Expose the electoral circus and build the revolutionary forces

From the Central Committee, Revolutionary Initiative (Canada)
29 March 2011

This is not the path to revolution.
This is not the path to revolution.

With the upcoming Federal Elections in Canada, this document offers an assessment by the Central Committee of Revolutionary Initiative on the question of elections in the current international context and given the level of self-organization of the proletariat in Canada. It is organized into five main sections:

  1. The strategic decline of imperialism
  2. The crisis of bourgeois democracy
  3. The role of electoralism in keeping the proletariat demobilized as a class for itself
  4. The strategic position of the proletariat in Canada today: demobilization and disarray
  5. Electoral tactics and revolutionary strategy


As Canada’s bourgeois politicians prepare to contest one another for control of Parliament in the upcoming May 2, 2011 Federal Elections, revolutionary communists are again confronted with the question of what our stance should be in relation to the electoral circus that will be rolling into every town in Canada. In the coming elections, the masses will not be witness to, let alone be active participants in, a serious debate on the causes of the current economic crisis, the devastating effects of monopoly capitalism on the planet’s ecology (contributed to in no small part by Canada’s mining and energy companies), or the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie’s crimes in Afghanistan, Haiti, and now Libya. Rather, the elections will divert the attention of the masses from their most pressing concerns onto trivial issues and/or scapegoats who will be falsely accused as having caused the continuously unfolding economic, political, and social crises.

On March 21, as the Conservative government faced impending collapse and each bourgeois party struggled to differentiate itself from all others, a point of unity was suddenly found. Behind the façade of the petty attacks, Canada’s bourgeois political parties stood firmly united in support of an imperialist aggression against Libya. The social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton offered up only nominal pseudo-opposition by calling for a “debate” on the issue while in deed supporting the military aggression. Layton’s empty gesture cannot disguise the pro-imperialist character of the NDP. The Canadian state is committing war crimes in Libya, participating in the bombing of a sovereign state, and all the NDP wants is a “debate”. What other essential issues will go undebated in the lead up to the next elections?

The role of revolutionary communists is to expose this farce for what it is: the petty theatre of bourgeois politics. It is merely a petty theatre of bourgeois politics because political power is neither constructed nor contested for within the Parliament. Rather, political power is located in the imperialist state (all organs of the state and bureaucracy) and all the means of production, institutions, and other organs controlled by the monopoly capitalist ruling class.

It is the role of the communist in the present context to clarify to the masses that bourgeois democracy is democracy for the ruling class, the imperialist bourgeoisie, and it is they who win in every election. We must expose that each party represented in Parliament is just propagating a different vision for imperialist bourgeois and colonial society. The differences amongst these parties may represent real divisions and debates within the ruling-class, but they are not our divisions and they are not our parties. We must struggle amongst the people to demonstrate that each and every election is yet another opportunity for the ruling class to divert us from the task of development of the revolutionary class struggle, another opportunity to resubordinate the struggles of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie.

But we must also struggle amongst revolutionary proletarian forces to clarify the relationship between this petty theatre of bourgeois politics, the broader crisis of bourgeois democracy, and the overall crisis of the imperialist world system.

(1) The strategic decline of imperialism

In the last 30-40 years, the economies of the imperialist centres have been mired in stagnation, with sluggish growth rates of 2-3% considered to be healthy. This sluggish growth reflects an essential contradiction in the capitalist system: the contradiction between the socialized character of production, on the one hand, and the private (and increasingly concentrated and centralized) appropriation of the product of social production.1 The private appropriation of the product of an increasingly productive society naturally results in the overaccumulation of capital on a world scale.

What is significant for our purposes here is to recognize that the neoliberal policies of the last 30 years – many which have only intensified in the last three years since the 2008 Great Financial Crisis – have been a response to the fundamental crisis of overaccumulation in the imperialist world system.

Neoliberal globalization has been driven by the impulse of the super-monopolies – the corporations at the commanding heights of the imperialist world system – to survive the crisis of overproduction through the conquest of new markets and the reduction of their costs of production by various means, including the outright plunder of raw resources and the super-exploitation of labour. Therefore, even with so much want and misery, so many needs requiring fulfilment in the world, and despite having all the technological means to solve all these problems, the social relations of the capitalist world system cannot fulfil these needs.

