A number of left groups in the United States ran campaigns in the recent US elections. Probably the most successful was a very localised effort in Michigan where a new party, the Working Class Party, succeeded in getting on the ballot and winning tens of thousands of votes.
The Working Class Party is only a few months old and has been formed to raise the need for workers to build their own political party totally independent from the Democrats and Republicans.
The following statement was released by the WCP last weekend:
“Vote totals are in for the Working Class Party. It’s not a spectacular vote, but it shows that a part of the working class responded to the main axis of our campaign: that the working class needs its own party.
“Mary Anne Hering, candidate for State Board of Education, had 224,122 votes statewide, the highest vote of any minor party candidate for a state-wide position. Mary Anne’s votes gave her 2.66% of the vote. Her votes enable our new party to keep ballot status for future elections. (Her total was almost 14 times the requirement of 16,491.)
“Gary Walkowicz, candidate for U.S. Congress, Michigan District 12, had 9,183 votes, with 3.81% of the vote in Wayne County’s part of the district, and 1.21% in Washtenaw County.
“Sam Johnson, candidate for U.S. Congress, District 13, which covers part of Detroit and part of Wayne County, had 8,778 votes, or 3.43% of the vote.
“The largest number of our votes came from the big working class cities in the state. But Mary Anne had even higher percentages in some semi-rural districts: with more than 4% in Ontonagon, Arenac, Iosco and Lake counties.
“Finally, more than 13,000 people voted a straight party ticket for the Working Class Party, a new party that had never been on the ballot before. That includes in a number of counties where we were not able to campaign, and the only information of our campaign may have been in an interview heard on Michigan’s public radio system or an article picked up by small local papers or even simply in the name itself.
“These results mean that a part of the working class – even if a small one – is conscious of their own class interests and of the urgent necessity to create a party of their own.
“The absence of a working class party helped open the road for a racist and misogynist demagogue like Trump to pretend to be a “populist,” to tap the anger of at least part of the working class, and to carry out a campaign that can only be divisive and dangerous for working people everywhere.
“The lack of a working class party is the major issue of our day, the one that the organizers of the Working Class Party set out to address.
“We know that a real party will be built only through the struggles of the working class to defend itself and impose its answers to the problems of society. But some of those thousands who voted for Working Class Party today can be the impetus for struggles tomorrow.
“The work done to put the party on the ballot and let it be heard was important, but it was only a start. The work continues.”
The Party is the initiative of a small Marxist current called The Spark. In the November 14 issue of their fortnightly paper, they say the following:
“The Working Class Party of Michigan has something to show for its efforts. Not only did it get many times more votes than needed to let it run in the next election, their top candidate got more votes than any other candidate nominated by the minor parties.
“A year ago, this new party didn’t exist. There were only – in addition to the Democrats and Republicans – the Libertarians, Greens, U.S. Taxpayers and Natural Law. All of them had been on the ballot for almost two decades, if not much longer.
“In order to have the right to run in elections, a new party has to collect signatures – this year, almost 32,000 were required. The organizers of the Working Class Party collected just over 50,000 before they were done.
“It undoubtedly was a lot of work, but it allowed the people who did it to meet 100,000 people, if not more, most of them in working class areas. The petitioners found a real response to the basic ideas they raised: that the working class needs its own party. It needs a party separate from the two big parties that represent the capitalist class very directly, and distinct from the minor parties that do not base themselves on the working class.
“It seems likely that many of those people met in the petitioning were among the nearly 225,000 people who cast their votes for the top candidate of the new party: Mary Anne Hering, a teacher who ran for State School Board. More people must have decided to vote Working Class after they ran into the campaign in the nine weeks after Labor Day. But that doesn’t explain the size of the vote. The fact is, people in the far corners of the state, most of whom could not have met the new party, voted for it – in many cases, running into it for the first time when they saw its name on the ballot.
“That means that the idea of a working class party struck a chord with a part of the working class. It wasn’t the majority – but it was a significant part.
“The new party, with just a few dozen volunteers, found a couple hundred thousand votes. That’s because working people are fed up, fed up with the rule of banks and big corporations whose drive for profit has decimated parts of the working class. They are fed up with the existing political establishment, a whole apparatus which has done nothing but serve those same banks and corporations. Fed up with that fabulously wealthy class which lives off the profit wrenched from our daily labor.
“Trump played to this anger – but it will be only to deceive workers who gave him their votes. Not only will he deceive them – he will try to pull them into the swamp of his racist and sexist ideology. The biggest service Trump will try to do for the ruling class is to divide the working class up into separate and thus weaker parts.
“The working class needs its own party. This is an old problem. But the election of Trump demonstrates its absolute necessity in a stark way.
“The task now is to build it. The response to Working Class Party, which is only an electoral party, and a new one at that, shows that it is possible to begin.”
This advance is a welcome one. At the same time, WCP material that we have seen is all about very fundamental economic issues that don’t challenge some of the most important aspects of capitalist rule and ideological hegemony. For instance, did the WCP produce material on the wars US imperialism is waging in the Middle East? Did it oppose economic nationalism? What did it say about the free movement of workers across borders drawn by imperialism? In the First World, these are absolutely crucial political questions that have to be raised and argued out within the working class.