Does it matter which party wins?

It is obvious that there is a growing feeling of frustration and even anger among supporters of the Democratic Party with its performance over the past two years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking for the labor movement, strongly expressed this unhappiness in some recent speeches.

I am disappointed too with some aspects of the Obama administration’s domestic and foreign policy.

But I don’t forget that this administration governs in a very hostile political environment in which the right is laboring overtime to wreck its initiatives at every step of the way.

In addition, there are the structural pressures of governing in a capitalist economy and state.

Then there are conservative pressures coming from some congressional Democrats and members of the administration.

Everything can’t be explained away by the objective context, however. The president and his administration can be faulted for a number of policy decisions.

But the main question from a strategic point of view is this: Does it make any difference, from the standpoint of the class and democratic struggles, which party gains political ascendency? 

Some – though not the labor movement nor other mass organizations of the American people – say no, it doesn’t.

Some even go a step further and say a Democratic victory creates popular illusions, which in turn weaken the people’s struggles. And the only way out of this vise is to form a third party now. 

Communists don’t agree with either one of these views. In our view, the differences between the two parties of capitalism are of consequence to class and democratic struggles. 

Neither party is anti-capitalist, but they aren’t identical either. Differences exist at the levels of policy and social composition. And despite the many frustrations of the past two years, the election of Barack Obama was historic and gave space to struggle for a people’s agenda.

If, on the other hand, the Republicans had been victorious in 2008 the character of class and democratic struggles would have unfolded very differently. Our movement would have been on the defensive from Day One, the Democrats would be running for cover, and the Republicans would have an unfettered hand in their efforts to liquidate the welfare state, roll back the rights revolution of the 1930s and 1960s, and crush the people’s movement – labor in the first place.

As for the wisdom of a third party, we have always advocated the formation of an independent people’s party at the core of which are the working class and labor, racially and nationally oppressed people, women, youth, immigrants, seniors, gay and straight, etc. It is essential for any deep-going social change. But its realization depends on more than our desire, more than our political-ideological attitude. Millions who have to be at the core of this party still operate under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, albeit increasingly in an independent fashion.

Moreover, to separate ourselves at this moment from these forces would be contrary to our strategic policy of building maximum unity against right-wing extremism now and in next year’s elections.

Now that doesn’t mean that we give up our advocacy of an independent people’s party, but we also understand that its formation is dictated by concrete political realities and strategic necessities. Nor does it mean that we hit the mute button when the Obama administration takes positions that we don’t agree with. Just as we show no hesitation in supporting, and fighting for, the administration’s progressive initiatives, we should have no compunction about taking issue with the administration when it takes positions that we don’t agree on.

Which is what we have done. 

When someone says we are not critical of the administration what they usually mean is that our criticism isn’t as sweeping and categorical as they would like. 

We make criticisms, but we do it in a certain context and with a certain strategic objective in mind. We are keenly aware of the fact that the agenda of the far right is to bring this administration and country to its knees, with a heavy dose of racism, lies and economic sabotage, setting the stage for a full blown return to power of the most reactionary, racist, anti-labor, anti-women, homophobic and militarist grouping in U.S. politics. 

We want no part of that. We don’t have any illusions about the Democratic Party, but we don’t have any illusions about the Republican Party either.

Furthermore, we are also aware of the undeniable fact that no other party besides the Democratic Party stands a chance of beating the GOP next year.

Photo: Night-thing CC 2.0 



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Paryt USA. He served as the party's national chairperson from 2000 to 2014. Previously he was the state organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.

He is a public spokesperson for the CPUSA, and travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, including trips to South Africa, China, Vietnam, and Cuba where he met with leaders of those countries.

Webb currently resides in New York City, graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and received his MA in economics from the University of Connecticut.