What will stop Trumpism and what won’t
MANY LEFTISTS find themselves in the same conversation every four years: Well-intentioned friends implore you not to vote for a third-party candidate, lest it be a "wasted" vote--or, worse, help elect a right-wing candidate by pulling votes away from a moderate. Those of us supporting the Green Party this year have heard things like "A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump," "You're throwing your vote away" or some other variant.
Some may have walked away wondering if it's true that voting for Stein in the 2016 election will lead to a Trump victory. Others may wonder whether the left, as some argue, should even welcome a Trump victory because it will spur people toward building a political alternative.
This is a political tendency some have called "accelerationism." Crudely stated, a left-accelerationist believes that encouraging capitalism's worst tendencies will force it into a crisis that it cannot survive. Some tiny left-wing organizations actually do believe in this idea and promote it.
From this perspective, extreme cutbacks in living standards, increased unemployment, massive environmental catastrophe, and the destruction of the few remaining progressive reforms that working people struggled to achieve in the past century are actually preferable to the status quo.
Once the horrors of capitalism are finally laid bare for all to see, regardless of ideological inculcation, goes the argument, then and only then will a revolution be possible. In the context of the current election, this would be as simple as organizing votes for Trump in the hopes of "accelerating" the end of capitalism.
Most leftists, however, rightly disavow accelerationism. But liberals who argue that "a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump" also buy into a form of "accelerationism"--albeit of a doomsday sort. According to this argument, a vote for Stein will lead to a Trump presidency, which will lead to the end of the world--or at least the end of the left.
So is there any truth to this argument? We don't think so.
MARXISTS DO not subscribe to the goals of the Democratic Party or see it as a vehicle for change. The Democratic Party's main goal is to campaign for and deliver the election for their candidates--and their backers among the ruling class. As Lance Selfa writes in The Democrats: A Critical History, "[I]t is easy to see that the Democrats are concerned with the staffing of the government but not with altering the state."
While we may share some of the goals of individual Democrats, including increased minimum wages and living standards, an end to mass incarceration and increased access to abortion services, we do not believe that Democratic politicians are capable of achieving those goals--whether because they are bound by the limits of the system, or because they cease to pursue those goals once elected--without being forced to do so from a mass movement from below.
The main goal for socialists is to promote the kinds of political reforms currently contained in Jill Stein's platform, with an eye toward building a party that has a mass base. Our goal, simply put, is to build a left-wing workers' party--one that must be independent from the Democrats if it is to be successful.
For revolutionary Marxists, the differences between Republican and Democratic candidates are fewer and smaller than the differences between the candidates and their constituents.
A Clinton presidency, for example, likely will be the continuation of an Obama presidency. Four or eight years of a Clinton administration will not bring us "change we can believe in," but instead more drone strikes, the further dismantlement of the social safety net, and an increase in mass incarceration and police brutality--many of the same features that a Trump presidency would see.
That's because the goal of a president, regardless of political party, is to lead the capitalist state to the greenest pastures, where money flows unfettered by regulations.
Of course, it is important to acknowledge that there are differences between Clinton and Trump. If not, there would not be any two-party charade in the U.S. in the first place.
During the election season, Clinton has thrown a few bones to her progressive base. Trump, meanwhile, is a failed businessman with no political experience who brags openly about sexually assaulting women. Nevertheless, both Clinton and Trump are members of the ruling class--and would primarily be concerned with promoting ruling-class interests as president.
Let's be clear: A Trump victory will neither herald fascism nor a left-wing acceleration toward the end of capitalism.
Anyone aware of Clinton's politics and her dedication to maintaining capitalism knows that, if anything, she would probably be more effective than Trump at deepening existing attacks on the working class. She has a proven track record of "bipartisanship" and "diplomacy" that would allow her greater access to the tools of the state, while Trump has already made bitter enemies of other ruling-class elites both in the U.S. and abroad, which would limit his individual effectiveness as commander-in-chief.
IF TRUMP does represent a fascist threat, as many liberals and some leftists believe, then his defeat in an election would not spell the end of that movement by his supporters. Organization in the streets is necessary to defeat fascism--and defeat the ideas that Trump represents, for that matter.
We saw this in action earlier this year, when Trump was forced to cancel a rally in Chicago when protesters refused to allow him a platform for his hateful ideas. Just this month, protesters staged a demonstration outside of Trump Tower in New York City to call the presidential candidate out on his disgusting remarks about committing sexual assault against women because he is rich.
Trump's braggadocio has dangerously empowered white supremacists and other fringe extremists in a way that many Republicans only flirt with. His campaign has brought white supremacists, racists, sexists and other conservative extremists out of the swamps. It will require the organization of anti-racists, feminists and other leftists to defeat his ideas and his followers--not at the polls, but in the streets.
As Boston socialist and activist Keith Rosenthal wrote on social media:
If someone says that in order to stop the apocalypse--that is, Trump--we have to be prepared to do literally anything, including biting the bullet and voting for the right-winger Hillary Clinton, ask them what they will do if Trump does win. If they reply, "Wait four more years and then vote him out," instead of "Organize nonstop mass protests, boycotts, general strikes, civil disobedience" (that is, literally anything), then you know that person actually has no conception of what it takes to make fundamental social change, let alone prevent a societal slump towards existential decay.
If a Trump presidency represents the dire threat that liberals insist necessitates voting for Clinton, then we must be prepared to stop him, even after the unlikely event that he does win the election. Socialists and other leftists who vote for Stein should be preparing to do just that, and many are. Liberals and leftists (and conservatives) who vote for Clinton out of fear of Trump and his followers are welcome to join us.
Emily Shaw and Matthew Strauss, Columbus, Ohio