Hi comrades! I am Pinja, a member of the Left Youth of Finland. I am a student of politics and economics and lived in California this spring doing and exchange program in Berkeley. During my time in there I campaigned for Bernie along the local Democratic Socialist of America. I have been interested in international politics for a long time now but living in the United States definitely made me even more intrigued in American politics.
The election is nearing, and while it is definitely interesting to what the result is going to be, especially since for now it seems all but clear. However, at the same time I cannot call the election exciting. The candidates are both old white men on the verge of dementia, neither exactly known for progressive politics. While I do not wish Trump to continue as president, Biden is not a great candidate either. As someone who, like I imagine most of us here, was rooting for Sanders, seeing the democratic nominee be someone who opposes medicare for all, supports fracking and has been accused of rape, I was not thrilled.
A similar phenomenon could also be seen in the United Kingdom. While the conditions were different, seeing Corbyn’s Labour lose by such a wide margin nearly a year ago was disheartening. The fact that his successor as the party leader is a Blairite that is burning all the bridges to the Labour left while still being tied with Boris Johnson in the polls does not tell good about the state of the left in the UK. Similarly to Sanders’ defeat in the primaries, Corbyn stepping down as leader has caused fragmenting of the left. With no clear candidate to root for and no party representing them, the people who got into left politics within the last six years or are left with a question: what now?
This situation can be both a blessing and a curse for the international left movement. While we have been denied power in the political establishment we were so close to reaching, the struggle is far from over. A cultural shift has happened, a shift that will have lasting effects for years to come. Even if Biden does win the nomination, he is only going to uphold the status quo that brought us Trump and Brexit in the first place. The crises of capitalism are not going to cease existing, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong. With a new great recession in the horizon while we have yet to recover from the old one will mean that societal tensions are only going to increase. This can already be seen in the United States, with armed right-wing protestors on the streets, as well as mass demonstrations under the slogan Black Lives Matter.
While the left should not give up on electoral politics, I argue that it would be more fruitful to turn our gaze to the social movements on the streets. People have understood that the system as it is does not serve the vast majority of us. With no clear political representative like Sanders to represent the change we want to see, it is time to take power to our own hands and become the change ourselves. Now is the time to organize, whether it be in the workplace, online, or in the streets. The pandemic certainly makes this difficult, but as our governments continue to fail us, building mutual aid networks is crucial. Things such as renters’ unions that fight against evictions or communal food banks that give to those in need are places for radical organizing for a better world. In Finland especially the climate movement has organized to pressure the government to take more radical steps to combat the climate crisis. It is important to find the issues that are able unite and inspire local communities. I believe the kind of organizations we here represent – whether it be DSA, the youth of Syriza or the left youth of Finland – are the type of organizations that can harvest this energy that does not have representation in parliaments around the world.
If I did have a chance to vote in the American election, I would certainly do so, even if not with great excitement. Whether the next president is going to be Trump or Biden, the conditions of people’s lives are not going to improve in a significant manner. Thus, it is up to us to fight for a better world, and that fight does not stop in the ballot box – it only begins there.