Neoliberal imperialist globalization, therefore, ripens the objective conditions for revolutionary struggle in every quarter of the world. Importantly, the move by imperialism to attack the more privileged strata of the proletariat in the imperialist countries – especially industrial workers and public sector workers – shows just how desperate the imperialist have become to cut the costs of labour. The relatively higher costs of industrial workers and public sector workers in the imperialist countries is looked upon by large competing firms as a new source of profits. This is why these sections of the proletariat – which until recently had secure and well-paying union jobs, mortgages, benefits, and educated children – are all coming under fierce attack. This is the section of the working-class to which “Fordist” distribution of the product of labour was once conceded: As productivity increased, workers were told that they would get their “fair share” of the profits. Stemming from the social stability afforded to this section of the working-class (which was strategically developed in North America’s whitest communities), workers in this stratum have been a stable base of support for imperialism. The attack of large corporations on this section of the proletariat undermines the latter’s support for Canadian imperialism. The RCP’s main organ, the Red Flag, has recently published a detailed account of how the deindustrialization of Belleville in eastern Ontario has decimated the working class there.2

A truly Marxian critique of political economy today reveals that the “austerity” offensive being waged against workers everywhere does not reflect a shortage of resources to feed, clothe, house, and reward workers for the full value of their labour. Just look to the trillions of dollars forked over to monopoly capital in the past three years. Today’s “austerity” offensive reflects the crisis of the imperialist world system, a system whose social relations of production cannot ‘afford’ to improve the lives of the toiling masses of the world.

With the 2008 financial collapse, as trillions of dollars ‘vanished’ from the world economy with the collapse of speculative investments, the large corporations cried that they were “too big to fail”. In the imperialist countries, trillions of dollars in bailout money were transferred from central banks to the monopoly capitalists. Suddenly, after thirty years of telling workers that we all needed to tighten our belts, trillions of dollars were found for the monopoly capitalists. Is it any wonder that they now demand even more “austerity” from the workers?

In Canada, in addition to the billions of dollars in bailouts to automakers, between 2008 and 2010 the Federal government, with no opposition from “the opposition” parties, quietly purchased $70 billion in mortgage assets from Canadian finance capital to help them sell off unstable assets and have liquid capital at their disposal for the Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As) frenzy that Canadian finance capital was about to embark upon.

In late 2010 alone, RBC acquired British fund manager BlueBay Asset Management for $1.5 billion; Toronto-Dominion bank bought up Chrysler’s financial wing, GMAC for $6.3 billion; Canada’s fourth largest bank, Bank of Montreal bought Wisconsin-based Marshall and Ilsley for $4.1 billion (USD).

The spectre of foreign takeovers whipped up by the media over the merger of the Toronto Stock Exchange with the London Stock Exchange, or with the failed acquisition of Potash Corporation by the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, is Canadian imperialism’s attempt to whip up a sense of bourgeois nationalism amongst Canadians and disguise its own M&A offensive around the world.

The latest data available for 2010 M&As associated with Canadian capital reveals that in the 3rd Quarter of 2010 alone, the value of all M&As in Canada reached a staggering $48 billion. This furious acceleration of M&A activity in Canada – an expression of the tendency towards the centralization and concentration of capital first identified by Marx and Engels and later developed into the theory of imperialism by V.I. Lenin – allows for large oligopolistic competitors in the world economy to cut costs and extend their market domination in the imperialist world system. Competitors are liquidated; thousands of people lose their jobs; the “market share” of the standing giants are extended; profits appear on the books; and ‘jobless recoveries’ are announced.

These recent manoeuvres by Canada’s financial giants and other big corporations was made possible in part by the bailouts in Canada. The consequence of these bailouts by the big capitalist powers all throughout the world was to create the massive, historically unprecedented deficit and debt crises that have become the justification for capitalism’s intensified offensive on the working-class: what Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced to the world as “the age of austerity” at the June 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto.

