“Vote against fascism” is an excellent slogan and an even better strategy. While many of those who I would say are ultra left would decry such a call for action, I ask, why?
I am from and live in Pennsylvania. Of the two major candidates running for governor, Josh Shapiro (D) and Doug Mastriano (R), it is clear that Mastriano represents a fascist-aligned danger, if the man cannot be called a fascist himself. His platform fits with the standard MAGA call to arms: ban education that is deemed “woke” (read includes Black people and or LGBT people), eliminate mail-in voting, push voter IDs, and increase the number of “poll watchers” to guard against supposed voter fraud. Mastriano also supports a total ban on abortion and even the arrest of doctors who perform the procedure. His platform also mentions appointing a “Secretary of State with experience in securing elections from fraud,” mimicking Trump’s cries of election misconduct.
Should we not agree to vote against such a candidate and the repulsive ideology and forces that they represent? This is what “vote against fascism” means. Why, then, is there such a backlash against the call to “vote against fascism?” There are differing schools of thought on this, both un-Marxist-Leninist.
The first is that “voting doesn’t matter.” The saying goes that if voting mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it. This logic ignores two facts: first, the expansion of the electorate had to be fought for, and second, voter suppression continues to this day. The election of Trump is what allowed for the Supreme Court to be packed with far-right judges, which has taken us to where we are now. Voting matters and gives us a say in the kind of terrain on which we struggle. Would a Clinton victory in 2016 take us to socialism? Of course not, but it would have led to more favorable ground on which to struggle, the same way that the Biden victory in 2020 has allowed for an albeit uphill battle, but one that has given us an administration more favorable to labor than the previous one.
Sometimes we hear from ultra-left forces who say “revolution now!” but will be disappointed to find out that’s now how revolutionary change works. The great October revolution was not accomplished in a single day or even one year. It took decades of organizing to topple the czar and more to build a socialist nation.
The second, and perhaps the more outlandish reason not to participate in electoral struggle is that “the USA and or the Democratic Party is already fascist.” While none can deny the increasing authoritarian rule of Republican states, and that liberal politicians and baseline democrats are capable of great oppression and cruelty, this is not fascism. Georgi Dimitrov gives us a very clear definition:
“the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital. Going on to say “It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.”
Somehow I cannot believe that a lukewarm Democrat like Pete Buttigieg or even the worst, like Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin, fit this definition. Even liberals can plainly see the fascist nature of Republicans who view the January 6th coup attempt as “legitimate political discourse.” Despite the rare exceptions like Republican Senator Liz Cheney, the GOP is far more right-wing than in the Nixon era. And those deemed “heroes” like Cheney and the testifiers at the January 6 hearings have enabled the Trump regime all along by remaining silent for four long years. Proud Boys, intimidating poll watchers, and the mob of rioters are poised to be the storm troopers of fascism and the Republican Party.
The CPUSA has never said “vote blue no matter who.” The conservative Democrats should be primaried and challenged by progressives, democratic socialists, and Communists. But not differentiating progressive Democrats from fascist Republicans is dogmatic adherence to the long-discredited “social fascist” theory, which equated social democracy with fascism. The social fascist theory led to the Communist Party of Germany to ignore the rise of the Nazis, focusing more of their attention on the SPD (Socialist Party of Deutschland). This theory was held during the third period of the Comintern, and by the fourth period was replaced by the popular front against fascism, which remains the bedrock of our platform to this day.
So what did Dimitrov, leader of the Comintern and later Socialist Bulgaria, have to say about voting and bourgeois democracy?
We are not Anarchists, and it is not at all a matter of indifference to us what kind of political regime exists in any given country: whether a bourgeois dictatorship in the form of bourgeois democracy, even with democratic rights and liberties greatly curtailed, or a bourgeois dictatorship in its open, fascist form. While being upholders of Soviet democracy, we shall defend every inch the democratic gains which the working class has wrested in the course of years of stubborn struggle, and shall resolutely fight to extend these gains.
How great were the sacrifices of the British working class before it secured the right to strike, a legal status for its trade unions, the right of assembly and freedom of the press, extension of the franchise, and other rights. How many tens of thousands of workers gave their lives in the revolutionary battles fought in France in the nineteenth century to obtain the elementary rights and the lawful opportunity of organizing their forces for the struggle against the exploiters. The proletariat of all countries has shed much of its blood to win bourgeois-democratic liberties and will naturally fight with all its strength to retain them.
How easily this can be translated into our own conditions. The struggle to end slavery and Jim Crow, the struggle to form and join a union, for the right to vote itself, were all won with much blood and struggle. History does not repeat itself and the GOP are not the Nazi Party incarnate, this is true. But to deny their growing fascist character does not make you more radical, it makes you naive to what is happening.
There is a faux-Maoist and ultra-left tendency to reject political action in favor of vague adventurism without ever presenting an alternative strategy to stop fascism. They substitute moralizing for clear-eyed analysis of the political forces at play in any given moment. In their view, “both sides are the same” and one’s soul is tainted for voting in an election for bourgeois candidates. Voting in elections is a tactical choice, not a moral one.
Ultimately, the reason some on the left reject electoral struggle is they don’t agree with the concept of the all-people’s front. They view sectarianism as a virtue and take pride in their insular nature. This reflects a lack of confidence in the multiple people’s movements — for voting rights, against police brutality and mass incarceration, and for a livable planet, to name a few — and in the working class itself. The need for an all-people’s front is grounded in actual experience and the scientific formula of Marxism-Leninism, not moralistic idealism.
But there are others who rightfully ask: where are our candidates? And the answer that is: wherever there are clubs and districts. Run for office, run as a Communist, be a loud and proud red. We are starting to dip our feet back into the water of electoral work. We need Communist city council members, Communist union leaders, Communist mayors. Run and vote, comrades! Challenge Republicans where the Democrats are too callow to fight, and challenge the Democrat obstructionists Manchin and Sinema. We need more politicking and less sloganeering.
So this November I will vote against fascism and I encourage all my friends, family, and comrades to do the same.
Communist Party USA, August 4, 2022, https://www.cpusa.org/