Leftist, Communists Debate Supporting Biden

With Joe Biden, a member of the Democratic party’s moderate wing, representing Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, leftist thinkers disagreed on whether communist voters should vote for Biden at an event hosted by Platypus BC, a socialist organization, on Oct. 29.

Marxist Ruy Martinez, Harvard University junior and editor of The Activist, a publication of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, urged communist thinkers to stray away from voting for Joe Biden, thinking that it erodes the leftist’s agenda.

“I think that we can have a Marxist perspective to say, yeah, it is better for us if Biden wins, but Biden is evil,” Martinez said. “He is a bad man.”

At the virtual event titled “Popular Frontism in the Age of Trump,” Martinez and other panelists discussed popular frontism, Marxism, and political cooperation in the context of the upcoming presidential election. 

Martinez defined popular frontism as a statement of unity among potentially competing sects of government and society in the face of a common enemy.

“A popular front, at least in the original context, was a formal agreement of governance or coalition,” he said. 

Martinez said that popular frontism among Communist Party USA (CPUSA) members should be avoided when it degrades party platforms and promotes centrism, and the CPUSA has occasionally failed in this regard when it comes to Biden. Martinez said that popular frontism in the 2020 election is far less necessary than previous democratic frontism against Nazi fascism, since President Donald Trump is not a fascist. 

“We should maintain the independent socialist line, avoid the popular front of support of Biden which certain CPUSA articles have done in their headlines, which they should know and do know influences how most people will read the article,” Martinez said.

In contrast to Martinez, Edward Carson, former chairperson of CPUSA, said it was crucial that the Communist Party finds common ground with less progressive forms of the left and avoids sectarianism, or becoming overly attached to certain political parties. 

“The CPUSA aims to avoid sectarianism at all cost,” he said. “We have to realize that we have to work, have to operate within an apparatus of various different groups.”

Carson encouraged leftists to vote for Biden in an effort to protect the rights of people of color and those identifying as LGBTQ+. 

“People must mobilize in a way to pull liberals and progressives together,” Carson said. “That means voting for Biden, supporting Biden, and by really working in many ways to stop the degradation of certain things that are problematic.” 

According to Martinez, popular frontism does not promote the need and wishes of the working class, the people he said were at the forefront of the Marxist movement.

“The popular front, seems in my opinion at least, to have really eroded the independence of the working class organization,” Martinez said. “Our goal as revolutionary Marxists is the conquest of power by the working class.”

George Katsiaficas, a professor at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, clarified the difference between what he views as the “Old Left” and “New Left.” While the Old Left was a collective socialist front responding to Nazi fascism, the New Left was a less organized movement of the 1960s responding to racism in the West. 

“The New Left did not have one centralized institution,” Katsiaficas said. “It had a multifarious collection of parties and groups and collectives, of ad hoc coalitions, and it’s a very different organizational form than the Old Left.” 

Katsiaficas critiqued the conception that the Soviet Union was void of accomplishment and a failed communist experiment, citing Soviet efforts in defeating the Axis powers in World War II and providing aid to colonial African states. 

“Let’s not forget that the Soviet Union, many people will say, you know, was a failure but, whoa, wait a minute, there were some great victories,” Katsiaficas said. 

Martinez, in responding to ideas brought up by Carson, explained that Trump, who he believed might contest an election outcome, can only be defeated by a vocal movement. 

“Trump will not be defeated if you contest the election by voting,” Martinez said. “He will be defeated by a mass movement of people.”

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

November 2, 2020