For the purpose of our discussion on the crisis of bourgeois democracy, the most important point to take from this presentation is that the working-class in the imperialist countries is coming under a great offensive. Long gone are the days of the Keynesian, anti-communist “social compact” negotiated in the imperialist countries in the middle of the twentieth century to contain and induce certain sections of the working class away from socialism and towards imperialism. The “Great Compromise” of the welfare state for decades brought the upper strata of the working-class under the firm leadership of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The erosion of the foundation for this unity does not bode well for imperialism.

We say that the imperialist world system is in strategic decline because it cannot emerge from the current crisis without a radical restructuring of the world economy. To keep capitalism going the immiseration of workers around the world must proceed for the sake of keeping profit margins up; more and more, rural and urban small producers and petty-bourgeois must be driven into bankruptcy and join the proletarian class, increasing the relative and absolute size of the working-class; the “privatization” of public services must continue to absorb the overproduction of capital deriving from those larger and larger profit margins; the ecological foundations for all life on earth must be further destroyed in capitalism’s need to transform all aspects of nature into a commodity; and the imperialist powers must endlessly wage war against the neo-colonized countries throughout the world. And all just to extend the life of this vampire of an economic system. The most dangerous of all capitalist solutions to the current crisis is the complete annihilation of one of the imperialist blocs of monopoly capital, just as occurred with the two inter-imperialist “world wars” in the 20th century. Imperialism is in strategic decline, while the objective conditions for the proletarian revolution are improving everywhere.

Here is not the place to elaborate further upon the strategic decline of imperialism. But if bourgeois society cannot provide for the improvement of the people’s working and living conditions, we should not expect to find any serious debate of our concerns in the petty theatre of bourgeois politics.

(2) The crisis of bourgeois democracy

Any movement for progressive, redistributive reforms in the interests of the labouring masses in this historical context comes up against the basic laws of motion of the imperialist world system. To fight for substantial reforms during this era, especially in the imperialist centres, is like trying to swim against the colossal force of a tsunami wave. The era of class peace between the imperialist bourgeoisie and certain sections of the proletariat in the imperialist centres is long gone. The social relations of monopoly capitalism can not afford concessions to the proletariat. Confronted by some of the largest mobilizations and general strikes of workers in decades – in Greece, France, and Ireland – the E.U. refused to back down from their attacks on workers.

If capitalism in the imperialist centres can no longer offer the masses the prospect for improvements to their standards of living and labouring conditions, the essence of bourgeois democracy becomes ever more apparent to the masses: liberal democracy is democracy for the capitalists and a dictatorship over the workers.

But this is not to suggest that the people, disillusioned, are naturally led to the conclusion that proletarian democracy / dictatorship of the proletariat is the necessary and most desirable alternative to capitalism’s historical decline. That global capitalism is a moribund and thoroughly destructive economic system that can only bring greater horrors to humanity is the reality which all manner of bourgeois politicians and propagandists actively work to obscure, distort and/or divert our attention from. When imperialism can no longer offer the masses bread and circuses, the circus must compensate for the shortage of bread. The crisis of bourgeois democracy is its declining legitimacy in the eyes of an ever increasing proportion of the masses.

Two distinct, but complementary currents of the imperialist bourgeoisie – the liberal and the conservative – simultaneously struggle to manage this political crisis through, on the one hand, various desperate attempts to relegitimize liberal democracy, combined with, one the other hand, propagating reactionary sentiments and engineering the reactionary mobilization of the masses to divert a certain section of the masses from a revolutionary course and to provide a counter-revolutionary bulwark against the rest of the revolutionary forces.

The first political current is the struggle to maintain the legitimacy of liberal democracy in the face of popular disillusionment. The imperialists must maintain the illusion that “change” is possible through liberal democratic political renewal. The euphoric election of U.S. President Obama in 2008 is one such case in point. American imperialism required a black figure to reconstitute its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people and the world. The election of this liberal Messiah Obama also assisted in the demobilization and containment of the oppressed nations in the U.S. – especially the Chicano and New Afrikan nations – which constitute the most oppressed and exploited sections of the proletariat.

