How to Build Working-Class Power

  • Statement about: Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin
  • For these candidates: I oppose endorsing these candidates.
  • Summary: Our capacities outside of electoral politics have been neglected. Fixing this problem is necessary for building working-class power.

Written by East Bay DSA members Connor L. and Justin G.

An analysis of today's political reality shows that support for Beckles and McLaughlin will not build working-class power. In fact, allocating resources to their campaigns will make us significantly weaker.

The question of support for Beckles and McLaughlin is not about abstract principles. It is, instead, a question of strategy that is appropriate to our shared material situation. Following Rosa Luxemburg's Reform and Revolution, we can roughly divide our analysis between electoral politics, and the politics of class struggle. Using this lens to look at today's political situation, what do we see?

On one side there is an overdevelopment of electoral capacities. Well-trodden by non-profit organizations, this realm of politics is extremely clear-cut. There are, for example, specific electoral timelines; methods for exposing and publicizing shady donors; a clear "voter" subject-role; and well-developed pressure tactics that employ us in our capacity as voters, like calling a legislator, hosting town hall meetings, or gathering petitions.

On the other side there is a stunning underdevelopment of class struggle. Over 30 years of counter-revolution has made our class's ability to conduct class struggle weaker than ever. What remains are mostly the ruins of previous forms: fossilized and increasingly defunct labor unions; community organizations that are utterly toothless; and infrequent movements that are consigned to purely symbolic tactics.

Unfortunately, focusing on electoral politics will only further decay working-class power, because our time will be needlessly spent on already-overdeveloped electoral capacities. This is not a theoretical issue, but an urgent and material problem. If we are unable or unwilling to address the problem of class struggle, our politics will veer towards reformism, regardless of our intentions. As we all know, socialism will never be legislated into existence. But if our maturely developed tools and organizational structures only exist in the electoral sphere, then our radical rhetoric matters very little.

Because of today's unstable capitalism, we have a unique opportunity to rebuild our class's ability to engage in class struggle. We can do this by devoting significant resources towards developing new types of working-class organization outside of electoral politics. With our numbers, it is reasonable to think that we can begin organizing in our workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities.

If we take today's concrete political situation seriously, we can lay the foundation for enduring working-class power.

The statement above is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the opinions of East Bay DSA, its local council, or its members.