Electoral politics are a controversial topic in many left-wing discussions, almost always following after critiques of liberalism. The recent 2016 presidential election has made even more leftists disillusioned with reformative politics.
However it is imperative that the left supports the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in the upcoming presidential primary and subsequent election.
While it is certainly understandable that leftists are critical of participation in electoral politics, many of us must be aware that we are privileged enough to choose not to vote instead of being unable to. There are many whose lives and material conditions would be made markedly better under the (admittedly social democratic) policy of a Sanders administration.
Bernie Sanders has remained the most viable and progressive candidate on the ballot—fully and passionately endorsing Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and more accessible education for all Americans.
An important piece of information about Sanders, necessary for liberals or centrists unsure about his platform, is that he also receives most of his campaign funding from working class donors. Biden, Buttigieg and Warren all have received funding from capitalist industries. A candidate who is funded by the wealthy is motivated to keep the status quo and is disingenuous in their support of the working class. Sanders is yet to be bought.
For our obstinate revolutionary radicals that utterly reject any reform, there are still some reasons you should vote. Participating in party politics does not negate revolutionary progress. Many revolutionary parties run for political office in other nations, such as the Communist Party of Portugal. Political reform can happen in tandem while the revolutionary left pushes for change.
In fact, revolutionaries can set the precedent for social upheaval by putting into power choice candidates. You can have two fronts here, or at the least you can choose your enemies. Social upheaval would be much easier to accomplish with most people on the same page as you even if their beliefs are initially closer to yours because of the state.
Who is more likely to be sympathetic to your views later: a populace still possessed by centrism and capitalism or a populace under a socialist government? Who would have better access to revolutionary theory? Did you go straight from neoliberal to radical leftist or was there a considerable number of steps along the way? While radicalization isn't a linear process it's certainly easier to radicalize social democrats than centrists. Any degree of class consciousness can be used as a springboard into revolutionary theory and politics. Sanders himself uses the language of class struggle.
Outside of the theoretical vacuum of the (false) dichotomy of reform vs. revolution, we are living within the real time constraints of climate change. This waiting for a revolution strategy of people strictly against party politics is a gamble where, if we lose, the working class will perish in natural disasters and never recover.
This “wait and see” method is not a risk worth taking. Revolution in the form of social upheaval should not be treated as a last-ditch effort against a catastrophe already underway. We need some type of change to happen right now to deal with the climate phenomenon occurring now. At least attempting reform that includes platforms like the Green New Deal is something we can all work on in the now even if it isn't entirely adequate by itself.
At the very least, we will be diminishing the amount of damage that's inevitable so that a revolution has fewer obstacles to overcome. Diminishing the effects of climate change now will ultimately result in less of a burden for the working class however they choose to advance their society, whether through reform or revolution.
If any of these ideas resonate with you, consider joining UTK's YDSA chapter because we're implementing a Bernie Sanders effort on campus. Our organization will help students register to vote in the upcoming Democratic primary in Tennessee which happens in March. We are also providing literature and information regarding Bernie Sanders and his policies as well as other information on leftist topics such as communism or anarchism.
YDSA is an organization for leftist students at the University of Tennessee. If you have any questions, you can reach out to Helen Law email@example.com.
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