Alongside the containment of revolutionary forces by liberalism and social democracy, we must also consider the rise of right-wing populism and proto-fascism in the imperialist countries. The installation of a Black President in the U.S. also had the (complimentary) effect of encouraging the reactionary mobilization of the whiter and more privileged workers and petty-bourgeois masses who are seeing their own situations deteriorate. The most notable example of this phenomenon has been the meteoric rise of the proto-fascist Tea Party in the U.S., which preys on the anxieties of the white petty-bourgeoisie and the more privileged sections of the white working-class whose circumstances are deteriorating. The corporate media in the U.S., from CNN to Fox, has encouraged this phenomenon by hurling ludicrous charges at Obama as a “socialist” and allowing fascists like Glen Beck to stir up the reactionary mobilizations on prime-time television. In Canada, the imperialist bourgeoisie has not yet seriously encouraged an active mobilization of people on a reactionary basis, but the racist, imperialist, colonial, and chauvinistic rantings of Canada’s media and publishing cartel keeps the masses cranked up on reactionary ideas.

The function of reactionary mobilization of the masses in the imperialist countries serves to manage the discontent of the masses by offering pseudo-critiques of bourgeois politics, while containing the struggles of the people within an overall bourgeois framework (albeit on a more reactionary basis).

The landslide mayoral victory of right-wing populist Rob Ford in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is another example of this trend. Even if Ford did not rely on an active reactionary mobilization to get elected, he came to power by attacking the decadence of Toronto’s social democratic City Hall under the six year administration of Mayor David Miller.

Under his six year term, Miller and the Ontario Provincial government attacked transit workers in April 2008 and city workers in the summer of 2009. The corporate media assisted the municipal government’s attacks on workers by whipping up anti-union sentiment amongst the rest of the working class who were only slightly inconvenienced by the strike actions of ATU Local 113 and CUPE Locals 79 and 416.

Under Miller, funding to Toronto Police Services increased by 40% to $900 million per year. Overall, Miller served as a trusted manager of an underfunded municipality that is to a large extent the product of neoliberal policies from higher levels of government.

Consequently, the discontent of people in Toronto – from homeowners paying more and more property taxes to the increasingly under-serviced and ghettoized working-class – was channelled by Ford into a right-wing populist attack on all city hall politicians. Ford – despite his racist, anti-union, misogynist, sexist buffoonery and despite the fact that he himself is a factory owner and a millionaire – succeeded in fashioning himself into a man of the people who would clean up City Hall and “stop the gravy train”. The social democrats in City Hall had no program to counter Ford. Their response was to put up a feeble and thoroughly uninspiring candidate Joe Pantalone, the former councillor and Deputy Mayor who could offer little more than more of the same. David Miller’s city hall, defended by the lieutenants of labour and social democrats, is a noteworthy example of how social democrats can serve as the most loyal managers of capitalism. Indeed, Miller oversaw one of the world’s leading capitalist metropolises so well that he was offered a job at the World Bank to advise on urban issues

Summing up the Conservative-led federal governments, 2006-2011

After five years of the Conservative-led government’s reactionary reforms – reforms passively accepted and shallowly critiqued by the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois pseudo-opponents – on March 25, 2011 the Conservatives were brought down after being found in contempt of Parliament for not disclosing the full details of their spending on military jets, prisons, and corporate tax cuts. To be sure, the Conservatives were flagrantly in contempt of bourgeois democracy. But what about contempt for the people? The Conservatives are slapped with contempt when they cheat, deceive, or offend other bourgeois politicians, but not the people?

How many occasions did “the opposition” have to bring down the government or at least present a deeper critique of the Conservatives on matters of far greater concern and appeal to broad masses of Canadians than matters of Parliamentary procedure?

Time and time again, the people have been lied to about Canada’s military occupation of Afghanistan, which was recently extended for the umpteenth time, now to 2013. Instead the opposition parties offer criticisms about the Conservatives allowing for transfers of Afghan detainees to Afghan authorities.

Where was the opposition when, only days before the last Federal election in October 2008, the Conservatives bailed out Canada’s banks with the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (detailed above)?

Does the opposition really oppose the absurd increases in prison spending and military spending running into the tens of billions, or would they themselves only act with a little more modesty?

