On elections: RI’s take (so far)

Is this really what it all comes down to?

[Updated Feb 16, 2012 to include an excerpt from Six Lines of Demarcation – ed]

We’re running with a theme!  The next few posts will focus on the role of elections.  Should Communists participate in elections?  Should electoral boycotts be used tactically (for now) or are they a strategic principle (forever)?  What are the various views being presented throughout the ICM?

While RI has not produced a document focusing on the role of elections, the question has been raised in our material.  The quotes below articulate RI’s views on the role of elections within a revolutionary strategy, at least as we understand it so far.

From “Theses on the Party Building Movement in Canada“:

Electoral Struggle

The secondary form of struggle at this stage is the electoral struggle.  It is a  secondary form because it will be a product of – and subordinate to – the interests of the revolutionary mass struggle.  While under the current conditions the Communist Party should not run directly in elections, it is critical that the vanguard make use of the parliamentary fronts as another arena of struggle, to use the parliament as a tribune to denounce the system, to put forward the peoples just demands, to both win concessions from the monopoly bourgeoisie and to prove to the masses the limitations inherent to bourgeoisie legality.

Currently, there are two erroneous lines within the working class movement regarding the use of the parliament.  The first is the Rightist line of the revisionists that views the parliamentary struggle as the primary arena and downplays or negates the role of extra-parliamentary struggle.  This position upholds the line of Khrushchevite revisionism, that it is possible to peacefully transition to socialism by winning a majority in the parliament, without the revolutionary struggle of the masses and the violent overthrow of the bourgeois state.  At best, this opportunist line can only lead to the disarming of the proletariat and their subordination to bourgeois legality and the transformation of the revolutionary Party into a mere electoral block, begging for scraps from the table of the bourgeoisie.  At worst, it leaves the proletarian movement vulnerable to massacre, as in the cases of Chile and Indonesia.

The second erroneous line is ultra-left and  rejects as a matter of principal any participation by the revolutionary movement in the parliamentary struggle.  While correctly breaking with the opportunism of the revisionists, this ultra-left line makes a caricature of parliamentary struggle and runs ahead of the masses by calling for a total boycott of the parliament.  While many proletarians may not vote, this does not signify a complete rejection of bourgeois legality, or even parliamentary struggle.  Ultimately, this line (left in form but right in essence) can only benefit the bourgeoisie, as it would deprive the proletariat of a vital tribune and arena of struggle and leave that arena open to the revisionists and social democrats to reap the rewards of the growing revolutionary mass movement.

From “Thoughts on the RCP Program“:

However, despite our agreement with much of the points raised by the RCP in favour of their strategic line, we cannot agree with their conclusion that Protracted People’s War is the path to revolution in Canada or that armed struggle as a strategy should be launched in advance of the formation of a revolutionary mass movement. It is our view that the October Road remains the correct strategy for the seizure of power in the imperialist countries and that the RCP has only critiqued a straw-man version of the insurrection strategy.

The RCP overestimates the masses willingness to break with bourgeois legality, an estimation that is heavily based on low voter turnout, particularly amongst the proletariat, during bourgeois elections. While the ever declining percentage of the population that votes is overall a favourable sign for the revolutionary movement, this should not be taken as the masses consciously breaking with bourgeois legality and acceptance of armed struggle. While there is certainly a percentage of non-voters that rejects bourgeois legality as a solution for social contradictions, there is also a likely much larger percentage that does not vote out of disenchantment with existing political parties but not a rejection of parliamentarianism as such. To raise the boycotting of elections to the level of principal is incorrect. Parliamentary struggle will be of tactical advantage and should be taken up as a component of the mass movement. At this time, it is the job of revolutionaries to expose the the true nature of the various bourgeois parties and that voting on its own will not lead to significant social change. The Party must also organize parliamentary fronts, to use the parliament as a tribune, capture resources from the bourgeois state, raise the just demands of the masses and expose to the masses the ultimate bankruptcy of parliamentary politics.

From Six Lines of Demarcation:

(1) Absolute rejection of the Canadian state

The Canadian state is an instrument of Canada’s monopoly bourgeois ruling class. It is their instrument for war and exploitation of peoples of the neo-colonzed peripheries, for the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples’ lands, for the domination of the working class in Canada, and for the defense of the interests of Canada’s monopoly capitalist ruling class. The workers can not simply take ahold of this state – enter into Parliament, work in the NGOs and social service sector – and think that we can wield all these for our own interests. This is why we reject Parliamentarism and electoralism.

Rather, we must build a New Power, a multinational proletarian-led revolutionary power right in the midst of our enemies. History shows us that such a power that is able to withstand the repression, infiltration, genocide, and terror of imperialism must be led by a disciplined, centralized, democratic vanguard Party of the exploited masses; it must wield a People’s Army under the strict discipline of the vanguard; and it must develop and be developed through a revolutionary United Front consisting of hundreds and thousands of mass organizations – which will be the foundation of the New Power.

To build these three components of the revolutionary movement – Party, People’s Army, and United Front – we must go where the hegemony of the state is the weakest. Whereas Trotskyites build their organizations where the masses (more often the middle strata) are firmly organized under the hegemony of social democrats, especially in the unions and universities, Marxist-Leninist-Maoists advocate organizing the people and building the Party where the masses are most exploited and oppressed, the least organized, and where the state is the weakest. Of course, unionized workers and students should also be organized, but not as the core of the revolution.

To build this New Power, the proletarian revolution, we must begin our accumulation of forces where the hegemony of the state is the weakest.

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