Revolutionizing in America the Hope Bolivia Has Given Us. By: Carlos L. GarridoRead Now
After a year or so since the CIA backed coup that ousted Morales, today we rejoice with the news that Movimiento al Socialismo is back in power in Bolivia. This event represents the first appearance of hope in a year plagued by a deadly virus and an even deadlier dealing of the virus by capitalist countries like the US, where more than 200,000 people have died. Some in the American left have used this victory in Bolivia as an inspiration towards organizing against Trump, stating that like Bolivia, we can vote fascism out of power. Communist Party USA (CPUSA) is pushing a campaign called Vote Against Fascism, which tries to inspire its members to vote for the lesser of two evils. With the victory of Arce, the message has been “Bolivia did it so can we”. In this way, they partially equate a vote for Biden in the US with a vote for Arce in Bolivia. In both cases we have the removal of a proto fascist government; this can be stated as “in both cases we have the electoral negation of fascism.” Although the American left agrees that in the affirmative end, Biden and Arce are nothing alike, their similitude comes from their position as a negation to fascism.
The thing about negation, is that it is always the mere initial face of affirmation. A similitude in negation, cannot itself meaningfully exist without a similitude in the affirmation upon which the negation opens the door for. Similarity in the space of removing fascism can only really stand as similarity if in the affirmative afterward of the fascist negation it stands as a similitude as well. If two rock climbers are slipping into an abyss and one jumps and catches on to a sturdy rock, while the other jumps and catches on to a fragile stick, both equally jump, yet we must be delusional to talk about such a minute similarity when the results in each case are so gradually different. The jumping in this case is the negation of the fall, and the grabbing is the affirmation of a possible climb. As in the electoral struggle against fascism, in the rock example, we have a life or death situation. In both cases jumping is the only thing that will bring the possibility of life.
Bolivia is the jumper that landed on the rock. It is, at least for now, safe to keep climbing. The US is the climber that is about to jump to the stick. Since it has not jumped yet, I wish to present a couple points about possibly jumping for the farther rock, given that if we miss the far rock or grab on to the close fragile stick, in both cases we will still fall. The stick, as in the case of Biden, is the most reachable out of the alternatives. The problem is that, as in the case of a vote for Biden, the stick is not going to prevent the eventual fall. This is clear, especially as one sees that the reason the rock climber is falling in the first place is because of his continual attempt to merely climb through sticks. Thus, the similitude a Biden win would have with the win in Bolivia is as minute as the example of the rock climbers. Arce and MAS combine their negation of fascism with a socialist affirmation. They negate fascism with the hope of the continual progress socialism has brought in Bolivia. Along with this, in the last year the major unionized industries in Bolivia have been tremendously active in fighting against the fascist coup; uniting worker and indigenous groups in striking and calling for the resignation of Áñez. With Biden this is not the case. A Biden negation has no truly hopeful affirmation behind it.
It is obvious to anyone who is halfway conscious about the class struggle in the US, that Trump is not some anomaly. The rise of fascism did not appear from a supernatural void that opened in 2016. This rise has its roots in the natural decay of a capitalism where a socialist revolutionary movement is absent. When socialist do not work on the subjective conditions of the working class when their objective conditions are revolutionary, it is bound that they will fall into reactionary circles. Concretely, Trump is a result of 8 years of an Obama administration that accelerated a neoliberal agenda even quicker than Bush had before him. On this, most communist agree, Trump is not an anomaly, but a symptom of the system and the last 4 decades of neoliberal governments.
From this perspective, we can see that a Biden administration is a return to the conditions that gave us Trump in the first place. I do not think there is much disagreement here. CPUSA and the American left do not conceive of Biden as potentially any better than Obama. The question they are asking is the following. “We accept Biden is not a panacea of the ills of our society. We accept that Biden is a return to the condition which gave us Trump in the first place. But is government that can potentially lead to fascism again better than a fascist government?” Their answer is a big YES. The American communist who disagrees with CPUSA’s informal agitation for Biden gets told that “a candidate who maintains the capitalist status quo and imperialism is better than a candidate who maintains the status quo and imperialism but who also agitates his militarized white nationalist base to kill communist and people of color”. When posed like this, it is quite obvious that the answer is correct. Anyone would prefer this lesser of two evils approach, given that the lesser is obvious in this case.
What we have here in their reasonings is a central assumption which I hope to pick out, in order to then more objectively analyze the scenario. The central assumption can be presented in both its philosophical and material formulations. Philosophically it is a question of potentiality and actuality. Do you want potential fascism or actual fascism? When proposed like this, potential fascism is the better route, given that it buys us time to potentially depotentialize that potential. The assumption here is that one can revert to repotentializing something which is already actual. The assumption is that a Biden win does not just negate a Trump presidency but negates the historical effects of that Trump presidency. The problem is that, once the oak tree is there, there is no reverting it to an acorn. All one can do, besides radically tearing the tree apart, is replant the new acorn the oak tree gives. That oak tree itself will never be an acorn, it will only give you new acorns, but even then a replanting of a new acorn does not remove the existence of the oak tree, but expands the possibility of that oak tree making a new oak tree friend. Their assumption is that this potential negates the actual. Where in reality, this potential will do no more than re-establish itself as the bearer of the potential to duplicate the actuality.
