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Electoral Politics And The Left

The Platypus Affiliated Society presents

Electoral Politics and the Left: Problems and Prospects

A moderated panel discussion held at the Platypus International Convention VII

- Scott Hiley, Communist Party, USA
- Jorge Mújica, Chicago Socialist Campaign (USA)
- Tom Riley, International Bolshevik Tendency (Canada)

Moderator: Divya Menon

During the 19th century, suffrage rights were widened in the heart of capital, confronting political radicals with the question of whether and how elective offices could be used to achieve revolutionary aims. Since that time, differences of opinion on how to approach electoral politics have been at issue throughout the Left’s most fundamental splits: the break between Marxism and anarchism; the apparent capitulation of international social democracy to capitalist war and, later, to capitalist stabilization; the struggle for the legacy of the Russian Revolution, fought between Trotskyism and Stalinism and, later, Maoism.

Since the era of Lenin and Debs, such splits have attended the decline of the Left rather than its ascendancy, forcing recent generations of marginalized radicals to grapple with an impossible choice: either a "realistic" electoral compromise with the status quo, often couched in the logic of “lesser evilism,” or a "sectarian" electoral purism doomed to irrelevance, often inspired by fidelity to once-revolutionary “correct positions.” This impasse guarantees a hearing for those who, like many Occupy movement activists, advocate a principled abstention from electoral politics. What are the uses, limits, promises, and perils of electoral campaigns and elective offices for Leftist politics? Should the Left aim to “set the clock back” 100 years to the era of mass electoral parties for socialism in the heart of capital? Is something on this order still necessary, and if so, how could it yet be possible? Does electoral politics figure in our emancipation beyond capitalism?