- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Further thoughts on American elections

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 10, 19100 at 10:42:58:

In Reply to: Well, Barry posted by NJ on February 09, 19100 at 23:27:34:

Stoller: It's only the POOREST PEOPLE who don't vote (The Nation, 11 November 1996, p. 5).

Krasny (from this post): The choices needn't come down to participation in the current corrupt system -or- revolutionary action designed to smash the system. We can do both and do both in such a way as to underscore the inherent corruptness of the present system while articulating a vision for a better future.

: Well, Barry, in the american context what you say is certainly true, and the notion that people don't vote because they're 'satiated' is patently ridiculous. However, teh problem with your hypothesis is that it would seem to predict that in EVERy society that falls short of pure communism (since you seem to suggest that social democracy and partial socialism are as bad as capitalism) the poor peopel would not vote. In fcat, in India, teh world's largets democracy, the poor tend to vote in disproportionate numbers, and it is the wealthier people who stay away from the polls. Possibly because they know that they'd only get embarassed; there is NO WAY a capitalist government is ever going to accede to power in india in the near future.

When I talk about boycotting the elections, I am certainly and exclusively talking about the American elections.

In countries like India (and, VERY importantly, Russia) democracy is relatively new; people believe in it. Therefore to participate is vital---if only to show people that bourgeois democracy is a sham. No party should 'tell' the people this; the people must come to this conclusion on their own.

That said, recall Lenin:

Parliamentarianism is of course 'politically obsolete' to the Communists...; but---and th[is] is the whole point---we must not regard what is obsolete to us as something obsolete to a class, to the masses... You are in duty bound to call their bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices what they are---prejudices. But at the same time you must soberly follow the actual state of the class-consciousness and political preparedness of the entire class (not only its communist vanguard), and of all the working people (not only of their advanced elements).(1)

The party must work with the consciousness of the people.

I believe that BECAUSE the poorest people in America---over half the country, mind you---have not voted for a generation, bourgeois democracy has in fact become obsolete to the masses. The workers, as I see it, have determined---on their own---that voting in bourgeois elections is pointless---because their jobs remain unchanged, among other reasons. This, I believe, has been the result of centuries worth of election promises coming to zip as far as working people are concerned.

Thus I see a qualitative change in the class-consciousness of American workers. A negative class-consciousness, to be sure, but one that rejects election promises unequivocally. What remains to be built, as I see it, is the positive class-consciousness to fill the void left by the disillusionment of bourgeois democracy.



1. Lenin, '"Left-Wing" Communism---An Infantile Disorder,' Collected Works volume 31, Progress 1966, p. 58.

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