Hoosier labor leader, cofounder of the Industrial Workers of the World and five-time socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs once stated, “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.” This trend has continued until today.

Our government serves the interests of the wealthy. Corporate lobbyists, massive campaign donations and a revolving door between Washington and Wall Street has turned our system from a democratic republic to a plutocracy. We are at the mercy of the super rich as they decide where oil pipelines go, whether we have publics schools, if we have any opportunity to escape medical or student loan debt and even if we go to war (see: military-industrial complex). One Russian revolutionary stated, “a democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell ... it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.” In short, the current system is working, just not for us.

The Republicans and Democrats have blinded working class people for years with culture war rhetoric. Minority groups are turned into voter blocks, pawns that can be trusted as team red or blue. For example, federal Democrats pose as allies to people of color even though the Clintons and Joe Biden are key figures in mass incarceration, effectively the rebirth of slavery in the United States. Republicans have appealed to working class, Christian, white workers, arguing that immigrants and minorities will lower their wages while slashing medicare, busting unions and spending billions on weapons instead of homes, healthcare and food.

In the words of Zack De La Rocha on “Down Rodeo,”

“The pen devils set that stage for the war at home

Locked without a wage you’re standing in the drop zone

The clocker’s born staring at an empty plate

Momma’s torn hands cover her sunken face

We hungry but them belly full

The structure is set, you’ll never change it with a ballot pull.”

If change is to happen, it must come from below. Voting is not going to solve the problems of our system. Holding signs is not going to protect us from violence. Taking health care away is murder. Letting bankers steal homes and bailing them out instead of families is criminal. But we are the producers. If we hold a May Day strike, if we boycott businesses that perpetuate wage slavery like Papa John’s Pizza Chain, if we cause social and economic disruption that affects the elite’s profits, they will be forced to listen. If they choose to value money over human lives, let us capture their bottom line. We are many, they are few.

Vivian Edwards