The growing popularity of socialism is finding expression in down-ballot election campaigns this year, some led by candidates affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The 28-year-old socialist stunned the Democratic Party establishment by winning the party primary election for a US House seat in the Bronx and Queens, defeating one of the most powerful leaders of the Democrats in Congress.
In a political system dominated by two main parties that are so tied to upholding the virtues of capitalism, it’s rare to hear the word “socialism” used positively in a discussion of midterm elections. Plus, it’s refreshing to see the political establishment scramble to deal with candidates making popular pro-worker demands.
There is a long history of socialists participating in elections and a debate among different views about what the left’s goals and methods should be.
At the most basic level, elections are not irrelevant to socialists, even if we have no direct participation in them because there is no socialist alternative to support. They can gauge workers’ sentiments on various issues or signify shifts in consciousness to the left or right.
If socialists are able to initiate campaigns or contribute to those initiated by other forces, elections can be a further tool for presenting our politics to a wider audience and challenging the status quo. They can champion struggles and movements and the demands that emerge from them.
Beyond this, things have diverged historically.
The tradition of “reformism” has a…