We have received an article on the legislative elections in Korea from the comrades of the Korea-based group Internationalist Communist Perspective. The comrades underline in this article “However, nothing can be achieved for the working class through elections. This is because the electoral system itself maintains all the political systems and governing bodies of bourgeois society and strengthens the passivity of the workers...
(…) The working class should not have the illusion that the liberation of the workers can be obtained through parliamentary means and winning majorities in elections. Taking power by the working class and its full political participation can only be achieved through the destruction of capitalism and its state institutions.”
The article of the comrades was written before the elections in Korea, which took place on 15 April 2020 and ended in a landslide victory for the current president Moon Jae-in, to a large extent because of the country’s relatively effective response to the Covid-19 outbreak. According to the comrades this text was the only voice raised against participating in the elections.
With the highest turn-out over the past decades – 66% - the ruling class achieved what it wanted: strengthening the credibility of bourgeois democracy and its parliamentary system. While the measures put in place under president Moon Jae-in were praised as most efficient in combating the health risks of the corona virus, the ruling class will now use the elections to bolster its democratic legitimation – because the Democratic Party and the Citizens’ Together Party won more than 60% of the seats, and they will now claim that the biggest majority of any government coalition in power is entitled to defend the interests of Korean national capital and demand more sacrifices. Because while the dangers to the health of people may have been protected better than in other countries, as the comrades of IPC write, the working class will now be presented with a heavy bill for the economic consequences. And their warning in the article that “regardless of the outcome after the elections, the capitalists and the government will start attacking the working class” was a very realistic assessment. We agree with the comrades’ strong denunciation of bourgeois elections. Some formulations in the article such as the rise of fascism in Korea are not clear from our point of view and would need further clarification and this should be subject of a debate.
ICC, April 27, 2020
Another bourgeois election is due (on 15th April 2020) in the face of the capitalist crisis, the Covid19 pandemic, and the resulting catastrophe for the world proletariat. Again the Korean working class is being told to exercise its ‘democratic right’ to elect representatives that they cannot control. There is no alternative unless the working class has power in its own hands.
What is the reality for the working class that has repeatedly gone to the polls? Governments change, politicians change, and individuals from a working class background have been elected to the National Assembly to ‘represent’ the workers, but the living conditions of the workers have not improved. Rather, they have got worse and workers live in an increasingly dangerous society where no one is guaranteed a stable life. Even the Moon Jae-in government which claimed to be the successor of the candle light movement and took “respect for labor” as its slogan, and claims to be fighting against the threat of worsening living conditions and all kinds of discrimination, has no solution. The promises of politicians have for a long time been promises that cannot be kept. It was the same with the promises of the so-called progressive labour parties that persuaded you to vote for them and to wait until they take power to change the world through elections.
The bourgeois parliamentary system conceals the violent rule of the capitalist state. It uses relatively less barbaric violence than other forms of rule, and allows periodic elections to replace the governing party by other factions of the ruling class. Elections and parliamentary systems create the illusion that the working class directly elects people to govern them and is participating in political power. Workers are supposed to believe that they have delegated power to the elected politicians when they participate in the elections, that they participate in power by voting. However, once elected, politicians are not directly controlled by the voters, and most of them, apart from during the election period, act independently of the voters.
In addition, since bourgeois elections exist primarily to strengthen capitalist rule, they are never allowed to change capitalist rule itself or abolish exploitation and oppression. Therefore, in the bourgeois election the main forces are not ‘voters’ but bourgeois political forces, and the whole election process and its results are obliged to operate according to their rules.
It was the very same politicians who got together to make the vicious labor laws and maintained the national security laws that have turned this election into high comedy. They are defenders of the system that discriminates and excludes people with disabilities, the poor, migrants, and sexual minorities.
In this, one of the worst ever bourgeois elections, there are still many forces that want to get into the bourgeois dining room as representatives of the “Jinbojeongdang (the Progressive Party)” and as “workers’ candidates”. There is also a more radical left which supports and declares solidarity towards them, saying that it will help to develop “class consciousness”. They criticise electoralism in words but they participate in the elections in the name of “tactics”. Instead of defending the politics of the working class on the terrain of the class struggle they have idealised the “election struggle”, begging for votes at the bourgeois banquet, saying that workers' politics can be implemented at the parliamentary level.
However, nothing can be achieved for the working class through elections. This is because the electoral system itself maintains all the political systems and governing bodies of bourgeois society and strengthens the passivity of the workers, turning them into a “voting machine”. In bourgeois politics, even the achievements of the mass struggle are delegated to and used by professional politicians for their own purpose. We have experienced countless negative consequences when the struggle was delegated to bourgeois politicians and saw how rights that were not defended by struggle collapsed in an instant.
If you reflect on bourgeois politics and elections, you have to conclude that they have only brought bitter defeats for the working class. You should now turn away from the bourgeois “banquet” of the elections. Defending the working class position, we have to publicly declare that capitalism is the cause of human misery, and beyond that, a communist society is the only alternative.
The Covid 19 pandemic is a global disaster, but it is announcing even more pain and sacrifice for the working class. The situation is the same in South Korea. Regardless of the outcome after the elections, the capitalists and the government will start attacking the working class. It should not be forgotten that the one-sided sacrifice and patience of the working class is hidden by the propaganda that the Moon Jae-in government is responding to Covid-19 relatively well.
The current crisis is not new. Capitalism has already been in a deep crisis for a long time, and the Covid- 19 crisis is just the latest warning signal that will bring about a bigger crisis. The inability of bourgeois politics to prevent the capitalist crisis is facing workers with a more serious crisis, boosting racism and xenophobia, populism and fascism. With the Covid-19 crisis, capitalism has officially thrown away its universalist values of peace and coexistence. Covid-19 threatens human health and life, but the ruling class has not stopped exploiting it to generate profits, and will pass the cost of the crisis onto the working class.
Capitalism's savagery is the result of the system of exploitation itself. This is obviously a consequence of the capitalist system, not of misled leaders or representatives through elections. The only solution is to overcome the capitalist system through revolution and to replace the law of profit, which serves the exploiting minority, by organising production, labor, human and natural resources according to human needs.
The working class should not have the illusion that the liberation of the workers can be obtained through parliamentary means and winning majorities in elections. Taking power by the working class and its full political participation can only be achieved through the destruction of capitalism and its state institutions. Although there are only a few of us now, it is our hope workers will recognise that elections cannot change anything, and create a system where the majority can control society. Those who create democracy for themselves through struggles, without committing their lives to the bourgeois politics of hypocrisy and inequality, those who create democracy from below, equal to all and enabling the involvement of all, are the future of the working class.
In the period of capitalist decadence all bourgeois elections are nothing but a fraud. Every day, hundreds of workers’ struggles occur all over the world, and tens of thousands of times a year. However, with elections which are held once every few years, the working class is deprived of its potential and most of its daily life is dominated by them. This is the reality of the 'democratic rights' in which workers become slaves through elections. As long as workers obey the rules of bourgeois politics and elections, capitalism can never be overcome.
The politics of the working class is possible only in places of resistance and struggle, not in polling booths. It is only possible where workers live, debate and act, and where class solidarity and unity exist.
· In the face of this general election with the Covid-19 crisis restricting mass struggles, let's overcome electoralism and parliamentarism!
· Let's prepare for a massive struggle against the total offensive of the capitalist class that the Covid-19 crisis will bring!
· the Covid-19 Pandemic reveals that capitalism is the most serious virus. The cure is communism!
· Beyond the bourgeois elections, toward communism as the future of the working class !!!
April 11, 2020
Internationalist Communist Perspective