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Nov 7, 2023

“This is the most important election of our lifetimes.” “Voting for a third-party candidate? Might as well throw away your vote!” “You may not like him, but you’ve just got to hold your nose and vote for him — otherwise, Trump might win.” 

We're sure you’ve heard each of these lines many times — we know that we have. But, at some point you have to ask: how can every election be the most important one? Am I really throwing away my vote by voting for a candidate whose policies I agree with? Can we ever actually affect change if we’re always voting for the "lesser evil" candidate or party? Isn’t that just a race to the bottom — or, as we're seeing currently, a race towards genocide?

Well, in this conversation, we’re going to tackle all of those questions — and much more — with our guest, August Nimtz, Professor of political science and African American and African studies in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. Professor Nimtz is the author of The Ballot, The Streets, Or Both? published by Haymarket Books.

In this conversation, Professor Nimtz explores the question of electoralism as it relates to revolutionary left politics through a deep dive into the history of the Russian Revolution — examining how Marx, Engels, and Lenin approached electoralism and then applying their analyses and viewpoints to today’s situation. 

What is the role of elections for the revolutionary left? How can we engage with electoralism without falling into what Professor Nimtz refers to as “electoral fetishism”? What about the "lesser evil" or "spoiler" phenomenon? How can we build a party for the working and oppressed classes without falling prey to opportunism or bourgeois distraction? What can we learn from the European Revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, and other historic attempts at revolution — both successful and unsuccessful? These are just some of the questions and themes we explore in this episode with Professor Nimtz.

Thank you to Bethan Mure for this episode’s cover art and to Noname for the intermission music. Upstream theme music was composed by Robert Raymond/Lanterns.

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