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 Post subject: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 6:18 pm 
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This is not about whether or not it's expedient for Communists to vote, or to field electoral candidates.

Every four or five years in Western Democracies we vote for a new government. Every four or five years we get the same arguments about how voting is useless, how we need to vote tactically for x to avoid y. We have to vote for Obama to avoid McCain. Clinton to avoid Trump. We need to vote for no-one because all elections are a trap set by the bourgeoisie.

Ultimately it doesn't matter, because 'we' are a handful of individuals. A minority of a minority of a minority. Elections aren't decided by the votes of individuals, they're decided by large voting blocks. Convincing Marxists to vote one way or another is meaningless, because as a group we're so tiny that our actions mean nothing either way.

With regards to the outcome of elections, it's completely out our control. Of course we can't pretend the election isn't happening, we can analyse it, criticise the tendencies involved, but our actions one way or the other won't change the outcome.

Our aim should be for it to matter. It doesn't actually matter what stance we take with regards to electoral politics, it matters whether or not the stance we take matters. And right now it doesn't matter. We shouldn't be focused on what we're going to do in the next four weeks, or four years, at the ballot box, but how we can build a movement that will be effective in transforming society, whether inside or outside the confines of the electoral process.

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"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 2:47 am 
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If we have the power to mobilise millions of people in the street to demand something, our opponent can just respond that numbers don't make us right, that numbers don't prove anything about the correctness etc. of our position – even if only yesterday, when we were weak, he dismissed our arguments simply on the grounds that we were weak.

I'm not convinced by the point (which I also hear from eg Ross Wolfe, who seems to think he derived it from Platypus1917) that by giving our position on this or the other subject (or in general on electoral politics) in this situation of our low numbers, we are just monday morning quarterbacks. It's supposed to be some radical critique of the left, but surely everyone on the "realistic" left is in fact saying that we should build our movement.


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 5:37 am 
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Once we have the numbers, though, we don't really have to care about what people say we can just do what we want.

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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 8:13 am 
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The specific problem raised here though is whether our stance on electoral politics matters. If you believe having the numbers means just parliamentary votes, then no, you won't be able to do what you want (as Social-Democracts themselves admit: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1262).


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:47 am 
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Noa wrote:
The specific problem raised here though is whether our stance on electoral politics matters. If you believe having the numbers means just parliamentary votes, then no, you won't be able to do what you want (as Social-Democracts themselves admit: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1262).



Well, there's a stance, and then there's a stance-- for example Greece; do you argue that voting is the trap, or that voting for Syriza is the trap. And yes, that matters a whole lot.

Making vote/not voting somewhat beside the point, as it makes a tactic into a principle. Sometimes you vote, because it serves your purposes; sometimes you don't.
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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 11:22 am 
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Okay, but you're already engaged in a disagreement on principled rejection of electoralism, so you don't think you can just "transcend" such debate merely because the participants are few.


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 4:41 pm 
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Noa wrote:
Okay, but you're already engaged in a disagreement on principled rejection of electoralism, so you don't think you can just "transcend" such debate merely because the participants are few.


The point I'm making is, I think, corollary to Z.'s-- that it's really a waste of time to argue about a "principled rejection" of electoralism.

Really, what do you say when Syriza is running-- "don't vote, voting is a trap," or do you say "No support to Syriza. Repudiate the debt"?


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 8:42 am 
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You're still engaging in putting forth positions in elections. I think Z. is saying that that is meaningless/unimportant, since we (Marxists) are now just a tiny few individuals, though he adds: "[o]f course we can't pretend the election isn't happening, we can analyse it, criticise the tendencies involved".

I understand this in a liquidationist sense, that we don't put forth positions, just keep our opinions to ourselves (on our boards/closed FB groups).

It's also odd to me because discussing politics is boring, so why suffer a discussion of politics just in our tiny group (eg open a thread on British elections) but don't share our views to the outside audience.

And what does "building the movement" mean if it doesn't include providing political positions and commentary? Iskra anyone?

A potential problem with political commentary is not that it distracts from building the movement, but rather from theoretical work, as Isaac Hourwich wrote:

All the academic acumen of the socialists has been devoted to the needs of socialistic propaganda and absorbed in the stultifying work of newspaper editing.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1819469?seq ... b_contents


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 3:26 pm 
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Z can answer for himself.

But this...

Quote:
A potential problem with political commentary is not that it distracts from building the movement, but rather from theoretical work, as Isaac Hourwich wrote:

All the academic acumen of the socialists has been devoted to the needs of socialistic propaganda and absorbed in the stultifying work of newspaper editing.


really boggles the mind. Exactly how doe political commentary distract not from "building the movement" but rather "theoretical work" when the point of "theoretical work" is precisely to build the movement-- or so said somebodies or the others in Theses on Feuerbach.

"All the academic acumen of socialists......" Really? Academic acumen? That's what's required? Well, hell's bells, we should be in socialist Eden right about now, with the likes of Historical Materialism group, the number of academic conferences programmed to "celebrate" the 150th anniversary publication of Capital.

Academic acumen? Like that of......Lukacs-- the so-called "greatest Marxist since Marx" who couldn't genuflect in front of Stalin quickly enough? Or like Adorno? Oh yeah, that's exactly what we need, another iteration of critical criticism.

You're missing the point, Noa, there are is no "theoretical work" that does not, and does not need to tie into "building the movement." That's kind of the whole point to Marx's critique of capital, and of value-- i.e. that these are social relations; conflicts, in and between labor and the condition, social organization of labor; conflicts between means and relations of production.


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 Post subject: Re: The Trap of Electoral Politics
PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 3:11 am 
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The Hourwich-quote is from 1894, in the midst of the German socialist party's "astounding growth". His complaint about the insufficiency of its (or in general the Second International's) theoretical depth surely was something Marxists felt the same about (and still more so later following the critique by Lenin). However, compared to later (including Lukacs, Adorno et al.), the Second International was a golden time of Marxist theory.


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