Capitalism wins by default as millions ignore election


Capitalism wins by default as millions ignore election
The People
December 1996
Vol. 106 No. 9


During the 1996 election campaign, the mass media subjected the nation to a steady barrage of political rhetoric. No sooner was the election over, however, than the media started with a new barrage of postelection "analyses" by editors, columnists and commentators -- a barrage that it augmented with a swarm of self- proclaimed political experts, bourgeois economists and assorted professorial pundits.

On Nov. 6, for example, THE NEW YORK TIMES editorially concluded that, "The voters have made it clear that they are interested in fiscal stability." What would constitute fiscal stability depends on which politician or capitalist interest you listen to.

Also on Nov. 6, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL editorially noted that, "The analysts were calling this a 'status quo' election." As for itself, the JOURNAL said that after "sorting through the Tuesday election," it had to "admit that a single message is hard to find."

For Socialists, however, the most significant fact about the election results was that capitalism polled 100 percent of the vote cast -- over 90 million ballots by about 49 percent of the voting-age population. (The final count of absentee ballots could raise it to a little over 50 percent, which would still be the lowest percentage of the voting-age population since 1924.) In addition, capitalism received the tacit endorsement of more than 90 million others who failed to vote. (These are of course unofficial figures, but the official figures, when available, won't change the picture these unofficial figures portray one whit.)

There can be little doubt that the failure of more than half the voting-age population to vote indicates widespread anger at and disillusionment with politics and politicians -- perhaps an inchoate disenchantment with the entire system, but certainly something more than simple political indifference or apathy.

Nonetheless, the obvious failure to translate any of this widespread sentiment into a positive effort to seek out an alternative to this status quo inescapably becomes positive support for the continuance of the status quo. One writer for THE NEW YORK TIMES put it this way: "Not bothering to vote is a lot like sitting on the sofa watching the Super Bowl; neither activity changes the score."

Daniel De Leon translated this sports-linked metaphor into plain English 90 years ago when he said: "Even if the whole working class abstained from voting, there would be not one single seat vacant, the capitalist candidates would then be elected unanimously by the capitalists themselves."

The sad fact is that workers -- those who vote and those who don't -- still buy into the notion that capitalism can somehow solve the problems and miseries it creates and confronts them with. This misunderstanding is no accident. That misconception is nurtured deliberately by capitalism's politicians, and by assorted capitalist agencies of miseducation and misinformation -- the media, the schools, the universities, the churches, the procapitalist unions, the ever-present reformers and more -- all of which are dominated by procapitalist interests. Those interests and their political lackeys are primarily concerned with the preservation of their system -- the source of their wealth and their positions of privilege -- at the continued expense of the useful producers of the nation. They will not and do not hesitate to mouth any promise or resort to any act they think will serve their purpose, no matter how hypocritical or ruthless.

The oft-demonstrated reality is that hope for a sane and decent society can never be realized within the confines of the capitalist system. Private ownership of the means of life, coupled with the exploitation of wage labor, make it impossible. Furthermore, the system cannot be reformed, regardless of how moral or how ethical reformers may be. Capitalism is beyond that. Its very nature militates against such efforts.

In these circumstances, the members of the Socialist Labor Party and the classconscious readers of THE PEOPLE both have an important role to play. De Leon gave eloquent expression to what that role is in his classic address on REFORM AND REVOLUTION.

"In all revolutionary movements, as in the storming of fortresses, the thing depends upon the head of the column -- upon that minority that is so intense in its conviction, so soundly based on its principles, so determined in its action, that it carries the masses with it, storms the breastworks and captures the fort. Such a head of the column must be our socialist organization to the whole column of the American proletariat."

In essence, it is the task of the Socialist Movement to arouse the working class to its historic mission to abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism. It is true that the capitalist class APPEARS TO BE ALL POWERFUL. It appears to be winning the class struggle. That, however, is because the capitalists are united in their battle against the workers, despite differences regarding strategy and tactics. They have their goal clearly in mind -- the pursuit of ever-greater profits through the continued and ever-intensified exploitation of the workers.

Yet the important fact at this late date on the social calendar is that the capitalist system prevails by default. It exists because the working class is weak. The working class is weak because it is unorganized. It is unorganized because it lacks a fundamental understanding of the class nature of capitalism and its own class interest. The workers must at long last realize that the hope and future of this nation rests in their hands. They must focus their concerns and political perspectives on themselves, on their collective interests as a class, on their latent economic and political power and its potential for changing society in a manner that will assure economic security and social welfare for all. That change can be accomplished once the workers organize their political and economic power according to the Socialist Industrial Union program and principles projected by the Socialist Labor Party and its official journal, THE PEOPLE.

-- N.K.