Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Electoral Struggle – A Step Forward

First Published: People’s Tribune, Vol. 3, No. 24, November 15, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As everyone who has been reading the People’s Tribune knows, the Communist Labor Party has engaged in the recent elections in 3 cities–Detroit, New York, and San Francisco. It is important for us to analyze the results of these particular campaigns as well as the over-all lessons for a working class party in the electoral struggle.

Firstly, it can be flatly stated that our party made a tremendous impact, for our size, on the elections. This is particularly true in Detroit where our candidate General Baker garnered 10% of the vote, beat the Republican, and received 1,900 out of 19,000 votes.

In San Francisco our candidate for Board of Education, Michael C. Miller, received over 17,000 votes. In New York, Arthur Goldberg received 1,000 votes even though our candidate’s name did not appear on the ballot in many precincts.

In short, the Communist Labor Party in its first outing in electoral politics received 20,000 votes. This victory attests not only to the organizational abilities and sacrifices of our comrades and friends, but also to the fact that there is a real basis for socialism in the ranks of the workers of this country.

The problem we have now is how to utilize this basis of support that we have, to consolidate and build the party on the one hand, and to develop the struggle for socialism in this country on the other.

To start with, we must first restate our position on electoral work. We do not think that the present capitalist system can be changed by voting socialism into power. Nor do we believe that capitalist politicians can be moved into taking more progressive stands by piling up votes for Communists. And neither do we subscribe to the position that we should run just “educational” campaigns and not serious campaigns to represent the workers and win them to the cause of socialism. What capitalist elections represent to the masses of people is no more than what V.I. Lenin stated, a chance to vote for who is going to exploit them.

It is within this context that we participate in electoral work, for two main purposes: one to test the amount of support we have, a test of the consciousness of the working class, and secondly to elect candidates to represent the interests of the workers and have a platform to speak out in the governmental arena.

In order to understand the enormous tasks we have ahead of us, we must look at the results of the national elections. As everyone knows Carter squeaked by Ford with just 2 million more votes. Carter could have lost the election by losing New York alone or either Pennsylvania or Ohio or Texas combined with any one state. The relevant factor for us is: what was it that provided the margin of victory for the Democrats? It was the organized labor vote, the Negro vote and the under $10,000 a year income vote that did it. The Democrats received over 90% of the Negro vote, over 60% of the union vote and over 60% of the lowest income vote. It is true that these categories overlap considerably and at the heart of all three is the Negro proletarian. But the fact is that in the eyes of the masses of organized workers in this country, the Democratic Party is the party of labor.

One other factor that must be considered is the number of people voting. In this election a record number of people voted, 80 million plus; but, and this is most important to us, a record number of voters also didn’t vote, 70 million plus. Only 53% of the eligible electorate voted this was lower than the 1972 election. It is within this group of people that we will find the most downtrodden, oppressed and unorganized. Our Party must continue its goal of organizing and bringing into political struggle the mass of tries* people under the banner of socialism.

Election campaign work is not enough to accomplish this. In fact, electoral work is but a small part of the work our party needs to do if it is to change places, so to speak, with the Democratic Party, and become the revolutionary party of the working class. Carter and the Democrats had the support of virtually every major working class organization in this country, trade unions, community organizations, churches, etc. and these represent large mobilizing and organizing force.

Without C.O.P.E., the AFL-CIO’s political arm, and C.A.P., the UAW’s political arm, it would have been impossible for Carter to carry Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Ohio and a number of other states. The union almost carried Michigan, Illinois, California and New Jersey for the Democrats. The amount of support that the unions give the Democrats can be shown by one example. Our candidate in Detroit for the State Legislature, General Baker, an auto worker for over 10 years and a leader in the fight against discrimination in the auto plants was turned down when he requested support from the Wayne County C.A.P. Instead Wayne County C.A.P. supported his opponent George Edwards who is Chairman of the Finance and Banking Commission in the legislature and husband of the Vice-President of Motown.

It should be clear that as long as the unions and other mass organizations are tied to the Democrats that the working class cannot move forward. Our Party has before it the task of changing this situation.

In the coming period of time we need to consolidate into our ranks as many of the 20,000 people who voted for us as possible and to get into the trade unions in a real way, build our party in the factories and win the workers’ organizations over to the cause socialism.