Beyond the Elections – Mateus Alves

We are in an election period and, once again, we watch the old catchphrases resuming to look new. Each election looks a lot like the previous one, changing only a few specificities – this is explained by the lack of creativity of the candidates, by the rate of discontent of the lower classes with it, but mainly because of the impossibility of any more radical discourse, being imperative for candidates to repeat what has already been said. Candidates must satisfy the interests of their funders as well as the direction of the party and simultaneously must please a large part of the population through speeches. The result of this combination are repetitive catchphrases with new hairstyles. However, although the candidates reproduce the same speeches and, when elected, turn their backs on their voters, the elections still have legitimacy.

One of the determinations for the continuity of this legitimacy is not to see another possibility beyond the existing one, conforming to the current state of things. It is well known, however, that the lower classes are dissatisfied with capitalist society and at each election their expectations are broken, persisting the same discontent, making a tendency to increasing dissatisfaction with the electoral process. And this is not by chance or because the fittest was not elected to office. This is a consequence of the needs of capital accumulation, the nature of the capitalist state and political parties.

The capitalist state is a form of regularization of social relations and this is effected mainly through control. This regularization and control occur according to the interests of the bourgeoisie as a class and, therefore, the state serves the interests of capital accumulation. Marx referred to the modern state as a committee that asserts the common interests of the bourgeoisie precisely because it represents the interests of capitalists in its entirety.

Political parties, on the other hand, are bureaucratic organizations that hold within the division between leader and directed with the aim to ascend to the power of the state. Thereby, political parties are organizations that aim at control, reproducing the division between intellectual and manual labor, because some plan and others execute. Because of this, the individuals who constitute the direction of political parties belong to a specific class fraction in capitalism called party bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, as a class, has its interests that do not correspond to the interests of the lower classes.

Each political party launches its candidates in elections to achieve state power. To do so, they need to adapt to the electoral rules drawn up by the state. Also, they must disclose their candidates to gather votes, generating the need for large investments to increase the possibility of winning the election. Those who finance these spending of political parties are generally fractions of the bourgeoisie[1] who, in return, will have their interests represented in parliament. The combination of the adequacy to electoral rules with the need for funding generates organizations serving the interests of the bourgeoisie, caring for the lower classes only in the discourse. The state, political parties and parliament therefore serves the reproduction of capitalism[2].

Thus, it is necessary to overcome the idea that candidates (i.e., aspiring professional politicians) can represent the interests of the proletariat. The class interests of political parties, the “rules of the electoral game” and the need for funders ensure that this does not materialize. Nevertheless, the electoral process and political parties are presented as the means of realizing the demands of the population. As the proletariat’s interest is to get rid of the shacks of exploitation and domination, political parties and the state – intrinsically marked with their interests – cannot rid the proletariat of its ties. This task is to the proletariat itself, not any political party.

The proletariat and all those interested in the radical transformation of this society must deny the election, because if not, they would be legitimizing it. Now, if political parties and the state itself are antagonistic to the interests of the revolutionary proletariat, there is no reason to vote for aspiring professional politicians. The means must correspond to the purposes, as Rosa Luxembourg pointed out.

Because of this, the struggle for self-management null vote corresponds to the interests of the proletariat, because it denies the bureaucratic organizations, the state, the electoral process, the ideology of representation in favor of revolutionary self-organizations and simultaneously the affirmation of the revolutionary project of overcoming capitalist society is realized. Thus, the struggle for self-management null vote is part of the broader struggle for social self-management.

Thereby, the null vote linked to the self-management project allows us to see beyond the elections, envisioning a radically new society, where human beings will be free from their ties. And for this, the proletariat must overcome bureaucratic organizations, the state and the ideology of representation to realize their self-emancipation. The revolution, therefore, will be a task of the workers themselves.

Mateus Alves, 9-11-2020

Source: Para Além das Eleições (Movaut – Brazil). Translated by Luiz de Oliveira and Mateus Alves. Reviewed by Fredo Corvo. Was also published in: https://leftdis.wordpress.com/2020/11/12/movaut-brazil-beyond-the-elections/.


[1] There are also candidates who, due to some specificities, need themselves – or the party – to fund their campaigns. Thus, these candidates have very low chances of winning the elections, being only “extras” of the electoral process. However, this does not cancel out their class interests, unrelated to that of the proletariat.

[2] It is worth remembering that the conquest of the vote was granted through the struggle of the workers. However, the result of this process was the bureaucratization of progressive parties – especially social democratic parties – and trade unions.

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