a large section of the working class against that enemy.

This country has a unique and very long history of fighting battles for the right to vote. Therefore, electoral politics is an integral part of struggles by the working class in the United States.

In the battle to eliminate and for that matter the war to eliminate slavery, the electoral process was a constant key to those battles. Because of slavery and the enormous wealth produced by the exploitation of slaves, the South politically controlled the country using that control through the voting process. In fact, Lincoln’s position blocking the admission of new slave states into the union was a revolutionary position. And it was fought in the electoral arena.

Bloody Kansas was a violent battle focusing on whether Kansas would vote for slavery or be free. John Brown’s brilliant work not only fought for liberation of slaves but also for the vote to keep Kansas free. In other words, the right to vote and the voting process is an integral part of American working class struggles.

With the end of the civil war, the battle for the right to vote and the suppression of the right to vote became central to every progressive struggle against reactionary forces. That was true in Selma and it is true today. And Marxists and progressives have contributed life and limb to these battles for the right to vote.

The irony is that Marxists and many progressives have now abandoned the struggled for power in the electoral arena. Admittedly, the Ruling Class has erected an extraordinary number of barriers to political discussion within the political process. But sadly, Marxists and progressives for that matter have contributed to their own marginalization.

While the bourgeoisie had the foresight to make third parties marginal, if not illegal, Marxists and progressives have failed to adjust tactics and strategy in response to the ruling class actions.

I was one of the organizers of the Communist Labor Party and was on the Central Committee and the politburo for 5 years. And it called itself a party, a political party. Inevitably, we were required to address the electoral process. In 1978, we ran General Baker, a recognized working class leader, for state representative within the Democratic Party.

My assessment is that action was an enormous success. But it did challenge leadership within the Communist Labor Party. That experience provided important insight into the vulnerability of the Democratic Party to militant and disciplined cadre fighting on behalf of working class issues.

Bernie Sanders has now provided a similar exposure of the vulnerability of the Democratic elite to a populous uprising. The Democratic primaries have exposed the Democratic elite’s obsequiousness to Wall Street and to the 1%.

Bernie has also stripped bare the so-called news media’s position that it is unbiased or even that it seeks profit. By giving voice to Trump’s racist rantings combined with a refusal to provide Bernie a voice, the corporate media now stands naked before a large section of the working class as nothing more than a shill for the 1%.

That exposure is more subtle in the corporate media’s support for and even protection of Hillary Clinton.

Bernie has built an amazing movement with rallies of 10,000, 20,000 and even 30,000 workers discussing the important issues facing the working class. The entire strategy of the ruling class has been to depoliticize the working class turning them into consumers defining their identity by the trinkets they buy. Bernie has managed to instill political motives and motion into millions of people so that they do not want to shop until they drop. Instead they want to work for power.

The layers of exclusion of progressive positions continues. For the last 50 years, the minority communities, especially the Black community, have followed a sophisticated voting strategy. By voting overwhelmingly in the Democratic Party and thereby carving out positions of power, they now hold important leadership positions. In the process, however, their leadership is now indebted to the ruling Democratic elite and many are now supporting Hillary’s bankrupt program over the far more progressive and popular program of Bernie Sanders.

Marxists and progressives can and must explain the fact that Bernie’s nomination will cut the ties of control by the Democratic ruling elite and will allow current Black leadership to fight for Bernie’s election against Trump or any Republican. Bernie’s program is in fact that which the Black community has fought for all these many years. In the process of the general election, we could develop a united working class movement that is unparalleled at least in the last 50 years.

For now, Black leadership is tied to Hillary but that is both fragile and temporary. Those leaders not tied to Hillary economically have already split based upon program. Michelle Alexander, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, Spike Lee, Rosario Dawson, Nina Turner have all provided important leadership that can and will unite the working class. And, more importantly, it is being united on class lines. That cannot be overemphasized.

As I have said in my paper on Strategy and Tactics for the Movement, my frustration with the Marxists and the progressive movement is that the tremendous analytic power and dedication of these cadre often loses flexibility when it comes to tactics and strategies for building a working class movement. It is as if many Marxists and progressives believe there have been no changes in the ruling class either in structure or strategy since 1950 or any date you may wish to choose.

Many people, however, recognize that we could build a movement not only to elect Bernie president, but more importantly to establish a movement to challenge constantly those in Washington trying to block his program. Many, however, do not recognize that opportunity. This paper is written in part to address the frustration of the possibility of losing this opportunity. It is not necessary to support the Democratic Party but it is absolutely necessary to work within the Democratic Party.  We can look to antiquated concepts of united front or popular front but they are inadequate having been formulated at a different time under different circumstances.

The reality is that we need allies and we must seek to develop a voice that speaks to more than a few thousand people. The consciousness of the working class is such that the corporate media is able to nurture capitalist individualism. Advertising is constant and incessant promoting consumerism as a search for identity in trinkets. We recognize that the capitalist mode of production creates this consciousness providing a false sense of individual accomplishment based on the purchase of trinkets.

The social media provides a buffer to the corporate media’s control of information. Bernie’s campaign provides an alternative. Instead of washing away class consciousness it establishes the intersection of class and race and gender, etc uniting the class in ways previously impossible to achieve. We must unite with this movement; it comes around rarely, very rarely. The alternative is the steady march to a peculiar American form of fascism. It is difficult to tell whether it will be led by Trump or disguised by Hillary. In any case, all progressives must fight to build a united working class movement, not with outdated analysis but with specific tactics molded at this time for the particular struggles created today.

Yours in Struggle,

Ronald D. Glotta


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply