What’s Right In The Left? … The Biden Vote: An Ongoing Debate on the 2020 Election (November 2020)


The following is the continuation of a debate between Marxist professor Victor Wallis and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson of the NABPP, concerning Victor’s and a number of Leftists’ support of the 2020 vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Rashid’s position, developed in several prior articles (1), has been that Biden is no “lesser evil” than Trump, especially with respect to people of color, whose vote for Biden the Left has been courting; that the call should instead be to boycott the election & build and support a mass-based revolutionary party and movement to overthrow the existing imperialist bourgeois dictatorship, to carry out global socialist reconstruction, to eradicate class society, and achieve communism.

Victor is responding to Rashid’s last article, “The Greater Evil of Voting for the Lesser Evil.” Victor’s remarks were written days before the Nov 3rd election; Rashid’s replies came days after Biden was announced winner.


VICTOR: The lesser evil vote is not instead of our principal political work, it is a momentary response to a particular conjuncture. It is a defensive move, as distinct from our principal proactive commitment. It is based on an assessment of the conditions under which we will be better able to continue functioning.


RASHID: This argument might have some credibility if the US Left actually had a “principal proactive commitment” to something other than talking. At best it sits divorced from the masses intellectualizing and theorizing in a bubble. Much like the German Spartacists on the eve of the Nazi rise to power, it refuses to organize a revolutionary party to engage, unite, and lead the masses. So, by default, it ends up aligning itself with bourgeois parties, or leave its most vocal leaders open to assassination like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were (which is the Left’s real fear of the forces Trump is emboldening).

Again the only ‘better functioning’ they are looking to do is hanging on to their privileges and their role as nothing more than moral critics of the establishment, who believe that “speaking truth to power,” instead of “speaking truth to the powerless” and leading them in seizing power, is revolutionary work. It was Marx who said the role of revolutionaries is not to interpret the word but to change it. For the petty-bourgeois Left to qualify to meet this task, they must commit class suicide, which means join the ranks of the powerless.


VICTOR: The latter concern relates closely to a condition of the present period that Rashid does not mention; the condition of environmental breakdown, which Trump & Co. are accelerating even more than the Democrats. The whole human species is in a race against time to preserve the condition of physical survival. Even the slightest improvement in this dimension is a matter of life and death.


RASHID: Trump, (and let’s not forget the Republican party that backed everything he’s done), is no more reactionary concerning environmental devastation than the Democrats. Actually, they’re just oriented more toward different sectors of environmentally destructive industries; while also both back equally the most destructive ones, like the farming industry (especially livestock — cattle farming produces a massive amount of ozone depleting methane gas), methanol production, deforestation, and let’s not forget the U.S. military which produces more environmental waste and burns more fossil fuel than most any other domestic industry, and so on. All the Obama administration did for example was sign climate accords that admittedly did nothing. They were merely for show.


VICTOR: The parallel I drew with Marx (see what I wrote here: http://sdblog.org/2020/09/why-i-signed-the-dump-trump-then-battle-biden-open-letter/) was not based on claiming that nothing in global conditions had changed since he made his statement in 1849 (not 1894). It was based on the logic Marx invoked (which is not tied to a particular historical moment), of saying that one should be flexible in one’s decision as to when to align (temporarily and for a limited purpose) with forces to which one is opposed and when not to.


RASHID: I didn’t say you said global conditions had not changed between 1849 and now. I said you fail to recognize that political-economic changes between then and now are qualitatively different, and require qualitatively different forms of struggle. Your proposal to align with the Democrats to block a Republican is business as usual under the existing system of bourgeois control. It is class collaborationist plain and simple. Which under imperialism Lenin strictly opposed. Trump is not qualitatively different from Biden, they only represent different sectors of the U.S. bourgeoisie, which has always had different proposed methods of ruling, (the liberal and conservative methods), going back to the so-called ‘founding fathers.’ Trump has done in a brief time span many things the conservatives have wanted to do for decades but were hindered by fear of negative public reaction. Which is why the Republican party has backed everything he’s done and made only nominal protests when they felt certain moves of his would provoke public outcry.


VICTOR: The argument that we now face the threat of regime change refers to the activation of fascist, white-nationalist forces by Trump and his cohorts. This poses an existential threat to all popular and working-class movements. I have no illusion that Biden will make it go away, but what’s clear is that Trump is actively fortifying its advances, especially by consolidating reactionary domination over the courts.


RASHID: There is no popular working-class movement in Amerika to be threatened. Once again, the Left has already and for decades betrayed and failed to build any such thing. And when the masses have moved in the direction of spontaneously developing such a movement itself, the state moved in to repress them without the slightest resistance from the Left. Maybe you should study COINTELPRO again. They’ve been mobilizing white supremacist forces, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Most of the police departments are peopled by white racists who use their uniforms as cover to carry out their racist agendas. The Democrats have expanded the police forces far more than the Republicans. “Jim Crow” Joe Biden was a main architect of this expansion. As for the fringe groups, the FBI has long infiltrated and used them to attack and destroy Black and Brown efforts to mobilize for liberation. Who are you trying to win over to these arguments? And Trump has already consolidated reactionary domination of the federal courts. He’s filled some 140 vacancies and put a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. So whether he’s reelected or not, you’re already stuck with a majority conservative court for the next few decades.


VICTOR: The original letter I signed made clear that it’s not enough to block Trump. It is essential to extend and deepen the revolutionary process. In the meantime, the masses need to survive, which means in the short run getting some economic relief as well as slowing the pace of environmental devastation.


RASHID: This claim of the U.S. Left’s interest to “extend and deepen” the revolutionary process is as empty now as it’s been for decades. The masses have been in the streets fighting the pigs for months, and the Left has been nowhere leading any of it, except to try to corral them right back into backing the Democrats that massively expanded the murderous racist pigs in our communities that are out there fighting against them. Which is exactly what you’re promoting. I think it’s outright dishonest to pretend as if the Left has some real strategy or even capability to reach and mobilize the masses against Biden once he takes office. The call to elect him was simply opportunism to pull the people into supporting reformism, which is right where the Left will leave them.


VICTOR: The fact that Trump intends to reject an electoral defeat does not mean that beating him electorally is unimportant; it would strengthen the conviction and the confidence of those preparing to resist his coup d’etat.


RASHID: Trump’s rejecting his electoral defeat would only bolster the liberal call for a fight to support bourgeois democracy and the electoral process, which would pull people right into a reformist pro voting rights stance not a revolutionary one.


VICTOR: Simply calling for an electoral boycott will have no impact whatsoever.


RASHID: Calling for a boycott while also creating a mass-based revolutionary party to build revolutionary bases and dual power will have a massive impact. That you ignore my point of also calling for developing and supporting a mass-based revolutionary party is consistent with the Left’s general refusal to leave the universities and their comfort zones to unite with the people and engage in genuine revolutionary work. As I’ve said to do this work you have to go where the masses are.


VICTOR: I hope my reply can be read by everyone who’s read your remarks to my comment.


RASHID: As do I.


Dare to struggle dare to win!
All power to the people!


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