What place do elections have within socialist strategy?
Does the restrictive nature of democracy under capitalism—intentionally stacked in favour of wealthy elites—mean the ballot is of little use for the workers movement or, conversely, that socialists should settle for what they can get from the lesser of two evils among the bourgeois parties? Should elections be disregarded as little more than occasional distractions, to be ignored by committed socialists in favour of an exclusive focus on protests and strikes?
Lenin—perhaps the most successful socialist revolutionary of the twentieth century—strongly suggested otherwise. In this short ebook, Seán Mitchell provides a close reading of Bolshevik electoral work: exploring the unique and persistent approach to elections that Lenin and his followers utilised as a critical and necessary complement to the mass, collective, self-activity that was the bedrock of Bolshevism.
At a time when the left internationally faces both unprecedented opportunity and familiar perils, it is urgent that socialists recover Lenin’s nuanced strategy. By shedding light on this underappreciated aspect of his revolutionary work, Lenin, Elections and Socialist Hegemony aims to assist in rediscovering a strategy capable of charting a course beyond both the reformist electoralism and ultra-left abstentionism that now dominate on much of the international left.
Seán Mitchell is a socialist based in Belfast and an author of Struggle Or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast’s 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots (2017).