Communists and the General Election

WHAT is the proper role of communists in next week’s General Election? The New Communist Party stands no candidates in elections because history has shown that true socialism cannot be attained through elections, which are part of the bourgeois state machinery.

Nowadays running for election does not even give communist candidates the opportunity to build general working class awareness, confidence and unity.

Some have argued that just gaining a respectable number of votes shows there is popular support for communism and it is growing. Not so. Usually it results in a derisory number of votes that makes support for communism appear lower than it is — because even voters who have communist sympathies will, and should, vote Labour because the first priority is to prevent another Tory or Tory-dominated coalition government.

But even when they stand candidates who claim to be communist or strong left wing, they pitch their campaign within bourgeois capitalist parameters. And in doing so they abandon their communist principles one by one to comply with bourgeois concepts of what is respectable in politics. They cannot tell the workers the truth, that even if you vote for them they will be powerless to make any significant changes for the better from within a bourgeois parliament.

In other words they effectively turn into social democrats — a path that would lead them ultimately to the same policies now being peddled by the Labour leadership if they ever had any electoral success.

Left-wing Labour MPs are alternately demonised by the mass media or totally ignored and have been dwindling in number for many years. Communist MPs would fare no better within the ruling class’s carefully organised arena.

In other countries where communists have won mass votes it has not brought socialism. In Italy in the 1970s the revisionist PCI (Italian Communist Party) was expected to become the largest single party in the Italian parliament in an impending general election under the leadership of Enrico Berlinguer. But the party withdrew from the election at the last minute under threat of a bloody right-wing attempt to seize power.

In Chile in 1973 just such a coup had happened to bring down the left-wing social democrat government of Salvador Allende because he had implemented some working class reforms.

In South Africa, after the fall of Apartheid, the Communist Party of South Africa had been a leading part of the successful African National Congress broad umbrella coalition that won the first free — but bourgeois — election. A handful of communists were given Cabinet posts that involved implementing anti-working class legislation. They went along with it, under the delusion that somehow they could turn things round for the benefit of the working class but it was impossible. A few years ago they ended up condemning striking miners and being part of the state machine that suppressed them.

The capitalist state is created to oppress the working class; it is constructed so that it can never be used to undermine the power of capitalism.

But communists do get involved in elections because it is an area of political activity that brings people together and provides an opportunity to talk to workers and to labour movement activists and raise awareness of the need to organise for a revolution.

We support Labour at the polls because that will produce the best outcome for the working class under the current system but without any illusions that this will bring socialism.

But we keep elections in proportion. There are many more political activities to be involved in that are more important: industrial struggles and the fight for higher wages, the peace movement, anti-fascism, defending the NHS, defending working class housing and communities, education, pensions, the benefits system.

In all these struggles we play a role alongside other activists injecting a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary perspective and raising the goal of real working class power and a working class state. And it is on the streets and in the work places in the heart of these struggles that we can uninhibitedly raise the call for revolution.