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On bourgeois elections

By • Nov 29th, 2009 • Category: Commentaries

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Source: International Communist Current

Introduction:

We are publishing here an article of one of our contacts about his opinion on bourgeois elections[1]. Generally, the comrade is trying to comprehend how to analyze bourgeois democracy from a Marxist viewpoint. Although he does not categorically said that revolutionaries must not participate in bourgeois elections, his article clearly emphasize the futility and blatant reformism of such participation.

The comrade clearly refuted the reformist view of the Leftists in controlling the capitalist state through the “power of numbers” or what the “Leninists” said in the Philippines a “labor vote”. As the comrade said below:

“Still, the proletariat can dominate the bourgeois parliament mathematically speaking. Can the proletariat use the bourgeois parliament for its immediate concerns (concerns less than its class-emancipation)? If the proletariat organize itself to deal over such concerns, there is a real danger that it will lose its proletarian character and become a part of the state apparatus whose role is to mend the wounds of class antagonism thus becoming a negative hindrance for the class emancipation of the proletarian.”

The comrade shows clarity on what the task at hand on the working class:

“…The proletariat, being the revolutionary class, should not bother to dominate, even if it can, the bourgeois parliament, which it cannot use anyway. Its historical task is not the domination of the bourgeois parliament but smashing of the bourgeois state, along with its apparatus and mechanisms, towards the establishment of a classless society.”

However, let we add something for further clarification on the question of the maturation of the class by supporting bourgeois democracy. The comrade quoted Engels on this.

This quote from Engels should be put on the proper context. Without understanding the historical context we cannot understand on what material conditions the proletariat supports bourgeois democracy – universal suffrage, unionism, etc.

In mid-1800s, Marxists supported and in the forefront in the struggle for universal suffrage. The first real workers’ movement at that time – the Chartists – was advancing the struggle for universal suffrage, which means that the workers should have the “right to vote” and have representatives in bourgeois parliament.

At that time, capitalism was still advancing as a social system. Generally, the agenda was not yet the seizure of power by the proletariat but to wrest reforms from the system. Thus, participation in election was one of the fundamental class objectives. Thus Engels was right to insist that the struggle for universal suffrage was an advancement of the maturity of the class as an independent political force in society.

However, when capitalism entered its decadent stage in early 1900s, proletarian seizure of power is in the order of the day and bourgeois parliament became a complete tool of the bourgeois class that became completely reactionary.

In the era of imperialism, both parliament and unions are fully integrated in the state; and in the service of the state. Thus, they are no longer mechanisms for the further maturation of the proletariat as an independent class. On the contrary, they become hindrance for the advancement of proletarian revolutionary consciousness.

Fake Marxists today – the Leftists – always invoke the “tactics” of the Communists in 19th century without understanding or rejecting the implications of the decadence of capitalism to the form and content of proletarian struggles in our current epoch. The task of these Leftists in our epoch is to sabotage the class struggle and sow confusions within the working class movement.

We salute the comrade’s process of theoretical clarification under an environment dominated by Rightist and Leftist ideologies.

Internasyonalismo, November 28, 2009

***

On dealing about the election question, it would be wise to reformulate the question to a more specific question such as: Can the proletariat use the state apparatus and mechanisms to achieve the class emancipation of the proletariat and how should the advance element of the proletariat deal with the election question? I believe such formulation of question will better elucidate the confusions as to the course of action for the proletariat to achieve its class emancipation.

The words “state apparatus and mechanisms” must be seen on the context of the capitalist society i.e. bourgeois democracy. State apparatus refers to the institutions within the state whose function is the preservation of the state. In the case of state apparatus, we will consider for discussion the institution of parliament. State mechanisms refer to the processes established and actions allowed by the state for its citizens for its preservation. In the case of state mechanisms, we will consider for discussion the process of representation – election or universal suffrage.

On universal suffrage

On dealing with the viability of universal suffrage for the class emancipation of the proletariat let us go back to what Engels said about universal suffrage on his work “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State”:

“…But in the measure in which it matures towards its self-emancipation, in the same measure it constitutes itself as its own party and votes for its own representatives, not those of the capitalists. Universal suffrage is thus the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the modern state; but that is enough….”

On this passage, Engels clearly states that the universal suffrage is nothing more but a means to measure the proletariat’s maturity towards its self-emancipation just as a thermometer is used to measure the heat of a substance, just as Engels has said:

“On the day when the thermometer of universal suffrage shows boiling-point among the workers, they as well as the capitalists will know where they stand.”

On parliament

On dealing with the question of parliament in a bourgeois democracy, an interesting situation may occur. It is a fact that the bourgeois parliament is composed of elected individuals. To be elected one must have more number of votes than his/her rivals. Thus, the bourgeois parliament, as seen on this light, is about numbers. The more votes an individual receive, the better his/her chance of occupying a seat. Suppose (if not a fact) that the proletariat out-number the bourgeoisie. Mathematically-speaking, the proletariat can occupy the whole of the bourgeois parliament. This situation raises the question of whether the proletariat can use the bourgeois parliament to achieve its class emancipation.

This situation is reflection of what Engels said about representation:

“… As long as the oppressed class – in our case, therefore, the proletariat – is not yet ripe for its self-liberation, so long will it, in its majority, recognize the existing order of society as the only possible one and remain politically the tall of the capitalist class, its extreme left wing….”

However, the experience of the Communards taught as a valuable lesson:

“… One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes’….” (double quote by Marx, The Civil War in France; single quote by Lenin, The State and Revolution)

The Communards provided us a concrete proof that the proletariat cannot use the “ready-made state machinery” (i.e. the bourgeois parliament) for its class-emancipation.

Still, the proletariat can dominate the bourgeois parliament mathematically speaking. Can the proletariat use the bourgeois parliament for its immediate concerns (concerns less than its class-emancipation)? If the proletariat organize itself to deal over such concerns, there is a real danger that it will lose its proletarian character and become a part of the state apparatus whose role is to mend the wounds of class antagonism thus becoming a negative hindrance for the class emancipation of the proletarian.

Also, these immediate concerns of the proletariat are not at the mercy of the bourgeois parliament rather on the current economic order. If the current economic order cannot shoulder these immediate concerns, no amount of legislation from a bourgeois parliament can force it otherwise. The only way to meet these immediate concerns is for the bourgeois parliament to be replaced of a parliament that it can be of use for the proletariat.

However, this replacement of the bourgeois parliament cannot and will never be as a result of a change of individuals comprising it (domination of the bourgeois parliament by the proletariat). All of class struggle in human history is resolved neither by a simple change of heart nor a change of composition of the ruling class. It is resolved through an inevitable collision of power of the ruling class and the revolutionary class – a revolution. This inevitable collision is a result of antagonistic relationship of the ruling class and the revolutionary class. And when the material conditions necessary for the revolution have been met, any course of action that hinders the progress of revolution serves the interest of the ruling class.

Another important question is can the bourgeois parliament, in reality, be dominated by the proletariat. The proletariat, being the revolutionary class, should not bother to dominate, even if it can, the bourgeois parliament, which it cannot use anyway. Its historical task is not the domination of the bourgeois parliament but smashing of the bourgeois state, along with its apparatus and mechanisms, towards the establishment of a classless society.

Cris

[1] All bourgeois factions in the Philippines – Right and Left – are preparing for the May 2010 National Elections.

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