24 October 2020 debate on the US presidential election

Submitted by martin on 26 October, 2020 - 1:25 Author: Workers' Liberty
US presidential polls 2020

• See here for other articles debating the US election, Trump, etc.

The motions below were debated at a Workers' Liberty committee meeting (by Zoom) on 24 October. Motion 1 was defeated. An amendment to motion 2 to delete the first sentence,"Trump is not likely..." (in square brackets below), was carried, and then Motion 2 as amended was carried.

Motion 1

This US presidential election has narrowed down into a contest between a fascistic demagogue with a militant and part-militarised mass base, and a standard-issue neoliberal.

Voting Biden to stop Trump requires saying no more "for" him than leftists who oppose voting for him already say, when they agree that we should hope Biden wins.

The Marxist tradition rightly emphasises creating an independent working-class voice and party. It contains no general argument against voting for a clearly-defined, high-stakes bourgeois lesser evil (not a might-be-a-shade-in-it one) when there is no real working-class alternative in the race.

The nature of the Hawkins campaign, on the Green Party ticket and not supported even by Hawkins' own socialist group, makes a Hawkins vote a weak gesture, not a contribution to movement-building.

The most active, interventionist step on 3 November towards building an independent working-class socialist party in the USA is to create a socialist, democratic, critical profile within the rallying of left-minded, anti-racist, and pro-union voters to stop Trump by voting Biden. That will energise people round the urgency of defending and extending democratic rights and round working-class and socialist ideas.

Motion 2

[Trump is not likely to win the Presidential election, and may possibly lose to Biden by a wide margin.]

The political crisis that will probably happen in the aftermath of the US Presidential election will be caused by Trump refusing to accept defeat.

That crisis may, if it takes an extreme form, push Trump to begin co-ordinate a violent right-wing street response.

Our role is to back US socialists, the labour movement and the oppressed, to rally in defence of democratic rights.

Trump is not a fascist. His aim is to stay President. Being a vile, sexist, narcissistic, right-wing populist is not enough to label him a fascist.

A movement around Trump, in the aftermath of the election, could develop in a clearly fascist direction but that does not justify designating him a fascist now. It is a misunderstanding of what he represents now.

Trump has no street movement under his control, although his Presidency has created conditions for the growth of the racist right and far right and various types of militia groups.

There is no pressing, desperate reason for us to advocate a Biden vote. The pressing matter is supporting a mobilisation to defend democracy from the election loser’s power-grab.

We will not advocate a Biden vote. Biden is a wretched representative of a mainstream bourgeois party, the Democrats, which has traditionally been a net that has enmeshed US radicals.

A Biden vote would confuse our message for the need for independent working class political organisation and voice in the US. Biden will almost certainly introduce anti-working class and anti-migrant legislation. Biden may well pave the way for a new Trump, or someone worse than Trump.

Voting for Biden may well open up a small audience to us by removing a barrier. But given our tiny weight the main reaction will be, amongst small numbers who might listen to us, “We’re glad to have you onboard”. Chiming in with the “Vote Biden” clamour makes it less likely, overall, that our key message about the need for independent working-class politics is heard.

We oppose US socialists having an activist orientation to the Democrats. The Democratic Party is not “reformable” via an intervention from US labour or the socialist left. It is not a US Labour Party. It is an electoral machine, primarily. There is little space for activists. There are no mechanisms to hold elected Democrats accountable.

On balance we favour a vote for the Green candidate, the socialist and trade unionist, Howie Hawkins. It is unfortunate that the Hawkins campaign is not bigger, broader, better and more likely to organise and educate a new layer of American socialists. That is a measure of the state of the US left. But at least Hawkins’ propaganda and policies are good. That means something.

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