The Electoral Road to Power?

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Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

As the left revisits questions of strategy and the role of elections in the path towards socialist transformation, author and veteran activist Tom Wetzel outlines both a critique of the electoral centered path and a strategy for working class power from below.

By Tom Wetzel

Could a shift from capitalism to socialism be brought about through electoral politics? Ever since the origins of the modern socialist left in the late 1800s, many socialists have viewed the politics of parties and elections as a way they can insert themselves into history — forming a core component of their strategy.

In the World War I era the American Socialist Party (SPA) had gained a hundred thousand members and elected more than a thousand government officials — mayors, members of city councils and state legislators. By the mid-20th century “democratic socialism” had been coined as a kind of political brand to refer to the tradition of the socialists oriented to electoral politics as a strategy for social change.

The “democratic socialist” label was partly meant to show their defense of the systems of “representative democracy” and liberal values in western Europe, North America and elsewhere. This was combined with critiques of the repressive and undemocratic nature of the “communist camp” countries of the mid-20th century — the Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba, Communist China. This defense of “representative democracy” is tied in with their basic strategy of working to gain political power through elections.

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Emancipation of the Working Class: The Legacy of the IWW.

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

Winter 2019 cover of the IWW’s Industrial Worker magazine.

Founded over 110 years ago on June 27, 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, created an iconic legacy and rich history of militant unionism in the U.S.  The union was founded by radical unionists and currents within the labor movement with the purpose of building an alternative to the conservative trade unionism of the American Labor Federation (AFL) which promoted harmony between workers and capital and practiced exclusion in their organizing along the lines of race, gender and skill. Today the IWW continues to organize as an alternative to mainstream unions and we celebrate its vision of a labor movement committed to the emancipation of the working class. 

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Red State Revolt: An Essential But Flawed Story of the Teacher Rebellion

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

Review of Red State Revolt, The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics by Eric Blanc on Verso Books, 2019. By Michael Mochaidean

Last year’s wave of public teacher strikes and walkouts was the highest number of workers walking off the job in three decades. Whether it will be the start of a larger trend across other sectors is yet to be seen. But understanding how these strikes came to fruition is an important lesson of modern labor history.

So how did a group of young, radical, education unionists manage to stage statewide walkouts across the nation in 2018?

This is the question that Eric Blanc seeks to answer in the much anticipated release of his first book, Red State Revolt. Blanc is a doctoral student at NYU and for the past year has acted as correspondent on the Left for the larger education struggles. Given that Blanc has spent the better part of a year covering these struggles, interviewing by his estimates over 100 participants, and being a former educator himself, Blanc is uniquely qualified to write about these matters in ways few others can.

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