Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The best way to Rock the Vote is by abstaining from it

Michael Moore, as much as he can offer quite humorous social commentary at times, is still a fairly convential liberal. As such, as far as it goes, his particular form of social rebellion is safe, sterile, and quite frankly ineffectual when it comes to any kind of serious or systemic change.

Hence the petition he is offering for today's mid-term elections;
We just voted for you, the Democratic members of Congress, in the midterms. But our vote comes with one big condition: If you do not straighten up, get a spine and do what we expect of you, we will find alternate candidates to run against you in 2012. And we mean it.

Consider yourself on notice that you have just two more years to start doing the things we elected you to do. If you move one more inch to the "center" or to the right, you will never get our vote again.
Moore quotes the wisdom of Bill Maher to those who might be tempted to jack in electoral politics: "Sure, I'm mad at the Democrats. I'm also mad at my cell phone company. But I don't throw away my cell phone cause I'm mad and then rub dog shit on my teeth."

The problem is that the Democrats, in Noam Chomsky's words, are in fact just one faction of "the business party." More dovish than the Democrats, but representing the same interests.

Hence his position on electoral politics;
More serious political scientists in the mainstream describe the US not as a "democracy" but as a "polyarchy": a system of elite decision and periodic public ratification. There is surely much truth to the conclusion of the leading American social philosopher of the 20th century, John Dewey, whose main work was on democracy, that until there is democratic control of the primary economic institutions, politics will be "the shadow cast on society by big business."
Moore wants people to go to the ballot box to "ignite a future revolution." But this is a pipe dream. Revolutions are born on the streets, out of concerted grassroots-level organising and popular anger. Not by voting for a party of the ruling class and hoping they cease to serve that same class.

So, instead of Michael Moore, I hope that those Americans looking to change things go with Rad Geek;
I’ve never opposed voting on moral principle. Of course, I oppose government on moral principle, but, Patriotically Correct mythology to one side, the notion that casting a vote has any meaningful relationship to controlling the apparatus of government is one of the more ridiculous lies that representative democracies — that is, elective oligarchies — such as the United States government love to promote. Defensive voting is not immoral; it’s a strategy. But strategies may be foolish. And if the last few election cycles have proved anything, they’ve proved that this is a strategy with no pay-off. No matter how many times you change out the party in power, the interests of power remain the same, and even when you win, you lose.

So I am boycotting the election today. I hope that you will too. I will not vote for any candidate for political office, Democrat, Republican, or other, no matter what promises they make, and no matter what party they come from. I do not support them as candidates, and I do not support the oligarchical political machine they represent. If the last few election cycles prove anything, they prove that power-plays beat promises every time. It’s not just a few radicals who have noticed that something is deeply wrong; it’s not just a handful of malcontents who know that we need a radically different direction, away from the insane and destructive Beltway consensus — away from this government’s wars, this government’s bail-outs, this government’s secret surveillance, corporate health-insurance cartels, PATRIOT Acts, runaway police powers, catastrophic economic policeis, shameless fear-mongering and constant, unremitting power-grabs. But people have HOPEd and parties have CHANGEd and if it all accomplished anything at all, it was only to prove that we’re never going to get anything but more of the same as long as we maintain a false hope in electoral politics. If what you want is social progress, there is no shortcut around principled agitation, grassroots social movements, community organizing, civil disobedience and direct action. There is no low-calorie political substitute for D.I.Y. social transformation. Elections and party politicking are no way to make a revolution. They’re not even a way to make small change.

No matter who you vote for, the winner is always the government.
But, of course, there is more to it than that. With anarchists, those who advocate electoralism only see half the slogan: "don't vote." But anarchism is a political philosophy, not a lifestyle for social drop-outs. The slogan in full, with emphasis added, is "Don't vote - ORGANISE!"

Mike has one thing right. Change cannot be affected by simply staying at home and assuming there's nothing you can do. He's just wrong about the ballot box being the place to go.

The real movement for change will be built from below. It will be a movement of ordinary people, not politicians or professional activists. Rather than seeking representation, it will act and speak on its own behalf. Real change will be by and for the people, against the state.

So, yes, get off your arse and light a fire under the seats of government. But don't think you can do it at the polls. It has to be done on the streets, by those willing to educate, agitate, and organise.