No objective person can fail to see that the presidential election is currently the main form of the class struggle in our country. The working class and its allies on the one hand and the right-wing extremist section of corporate power on the other are committing all the resources at their disposal to this fight.
The AFL-CIO has promised to mobilize 400,000 volunteers and to provide this huge army with all the funds, literature and organization it can muster. Labor’s allies among minorities, women, youth and many others will add tens of thousands more to build this mass movement to re-elect President Barack Obama, defend democracy and prevent an all-out legislative assault on the living standards and basic rights of the American people.
On the other hand, every right-wing extremist group is trying to activate its members and use unprecedented corporate funds to spread fear, lies and hatred for the president in hopes of dividing and intimidating the working class, suppressing its vote and electing the GOP candidate, presumably Mitt Romney.
The reelection of Obama together with a supportive Congress alone will not guarantee solutions to the serious problems facing our country, but it will greatly improve the ability of the American people to fight to end the economic crisis, create jobs, assure the rights of labor, minorities, women, immigrants and the LGBT community and address severe challenges in areas of health, education, retirement, the environment and government services.
On the other hand, if Romney wins and Republicans control Congress, the American people will be forced to fight for basic survival and the most elementary social, economic and political rights.
This became clear from the results of the 2010 elections when victorious right-wing extremists forced the working class and people in many states into protracted battles to preserve long-established rights of labor, minorities, immigrants and women, as well as access to public education, social services, voting and, in the case of Michigan, even the right to self-government.
Despite the stark differences, despite all that is at stake and despite the obvious mobilization of personnel and resources on both sides, some on the left, in the Occupy movement and among progressive intellectuals continue with a variety of pretexts, usually some criticism of Obama, to denigrate and disparage the electoral battle, to discourage active participation in it and spread the outrageous claim that the outcome is irrelevant.
It’s obvious who benefits from this. It plays directly into the hands of the Republicans and the one-percenters who seek by any means necessary to suppress and demobilize the votes of the working class and its allies. In fact, it amounts to an abandonment of the fight and a complete capitulation to the most reactionary, anti-democratic forces in our country.
The leftists who hold these views seek to justify themselves with the claim that elections in our country are “rigged” or, at least, favor corporate forces. They also advance the strange argument that elections, involving hundreds of thousands in rallies, intense persuasion and door-to-door canvassing and eventually engaging tens of millions, are not mass movements.
The fact is that in every arena of the class struggle under capitalism workers fight an uphill battle. Corporate power is not called “the ruling class” for nothing. Even in the best of circumstances, when unionized workers simply seek a contract, they operate in a playing field where employers have the power to lock them out, hire scabs and threaten to shut the plant – a threat that they sometimes carry out.
The outcome is always some kind of compromise far short of ending capitalism. Does this mean progressive forces should turn their backs on the fight and downplay its importance?
The Communist Manifesto emphatically rejects this idea. It states that the class struggle is an objective reality, not something that socialists invent, create or instigate. It may not and generally does not take the form that left forces might prefer and it goes on whether or not they choose to participate. But the Manifesto states that, regardless of the form the class struggle takes, the role of socialists is to “fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class” and “in the movement of the present” also to “take care of the future of that movement.”
In other words, you may choose to abstain from the 2012 elections, but, if you do, you will not advance the fight for socialism, you will do nothing to affect the balance of forces or bring about “the final conflict.”
To move the ball towards the goal you must be on the field. Everyone can take part and a myriad of skills are needed. At each stage your impact will depend on how hard and how well you play. But one thing is certain – you will have no influence if you sit out the game.