Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yesterday in third parties...

"KPD...End This System" reads this poster from the Communist Party of Germany, ca. 1932. The Communist Party came in third in the 1932 German elections, after the Nazis and the Socialists. Without suggesting that this year's elections are as momentous as those of waning Weimar, or that the Republican/teabagger side is quite as precipitously genocidal as the Nazis were, I'd like to note that bad strategy by the left in those long-ago elections resulted in the victory of the far right.

It's easy in the upcoming election to be pissed off at President Obama's failure to advance more than a centrist agenda given his rhetoric about fundamental change. It's not wrong to point out all the defective similarities between the Democrats and the Republicans, to note that neither party is actually on the side of regular people. It's not wrong to look to long-term strategies which would repudiate the class bias of these two parties and the lock they hold on the American political system. But as I have said before, elections have winners and losers, and the fact that many people--but not enough people--think neither of these parties represents a vehicle for progress and justice is ultimately irrelevant. The year 2000 elections had a very strong showing by a left-of-center third party candidate, and the victory of George Bush was the result. (It should be noted that most third-party candidates who make a showing in American presidential elections are distinctly right of center.)

Now is a time of deep class division, but not a time of deep class struggle. Early 1930s Germany was a time of both. And yet the failure of the left with mass popular support to make strategic choices like uniting against the fascist threat meant that the vast numbers of politically active progressive forces still lost. Today in the US I think it is fair to say that the activist majority is right-wing. Those who would sit the upcoming elections out or throw a vote away on a protest candidate are doing only the ascendant teabagger movement a favor.

Should the Democrats pull off an unlikely win in the midterms, they will give us plenty of reason to be pissed off at them: that is a known danger. But a teabagger win has many disastrously ugly potentials, and if this is not 1932 Weimar Germany, it might be 1923 Germany when economic collapse sowed the seeds of future calamity.

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