The C.P. in the Elections

Reasons for Small Rise in Communist Vote This Year

(November 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 47, 19 November 1933, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The party leaders are now busily engaged in ignoring the results of the recent presidential elections, as though the party campaign was a mere routine matter the outcome of which is of no particular concern. To this date, there has not been a single statement from the Central Executive Committee analyzing the election results and summing up the party’s work. The only “official” word to be heard from the vicinity of the 13th Street Sinai is the statement issued after the elections by the party’s banner-bearer, Foster, in the manner of all the defeated bourgeois candidates. Aside from this, abysmal silence.

And there are adequate grounds for the muteness of the Stalinist chieftains. While small holes may be stuffed up with reports that this or that township doubled or trebled its Communist vote (the formula is usually: a rise from 10 votes to 25 votes!), the fact cannot be covered up or explained away that the vote for the presidential candidates of the Communist party this year was exceedingly small in comparison with the vast possibilities contained in the whole situation.

After four years of an unprecedented crisis, in the face of genuine all-national discontentment of the masses, an inability or refusal of any of the two big bourgeois parties to cope with the burning problem of unemployment – after all this, the only proletarian political party in the field is barely able to double the extremely low vote it obtained four years ago, that is, the vote cast at the “height of the prosperity period”. It is precisely in such periods of crisis, when millions of workers are divorced from industry itself and their economic power is radically (diminished – that is their ability to battle the enemy on the industrial front is enfeebled – that they turn their attention to “elections”. The unusually large vote cast indicates that the masses have by no means lost interest in parliamentary activity. Yet – the discontentment of the masses was reflected only in the very tiniest dribbles so far as the Communist vote was concerned.

In the face of this unqualifiedly disappointing vote – all other factors, like disfranchizement of Negro, foreign-born and other workers, considered – what becomes of the fantastic babblings of the Stalinists on the renowned “mass upsurges” and “deep-going radicalization” of the American masses? It is not for nothing that Foster’s statement (what a combination of words deliberately intended to say nothing – a disgraceful document for a Communist leader!) is blandly silent even about the word “radicalization”, which it never mentions, as if the party line had not been built up on this phrase for the last few years.

The current, unofficial explanations of the low Communist vote are, generally speaking, based upon a strained endeavor to think up something very profound and complicated to explain a comparatively simple phenomenon. The party leaders look upon the election campaign as something special, isolated, separated from all the other work of the party. We look upon it in the only correct and possible manner: as the numerical expression on the parliamentary field, which is at best a distorted and limited expression, it is true, of the success the party has had in winning to its banner the proletarian masses all during the rest of the year. It is a parliamentary culmination of the party’s work in the day-to-day struggles. The vote of the worker, as a rule, expresses the confidence or half-confidence he places in the party (sometimes, the individual) for whom he casts his ballot. The Communist party cannot gain this confidence by sensational campaign stunts during the elections, by prominent candidates, leaflets, torchlight parades and the like – important and necessary though they may be. It can be gained primarily and mainly in the course of the daily struggles in which the Communists participate.

If, during these struggles, the Communist pursues a policy which best represents the interests of the proletariat, he will be rewarded by an expression of confidence in a parliamentary election. If the party, on the other hand, succeeds only in isolating itself from the masses because of its absurd or disastrous policies in the class struggle, this fact will be reflected – as it has been – when elections roll around. These are axioms which apply – not so much (in fact, practically not at all) to the Republicans and Democrats, and very little to the socialists, as they do to the Communists. Tested in this light, the past policies of the Stalinists stand revealed as having barred the road to the revolutionary movement for tens and hundreds of thousands who were being driven in that direction by the bankruptcy of the capitalist regime and its supporters. Until this simple, elementary lesson of the election is absorbed into the consciousness of the party, its headway will continue to be impeded.

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