U.S. and World Politics

Workers’ Power, Workers’ Control

By Bonnie Weinstein

Electoral campaigns are an important component to raising the consciousness of workers about the real power we have to improve our lives. Independent, working class campaigns are important vehicles for raising demands to increase the minimum wage; free childcare, education and healthcare for all from cradle to grave; or to register our opposition to war, racism or sexism, etc.

Winning an election campaign is a good measure of the level of consciousness and acceptance of the demands raised in the campaign. The drawback of such campaigns alone is that winning is no guarantee that the demands voted for will be fulfilled.

Time and again voters have elected candidates and have passed resolutions only to find out after the elections that nothing would be done to actually fulfill the demands we voted for.

To see that demands won in an electoral campaign are actually brought to fruition takes an ongoing, organized fight that can continue to mount mass pressure for these demands. It’s also important to educate the ranks that do the day-to-day work and the masses of workers that we seek to reach about just who is keeping us from gaining these demands.

This takes a conscious leadership that understands the inherent nature of capitalism to squeeze as much as they can from the working class in order to increase profits.

As socialists, we understand that the struggle to make the lives of workers better is a never-ending, contentious battle as long as capitalism exists. But, capitalism is in its death agony. The capitalists will stop at nothing to preserve their power and increase their wealth no matter how difficult the lives of working people become.

We also understand that working people have tremendous power if it can be organized. That has been shown over and over again.

The whole history of labor struggles is the history of labor solidarity and the power that comes from it. From the fight for the 40-hour workweek, to the establishment of unions, pensions, public education and health benefits, these battles have been won only through the united, mass actions of workers organized independently of the capitalist class.

In our strongest periods we built our own, democratically-controlled, industry-based organizations—industrial unions—in our own common interests and in opposition to the capitalist bosses and their political parties. That was at the foundation of the gains of organized labor in the U.S.

In the process of each mass workers’ struggle an effective leadership—a vanguard—emerges from the ranks because they have proven, through the struggle, to have the most effective strategy that leads to victory. Many socialists have been in the vanguard of these struggles.

A workers vanguard

But at the moment, socialist organizations across the globe are fragmented and most often, in competition with each other for “hegemony”—to become “the vanguard” that will lead masses of workers to victory over capitalism by “beating out” the other socialist organizations. This is the antithesis of a workers’ vanguard.

Theoretically speaking, a socialist party or group participates in the class struggle (including electoral politics) to help workers win.

A natural outcome of participating and, in fact, leading an independent, democratically-principled united struggle for worker’s needs and rights that is victorious is that it’s bound to build the ranks of those socialist parties and organizations in the process. Effective performance in the class struggle is what creates the vanguard leadership and builds a vanguard party.

But such a dynamic only works during an actual class struggle of workers—when workers are in motion and organizing in our own defense and in solidarity with each other and with our own, democratically agreed-upon demands such as the current fight for an increase in the minimum wage.

The exact figure suggested for the minimum wage ranges anywhere from a meager ten to fifteen dollars-an-hour (not a living wage in cities like New York, San Francisco or Boston) to thirty or thirty-five-dollars-an-hour—a much more realistic figure for a half-way decent life. Every worker realizes this.

What we don’t realize is that we have the right to determine the minimum wage we need to get by on, since it’s we who do the work and produce the profits the capitalist class steals from us.

An attack against one is an attack against all! Solidarity forever!

A real vanguard party comes out of the active class struggle of workers. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. A real vanguard party understands that working class unity and solidarity is our power.

A real vanguard party sets an example of how best to organize that vitally needed unity and solidarity—putting aside our differences—in order to build an independent force that can actually succeed in winning our demands.

The Sawant victory

The victory of the Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant for Seattle City Council is an opportunity to build a united front to continue the fight for the demands the campaign raised, and that got her elected in her openly socialist campaign.1 Those demands obviously resonated with workers in Seattle; and in Minneapolis where Socialist Alternative candidate Ty Moore ran for City Council, Ward 9, and lost by only 229 votes.

And certainly that means that the same conditions exist in many different places in the country and around the world to organize a real working class resistance to the increased austerity, war, oppression, incarceration and environmental catastrophe the capitalists inflict on us.

The Sawant campaign and Socialist Alternative is in a good position to organize an independent, ongoing struggle, not just because they won, but because their openly socialist victory shows that there are real possibilities out there to build independent, working class struggles and win.

The road to socialism

The goal of a socialist society is to end the wars, violence, poverty, and brutality dictated by the capitalist class.

Socialism is a society where humans can share the wealth of the world equally and create a world in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all; a world where we can all benefit from each according to our individual and multiple abilities and talents; and provide to each according to our individual needs and wants while pristinely preserving our planet and all the life on it.

We who consider ourselves part of a revolutionary socialist vanguard are obligated to set the most exemplary example of workers democracy and cooperation, put aside our differences, and build an independent, democratic united front of the working class and our allies that can win, and get down to the business of saving the world.

1 Campaign Platform,, click on “Issues”