“Nine out of ten candidates must be workers, still on the job”

This is how radical socialists saw the question of working-class representation in electoral politics in the early 1920s:

“In order to give the party a genuinely working-class character and in order to eliminate from its ranks such elements as regard the party only as an antechamber to the Parliament, the municipal councils, the general councils and so on, it is necessary to fix as an inviolable rule that nine of out ten candidates on the slates presented by the party during elections be workers… still at the bench, and peasants [the resolution refers to France]; representatives of the liberal professions must be rigidly restricted in number, allowing them not more than one-tenth of the total number of electoral posts which the party occupies or hopes to occupy through its members; therewith special care must be paid to the selection of candidates belonging to the liberal professions (a minute check-up by special working-class commissions of their previous political records, their social ties, their loyalty and devotion to the cause of the working class).

“Only under such a regime will… parliamentarians, municipal councillors, general councillors, mayors and the like cease to constitute a professional caste which for the most party has little contact with the working class; and will become instead one of the instruments of… mass struggle.”

From a resolution of the Communist International on the French Communist Party, 1922

A couple of comments:

Note that the resolution calls for workers “still at the bench”, ie still working, to be candidates. Not “My dad was a bus driver” or even “I used to be a bus driver”, but “I am a bus driver”.

When the resolution refers to the “liberal professions”, it does not mean white-collar workers – who are referred to elsewhere in the document as “employees” – but actual middle-class professionals such as lawyers. In today’s Labour Party, having more teachers or social workers or white-collar local government workers stand as candidates (in addition to more blue-collar workers) would be a big step forward.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

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