Where was Canada’s supposed humanitarianism – never more than a chimera – when it came to the Sri Lankan Army’s massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians? Instead of condemn and oppose Sri Lanka’s genocidal war against the Tamils, they joined in on the attack on the domestic front by whipping up the spectre of Tamil Tiger “terrorists” within Canada. The arrival of boatloads of Tamil refugees in 2009 and again in 2010 was then used as a pretext to introduce the reactionary Bill C-49 legislation to criminalize refugees who are “smuggled” into Canada.

All political parties represented in Canada’s Parliament are united in their support for Zionism and Israeli expansionism, as evidenced by Canada’s overall unwavering support to Israel, including during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon and the 2009 siege on Gaza.

Are not all bourgeois parties united in their support of the ongoing colonization of the unceded treaty lands of indigenous peoples. For decades, the Federal government has been stalling on the hundreds and hundreds of outstanding land claims of indigenous peoples and nations.

After fives years of a Conservative minority government, we have: the “age of austerity” and an intensification of attacks on workers; economic stagnation and increasing unemployment; rampant militarism, with imperialist military interventions in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Libya; more repressive policing, with policies that criminalize people to a greater extent, and the furious construction prisons to house these criminals; and Canada’s unwavering support to criminal regimes in Colombia, Philippines, Israel, and Sri Lanka. These are not the policies of a single political party. These are the policies of the Canada’s imperialist ruling class and all the bourgeois parties are united around them. They will persist under any combination of parties to emerge out of the next Federal election.

In the lead up to the next elections, let’s expose to the people whose interests these parties really serve.

(3) The role of electoralism in keeping the proletariat demobilized as a class for itself

The proletariat is encouraged to view voting as their main form of political expression and power.

In every imperialist country, electoral abstentionism is on the rise. More and more people, especially proletarians, believe that their votes count for nothing, that all politicians are more or less a bunch of deceitful opportunists. “Politics” is increasingly discredited in the eyes of the masses. Bourgeois political scientists and professors of sociology scratch their heads when confronted with this phenomenon and speculate to no end about the cause of people’s “apathy”. In the October 2008 Federal Elections in Canada, only 58.8% of the electorate voted, the continuation of a downward trend amongst Canadians and the lowest participation rate since Confederation in 1867. Nearly a million less people voted in the 2008 Federal Elections than had voted in 2006!

The low voter turnout in 2008 incited the the most vitriolic contempt against non-voters from the liberal fundamentalists. These faithful believers in liberal democracy lambasted those who abstained as taking for granted “our cherished democracy”. Some of these liberal fundamentalists have even dared suggest that voting is a “minimum criteria for citizenship”, as if people do not have a liberal democratic right to reject and abstain from the electoral circus. Often these paternalistic remarks were laden with racist undertones, directed against newer Canadian citizens.

But what becomes the “public agenda” and the main issues that determine the course of the debates that make up an election are not formulated by the proletarian masses or by colonized people in Canada, but big capital and its agents, especially the media. The people know this. The corporate media blast us everyday with their pro-imperialist monotone messages. Long before the ballots are cast, the outcome of elections are more or less decided in the media.

The proletariat will not become a protagonist of history until its reconstitutes its independence and regains the initiative in the class struggle. The political objective of imperialist states is to keep the proletariat demobilized everywhere and under its hegemony – a system of repression that the (new) Communist Party of Italy has thoroughly described the universal character of imperialist states today, what they call the regime of preventive counter-revolution3.
We must avoid every tactic deployed by the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie, including electoralism, to demobilize and keep demobilized the proletariat. The error of electoralism refers to over-concentrating or subordinating the class struggle to electoral work or electoral fronts. Not all electoral work is electoralist. Electoral work can be used to complement and assist in the revolutionary accumulation of forces, rather than detract from or reverse the accumulation of forces.

Examples of this include the New Democratic Revolution in the Philippines, with the party lists advanced by the mass movement in bourgeois democratic elections. This electoral work has not deterred the revolutionary movement from advancing. Another example is the successful participation of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the Constituent Assembly elections. This experience is more difficult to assess from the outside, because while it did allow for a tremendous growth of the Maoist forces in Katmandu since the 2006 peace accords, some revolutionary mass work had to be abandoned in the country side and the People’s Liberation Army has had to remain inactive.

