This is Section c for Chapter 4 of Beyond Classical Marxism.
There are all sorts of socialist organizations running around loose in the U.S. today. Even the Green Party, with its excellent political platform, may be termed socialist. This book is not the place to give my exalted opinion of these various organizations, which generally have the usual litany of progressive goals; suffice it to say that I judge them according to the extent to which they work towards the self-organization of people to further progressive struggles.
In electoral work, one basic question facing socialist organizations is their relationship to the Democratic Party, which has always functioned as the servant of the capitalist class, particularly (now) of the 1%. For untold decades its role has been to absorb and emasculate progressive struggles, and attempts to “reform” it or to take it over have always ended in failure. Thus it is natural for socialist parties to try to get together to create a single socialist “third party” to challenge and transcend the hegemony of the two-party system, and avoid having anything to do with the Democratic Party.
I have found a recent article [Ref. 1] by Dustin Guastella compelling. His thesis is that it is impossible to compete successfully with the Democratic Party because the great majority of people will vote only for a candidate who has a reasonable chance of accomplishing something in their interest. A viable third party is simply not in the offing, and it is necessary to make use of the Democratic Party’s ballot line in partisan elections – a massive progressive exodus from the Democratic Party is just not going to happen.
However, Guastella does call for an organization (a “party surrogate”) “that can serve as a membership-based, dues-funded, independent institution, with a clear platform, talented spokespersons, and inspiring leaders. Such an organization can serve many of the functions of a traditional labor party: it can recruit and train candidates, work with unions in organizing drives, and provide mass political education. And it could be pretty successful at all of this, so long as it competes in the major-party primaries on a major-party ballot line.” So Guastella’s outlook is to use the Democratic Party at its own nefarious game, without succumbing to political co-optation ourselves.
1. Dustin Guastella, “Like It or Not, If We Run Third Party, We Will Lose”, Jacobin 4/17/20: https://jacobinmag.com/2020/04/third-party-bernie-sanders-democratic-socialism-elections.