In its material formulation, their assumption centers around the conception that with Trump out of office, and with Biden in, the fascist militancy of the Trump fanatics somehow disappears, or at least begins to dissipate. But how much more guarantee do we have that Trump’s militant base will be less potent with a Biden presidency? Is the man who says that police should shoot black folks in the leg instead of killing them really going to take the steps necessary to face the militancy of white nationalism? Especially considering his involvement in the crime bill, his continual denial to decriminalize marijuana, and his old segregationist stances, all which are lethal for black communities. This is the guy you think will help lower the threat of the militant white supremacists Trump empowered? They might respond that since Biden does not provide the legitimation for these groups that Trump does, that this will be the source of the disempowerment of those groups Trump gave a voice to. But this assumes to easily that those shouting the loudest will be quite just because they were removed of their official microphone. Not only does it assume this, but it ignores the plethora of Trump supporters claiming outright civil war if Trump loses. In any case, I do not think that communist or people of color are much safer from the militancy of white supremacy just because Trump is out of office. On the contrary, if the current status of things tells us anything is that replanting that acorn will quickly result in a new oak tree. By this I mean a Biden win, from what we can infer, can only but exacerbate the militancy of white supremist.
So, what then? Do we not vote? Do we just allow Trump to win because we are scared of the civil war threats from his militant white supremacist circles? No, this is of course not the correct answer. We must vote. But as all communist should be aware, voting is perhaps the smallest and last part of a revolutionary struggle. Before any true victory can come from the electoral arena, we must have already had a strong level of economic organization. As Haywood states in Industrial Socialism “Our fight is, first of all a shop fight. It takes place at the point of production where the workers are at present enslaved. Until this is understood there can be no real understanding of Socialism.” The American left focuses the majority of its efforts in pursuit of electoral victories without the prior existence of organization among class lines. Until the irrational divisions of socialist parties and organizations in the US unite and focus their energies on workplace organization as the necessary predecessor to the electoral struggle, we will continue to face futility in the political sphere.
Although I have argued here that Biden is not the knight that will smash the rise of fascism Trump allowed, that does not mean in other social and welfare positions a Biden presidency will seem to make it easier for us to organize our revolutionary struggle. Regardless of how we decide to vote this election, the result will likely be very similar; American will continue to face the brutalities of a capitalism in decay. A day like today 94 years ago the most popular American socialist of the 20th century, Eugene V. Debs, died. Whether we step into the ballot box with his famous dictum “I rather vote for something I want and not get it, then vote for something I don’t want and get it” in mind and vote for a La Riva or Hawkins ticket, or whether we take the more pragmatic approach of voting for Biden; the reality of the revolutionary futility of this election is present. The only way to eliminate this endless condition of revolutionary futility the American socialists have had for a century is to dedicate the next four years to combining all of our forces together and begin, under one umbrella, a process of economic organizing. Only if we are able to do this will a serious revolutionary party impact in the political sphere be possible. The inspiration of the victory of socialism in Bolivia should not be spent on motivation for a futile election, but on organization to make the presently impossible possible. We are facing a capitalism challenged by its natural cycles of crisis and by the surplus crisis brought about by a pandemic. As millions of American lose their jobs and their employer-tied healthcare plans in the middle of a pandemic, the wealth of the 643 billionaires in the US grew by $845 billion. The time is now for communist and socialist to take advantage of these objectively revolutionary conditions and add the subjective element necessary to blow this whole thing open.
“[We] may be dreamers, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!”
 Peoples Dispatch, “National Strike Continues Across Bolivia, Demands Grow For Áñez To Step Down,” last modified August 7, 2020, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/08/07/national-strike-continues-across-bolivia-demands-grow-for-anez-to-step-down/.
 Haywood, William, and Frank Bohn. Industrial Socialism (Charles H. Kerr & Company Cooperative, 1911), p. 45.
 Saloni Sardana, “US Billionaires’ Wealth Grew By $845 Billion During the First Six Months of the Pandemic,” Markets Insider, last modified September 17, 2020, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/us-billionaires-wealth-net-worth-pandemic-covid-billion-2020-9-1029599756
 Hellen Keller, “Why I Became an IWW,” New York Tribune, January 1916. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/16_01_16.htm
About the Author:
My name is Carlos and I am a Cuban-American Marxist. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Loras College and am currently a graduate student and Teachers Assistant in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. My area of specialization is Marxist Philosophy. My current research interest is in the history of American radical thought, and examining how philosophy can play a revolutionary role . I also run the philosophy YouTube channel Tu Esquina Filosofica and organized for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020.
10/23/2020 04:28:21 pm
Carlos, I really enjoyed your article. I like how you emphasize how insignificant a similarity focused only on a negation is. I like how nuanced the piece was, not arguing to vote for Biden or for one of the two socialist candidates, you really put the bigger picture into context. I too hope members of the different organizations in the US left can come together and start establishing plans for workplace organization.
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