Let’s Refuse the Masquerade of Elections, an Obstacle to the Renewal of Workers’ Combativity

Even the plutocrats and political bosses are disturbed by the bleak forecast for the coming decade. Why? Because it is obvious: the happy dream of peaceful co-existence between states has been shattered. In the wake of the latest conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East—dress-rehearsals for the wider war of the future—the workers are expected to pay for the collapse of the post-1991 illusion; the illusion of a peaceful capitalism, characterized by multiculturalism and cooperation between states; the illusion that only ever existed in the day dreams of the bourgeoisie, and that no one believes in any longer.

The movement in China against factory workers’ captivity in dormitories, workers’ mobilizations in France against pension reforms… Slowly, unevenly, workers are beginning to understand the new rules of the game. They do not want to pay for rearmament via erosion of wage-levels and other metrics of quality of life. But the bosses—and, above all, the political bosses of the state, that organizes the economies based on workers’ exploitation—are skilled multi-taskers. Abroad, they prepare to fight a general war against Chinese capitalism and “revisionist” states. At home, they prepare to quell revolts against declining living standards and workplace discipline. They have already employed counter-measures against the recent uptick in workers’ mobilizations. But the coup de grâce, the jewel in the crown of the bosses’ tricks is the masquerade that takes place every four years: elections.

Wind-up toys of capital—newspaper columnists, television presenters, union leaders; psychosocial “firefighters”, denying oxygen to even the smallest “flames” of a real break with capitalist ideologies—invite us to “participate” in the quadrennial psychosis of de-classed “citizens”, scribbling our input on a slip of paper, feeding it into the suggestion box of the system… As a deliberative voice for “citizens”, capitalist democracy is a mirage. It links workers’ genuine aspirations to participation in ritual elections that never alter the nature of the state, but are simply an arena where different factions compete to administer workers’ exploitation. The real utility of elections? Diverting workers’ struggles from where they count, onto terrain safely within the bounds of national capitalism.

This is how the social eruptions of 2020 were defanged. They did not become a truly “dangerous” movement, because they were enrolled behind the Democratic Party in the elections; the Party whose candidate subsequently ran along the same track as his predecessor, and actually enacted more war preparations! As ever, the progressive reformers of the left are the more sophisticated of national capitalism’s “two hands” (the left and the right), and it reveals the following: Capitalism wins the elections regardless of who comes to power. It wins regardless if the president-elect is a “populist”, a “liberal”, or a “leftist”; or a “socialist”, like the government of the Socialist “Workers’” Party of Spain, that sends police after striking metal- and dock-workers in the cities of Cadíz and Vigo, and congratulates border guards on the massacre of African migrants at the border crossing of Melilla.

To participate in the elections, the beating heart of “our” democracy? At long last, a say in our own exploitation! Comrades, this is the ritual of housebroken plebs… To get really “political” is to have no suggestions for improving a system that needs to be razed to the ground. The working class has its own battles to fight, and the quadrennial masquerade is not so vital as the preservation of workers’ political autonomy, i.e. autonomy from capitalist political forces. When we fight at work and in the street? To identify the state as the enemy, orienting our struggles against our rulers’ war preparations, in solidarity with our class siblings in other countries… This is what counts. And if the cops of the mind—psychosocial “firefighters”, whom we know via the media and the unions as champions of capitalist democracy—hound us for our non-participation, it is because we know the only way to rub the bosses’ nose in their own shit is to refuse the bosses’ games, especially the most harmful game of all: elections.

For the Renewal of Workers’ Initiative; No War but Class War!

Internationalist Workers’ Group
affiliate of the Internationalist Communist Tendency in the USA
January 2024
Monday, January 8, 2024


I am not absolutely convinced that there is no case in which a revolutionary could stand for election, whether or not they intended to take the seat. I realise that this does not seem likely but that is not the same as absolutely impossible. After all our political ancestors used this tactic (1948, PCint) and I think it is not impossible that we may regain such popularity in some area of the world.

And, as Damen wrote, 1948 was almost unique and "probably the last time" the tactic could be used. By formally standing the elections the PCInt were entitled to speak in hustings in every town or village centre they could (not many with only 4-5000 people). At every one they distributed a leaflet telling people not to vote whilst at the same time denouncing the Stalinist Party of Togliatti which is somewher on the website in English See leftcom.org