[10.15.2015] Electoral Politics and the Left (Halifax)
Madelaine (Parti communiste révolutionnaire-Revolutionary Communist Party (supporter))
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 world war; the struggle for the legacy of the Russian Revolution; to capitalist stabilization and the apparent apathy to politics that would characterize our time.
Since the early 20th century 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.
In the present moment there seems to be a shift back from popular mobilization and movement building, to electoral strategies and parliamentary representation. Although previously social movements severely criticized existing parliamentary democracy, the idea of facilitating radical causes through electoral politics and campaigns has recently gained prominence. So in Canada there has been the growth of the NDP (not only federally, but with a victory in Alberta); the European crisis has seen the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain in and the victory of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K.; in the U.S. an avowedly social democratic Bernie Saunders appears to be having some success in the race for the Democratic leadership.
This panel tries to bring into question the significance of electoral politics in a moment when party representation has been largely delegitimized and disapproved. What are the uses, limits, promises, and perils of electoral campaigns and elective offices for Leftist politics?