Workers Vanguard No. 1013

23 November 2012


PSL’s Electoral Cretinism

We print below, edited for publication, the remarks of a Los Angeles comrade during the discussion period at the Spartacist League forum “Elections 2012: Wall Street Democrat vs. Wall Street Republican” (printed in two parts in WV Nos. 1011 and 1012, 26 October and 9 November). The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) claimed to run a socialist campaign for U.S. president, based in no small part on the call to amend the Constitution to supposedly ensure jobs and decent housing for all—i.e., the reformist notion that the capitalist system, based on vicious exploitation of working people, can be fundamentally altered through legislative fiddling.

When the PSL split from the Workers World Party (WWP) in 2004, it in no way broke with that outfit’s reformist program. The WWP has repeatedly crossed the class line by supporting capitalist politicians, in particular such black Democrats as Chicago’s Harold Washington in the 1980s up to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. This year, the WWP once again supported Brooklyn’s Charles Barron in his efforts to become a Democratic candidate for Congress. As for the PSL, in 2008 it ran candidates on the tickets of the Green Party—a small-time capitalist party—and California’s petty-bourgeois Peace and Freedom Party (PFP).

The third parties with whom the PSL cavorts have proved time and again to be vehicles through which “progressives” try to push the Democratic Party of imperialism and war a bit to the left. In that pursuit, a 10 June 2008 PSL online article declared that the excitement aroused by Barack Obama’s candidacy among black people was “perfectly justifiable” given the racist history of the U.S. and concluded: “Our campaign has absolutely no quarrel with those who have devoted their time to righting this historic wrong.” In other words: vote Democrat. For the 2012 elections, the PSL borrowed Obama’s slogan of yesteryear, “Yes We Can,” adding some leftist trim, declaring: “Yes We Can— Fight for Socialism!”

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Here in L.A. we don’t see much of the International Socialist Organization or WWP, but their place is taken by the equally reformist Party for Socialism and Liberation, who through their ANSWER coalition hosts liberal, pacifist antiwar demos based on appeals to the bourgeoisie to change their priorities and fund things like jobs instead of things like war. These demos are never centered on advancing the need for independent working-class politics but are to pressure the Democrats to do the right thing.

Right now the PSL is putting most of their efforts into a presidential election campaign, but their claim to be an independent alternative is a lie. Here in California they first sought to run on the petty-bourgeois Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The PFP does not stand for a break with the capitalist parties or a fight for a workers government; it is a place for leftists who have made their peace with capitalism. The PSL actually wound up withdrawing their bid for the PFP nomination and gave support to Roseanne Barr for that ticket. A funny actress she may be, but she’s certainly no socialist. Now the PSL is forced to peddle their reformist wares in their own name.

One of the main things that they are calling for in their campaign is seizing the banks within the confines of capitalism. The PSL states that “by creating a national People’s Bank, with open books and under the democratic control and administration of the 99%…we can begin the process of reorganizing the economy to meet human needs.” Capitalism can never be reorganized to meet human needs. It is a system which exists to insure the profits of a few capitalists at the expense of the majority of the population. Moreover, the capitalist state exists to defend bankers and their banks from the seizures that the PSL calls for. It is ridiculous of the PSL to think that the capitalist state will allow the banks to be seized when it didn’t even allow a few Occupy people to seize a public park! The working class can seize these banks and make them work for its interests and those of the oppressed only after they have overthrown the capitalist state and created a workers state.

In their ten-point program, the PSL calls for making jobs, free health care, and affordable housing constitutional rights. What base reformism! The priorities of the capitalist class cannot be changed simply by changing the laws. The laws actually exist to prop up the capitalist system. If the PSL truly believes that something will be guaranteed just because it’s in the Constitution, maybe they can explain how it’s possible that people are currently being tortured at Guantánamo and in countless police departments across the U.S. even though the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

We in the Spartacist League believe that the only way to do away with the evils of capitalism is for the working class, led by a Leninist vanguard party, to overthrow the capitalist state and create a workers state, which will lay the foundation for a socialist society. Building a revolutionary party requires making clear that the Democrats are a capitalist party and the enemy of working people. But the PSL’s reformist program only serves to sow illusions among radical workers and youth. Thus, they actually help prop up this decaying racist capitalist system and act as an obstacle in the fight for a revolutionary workers party. We in the SL seek to break would-be leftists from the reformism of the PSL and other groups and win them to a revolutionary Marxist program. Come talk to us if this interests you.