In Support of Class Struggle Elections

Hasan A.

Greetings, comrades! Most of you will probably vote “YES” this year on the Class-Struggle Election priorities resolution that I co-authored. For that, I thank you in advance! Some of you, however, oppose electoral politics in general. You find our chapter's electoral work excessive, and consider yourself more “to the left.” It is you I wish to address, as you are the comrades I am closest with. It is you who should be the most adamant about voting “YES.” That becomes clear if we apply a materialist analysis - not just to what our organization does - but to our organization itself.

Many of you were surprised that I co-authored this resolution, as I have deliberately abstained from electoral work. I am in the Communist Caucus, which does NO electoral work, as a caucus (though some members do individually). I helped our caucus create a local tenant union network called TANC, which also bars electoral work, as an organization. Some of us liked Bernie, voted, or even canvassed for him. But we disagreed with the notion that the electoral arena was the most strategic one for reaching working-class people or building working-class power. Some of us disagreed that it built working-class power at all! I believe that the state is the most violent and anti-worker institution in our society, and that working within it is more dangerous than people realize. I will, as an individual, continue to abstain from electoral work on principle, to practice what I preach and model that another way is possible.

However, this resolution is not a referendum on electoralism. In fact, many of the people who have advanced “Class Struggle Election” doctrine are explicitly anti-electoralist. This resolution is a plan for our organization's electoral work for the year. Electoral work exists in our org. Currently. This is a material condition. In regards to that work, our chapter can have firm boundaries, weak boundaries, or no boundaries. A vote against this resolution is a vote against boundaries.

No plan is also a plan. Before the now-defunct “Left Caucus” pulled it leftward in 2015-16 and helped transform it into the org that most of us felt was worth joining, DSA's 40-year strategy was “re-alignment.” That is, endorsing the lesser of two evils in every race, and working within the Democratic party to pull it left. CSE is a Marxist intervention that challenges that. CSE replaces campaigns that put the org to work for random candidates, with a few select campaigns that put the candidates to work for the org (and other working-class institutions). CSE replaces hope in top-down change that begins after a candidate's victory, with bottom-up organizing along a class-conscious political line that proceeds throughout the campaign whether the candidate wins or not.  That is a substantive difference between traditional and “class struggle” campaigns. 

You might believe that all electoral work is electoralism, and that it's all bad. If that's the case, don't do electoral work. I don't. There are plenty of other things to do. But electoral work WILL be a part of our chapter and our organization for the next year, whether anarchists and anti-state communists participate or not. We need criteria that sets firm boundaries with local politicians, and ensures that endorsements are limited to those where resources flow between working-class formations, not from those formations to a candidate. No plan is also a plan

This convention, anti-state comrades opposed to electoralism have 3 options:

  1. Ban electoral work completely. Personally, I believe that some of our chapter's electoral work has been good for the chapter and good for the working-class. You might disagree. But nobody has attempted to ban electoral work, and it is not an option for this convention. Thus, despite your intentions, a “NO” vote is not a vote for this. A “NO” vote is a vote for...
  2. Allow all electoral work, with no pre-existing criteria. This is what you are voting for if you abstain or vote no on CSE. Without CSE, all politicians will have equal access to our endorsements process, and we will have to debate and organize against every centrist that we oppose. It will also allow candidates who fight for “left” positions with problematic campaign structures.
  3. Renew CSE.

The only arguments I've heard from fellow anti-electoralists against CSE are arguments against electoralism, not CSE itself. A vote for CSE is not a vote for more elections. It is a vote for the only existing strategy that forces endorsed candidates to support our non-electoral projects!