The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Right to Vote and Class Democracy

Jan 31, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK workplace newsletters during the week of January 24, 2022.

Democrats scheduled a vote on legislation that, they said, would protect the “right to vote.” With all Republicans opposed, Democrats needed the vote of every Democratic senator. They didn’t get them all. “Voting rights” went down to defeat.

Once again, the Democrats, in control of both Houses of Congress as well as the Presidency, couldn’t pull themselves together to fulfill a campaign promise.

Republicans are very clear on this issue. In states where they control the legislature, they have been passing measures to restrict the right to vote.

In some states, for example, Republicans passed a law requiring people who miss voting for two times to re-register before they can vote again. In other states, they passed laws reducing the amount of time polls can be open. They passed laws making it more difficult to vote absentee. They passed laws requiring two pieces of identification, one with your picture, when you show up to vote.

A common thread runs through all these state laws. They make it harder to vote. No matter how Republicans twist and turn, trying to justify such provisions, there is one clear practical result: they restrict the number of people who will vote.

And not just people in the abstract, but people who have to work for their living, people in lower-paid jobs, people whose boss doesn’t let them get off work to vote, people who work long hours, going to work before the polls open, stuck in work almost until they close.

All these measures show the disdain the Republicans have for democracy.

That doesn’t mean the Democratic Party defends democracy. Its “voting rights” bill doesn’t even guarantee the right to vote to everyone. People who have worked in this country for years, paid taxes for years, contributed to the wealth of this country through their labor still cannot vote if they didn’t go through all the steps to gain citizenship. It may seem obvious to some people that immigrants should not vote—well, for quite a number of decades in the earlier history of this country citizenship was not considered a requirement for voting. This is only one example.

But even if that bill would have made it possible for every single person in the country to vote every time, it still would not have guaranteed democracy.

Democracy, if it has any meaning at all for working people, must rest on those people having the possibility to choose representatives who actually represent their own class interests.

The majority of people sitting in the U.S. Congress are millionaires. That’s no accident. They are simply part of a class that benefits from the functioning of capitalist exploitation.

It’s no surprise that the legislation Congress produces reinforces the pursuit of profit—even when it supposedly is designed to help the population.

Take the recent “infrastructure” bill. The money to go for bridges, roads, dams, etc. will be funneled through the pockets of private companies that are guaranteed a certain level of profit before any road is built.

Look at all the money distributed by these two parties to deal with Covid. Much of it continues to go to big pharmaceutical companies that are left free to set the level of profit they want.

Look at Obamacare. The biggest beneficiaries of that law have been the for-profit hospital systems and the for-profit pharmaceutical companies. The respect such laws show for profit is a big reason medical care costs so much.

The Republicans openly show their disdain for the working population. The Democrats just do it in a different way: by playing politics with something like voting rights, making promises they know they won’t keep. Or they pretend to pass legislation to serve the population, but they write it so as to serve the pursuit of profit.

Democracy—like everything else both parties twist—is based on class. Their “democracy” is “democracy” for the capitalist class.

Working people need to build their own.