Only when revolutionary forces and resources are squandered in electoral work with no benefit to the advancement of the revolutionary movement, and when this error persists and entrenches itself into an organization and becomes the strategically essential to an organization can we clearly say that such an organization has become a obedient to bourgeois electoralism.

The revisionist Community Party of Canada and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) can be included amongst the forces who over-concentrate their activities in parliamentary struggle to no avail. With each federal election, they “throw it all” into electoral work without having any base or leadership in the masses (which their revisionist programs are not capable of to begin with).

The ‘entryism’ strategy employed by various species of Trotskyites, who advocate for building the ‘workers party’ from within the social democratic NDP, is the form of electoralism that is a vestige of the classical revisionism of the Second International. Instead of building the independent initiative of the proletariat in the class struggle, the time and energy of these ‘Marxists’ and ‘socialists’ are swallowed up by working for and propagating the line of the NDP and the labour aristocracy. Over time, most of those individuals engaged in ‘entryism’ end up looking more and more like the social democrats and labour aristocrats that they nominally oppose themselves to.

All variants of electoralism serve to keep the proletariat demobilized as a class conscious of itself and firmly under the leadership of bourgeois forces. All variants of electoralism serve to impose upon proletarians a slavish obedience to the political parameters set out by the bourgeoisie. Our challenge as revolutionary communists is to break with these parameters by reconstituting the revolutionary initiative of the proletariat outside of those institutions firmly under the thumb of our class enemy.

(4) The strategic position of the proletariat in Canada today: Demobilization and disarray

The self-organization of the proletariat and the constitution of a revolutionary party are the immediate tasks of revolutionary communists. These tasks consist of the development of a revolutionary mass movement, and the unification of all Marxist-Leninist-Maoist forces on the basis of principled ideological unity.

The only recourse of the proletariat and the masses is to advance the class struggle through self-organization outside the institutions of our enemies, outside of bourgeois politics, and to a large extent – until the forces of the proletariat are strong enough – sufficiently outside those organizations dominated by the labour aristocracy and social democracy. We need independent mass organizations, revolutionary legal organizations, and, ultimately, a clandestine or semi-clandestine vanguard Party of proletarian revolutionaries guided by the Program, strategy, and tactics developed incrementally through democratic centralist organization and guided by the mass line. Therefore, Revolutionary Initiative is in agreement with the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada that at a strategic level we must “boycott the state”, that is to say, we must focus our efforts on accumulating revolutionary forces beyond the control of the bourgeois state. Indeed, this is the only way to accumulate revolutionary forces.

At this moment, the proletariat in Canada is in a state of strategic demobilization, that is to say, the proletariat is not organized for revolutionary class struggle and is firmly under the leadership of all sorts of bourgeois influences and organizations. The labour aristocracy and social democracy is included as one of these influences, since the labour aristocracy has no program for the working class independent of the imperialist bourgeoisie. That this is the case is evidenced by three decades of attacks on the working class where social democracy has been thoroughly incapable of defending the working-class against the neoliberal offensive.

While the proletariat is in a state of strategic demobilization, that imperialism is in a state of strategic decline implies that the conditions for revolutionary class struggle are improving on every front. Despite the low level of revolutionary forces and independent mass organizations today, the conditions for building the revolutionary movement are improving.

(5) Electoral tactics and the revolutionary strategy of Marxist-Leninist-Maoists in Canada

At their 2nd Canadian Revolutionary Congress held in Toronto in December 2010, the RCP-Canada made a series of proposals to advance the “new class struggle” in Canada,4 which included a proposal to launch a campaign to boycott the next federal elections.

Since our founding, R.I. has maintained that electoral tactics and parliamentary struggle would be a “secondary form of struggle” in the building of a revolutionary movement. As we wrote in our document “Theses on the Party Building Movement in Canada” in the Spring of 2008:

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 people’s just demands, to both win concessions from the monopoly bourgeoisie and to prove to the masses the limitations inherent to bourgeoisie legality.

In this same document we rejected both the parliamentary cretinism of the CPC and CPC-ML, but also any ultra-left tendencies that completely rejected the use of electoral tactics for all phases of the revolutionary struggle:

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.

