Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day

I am deeply aware that people fought and died for their right to vote. Democracy is, or rather, would be, a good thing, and surely it is righteous for people to demand not to be excluded from what passes for political process. Democracy is theoretically a mechanism whereby collectivity resolves into taking action in an act of shared commitment and responsibility. Problem is, I don't think that's what's actually happening right now.

My head has spent the last year split in two places, one watching this extended dumpster fire of an election, and two immersed in doing research on the probably esoteric (outside Ethiopia that is) subject of the Ethiopian revolution. There in 1974, a group of dedicated communist revolutionaries started an underground newsletter called "Democracy," that became one of the most well-read political papers in the country. The "Democracy" these folks argued for (and died for, by the thousands) was first demanded of the emperor Haile Selassie, and later, after the military snatched power from a popular uprising, became a rallying cry for pushing aside the military in favor of a popular people's government. So I've had quite a few occasions to think about what democracy might mean.

Listen, this, this USA, this is not a real democracy. This is a parody of democracy: it is not those abstaining from voting today who are spitting in the face of the freedom riders of the 1960s, it is the entire political system that is doing so. An elaborate and deeply embarrassing spectacle that wasted millions of dollars (ie, made a bunch of entertainment companies rich) just left people with the "choice" between a bloated fascist businessman, a deeply unprincipled and dishonest career politician responsible for the deaths of untold thousands who happens to be a woman, and a handful of quixotic alternatives who, with the one notable exception of Mimi Soltysik of the Socialist Party — who isn't even on most printed ballots — specialize in peddling low-frequency bullshit. (And to be clear I include there everyone from the problematic Greens and PSL, to the reprehensible SEP, SWP, libertarians and WWP).

It should be obvious, and yet strangely is not, to most, that this is in fact a dictatorship, the dictatorship of rich property owners we Marxists like to call the bourgeoisie. A government by and for rich people that has diabolically convinced millions that every few years being forced to rubberstamp choices presented to you from column A or column B, when mostly people want and need something else entirely, is actually what "democracy" looks like. It's not. And if you think dictatorship is a harsh word, take off your blinders and look at the role of police in this country and the role of the American military in the world, and see that "they" don't really give a shit what you think. Ruling though repression, fear and circuses, the class that owns this country needs us a lot more than we need them.

It's like a sickness what this country does to people. Like you, I have been indoctrinated for most of my almost 58 years that voting is a sacred responsibility. I have previously voted for Democrats, previously voted third parties, and occasionally abstained. The one thing I have learned is that I will never again close my ears to the evil promises of politicians in favor of the few morsels I want to actually hear. And yet with everything I know and I have studied, I still find myself wracked with guilty obligation. And so I have tried to figure out what I would do today.

Watching the intense fear that has been whipped up by both Democrats and Republicans fills me with both disgust and sadness. I can't blame or condemn most people for exercising what feels like the only thing they can do to stave off the obvious dangers ahead, though I urge folks to hit the books for the truth how that "I voted" sticker is zero defense against an actual fascist onslaught. I am, it must be said, pretty disappointed not in regular people with good hearts taking a stand against the vile and noxious Trump, but in leftists willing to overlook the vile and noxious Clinton, but that's a more complicated story.

I wish that the left was strong enough to run what I believe is actually correct, a campaign of revolutionary abstentionism. I think it would be an excellent step along the way to presenting a transcendent vision of liberation that revolutionaries need to find a way to re-popularize if we are ever to move out of the realm of symbolism. Symbolism is right now the only thing a micro-movement for revolutionary abstention can offer. One day the withholding of our participation in this game will be a weapon; it's not that yet.

It seems to be a beautiful day outside. I'm ever so privileged to be unemployed today and not quite at the bottom of my bank account. That same beautiful blue sky extends west to the Dakotas, and east across oceans and seas to Syria; distances far beyond sight and hearing yet not beyond knowledge.
I know where my polling place is. But I'm going to walk the other way.

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