Apr 30, 2012
The November election campaign has begun. Not formally, not officially. The Republicans haven’t even finished the primaries. But it’s obvious to everyone that Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, will oppose Barack Obama, the Democrat installed in the White House.
What interest is there for the workers in this election? The only choice we are offered is between an open enemy and a false friend – millionaires both of them, defenders of the capitalist system, enforcers of exploitation. The choice we are offered is between a party that speaks for the big banks and the big industrialists – and another party that, while it gets some of its money from the unions, acts for the big banks and the big industrialists.
Here is the plain and simple truth: there is no party of the working class. And has not been for decades.
One hundred years ago, in 1912, Eugene V. Debs ran for the presidency on the Socialist ticket. He did not expect to win, knowing then, just like today, that money controls the outcome of elections in capitalist society. But he ran to let speak all those who otherwise would not be heard.
Six years later, he was put on trial for supporting the Russian Revolution and opposing the first big imperialist war, World War I. Two years later, while behind bars in federal prison, he won nearly a million votes in the 1920 elections. It was only 3.4% of the vote, but it showed that in the working class there already was a sizeable current who agreed that it was necessary to “organize not to conciliate but to fight against the capitalist class.”
Debs was not a “politician,” not someone whose aim was to fool as many people as he could. He used the electoral platform to speak the truth about the capitalist system, a system in which we are still trapped: “I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”
He was truly a militant of his class – having led the great railway strike of 1894, spending time in prison for that also, declaring, along with Marx, that the emancipation of the working class can be carried out only by the working class itself.
If we want to go forward, we have to resurrect our history – a history filled with working class militants like Debs, or like the many devoted, and often nameless revolutionary syndicalists who made up the IWW, or the selfless and committed activists who made up the Communist Party or the Communist League.
But it’s not just militants, individuals. The working class needs its own party, built around the conviction held by all those revolutionaries that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common” – in the words of the IWW.
That’s never been more true, perhaps, than today. The capitalist class has engaged itself in a great war, a class war against all of us who do the work necessary to make this society run. Up until now, it has been a very one-sided war, because workers have not found the way to join together in a common struggle against our enemies – against the bankers, the big industrialists and the politicians and governments that serve the capitalists.
But we could. We don’t need saviors to come defend us. We have the forces to defend ourselves. We make the whole economy run. Not only can we make it stop running, in order to defend ourselves. We have the power to put it back to running in a way that can serve all of humanity.