While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.
-Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, 1850
The latest debacle for the Democrats in Virginia highlights the increasing hollowness of the Biden regime. Ushered in on the exuberant wave of anti-Trumpism, Biden has revealed himself to be just as spineless and reactionary as his detractors from both left and right prophesied.
And yet, there are supposed leftists that continue to cling to the hope that his regime can be ‘pushed to the left,’ or that a people’s movement can force the Democrats into conceding reforms they obviously would never pass of their own accord.
The left must cut through the illusions. It ought to remember its Marxist roots and rediscover its commitment to building an independent workers’ party. Nothing can be gained by supporting the Democrats. By calling the Republicans ‘fascist,’ the left seeks to justify any ‘united front’ no matter how devoid of any real class content. The left is content to abandon class struggle and become a grassroots lobby of the Democratic Party.
No more! Working people are fed up with it - which is why they voted for Youngkin. Until the left offers itself as a fierce and uncompromising alternative, workers’ desire to change the world will continue to manifest in reactionary ways.
A recent article urged the Democrats to put their ‘best’ foot forward and highlight their policy ‘successes’ in order to win voters back. But what successes? Biden continues the anti-immigrant policies left over from when he was the Vice President; there has been no substantive Coronavirus relief, and now rent is back to being enforced and federal student loans are about to be called in again; the U.S. continues its election-meddling in places like Nicaragua and Cuba; and despite the high-profile tokenization of a few people of color in high places, Biden will always be remembered for his support for the War on Drugs and his revealing gaffe that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."
Working people rightly hate the Democrats. To shamelessly sell them the Democratic Party anyway in the enthusiastic language of ‘Marxism’ and ‘class struggle’ is nothing less than betrayal.
These are the same leftists who pronounce in one sentence that it’s all Manchin or Sinema’s fault and in the next claim that the Democrats and Republicans form but two wings of the same party of capital. This kind of inconsistency is why the left has been so marginal and incapable of influencing recent events. These two positions cannot be reconciled. Either we are for the complete political independence and maturity of the working class, or we abuse the revolutionary proletarian tradition to sell out to the Democrats. There is no third way. It is either revolution or liquidation.
But what of “reform?” The Democrats offer no reform. They rely on scapegoats like Manchin and Sinema to throw their hands up and distract from the fact that they literally profit from legislative gridlock. Even if a new New Deal passed, it wouldn’t achieve the same effect as reforms did back in the Gilded Age. Back then, reforms were concessions rendered to the all-powerful left. And they demonstrated to workers their own power and convinced them to keep fighting for more, to not merely be satisfied with the crumbs but to go for the whole feast. But now, if any reforms are forthcoming, they are not the result of the left. They are rather the condition for a new consolidation of capitalism. If the elites ‘reform’ anything they do so to shore up their own basis of power. Working people know that such maneuvers don’t owe themselves to their own intervention because politics has ceased to be contested ground. The left has ceded politics to the Democrats. There is no reform possible when the specter of revolution is not being actively raised.
Instead of bemoaning or softening the Democrats’ defeat in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere, we ought to celebrate it. To hell with the Democrats! They offer nothing but disappointment for the working people of the world. We ought to remember Marx’s own words quoted above: we struggle “not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.” The future must be proletarian. It cannot be a united front, a lesser of two evils, an evolutionary and gradual road. It can only be won through revolutionary struggle against all class enemies, including every member of the Democratic Party. This does not make us Republicans, of course. It makes us rise above the pettiness of U.S. elections by offering the only real solution to this country’s polarization and economic stagnation.
If the left is unable or unwilling to recapture this, it should openly admit it. That way, the last of the wool can be ripped from our eyes, and we can see the task for what it truly is.
Wes Vanderburgh is a member of the Communist Party USA based in Washington, D.C. They strive to create the conditions for the reemergence of the revolutionary left in the United States and beyond.