Victory at the Ballot Box: Legal Abortion, Weed and the Prospects for Progress in Ohio After the 2023 Ohio Elections

By CORS Membership

Relief and excitement swept across Ohio once the results of the November 2023 state election poured in. It’s rare in Ohio, or really most of the country, that much of substance is actually at stake on the ballot. We’re all too used to elections where we only get to choose which representative of a capitalist party rules for a couple of years.

In the capital of Ohio (and our organizational base), Columbus, the sham of “democracy” is even more clear-cut than usual. An association of capitalists, landlords, and other speculators and exploiters known as the “Columbus Partnership” decides which of their representatives they’re installing into power in the city quite transparently. When their current representative is moving out of the office or running for higher office, they have that candidate leave office before the end of their term so they can place their next representative in the position and give them a massive advantage over any wannabe competitors. The working class of Columbus has no representatives in government.

But this transparently fixed system gave us one of those rare instances where the people could actually put their position forward despite the opposition of the majority of the politicians in the state who supposedly represent us. Namely, Issue 1 and Issue 2, two ballot initiatives arising out of mass signature-gathering campaigns not only made it on the ballot despite fierce opposition but won solid victories. Issue 1, which alters the Ohio Constitution to secure the right of abortion for all won with 56% support, and Issue 2, which legalizes marijuana, won with 57%.

These votes represent important political breakthroughs that advance the rights of working class and oppressed people in tangible ways. While it is a time to celebrate our victory, we must understand what these victories represent in today's broader struggles for progress.

Issue 1

Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists called for a YES vote on Issue 1. The reactionary Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V. Wade put the limited reproductive freedoms of the U.S. under existential threat. Ohio politicians are trying to seal the deal and eliminate legal protections for reproductive rights, criminalize those seeking abortion, and restrict access to it to those in Ohio who have the money, mobility, and/or connections to get one illegally or travel long distances (like the politicians that want to criminalize it.) If they can achieve this, the effect will be catastrophic on the already dismal condition for working-class women–and for those who were AFAB.

The criminalization of abortion is a misogynistic attack on reproductive autonomy that will inevitably lead to countless deaths, injuries, and ruined lives. Issue 1 will establish protections (albeit, limited ones) for reproductive rights for all of Ohio by adding language to that effect in the state constitution. Winning this vote has been an important first step to organizing the fight back against these reactionary attacks on reproductive autonomy.

CORS is committed to building a mass movement to struggle for full reproductive justice — free birth control, free abortion on demand, and freedom from forced sterilization among many other demands.

This victory will aid this endeavor, but we must understand clearly that relying on politicians, judges and NGOs is what got the feminist movement into this dire situation in the first place. Mass and militant movements for reproductive justice, combined with feminist, queer, and working-class struggle are the only sure path to establishing, defending, and expanding our rights. We commit to continuing to build the feminist movement, the fight for reproductive autonomy, and the path to total gender liberation.

Issue 2

Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists called for a YES vote for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio. For far too long drug users — particularly black and indigenous ones — have been severely criminalized, supposedly to win the “War on Drugs.” From the start, this was an impossible war and the American ruling class knew that. Its real aim was to fill up the prison system and the coffers of local and city governments as the system of mass incarceration rose to replace the limited American welfare state through the last quarter of the 20th century. The over-policing of drug use and the crime hysteria that ramped up from the 70s and 80s until today also served to give the U.S. ruling class an unprecedented level of control over Black and working-class populations which they feared would continue to radicalize and resist the government on a mass scale as they did on a mass scale from the mid-60s through the mid-70s.

Now policing constitutes from a quarter to half of the budget of most town and city governments. The establishment has installed the police as an omnipresent occupying force in too many communities. This whole system, which the Drug War is one aspect of, has created a vast system of control in the United States which suffocates struggles for progress and commercializes the suffering of millions. The legalization of marijuana will loosen this stranglehold slightly. The large proportion of those who use it will no longer have to fear criminalization of their lives in this respect.

We also see a YES vote as just the beginning for further progressive advance. We fight for an end to the “War on Drugs” and its associated international and national enforcement arms. The international arm of American power has brutalized too many nations in Central and South America and their peoples.

We instead call for the legalization and regulation of all recreational drugs. The most effective way to control the real harms of drugs is to produce them in a heavily regulated fashion, distribute them in a legal and aboveboard manner, and offer free treatment to those suffering from addiction and problem drug-use behaviors. The ills of drugs are not ingrained in drugs themselves but are a reflection of the ills of the society in which they are used.

Finally, we call for the de-commodification of the marijuana market in particular and the legal and illegal drug market in general. The authorities have let marijuana regulation through in dozens of states because of the proven economic benefit, not from a recognition of the humanity of the countless people they punished for using and possessing it. Legalization of the market is not enough when it comes to marijuana legalization in particular or drug legalization in general. We demand the immediate release of all those in prison on drug-related offenses and a systematic policy of expunging criminal records and offering reparations to all those criminalized by the United State’s drug enforcement apparatus and carceral system. Let this YES vote on Issue 2 be one step to a radical overhaul of the “criminal justice” system and a total scrapping of the whole punitive framework towards drug use.


Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists called for abstention in all candidate races in Ohio. We denounce both the Republican and Democratic Parties which unswervingly support the interest of the capitalists and this exploitative and oppressive system. For class-conscious workers, there is no choice between these two parties — they are both active enemies of the working class.

It is all too common for well-meaning liberals and leftists to call for votes for the “lesser evil,” or even for more active forms of support to the Democratic Party. We reject this logic. So long as there is no revolutionary working-class party contesting elections, we will continue to call for abstention down-the-line in candidate elections.

Your vote doesn’t matter when you can only choose between two enemies of our class. It is up to our class to organize our struggle so that we can use elections as one weapon against the ruling class and its parties. We encourage all those who see these sham elections for what they are to get organized in unions and radical political parties. It’s our collective duty to fight for a just and democratic system of socialism to replace capitalism. We can build a political party that advances the working class struggle against capital – if we organize it.

The sooner we see through the façade of democracy for the rich, the sooner we can fight back and win liberation for all from capitalist exploitation, racial and gendered oppression, imperialism, and absolute climate destruction. The solid victory of Issue 1 and Issue 2 demonstrate that the reactionary machinations of our political representatives in Ohio are deeply unpopular. It is time to organize this mass discontent with the system and channel it against the parties of the ruling class. It is struggle that will guarantee our liberation.

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