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I was recently taken to task by an elections boycott advocate from San Diego for voting for Jill Stein, which inspired the following thoughts.
One of the irritations caused by people proposing political actions is that they often find out what’s most comfy for themselves and draw the line that all others should come up to but need not go beyond and say that’s good enough. Obviously, nothing has been good enough or we wouldn’t be in the shit that we’re in. I’m magnanimous, I’m for all of it — self-defense against the ruling class and their goons both at home and abroad, general strikes, work occupations, stoppages and slowdowns, the nonpayment of taxes if that’s what people want to do, strategic defaults on everything if that makes sense, getting the hell out of America if that’s an option and, also, encouraging third parties and voting for them if their platform is worthwhile.
If we cede battlefields just because they’re evil, just because capitalists control them, then we won’t be fighting anywhere because they own it all whether it’s electoral politics, the workplace or the arts. Blanket election boycott advocates make electoral politics too important, too noble in a way — they doth protest too much. It’s just another capitalist shithole to me, just like art or science if you look close enough. The biggest assent to the Man isn’t voting every four years, it’s going to work every day. It’s being a wage slave. That’s where the capitalists pay us a tiny fraction of the immense wealth we create each day — the stolen wealth that funds their political, ideological and military dominance. If people like Cynthia McKinney and Jill Stein want to fight, I want to support them. If someone says that nonvoting is the awesome answer but tax resistance or emigration aren’t practical or imperative, I could choose to draw another line and say: how many decades does it take to get our shit together and figure it out? Nothing’s changed for the working class (for the better) for the last 40 years. But I’m not going to dump on people because they haven’t taken those truly sacrificing actions.
Yet, we’re supposed to listen to some twerpy little arguments against voting for a Stein or a McKinney from someone paying taxes for drones to kill people and then deluding themselves that the former is worse than the latter? That’s a big sacrifice you made by not standing in a line for an hour once every four years. Big whoop. Jesus Christ, if you were a rapper your debut would be “Straight Outta La Jolla.” (Nonvoterz With Attitudes: fucktha chad!)
Sure the system’s evil. Me paying taxes to it is evil, it’s sloth and probably a few other sins. Me not being in open righteous violent rebellion every day of my life is defective and unhealthy. It’s also the way it is. Like most Americans, I have chosen to live and have a certain level of comfort and only when the comfort of tens of millions of us is slammed against the wall will things start to change. Comfort was slammed during the Great Depression and the capitalist class got scared, gave back a little, and bought itself another three decades until the 1960s started burning and then it bought itself (with money printing and inflation) another 40 years and counting. We breathe evil, we consume evil, we do our best to shit out evil but, as Marx said, the ruling ideas and morals of every age are those of the ruling class, not ours. We could set the example of living a more difficult life of barter and tax resistance or simply vote with our feet, moving out of a mass murdering torture and surveillance state. (A number of ex-pats have written to me and they’re pretty happy about their choice.) But these honorable actions require risk. Capitalism whispers: go for comfort, make peace with cowardice — more Fuhrer, less furor.
I don’t vote if all that I’m offered is evil and I totally respect someone not voting. There have been many elections when I haven’t voted. But don’t tell me that Stein and McKinney are “lesser evils” simply because they run for office — they are not evils at all and it’s the cheapest and most lightweight of shots to say so. A blanket condemnation of voting also precludes something positive that can happen: it’s worthwhile to maintain a constant visible presence for whatever it is that you believe so that when people are ready to hear a different kind of message, it will be available. You think that third party candidates don’t matter at all but the capitalist class is so afraid of them that it hinders the working class from voting for them with onerous ballot requirements in every state and has eliminated hearing their messages in presidential debates. Across the Atlantic, upstart Italian protest party candidate and comic Beppe Grillo garnered 19% of the vote in the recent Sicilian elections. Another year and he might turn the Goldman Sachs vampire squid/stooge, Mario Monti, into calimari.
You can bet that Stein and McKinney’s quests had a positive effect on some young people, the same as the Socialist Labor Party’s Julius Levin 1976 run for the presidency had on me. I wrote about it here. In short, it turned me into a Marxist and it’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life forever for the better — a gift, like veganisn, that is still giving, with seeing and understanding the world clearly. Without Marx, I might not have much understanding of the earth I’ve spent my existence on — truly, non-evolved, not fit to survive. Without veganisn, I might not be living at all or living to fight another day.
My best friend at work didn’t know anything about Jill Stein (he’s an Obummer supporter) but his young son knew all about her and Libertarian Gary Johnson because one of his classes in school studied the presidential candidates on the ballot in Pennsylvania. Stein and McKinney aren’t Marx and Engels but they’re significantly different enough from the status quo that, through their campaigning, they probably started many young people on rewarding journeys of both self-discovery and world-discovery. Thinking that can’t happen, or hasn’t happened, is as nihilistic as voting for Obamney.