Again, we should emphasize the point that without a formidable Party leading a revolutionary mass movement, electoral work will be a waste of our time and energy. Our point in these early documents was to clarify that the Party should not completely oppose the possible use of electoral tactics for all stages of revolutionary struggle. To clarify, we maintain that at no point will electoral work become a principal means of struggle. The dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie cannot be ruptured from within its institutions, but only through its annihilation by the forces of proletarian revolution that are constituted sufficiently outside its control.

Admittedly, our initial formulation of electoral tactics as a “secondary form of struggle” was a broad one that left room for widely varying interpretations. Given the low level of organization of the proletariat today, as discussed above, we believe that elections can only serve to reinforce bourgeois hegemony and proletarian disunity. Therefore, we stand with the RCP-Canada in rejecting the participation of the masses in electoral politics at the current phase of revolutionary struggle.

At a strategic level, we believe that R.I. and RCP-Canada do not differ in our understanding of the potential tactical utility of elections, the specifics of which are open to debate for a future moment when the proletarian revolution is advancing. We are currently united in opposition to any form of direct electoral tactics under the current conditions and we are both for the deployment of boycott campaigns against the theatre of bourgeois of politics, which each organization will pursue according to its own methods of work.

The question that does remain, however, is how do we transform the passive electoral abstentionism of the masses into something more active and conscious, into the mass organizational means to materialize not just a rejection of electoralism, but revolutionary mass action?

In the upcoming elections, R.I. calls on all revolutionary forces to focus our agitation and propaganda onto exposing the pro-imperialist, pro-monopoly capitalist character of all the parties. Let’s demonstrate, through a careful scrutiny of the past couple decades of Canada’s Federal and Provincial legislatures and through an analysis of the contemporary platforms of each of the main parties, how each and every force in Parliament will engineer a new round of assaults on the working class. Finally, let’s build the mass organizations of the proletariat to advance the class struggle. Through a careful exposure of the policies of each of the bourgeois parties, including the N.D.P., let’s draw the masses to the conclusion that a boycott is in fact necessary and that the only option available to us is to organize ourselves for revolution.

In the present crisis, all the proponents of bourgeois democracy – from conservatives and liberals to social democrats – are forced onto the same page of history: To defend the decadent, moribund, decaying, parasitic, truly apocalyptic order of monopoly capitalism from nearly indistinguishable vantage points. All these forces are antagonist to the interests of the proletariat. None can solve the crises of monopoly capitalism without catastrophic consequences for humanity and the foundations of life on earth.


Imperialism is waging its assaults on all sections of the working-class, and this places the proletarian revolution in a strategically improving position. However, in Canada, the proletariat is demobilized and in disarray. Despite the widespread disillusionment of the masses with liberal democracy, the working-class remains firmly under the leadership of our class enemy. Despite the fact that the social relations of monopoly capitalist society can no longer afford concessions to the working-class in the imperialist countries, the proletariat does not yet have the organizational, political, or ideological means to launch a revolutionary offensive, let alone to defend ourselves from an offensive of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

Social democracy no longer has a program that appeals to the working-class, but that’s not to say that social-democratic thinking does not persist. Even amongst many of the “radical Left”, what predominates are left Keynesian calls for wealth redistribution and rolling back some of the past decades neoliberal reforms. But the crisis of imperialism has closed the era of “class peace” and class compromise in the imperialist countries. Only two options exist: proletarian revolution or imperialism.

We must renew revolutionary class struggle in Canada through remobilizing the masses, constituting new independent organizations of the proletariat, and rebuilding its revolutionary Party.

Wherever we revolutionary communists have influence, we must prevent the independent initiative of the masses from being thwarted, diverted, and/or re-subordinated to the petty theatre of bourgeois politics.

Let’s expose to the proletarian masses that capitalism has nothing to offer us but greater misery!

Let’s break the stranglehold of the imperialist bourgeoisie over the people!

Let’s unite all Marxist-Leninist-Maoists on a principled basis to lead the new class struggle!

One thought on “Expose the electoral circus and build the revolutionary forces

  1. A very thorough and eye-opening article. Electoral work and electoralism are two concepts that needs to be defined in more concrete terms and spread to the masses. It is about time that the sham that is elections is exposed for what it is – maintaining the status quo!

    Mervin Blaauw

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